Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: Volume 1: Chapter 01

Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: “The Mexican, The Lawyer, And The Mechanic.”

Volume 1: “The Heroes.”

Chapter 01: “Welcome to the Insanity.”

By Paul Cousins.

Copyright Disclaimer: All copyrighted places, characters, items, and events, within the story, are held by their current owners. No profit is being made on this work of fiction.

(_)

Reality, Pedro and Lee's home reality. Date, less than week after Lee's originally escape from Lee's home reality. Location, De La Plata Podrido, Mexico, on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Time, one twenty PM.

Inside Chang's office, in the penthouse of the Daiyu Palace Casino, Chang sat in his chair, behind his desk, in his usual suit, and black coat. His hair black hair was cut short, to his neckline. With his hair running down his back. He was looking in front of his, at the open door to the hallway, as he waited for his next appointment.

With his enhanced hearing he could hear two people approaching his room.

A few seconds later, Chang quietly watched as Zoe lead a brown haired, moderately fit, fair skin man, into his office. The man was in his late-twenties, and in good physical shape. He had a slick hair cut style. He wore a cheap, brown suit, with red tie, and brown dress shoes.

As the two of them came to a stop several feet from his desk, Zoe stepped to her right, so Chang could see both of them.

Chang smiled warmly at the two adults, as he said, in english, “I trust everything went well, and our new guest here has been situated?

Zoe responded, in english, “Yes, sir. He had his luggage with him, when he was found. We have already assigned him a room, and his is luggage there.”

Chang replied, “Excellent. I love a person who knows when it is time to leave.”

Zoe agreed, “Yes. It does makes things easier. And Arcee stated that he had no weapons on him, nor in his luggage.”

Chang requested, in a happy tone of voice, “Please, thank her and Annie for checking on that matter.”

Zoe replied, “I will, sir.”

Chang said, in a polite manner, politely said, “Now, please head back to your duties, and let me handle this.”

Zoe stated, “Yes sir.” She then turned around, and walked out of the room. She then headed for the front express elevator, that would take her back down to the first floor, and to security section of the casino.

The brown haired man whom was standing in the room, turned he head and upper body, as he watched Zoe leave. After she was out of sight, the man turned back to look at Chang.

For a few seconds, there was an uneasy silence between the two, as each man look at the other.

Chang was the first to break the silence, as he stated, “Please. Don't just stand there. Come in, and sit down. We have must to talk about.”

The man walked over to between the two chairs in front of Chang's desk. He then sat down in the chair to Chang's left.

After Chang saw the man get comfortable, he plainly asked, “So, what do you think?”

The man joked, in english, “Well, even though your subordinates kidnapped me, at least you have an open door policy.”

Chang let out a laughed. Chang smiled, as he complimented, “At least you have a good, tactful, sense of humor. That will get you far with me.”

The brown haired man stated, “Thank you. I guess this is the place for introductions.
I am Matthew McCormick. Lawyer for Edgars Industries, Mar Dome One.”

Chang said, “Well, I am Bai Ji-Shin Chang. My friends call me, Chang. Everyone else calls me, Mister Chang. Though, you may call me, Chang.”

Matthew responded, “Thank you, Chang. You can call me, Matthew. Now, what is this building that we are in?”

Chang baited, “You are in my office, on the penthouse level of the Daiyu Place Casino. Among my many ventures, I own and run this casino. ”

Chang raised an eyebrow, as he continued, “I am surprised you are not more specific with your questions.”

Matthew calmly replied, “I know better than to ask such questions over such matters.”

Chang commented, with intrigue in his tone of voice, “Good. First, you need to know that you are no longer in your own reality. And the humanity of this Earth has not colonized space, yet. So, saying you are from Mars will lead to most people, outside of this casino, questioning your sanity.”

Matthew said, “Given the night I just had. I am not surprised by any of that. And I will keep quiet about my origins.”

Chang replied, “I am glad you are willing to take my advice.”

Matthew deadpanned, “Let's be honest. It is not like I have much choice in the matter... So, where are we?”

Chang stated, “We are on an island city, on the northern-western part of the Gulf of Mexico, in the nation of Mexico, on Earth. And the local calendar date of when we are is the early twenty-first century.”

Matthew casually said, “Interesting. So, what exactly do you want with me?”

Chang coyly answered, “Because you are someone that I believe can be useful, I want you to work for me.”

Matthew politely requested, “Could you please elaborate for me, on what job position you wish for me to fill?”

Chang responded, “I saw your chase the night before. For you at least. You will find time and space is flexible for us. You were able to handle yourself well in one of the most intense situations, one can find themselves in. And I feel that your talents would be wasted, where and when you were. So, you are going to be my new lawyer.”

Matthew hesitantly asked, “You did see me freak out in the chase?”

Chang pointed out, “Yes. But, only at the tail end of that chase. Most people would have freaked out much sooner, considering whom was chasing them. You did not.”

Matthew said, “I hope to never see that monster woman, and her green haired friend, again.”

Chang commented, in a relaxed tone of voice, “Yes... Roberta, can be a handful. And Fabiola has her moments, as well.”

Matthew flatly asked, “You know them?”

Chang answered, “Yes. I know them very well. They is not that bad. As long as you are not in their way, and they is not after you. By the way, the purple haired woman is Roberta. And the green haired woman is Fabiola.”

There was a few seconds of silence, as both men were not sure what to say next.

Matthew calmly inquired, “Be that as it may. I hope that this new job comes with a salary?”

Chang's lips curled into a smirk, as he responded, “Oh, it does indeed. I pay my employees with gold. I think I will start you out with four pounds a month. Using the Troy ounce standard.”

It took Matthew few seconds to run the figures in his head, by converting pound to metric, on how much that was. Matthew then figured out how much that was, he replied, with a bit more eagerness in his tone of voice, “Okay... I am listening... But, where would I put all that gold?”

Chang stated, “We have vaults in this casinos... And it is not like you are planning on going anywhere. And included will be a good health and benefits package. Including vacation time. And your suite here being free of charge.”

Matthew responded, “Fine... Though, please be aware that I did not become a lawyer just to represent the wealthy.”

Chang said, “I can appreciate that.”

Matthew pointed out, “Good. Still, I don't know the details of the job you have in mind for me. But, I am guessing my law license is not valid here. So, even if you paid me, I don't see much that I can do for you.”

Chang grinned, as he stated, “There is plenty you can do for me. Draft contracts. And review contracts. Handle certain financial matters. Lawyers, no matter the reality, all are taught to pay attention to the little details and the fine print. And while I can hire a lawyer here to do that, the problem is that most people cannot handle the strangeness that would go with the job. While you showed much grace under pressure.”

Matthew commented, “Thank you. So, what hours will I be keeping?”

Chang answered, “In all honesty. This will likely not be a full time job. But, I will keep you on a monthly retainer. Maybe twenty hours, at most a week.”

Matthew replied, “I am fine with that. Still, there is the issue of identification and records.”

Chang stated, “We, here, are well versed in creating fake IDs, and records. We will likely give you records that state you are from somewhere nice, from a nearby nation, that has a fair percentage of caucasians. Say, Costa Rica. We will even fake you a law license. Though, with the anti-foreigner laws in this nation, that might not help you. Still, I will have someone else notarize the contracts you handle.”

Matthew responded, “While all that is nice. Given I do not know the laws, and court rulings of this nation, I would not be comfortable in representing you, or your employees, in a court of law.”

Chang replied, in a relaxed tone of voice, “That is perfectly understandable.”

Matthew commented, “Also, I hope in this job that a simple mistake will not endanger my health, nor life?”

Chang responded, “Relax. I am doing this more as a hobby, than anything else. And I will not harm you for making a mistake, unless it is from gross incompetence. Which I doubt you will display.”

Matthew inquired, “Okay. Is there anything else I need to know about?”

Chang calmed answered, “One thing.” He then stood up, and looked over his desk, at Matthew, whom was still sitting down.

Matthew looked at Chang, as Chang made himself sneeze, instantly changing from male to female.

To Chang's mild surprise, the only reaction Matthew displayed at Chang's sudden gender change was his eyes slightly widening, for a few seconds, before his eyes went back to normal.

The only sound coming from Matthew's lips were, “Hmm...”

Chang grinned at the resolve her new employee was displaying. She then sneezed again, and changed back into a man. Next, Chang sat back down in his chair.

Chang stated, “A few others in the casino have this ability, as well. And I request that you keep this quiet. The only reason I showed you is that you would have likely find out on your, eventually. So, I prefer just to be upfront about it.”

Matthew calmly said, “Well, being straight forward makes you better than most of the clients I have represented. And I do not discuss the private lives of my clients, nor the private concerns that my clients choose to share with me.”

Chang responded, “Good. Also, keep in mind that some of my employees are... Rough around the edges. Though, as long as you are polite, and respect our privacy, I believe you will do fine here.” He then extended his right hand over his desk, towards Matthew.

Matthew saw the polite gesture, and he reciprocated it, by extending his right hand over the desk, as he kindly replied, “I hope so.”

As they shook hands, each man noted the firm, but not tight, grip the other had.

Their handshake lasted a few seconds.

A second after they broke their handshake, Matthew asked, “So, when do I start?”

Chang answered, “Tomorrow morning. I will give you a day to rest, and get your hours straight. Then, tomorrow morning, at ten AM, you will start your new job, in an office I will assign you, on the first floor...”

Chang then gave Matthew the details over what Matthew's job would be, and what was expected of him. Along with where exactly his office would be.

And that was the first day of Matthew's new and very strange life.

(_)

Over two years later...

Reality, Lee's Reality. Date, two months after Zoe and Wash were married. Location, the Rats Nest bar, in De La Plata Podrido. Time, ten PM at night, local time. On a clear, cool night.

The last two years had not been kind for neither Matthew McCormick, nor Pedro Del Soto. While they were mostly unharmed from their experiences over the last two years, in dealing with Chang, Revy, and the various multiversal groups in the come to live, either part time, or full time, in De La Plata Podrido, they were still both stressed out from their situations.

Matthew currently wore a white business suit, with polish black dress shoes, which he had replaced his wore out brown dress shoes with.

Matthew's friend, Pedro Del Soto, was a physically fit man, in his mid-forties. He had tanned skin, that showed his Mexican linage. And he had black hair that was cut short, in a comb over style. He was the local police chief for the island city of De La Plata Podrido. And while his position was appointed. Since there was no mayor, nor city council for the city of Plata Podrido. As police chief, Pedro held the most politically powerful seat in the city.

And like most days, that evening, Pedro wore his usual clothing and equipment. This was a pair of brown pants, with a white short sleeved button up short. Around his waist was a brown leather belt. Also, he wore black boots. Over his button up shirt, he wore one of his ties. Which, for today, was a deep blue colored tie.

Over his clothing was a brown long coat. Under his button up shirt was a bullet proof vest. And under the vest was a white t-shirt, underwear, and white socks.

Under Pedro's coat, but over his white button up shirt, was a shoulder holster. In the pistol holster, under left armpit, was a custom, model nineteen twenty-seven Sistema semi-automatic pistol. Which used a seven round ammo magazine. There was were two spare ammo magazines in pooches, in his shoulder holster, under his right armpit.

Pedro also had a small, holdout revolver, located in an ankle holster strapped around his black right boot, with the holstered pistol on the outer side of his boot. The pistol and holster were hidden in the bottom of the right legging of his brown pants.

The holdout revolver was a five round loaded Smith and Wesson model thirty-six chief's special. The pistol used thirty-eight special caliber rounds.

Pedro also had a knife, his wallet, a few speedloaders for his chief's special, and a few other items on his person.

Though, Pedro was armed, he knew better than to try to use his weapons to deal with the problems that he dealt with, on a daily basis, concerning Chang, and the others.

Matthew and Pedro had gotten off of work a few hours ago. And the reason they were both together was because of the same people they have been forced to associate with, for the last few years.

Over a year ago, Revy, and her friends found that they preferred to have designated drivers, when they went out drinking. Doing so allowed them not to have to decide whom was going to not drink that night.

But, the women needs some drivers they could trust.

Since the women knew that both Pedro and Matthew were reliable, and they knew what was really going on in the city, and that they had kept their mouths shut about what they knew, the women asked those two men to be this designated drivers, when they went drinking at the Rats Nest, which happened every few nights.

And these were the type of dangerous women that both men knew better than to answer, no, too.

Police Chief, or not, Pedro realized that if he declined, doing so would likely cause problems for both himself, and those under his command.

While if Matthew declined, he knew that doing might annoy his employer, Chang, at the Daiyu Palace Casino. Given Revy, and the others, were friends of Chang, and the many of the others in the casino.

Also, they already knew each other, because they view one another as the only two sane people, mixed up in this mess.

Due to the both of them being forced as designated drivers to the same parties, they saw each other often, and got to now each other. With them both coming to trust each other. As such, they became good friends, very quickly.

Presently, Pedro, and Matthew sat beside each other, at the bar counter, inside the Rats Nest, while they both sipped a bottle of water. With those they were chaperoning, having a drunken party around them. The two men also had their backs against the bar counter, facing the left side of the room, so they could see what was going on in front of them, in case they needed to get to cover real quick.

With Pedro being to Matthew's right side.

And while there was no music in the room, there was plenty of excitement.

As usual, at this time of night, the party was in full swing. Besides, Pedro and Matthew, there were only women in the room.

Bao, the bartender, and owner of the Rats Next. Along with Melanie assisting Bao. And scattered around the tables in the room, were Revy, Rock, Dutch, Benny, Janet, Yolanda, Eda, Aeryn, Violin, Sarah, Yukio, Molly, Rebecca, Kristina, Ranma, Natsuru, Akira, Mikoto Yurika, Nodoka, Lotton, Shenhua, Sawyer, Roberta, and Fabiola.

Mercifully, no members of Hotel Moscow, nor of Daiyu Palace casino were present, or it would have been a truly wild and dangerous night for everyone involved.

Everyone outside Revy and Rock's group knew better than to show up at the Rats Nest on nights like this.

And while the Lovelace maids were present, Garcia Lovelace was still back in their home reality, due to his personal responsibilities, in running his family businesses.

Though, the two men did not show it outwardly, their were surprised, months ago, when they overheard that some of the members of Hotel Moscow were babysitting some of the younger children. Such as the babies and the toddlers, that some of members of the group had.

And from what the two men understood, this was not the first time the russian women were doing so, and those russian women did a good job of babysitting.

No force on Earth could make those two men crack a joke on that subject.

Though, there was one exception tonight. Melanie, the bartender for the bar in the Devil's Hotel, was off for the night, and she was helping her girlfriend, Bao, the owner of the Rats Nest, with the party.

And while Bao did put her foot down occasionally, to the wildness. Given the regular amounts of gold she was being paid, she did not say much, as long as the group did not harm her, Melanie, nor anyone else, and did not damage any property.

Most of the time, when Revy got drunk, her friends and family were able to stop her, before she went for her semi-automatic pistols. Which no one had so far been able to convince her to not bring to the Rats Nests, when they went there to get some drinks.

Though, when Revy did pull out her weapons, Matthew and Pedro had long since gotten into the habit of diving over the bar counter, and it's armored walls, for cover.

Currently, Melanie was assisted from behind the bar counter, as Bao was serving the women as the various tables.

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he quietly asked, in english, “So, are we on for tomorrow night?”

Pedro looked over at Matthew, as he replied, in english, “Sure.”

Just then, Revy walked up to them.

Both men turned to look at Revy, and from their long experience, they could tell from the redhead's body language, and facial expression, that she was long passed drunk.

Though fortunately, while she was armed, they saw that the buttoned clasps to her holstered pistols, under her armpits, were still closed.

Revy slurred her speech, as she asked, in english, “So, what are you two pussies talking about?”

Pedro ignored the insult, as he thought, 'It is best that I be honest, though careful in what I say. But luckily, over the last couple of years, I have learned how to talk to Revy, while she was drunk, without getting shot at.' He said, in a calm tone of voice, “I was just inviting Matthew over to my house, tomorrow night.”

Revy teased, “I didn't know you two swung that way. But, it would explain why neither of you have made a pass at either of us.”

Pedro thought, 'No. It is jut that we are not crazy enough to try anything with any of you, lunatics.' He casually replied, “Nah. More of a platonic male bonding situation. Drink a few beers, a watch a couple of movies together.”

Matthew a few times nodded in agreement, as he thought, 'As long as I am silent, there is less chance of violence. And since Pedro has much more experience in talking to drunks. Especially, violent drunks. I will let him do the talking.'

Revy responded, “Oh... Okay. So, be honest, how are you really feeling? Don't worry, I promise I won't get angry.”

Pedro said, “There are so many shades of crazy in this room that I feel color blind with my sanity.”

Revy burst out laughing for several seconds, while Matthew remained silent. Though, given the excitement from the rest of the room, no one, but the three of them, and Melanie, were paying attention.

As Revy calmed down, she complimented, “Good one... And you know, Pedro... Your name is Pedro.”

Pedro calmly said, “Yes. We have known each other long enough, that I would hope you would remember my name.”

Revy casually commented, in seesaw manner to her tone of voice, “Of course, Pedro... Pedro, how I like that name for some reason. Well, you shouldn't be so upset. And I can tell you are at least annoyed. Will, you shouldn't be. We haven't kill you, like my daughters did to Chief Watsup.”

Pedro thought, with a bit of bitterness, 'I remember reading about that, in Lee's stories. And the bastard deserved to die. Still, I loath it when people compare me to such corrupt cops. Bribery is the bane of any leadership. Still, now is not the time and place for such discussions. And I need to let Revy down easily... In a way she understands...'

Pedro responded, “Let us be honest. Watsup was an asshole. While I have tried to be a fairly reasonable authority figure, whom does abuse his authority.” He mentally added, with even more hidden bitterness, 'Not that I have been able to stop any of you from eroding my authority, bit by bit.'

Revy inquired, “Like from that website, tv tropes?”

Pedro thought, 'Oh hell! I forgot that Lee introduced them to those damn online guides. Making them almost as genre savvy as I am.' He replied, “Such guides are the reason I am still breathing.”

Revy agreed, “I can see that. Still, I don't like cops. And you are a cop.”

Revy's comment caused Pedro's self-control to slip a bit. Pedro thought, 'Ah, hell. I will just tell her how I feel on the matter. But, I can still be polite about it.' Pedro said, in a calm tone of voice, “I know why. And if it was within my power, I would kill that bastard cop that raped you.”

Revy let out a laugh. She then stated, “I believe you. That is another reason we have left you unharmed. You have a sense of duty that does not border on stupidity. You keep the drugs and vices running, but you don't let it become destructive to the local population. And you never treated us girls wrong. You always respected us. And I admire that about you. And that is why we haven't kill you, or worse.”

Pedro mentally wondered, 'That is am amazing sober response, from someone that is drunk. I wonder how much of this from her is an act?' He responded, “I appreciate that, Revy.”

Revy smirked, as she replied, “You're welcome.”

Pedro thought, 'If she is this lucid, I might as well say...' He commented, “Listen, Revy. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday, you are going to have decide between focusing on the darker parts of your past, or looking at the good things in the present, and move on towards your future.”

Revy was silent for a couple of seconds. She then replied, “I will keep that in mind.”

Revy then turned around, and left to join her friends, at the tables on the left side of the room.

A few seconds later, from behind the bar counter, behind where Pedro and Matthew were sitting at, Melanie replaced Pedro's empty bottle of water, with a fresh bottle of water.

Melanie complimented, “Nice speech. Very true.”

Pedro and Matthew turned to face Melanie, as Pedro replied, “Thank you.”

Melanie inquired, “So, how are you so sure she didn't already kill that rapist cop?”

Pedro commented, “Because she is still somewhat crazy. I have dealt with a lot of people that have been wronged before. When they have dealt with their fixation, there is a measure of closure. Which she clearly has not yet experienced.”

Melanie responded, “I see your point.”

Pedro causally inquired, “Are you ever going to give me the full story on how you ended up a woman, Melvin.”

Melanie shrugged, as she said, “Maybe later. Though, I don't regret telling you that it is me.”

Pedro stated, “I am glad you did. Also, it didn't take a genius to figure out it was you. Like the rest them, you look like your own younger sister. And you did immediately go back to your old bartending job at the Devil's Hotel.”

Melanie shrugged, as she replied, “True.”

Pedro said, “And as such, I was just waiting for you to tell me.”

Melanie commented, “I appreciate you patience in letting me tell you, instead of you confronting me.”

Pedro stated, “You're welcome. Though, through all this, I hope I am still your friend.”

Melanie smiled at Pedro, as she responded, “You still are... But, I have customers to deal with. So, we can talk later.”

Pedro replied, “Sure.”

Melanie then reached down and pulled out a tray, and then some glasses. After which, she started fixing some drinks for the women in the room.

Pedro looked directly in front of him, at the wall right wall of the room, to Melanie's right side, as he thought, with weariness, 'How did I end up in such an insane situation? I admit that I tempted fate when my brother and I compared this town with Roanapur. But, I never realized that fate would bite me in the ass by bringing that city's violently psychotic population to my home town.'

'Also, what is with Melvin, or should I say Melanie, dating Bao?... Well, they have a lot in calm. Sane, and nice, though both of them have violent backgrounds.'

'And after thinking about, it wasn't hard to figure out the Rats Nest bartender here is Bao.'

'Still, I am not surprised that these women figured out the bartender here is Bao. They are all very clever.'

'Bao runs the Rats Nest like the Yellowflag, only with less problems, because Chang and the other leave her be. Unless they come as customers, for a drink. Bao was captured in Lee's stories. This answers what happened to her. Though, Bao has been careful not to mention her name. Though, these women behind me were not that secretive about Bao identity, when having drinks. And Bao confirmed her identity, a while back, when I ask her point blank on the matter.'

'And after Bao confirmed her identity, I informed her, in a calm manner, than while we slept together, when I did not know who she was. I did not mean finding out the truth, that Bao use to be a man, considering Bao has been nice to me.'

'Also, I asked Bao why she did not have any type of music be played in the Rats Next. She answered that she got tired of having every jukebox, radio, and audio speakers, she put out in the various bars she had been in, being shot up, or destroyed in some other way, on a regular basis. With Revy as a repeat customer, at the Yellowflag, and others like her, I can see how that could happen.'

'So, Bao has a policy of bring you own music system. Though, people rarely do that, because other customers sometimes disagree with what music is being played. So, the situation defaults to almost no music at all.'

'Though, to be fair, Bao has been a good person. She had done well for herself in this city. I even think it is nice that Melanie and Bao are dating. They are both decent people. It is nice the two of them found each other to be with.'

'Along with all this, except for the problems in this bar, which usually solve themselves, Bao has kept her nose fairly clean in this city. I have no problems with her being in this town for as long as she wants. Unlike, these psychos that have roped me and Matthew, into being their designated drivers, around three times a week, when they go out partying.'

'And I know better than to try anything to stop their wildness. It would be suicide for my men and I. And I cannot run from them, because last time I did, they found me quicker than it took me to run to my hideout, in another country, on other continent.'

'So currently, I am screwed. And so is Matthew. With us both realizing that fact.'

'Though, I am sure an idea, and opportunity, for escape with eventually come to one of us. But, I am not going to rock this boat, until I have too.'

Just then, Bao walked up, from behind the bar, to Melanie's right. She looked over at Pedro, as she happily said, “I heard what you said to Melanie, just now. I am just glad that you are here, Pedro. This city would be a lot worse without you being here.”

Pedro turned to Bao, as he thought, 'Yea. She has sharp hearing, like everyone who had undergone the super-soldier serum process. Still, what she said was nice.'

Pedro responded, “Thanks, Bao. I realize that. And I want you to know that I have never had any problems with you, or Melanie here.” He mentally added, 'And as I told you, Bao. As a woman, Bao, you were good in bed. Also, I don't care that you were a guy, beforehand. Not that I am going say that in front of this school of sharks. That would be like blood in the water for both of us.'

Bao replied, “Thanks.”

Melanie looked up from the tray she was preparing, as she said, “I appreciate that.”

Pedro turned his head to focus on both Bao and Melanie, as he replied, “You're welcome...” He then looked back over at Bao, as he continued. “Still, it's your... Customers here that worry me.”

Bao agreed, “You and me, both.”

Melanie chirped, “Me too.”

Matthew said, “Me, as well.”

Pedro stated, “And I wouldn't be complaining about this, except that I have being forced to be in the middle of this insanity... Though, I do prefer these women to blow off steam with a few drinks, in this fashion, than through violence.”

Bao responded, “I can see you point of view. And I agree... Also, considering they pay me well. I don't complain much. As long as they don't hurt us, nor destroy any property.”

Pedro nodded once in agreement.

Melanie turned to Bao, as she asked, “Are we still on for our vacation?”

Bao looked over at Melanie, as she answered, “Yes. I am looking forward to it.”

Matthew inquired, “How are you two going to find the time? I mean, they like you both too much, as bartenders, to let you leave. Even if it is only for a vacation.”

Bao and Melanie looked back towards Pedro and Matthew.

Bao stated, “I have a reality device. And we will use time dilation mechanics to our advantage. As far as everyone here is concerned, we will be gone only a few minutes.”

Matthew complimented, “Not bad.”

Pedro commented, “I can see the potential in doing that.” He thought, 'They could spend a few weeks to a few months, in other part of the multiverse, with no one being the wiser.'

Bao responded, “Thanks... Well, I better get back to my customers, before they miss me.”

Bao then reached down, under the bar counter, to the refrigerator, to pull out a couple of bottles of cold beer, with a sealed bottle in each of her hands.

Next, Bao look back over at Pedro, and Matthew, as she commented, “And when this party ends tonight, we help you two, like usual, and we will shepherd these women back to their hotel, or their homes.”

Pedro smiled at Bao, as he said, “Thanks again, Bao.”

Matthew smiled, as well. He said, “Yea. Your help, and Melanie's help, is much appreciated.”

While having a cold beer bottle in each of her hands. Bao returned their smiles, as she replied, “I know.” She then turned, and walked away, towards the back of the bar room, where the exit to the bar counter lead to the rest of the room.

Meanwhile, Matthew and Pedro turned back around to face the tables of the room, as Melanie picked up her tray. She carefully balanced it in her hands, while she followed Bao, to exit from behind the bar counter, as she headed for one of the tables in the bar.

(_)

Fortunately, the rest of the party was uneventful. And Pedro, Matthew, Bao, and Melanie, each took their car, to drive them either their homes, or back to the front lobby entrance to the Devil's Hotel, where they had suites, which stayed at.

Though, to take everyone home, Pedro, Matthew, and Melanie had to make two trips, while Bao stayed with the others, as she started to close her bar up.

While Pedro, Bao, and Melanie drove their own cars, Matthew was using one of the Daiyu Palace Casino's four door, black Sedan cars, with permission from Chang, beforehand.

When Pedro, Matthew, Melanie all returned to the Rats Nest, the rest of those there were divided up among the three of them, and Bao. With Bao closing and locking the doors behind her. As she was the last one out of her bar.

Bao then got into her car, with a couple of the drunk women, while Matthew, Pedro, and Melanie, and those in their three vehicles, while waiting for Bao to start her car. Once the four sober adults saw that all four of their vehicles would start, they then headed over to take the last of the drink women home.

After which, Bao and Melanie headed to the home they shared, Pedro headed to his home, and Matthew headed for one of the Daiyu Palace Casino's back garage entrances, to park his car, and head into his casino suite. And after all four of them reached their homes, they soon all got ready for bed, and received some much deserved sleep.

(_)

The next morning, it was ten thirty-three AM, on a slightly warm, partly cloudy day, at Daiyu Palace Casino.

At that moment, the back express elevator of the casino took the sole occupant, Matthew McCormick, from the penthouse, down to the back elevator bay on the first floor.

That day, Matthew wore his dark brown business suit, with a light brown tie, and black dress shoes.

He held his briefcase, by its handle, with his left hand. The briefcase was full of documents and office supplies.

For the most part, it had been a normal morning for Matthew's daily routine. He had just finished his weekly financial meeting with his employer, Chang, in Chang's penthouse office. And while the news was not all good, the sense Matthew got from Chang was that Chang was okay with the situation.

Presently, Matthew needed to talk to River and Lee, on matters connected to the meeting he had just had with Chang. And Matthew knew exactly where to find them at this time of day.

As he used his right hand to adjust the tie knot, at the top of his shirt, he thought, 'At least this morning was not been that bad. And last night was not horrible. Pedro, Melanie, and Bao's support does seem to help. And though I did have a little bad news for Chang this morning. It wasn't too bad. And he handled it well. Also, that meeting was just a reminder on how happy I am that it was easy for me to get a grip on the various laws, regulations, and taxes, that I need to review for my job as Chang's lawyer. And at least I am doing fine in my professional life.'

A few seconds later, the doors opened, and Matthew stepped out of the express elevator, onto the back elevator bay, onto the first floor.

Matthew continued walking, as he thought, 'Now, to take care of business.'

He then saw the bushy and grassy tiger enclosure in front of him, with the healthy female tiger inside the enclosure looking at him, from behind the translucent plastic.

Matthew calmly thought, 'And how are you this morning?'

The tiger then turned, and walked further back into her room, to play with her toys.

As the tiger did so, Matthew made his out of the elevator bay, and into the hallway, between the elevator bay, and the tiger enclosure. He then turned to his right, as he started walking towards the back of the casino building.

(_)

A few minutes later, Matthew pushed open the right side door of the double-doors to the employee gym, and he walked inside the gym.

While Matthew was inside, he gently guided the door, by its inward knob handle, as the door springs automatically closed the door.

As soon as the door was closed, he turned his attention back to the gym, in front of him, and he began making his way through the large room.

The first part of the gym Matthew passed through was the equipment section.

As he made his way through the equipment section of the gym, he saw various people, most of whom were wearing gym clothing, as they used the exercise equipment.

Among these people there were Kaylee, Inara, and Jayne.

Matthew noticed Jayne look over at him. When the eyes met, Jayne gave Matthew a glare for a few seconds, before he turned back to working on the piece of exercise equipment he was using.

Matthew did not react, as he walked passed Jayne.

With Matthew's back to Jayne, he continued walking, as he thought, 'I have always been a little too white collar for this crowd... Still, there is nothing I can do about it, right now... Besides, I prefer to workout here in either the early morning, or mid-afternoon. And fortunately, some of the regulars, at that time, spot for me on the weightlifting.'

Matthew made his way through the gym, to the back section of the room, near the doors, to his right side, that lead to the two shower sections. One for male, and one for female. With the rules stating what the physical gender of that person was, at the time, determined which section they could enter.

There were also restrooms and showers located in the locker rooms.

In addition, were another set of entrances to the male and female locker rooms, on the other side of the locker sections, which were connected to left wall of the employee pool. Which was large, heated, and used saltwater.

As Matthew first passed by the female locker entrance, then the male locker entrance. After which, Matthew came to the open parts of the gym, where the floors had square cushions covering every part of that section of the room.

The cushioned squares were blue, three feet wide, with no spacing in between. And the cushions had two inches of life foam rubber in them.

Matthew came to a stop, and what he saw in front of him, he found very interesting to watch.

The first thing Matthew noticed was that River stood to the side of the matters, across from him. He could tell that River saw him, as she looked over at him. She then turned her attention back to what she was watching between herself, and Matthew.

The second thing Matthew noticed, in front of him, between him and River, were two people in the middle of a fencing match.

The two combatants were in full patted fencing gear, with helmets and masks. Each of them held their foils in their right hand.

The gear of both combatants were white, with chrome masks, that matched in colors. Even their foils were the same.

From the contours of their suits, the two people fencing each other were both women. And from the looks, such as fighting technique, and body language, it appeared the match had been going on for at least a few minutes.

Both fencers were holding their foils with their right hand.

Matthew remained silent, as he watched the sparring match. He mentally wondered, 'Now, which one of them is which?'

Matthew noted that the strikes, parries, and dodges were being swift executed by each combatant, against the other. With neither seeming to get the upper hand.

This continued on for about another thirty seconds, until the one to Matthew’s left knocked the weapon out of the right hand of the person to his right, and towards River. Though, the foil did not hit River, as the sword landed nearby, to River's left side, by the wall.

The winner did not press her attack, and instead held the tip of her foil towards the loser chest for a few seconds, before she tossed her foil by the other foil on the floor. With the second foil landing right beside the first foil, without hitting River.

Both women combatants then took off their helmets, with each of them tucking their helmet under an arm. For the winner, it was her right arm, while the loser tucked her helmet under her left arm.

Matthew saw that the winner was Annie, and that the loser was Lee.

Annie and Lee looked at each other, as Annie complimented, “Not bad. You are getting better with both your sword skills, and you precognitive skills in combat.”

Lee replied, “Thank you.”

Annie said, “Even though you are not that experienced, when compared to me. It is nice to spar regularly with someone else with precognitive abilities.”

Lee complimented, “Well, you are a good teacher.”

Annie smiled towards Lee, as she responded, “I know. And in a few months you will likely be ready for me to start training you with use of a lightsaber. You may not use the force, but your psychic abilities make some of the lightsaber training workable for you.”

Lee returned Annie's smile, as she replied, “I look forward to it.”

Matthew saw River looked over to him, as she spoke up, “So, what do you want, Matthew?”

At the mention of Matthew's name, Annie and Lee looked over at Matthew, as well.

Even though Lee's hands were gloved, Matthew saw Lee unconsciously use her left hand to rub her right hand, where her golden ring was, on her right fourth finger.

Annie said, “Good morning, Matthew.”

Lee noticed what she was doing, and she dropped her gloved hands to her sides. She commented, “Morning, Matthew.”

Matthew looked at the three women, as he calmly answered, “Good morning, ladies. Lee. River. I just got finished with my meeting with Chang, and I need to discuss some business with you that is connected to that meeting.”

River questioned, “Does this conversation need to be done in private?”

Annie looked over at River, as she pointed out, “Everyone here knows better than to talk about our business.”

Lee looked over at River, as she commented, “I agree.” She then looked back at Matthew.

River looked over at Annie and Lee. She then turned back to Matthew, as she requested, “Go ahead.”

Lee and Annie also looked back at Matthew.

Matthew stated, “Early this morning, local time, your shell accounts in Italy were closed. From I understand, the bank in question was facing indictments over several matters, and they threw some questionable accounts, including the ones you three hold there, as fresh meat for the prosecutors.”

Lee muttered, under her breath, “Damn.”

Matthew said, “On the poetic side, this did nothing to stop the prosecutors from indicting the members of that bank.”

River commented, “Cowardice is rarely rewarded... So, how much did we lose?”

Matthew replied, “Altogether, about the equivalent of ten million Swiss Francs. That includes the two million you had set up for your anonymous charities there.”

Annie said, “Ouch. How did Chang take it?”

Matthew turned to Annie, as he answered, “Surprisingly well.”

River said, “That is good. I would hate to lose you over something as trivial as this. And I am sure Chang feels the same way. Also, though this still hurts, it is but a drop in the bucket, when compared to our assets just here, in the casino.”

Lee looked over at River, as she stated, “Yes. But, we also need to know...” She looked at Matthew, as she continued, “Are there any chances of them tracing us back to here?”

Matthew answered, “No. With your reality devices, disguises, and fake identification records, that lead to Eastern European countries. I doubt they could trace you. Especially, since you did all you business on those accounts, in Europe. And I used VPNs, voice modulators over the phone, third parties, and other anti-tracing methods to check on those accounts. So, I do not see how they could trace us back here.”

Lee replied, “Good.”

River inquired, “Now, what else do you need discuss, with us, over this matter?”

Matthew thought, with mild emotional weariness, 'Like you don't already know, River. From reading my mind.'

Matthew saw River smile, in response to his thoughts.

Matthew sighed. He then said, “Well, what I just said, leads me to the next reason I came to talk to you, and Lee. I need to know where you want me to start the ball rolling, on setting up your new accounts. I need to know at least which country you would like, from the selections I believe might be best, for the moment. You will still have to go there, to personally sign the documents. But, I can already start the process of drawing up the paperwork, right now.”

River replied, “Of course. So, what are our options?”

Matthew answered, “Singapore, Brazil, and South Africa.”

River looked over at Lee, as she said, “You're call, Lee. Since you know this world better than, I.”

Lee looked at River, as she responded, “Given the financial events happening in Asia, right now. I do not want to use Singapore, just yet. I would like things to settle down in that region, first. And politics in Africa can turn on a dime. So, I guess that leaves Brazil. Which is not a bad place to have a little extra spending capital, stashed away in.”

River teased, “Thinking of the Carnival in Rio?”

Lee playfully replied, “You know me so well.”

River said, “Sounds like a good enough reason for me.”

Matthew saw Lee and River then looked back over towards him.

Matthew commented, “I will start working on the paperwork later today. I should have the documents ready for you, to review, in a few days.”

Lee inquired, “Speaking of other interests we have you keep tabs on, for us, what is the latest on my family, in the U.S.?”

Matthew calmly answered, “Your family, in the U.S., is doing fine. Especially, since you gave them those two gold bars, you informed me of, to help them with their expenses. Also, due to them only slowly using that gold, they have not yet triggered any red flags with the local government.”

Lee stated, “Good. That is why I sent them those two gold bars to them, for Christmas, two years ago. And I had a note attached to the bars, telling them it was from me, and to use that gold slowly. And from what I have seen so far, that is what they have been doing so far. So, they should pay off all their debts within a few years.”

Matthew said, “With patience and a little luck, they will continue to do so, with few problems. Since our business is concluded, for the moment. And that I have matters to attend to. I will be leaving now.”

Matthew then turned around, and started walking out of the gym, the same way he had come in.

Annie looked over at Lee, and River, as she said, “I will be right back.”

Lee replied, “Take your time.”

River looked over at Lee, then back to Annie, as she said, “Yes. We will be here when you get back.”

Annie then turned back to look as Matthew, as she walked over to him, in large strides.

When Annie reached Matthew, she stepped up beside him, to his right, as they both continued walking, at a more casual pace.

As they walked through the equipment section of the gym, both adults noticed that no one was paying them any real attention to them.

Annie turned to Matthew, as she softly said, “I can sense you are not happy, for some reason.”

While walking, Matthew looked over at Annie, as he responded, “Yea. And it is the usual. First, I had a busy night last night, at the Rats Nest.”

Annie commented, “Yea. Revy and her friends can get pretty wild. Still, I realize it is not fair that you and Pedro get dragged into those parties. That is why I don't go to those parties. Even though I have been invited, more than once, to do so.”

Matthew went onto say, “Yea. At least, Bao and Melanie also help. Which they did last night. And thank you for not adding to that repeating mess.”

Annie replied, “You're welcome.”

Matthew stated, “And even though you, Lee, River, and even Chang, to a degree, are friendly enough, towards me. At a personal level, since I have gotten here, I just haven't clicked with anyone at the casino. You included.” He mentally added, 'Likely, just the standard white collar and blue collar, working class friction. Boiled down, everyone here pretty much have blue collar personalities. Chang and you included. While, I have always had more of a white collar personality... Though, I don't hold that against anyone here. But, a few here seem to hold that against me.'

Annie pointed out, “At least, you seem to be friends with Pedro.”

Matthew responded, “We are more like just two guys thrown throw together, into a mess not of our own making, while making the most of the insane situation we find ourselves in.”

Annie teased, “What do you think friends are? Half the friendship I have had started with situations like yours.”

Matthew rhetorically deadpanned, “Why am I not surprised?... And that is one way to look at it.”

Annie suggested, “Look, since you are not making many friends. Perhaps you should take some more risks. I know the people here, and even Revy and her crew, will respect you more, if you do so.”

Matthew pointed out, “Annie, you, and Arcee, are the people employed to be the adventurous ones. I am employed to be the calm professional. Lawyers are not adventurers.”

Annie commented, “I can name a few exceptions.”

Matthew retorted, “Outside of comicbooks?”

Annie conceded, “Point taken.”

Matthew stated, “Listen. All things considered, I am doing okay. As long as I am polite, and I do my job well, I have nothing to fear from any of you... But, I just feel that I could be doing more.”

Annie commented, “Don't we all. But, at least Chang pays well. And he is reasonable with those that work for him.”

Matthew responded, “True. Though, sometimes I get the sense that I have just been spinning my wheels for the last two years, doing nothing.”

They then came to a stop in front of the double doors to the hallways exit of the employee gym.

Annie walked over and pulled opened the right door, as she looked over at Matthew. She said, “We all have days like that. And I hope you are able to get out of your rut, soon.”

Matthew turned to look at the Annie, as he responded, “Thanks. And have a good day, Annie.”

Annie replied, with concern in her tone of voice, “You too, Matthew.”

Matthew then turned back to look in front of him, as he calmly walked out of the gym, into the hallway, and towards his own office, on the first floor.

Meanwhile, Annie gently shut the door, turned around, and she headed back to the open area, in the back of the gym, to talk with River and Lee, over more casual matters.

(_)

A few hours later, it was one three PM, as Pedro sat in his office, in the police station.

Pedro had just returned from lunch, and he had his office door left open, with the metal blinds to his window turned open.

Pedro sat in his chair, behind her desk, he was review the electronic reports that some of his police offices been filed that morning, on his computer monitor. With the computer monitor being on the top, left part of Pedro's desk. Between the monitor and Pedro were the computer keyboard, computer mouse, and to Pedro's left, by the left each of the desk, was a wireless phone, on its recharge mount.

The computer tower was located inside the left part of the desk. With the computer connected to a wireless, encrypted network that was set up in the police station, which connected to the internet, by a high-speed connection.

Just then, one of his officers walked into his off, and came to a stop in front of his desk.

Pedro looked up at the officer, as he thought, 'I am glad that my boys understand that I don't mind them walking into my office, when I leave my door open.' He asked, in a casual tone of voice, in spanish, “What do you need?”

The officer answered, “Sir, you wanted us to keep you updated on the developments of the old church that you are fond of?”

Pedro replied, “Yes.”

Pedro thought, 'Hotel Moscow has been trying to buy the land where the church I helped get the funding to built, when I first became police chief of this city. I consider the building of that church one of the highlights of my career as police chief of this city. A symbol of a turning point in this city, from a cesspool to becoming a much cleaner, nicer, safer city.'

'And while the building itself is starting to show its age. The congregation is not, and it is a nice mix of some of the more honest people in of this city. With the person preaching there being a decent man. And while I am not religious, in that way. I did respect others that are.'

'Still, Hotel Moscow, under their alias, Bougainvillea Trade Company...'

Pedro groaned a little, as he continued his thoughts, 'They are not even trying to hide...'

'Anyway, Hotel Moscow has been using their money through their front company to try to bribe my superiors on the mainland, to get control of the title to the land the church sits on. So, they can tear down the church, and build their new headquarters. I guess they are tired of living on that cargo ship.'

'And this has caused a quiet, political tug of war between me and them, on the matter.'

'I had the property the church is on be put under the city's name, in the first place, as a way to protect it from this very situation.'

'I don't even know why they even want that land in the first place. There is clear, undeveloped land on this island. It is even in the middle of the city. That would cause problems for them, right there.'

'Maybe they learned my connection to the church, and they are doing this to piss me off.'

'I know Balalaika has been that spiteful, or at least, pretend to be.'

'Also, I am not surprised they are using the same cover, as in the Black Lagoon series, the Bougainvillea Trade Company. They are not trying to hide. Though, unless they knew otherwise, no one in their right mind would think they are the same people, from another reality. And if they did, they would like just get out of the way, and keep silent, for their own sakes.'

'But, as the chief of police of the city, I cannot afford to do that. And even though I was able to finally shore up my staff numbers, since the maids originally came to town, and half of us immediately left. With me, and others slowly returning back to town. A number of them took a lot of convincing from me to return to duty. Still, even with most of my boys back, along with a few new faces that I vetted, I know that we are still outgunned.'

'Though, at least we have a handle on the day to day dealing with the crime in this city... So, there is that... At least...'

The officer said, “Our contacts stated that the mainland superiors okayed the deal. The paperwork will likely be fully pushed through by the end of the week.”

Pedro thought, 'Damn. They must have bribed some of the mainland officials. But, I need to not alert this man in front of me, on how this makes me feel.' Pedro stated, in a relaxed tone of voice, “There not much we can do about it. But, thank you for letting me know.”

The police office replied, “You're welcome, sir.”

Pedro said, “Carry on with your duties.”

The officer replied, “Yes sir.” He then turned around, and left Pedro office.

When the officer was out of sight, Pedro sighed, as he turned his attention back to the electronic police reports he had pulled up on the monitor of his computer.

(_)

At two ten PM, that afternoon, across town, from the police station, inside the double bay garage, one of the Plata Podrido's better auto-mechanics, Hernan Pena, had just finished working on a car, for a customer, that was in one of his two garage bays. Specifically, the bay closest to Hernan's office. With the other garage bay being empty.

Both garage doors were open to the outside air, on the partly cloudy day.

At that moment, Hernan had his back facing to the outside of the garage door, leading to the front parking lot.

Hernan Pena was Venezuelan. He had short black hair and fair skin. He had a full, black, well groomed beard, which was cut short. He was of average height, and he was a very physically fit man, in his mid-forties. He was currently wearing blue coveralls, black boots, and mirrored sunglasses.

Hernan had just used a grease rag to wipe off his hands. He then pulled the car's front hood down, as he heard a car pulled up into his driveway, and come to a stop about twenty feet from him.

Hernan turned around, and when he saw the car in front of him, he recognized the vehicle, as he whistled a little, in astonishment.

In front of his was a black painted car, with chrome rims, in pristine condition. The car was based on the nineteen forty-two Packard Super Eight. But, one glance at the front hood, and he could tell that it was another, much rarer luxury car, of days gone by.

And even though the top hood was up, Hernan could tell that the car was the convertible version of the vehicle.

Hernan mentally wondered, 'Now, who could be driving that old girl?...'

After Hernan heard the engine turn off, he then watched as slim, woman, with short brown hair, and fair skin, get out of the driver's seat. She looked to be in her mid-twenties. And she wore a masculine shirt, pants, belt, boots, and open coat, that were clearly cut to fit her feminine frame.

The brown haired woman then walked shut her driver’s side door, which was located on the right side of the car. And she walked to the door directly behind the driver's door. She opened it, and Hernan watched as a fair skinned woman, with a scar on the right side of her face, step out of the back of the vehicle.

In spite of the scar on the right side of her face, she was a very beautiful, slender woman, whom appeared to be in her mid-twenties.. She had long blond hair, that went down to the back of her waistline, and with her leaving her hair loose. She wore a red and white business suit, with a long red skirt. She had red low heel slippers, and pink nail polish on her finger nails. Over while blouse, she wore a red coat which was open.

Balalaika had buttoned up her white blouse to the top of collar. As such, Hernan only saw the scars on Balalaika face, leading down the front right side of her neck, with a little bit of scarring showing above the collar, on the bottom front left side of Balalaika neck. Though, the blouse hid the scars that raked across the front of Balalaika chest and stomach, which went on the way done to the middle front of Balalaika’s thighs.

Still, Hernan willing prevented himself from staring at Balalaika facial and neck scars.

Though, Hernan did notice that Balalaika had put on red lipstick on her lips, and there was a small, black mole right beside the lower left side of her left eye. Along with all this, the way she stood gave herself a commanding presence.

As blond haired woman fully stepped out of the way, the brown hair shut the back door to the car.

The brown haired woman then turned to the blond haired woman, as she said, in russian, “Melanie, Rock, and Revy recommended this man. Though, Melanie cautioned not to threaten this man, nor his family.”

The blond haired woman turned the brown haired woman, as she casually replied, in russian, “As long as he is polite, and he gets the job done, I could care less about what motivates him.”

Both women then turned their attention to Hernan, as they calmly walked towards him, side by side, with the blond to his right, and the brown haired woman to his left.

While Hernan watched the two women approach him, he thought, 'It is so nice to know russian... And I am willing to bet money that the blond woman is, Balalaika. The queen alpha bitch of both the Soviet military, and Russian mob, of her reality. And one of the last people anyone would ever want to get on the bad side of, in all existence.'

'Also, if my memory is correct from those omakes Pedro showed me, and those crazy stories, Pedro informed me about... I am glad I read them... That is, B. And from the way she is carrying herself, she likely has a gun, in a shoulder holster, under her open coat, below her left armpit. Which makes sense. And I am sure that Balalaika has a hold out pistol somewhere on her person...'

'I wonder who Melanie is?... I will find out, later. And I guess Rock and Revy were happy with my work on their red GTO... I should take that as a compliment.'

'I am so happy I have been able distance myself, and my family, from the insanity that has come to this town, in the last few years... And that my family has so far been fine.'

'Still, that just means I am going to have to be on my toes, here. Customers are customers. And their money is just as good as anyone else's.'

'Well, I better greet them. And I guess english would be best.'

As the women came within ten feet of Hernan, he complimented, in english, “Nice vehicle there. A real classic. A Zil, ZIS one one zero B.”

A second later, the two women came to a stop, roughly eight feet from Hernan.

Balalaika cracked a grin, as she said, in english, with tone of intrigue in her voice, “Very good. I take it you have seen one of those before?”

Hernan answered, “Yes. Many years ago in Cuba.”

Balalaika replied, “Really?”

Hernan plainly responded, “Yes. And this is very rare vehicle.”

Balalaika commented, “My family use to have one, when I was younger. And this vehicle has a bit of nostalgic value to me.”

Hernan gave the two women a warm smile, as he casually said, “Of course. And I am more than willing to cater to such customers. Still, as a professional, I have to inform you, if you need replacement parts, I could recommend a few other places, in town, that could have those parts shipped here more quickly, than I.”

Balalaika responded, “I appreciate that. But, not to worry. I just a need a tune up. Along with an oil change. My usual mechanics are busy. And the mechanic my friends use is also busy, with her usual costumers. So, I asked around, and Mister Pena, your name came up at the top of the list.”

Hernan said, with sincerity in his tone of voice, “I am honored. Let us head into my office, to work out the details of our deal.”

Balalaika replied, “Most certainly.”

Hernan then turned around, and started walking, into his garage, through the open garage bay, near them. Then into the open door, from the garage bay, to a hallway, though the open doorway to his office, on the other side of the hallway, from the garage door.

Hernan was the first to enter his office, with Balalaika and B right behind him.

When Hernan walked around his desk, he then sat down, in his chair, behind his desk.

There were also two chairs stationed in front of his desk.

As he turned his attention to the two women, he noticed that Balalaika and B were looking at his family pictures on a mantle, in his office.

Though, they seemed to pay no mind to them, as they look back at Hernan, without making any comments.

Hernan offered, “Have a seat.”

Balalaika calmly said, “We prefer to stand.”

Hernan replied, “Okay.” He then picked up a note pad, and pen from his desk. Next, he wrote a price down, set the pen down, and tore off the top piece of paper on the top of the note. Afterward, he used his right hand to hand the piece of paper over to Balalaika.

As Hernan saw Balalaika take the piece of paper, and look at it, he stated, “This is my standard rate. In U.S. currency. For working on classic automobiles, that are thirty years old, or more. Excluding any damaged parts I might find.”

Balalaika looked at the price. She then stuck the paper into a pocket, in the interior of her red coat. She looked back up at Hernan, as she replied, “The price looks fair.”

Hernan mentioned, “If I do find a damaged part, I will contact you. From there, you can either decide to take you vehicle off my hands, at half the repair fee, I just quoted you. Or, I can order the parts, and repair the vehicle. With the price and repair time depending on if you want authentic parts. Which can become very expensive, and time consuming to find. Or, I can find a part that will just work.”

Balalaika calmly responded, “I do not think that will be a problem. Though, I can understand where you are coming from. If this matter becomes an issue. We will discuss it.”

Hernan said, “Good. Now, if you are willing to leave me some contact information, I will contact you when your vehicle is ready. With luck, I should be done within a week, or so. Maybe sooner.” He thought, 'I need to check some repair guides on Zil automobiles, before I work on this one. To make refresh my memory. I am not going to mess up Balalaika nice, classic car, if I can help it.'

Balalaika replied, “That will be fine.”

Balalaika then used her right hand to reached into a pocket, on the left front interior part of her red coat, and she pulled out a card. Next, she leaned down, and handed the card, over the desk, to Hernan, with her right hand, as she said, “You can contact us at this phone number.”

Hernan leaned over, and he used his right hand take the card from Balalaika hand.

Balalaika leaned back up straight, while Hernan leaned back into his chair.

Hernan looked that card, and he noticed that it was printed in english. He then silently read the name. Next, he set the card onto the desk, as he looked back up at the two women standing in front of him.

Hernan gave the women a warm smile, as he commented, “Bougainvillea Trade Company... Bougainvillea... That is a pretty flower.”

B spoke up, in a straight forward tone of voice, in english, “You know? Don't you?”

It was obvious to all three adults, what B was alluding too.

Hernan kept his warm smile on his lips, as he took off his sunglasses, which he held in his right hand.

The two women then saw that his smile did not reach his eyes, as Hernan's blue eyes were like ice.

Hernan calmly said, “If you have been in this city long enough. You would know better than to ask questions you don't want answers too.”

Hernan then put his glasses back over his eyes, which changed the entire mood of the room, since all the two women could now see was Hernan's warm smile.

Balalaika said, in a calm tone of voice, “Whatever you know, is unimportant. Considering you know better than to ask about it.”

Hernan commented, “The people on this island have learned that it is best to let the past lay undisturbed.”

Balalaika complimented, “A good policy.” She looked over at B, as she requested, “Please, give him the keys.” She then looked back at Hernan.

B pulled out the keys to the car, from a pants pocket. She then gently set the keys onto Hernan's desk.

Balalaika stated, “Contacted us, when our car is ready.”

Hernan replied, “Most certainly. And have a nice day.”

Balalaika said, “You as well.”

Balalaika turned around, and started walking out of the office, from the door they had come in front. With B following right behind her.

As the two women walked out of his office, Hernan overheard, B say, in russian, “His eyes reminded me of someone. But, I cannot place whom.”

Balalaika responded, in russian, “Not to worry. It will come to you, later.”

As soon as they were out of sight of his office, Hernan quietly got up from his chair, and walked over to his office window, to his right. He then looked out his window, by peeking between the closed, metal blinds to his window.

As Balalaika and B walked down the parking lot of his business, he saw a black SUV driving to a stop, beside the entrance to his driveway.

Hernan watched Balalaika and B get into the vehicle, with the vehicle soon driving away.

Hernan thought, 'I guess they had a second vehicle, hidden nearby. With their Hotel Moscow subordinates inside it, waiting to either pick them up. Or, if there was trouble, come in, and kill me... Not bad...'

'Anyway, I will do my best to treat Balalaika Zil with the up most care, as I tune it up, and change its oil. Which should not be that hard. Engine models of that time were real simple to work on. And the russians were not ones to make things more complicated, when they copied something. So, this should not be too much of a problem with me. Still, I will review some guides I know of, before I do so. Best not to make a mistake, than have to fix a mistake.'

He then looked back at his desk, with Balalaika’s keys, and business card on it, as he continued his thought, 'Though, while I told her that fixing her car may take a week, or so. I think it is best that I start work on this in the next half hour. I only have a few cars in the back of the shop. And all them are regular customers. They can wait a couple of days. But, Balalaika... I don't want to keep that woman waiting any more than I have too...'

'Still, I wonder what B meant by my eyes reminding her of someone?... Given those they associate with, that is not good. But, since there is no way to tell, it is best I just let the matter be...'

A few days later, Hernan finished the tune up, and oil change on Balalaika car. When he finished, and had parked the car in the front of the parking lot, he immediately called the phone number of the business card that Balalaika had left with them.

An hour later, Balalaika and B, personally picked up their vehicle. They were happy with Hernan's work on their vehicle. They paid Hernan well for his work. And they then left his shop, in Balalaika Zil automobile.

(_)

It was eight thirty-two PM, on the night that Balalaika left her Zil automobile with Hernan. Night had fully fallen several minutes ago.

Inside the living room of Pedro's home, Pedro and Matthew were each having a bottle of beer.

And hour ago, Matthew had taken a taxi to Pedro home, where Pedro was waiting for Matthew, to let Matthew inside his home.

Both of them had on their work clothes. Though, Pedro had his coat hung up, on a coat rack, near the front door. And he sunglasses set on a nearby table. But, he still had his firearms on his person. Still, he kept his weapons on his person. Including, his loaded nineteen twenty-seven semi-automatic pistol, in his shoulder holster, under his left armpit.

Matthew was sitting to the couch, in the living room. There was a coffee table in front of the couch.

On the table were Pedro and Matthew's open bottles of beer, a few magazines, wireless keyboard and wireless mouse.

The keyboard and mouse were wirelessly connected to the computer, across the room, from the couch, which was part of the entertainment system. The entertainment system was connected to a large, flat, widescreen TV, that was mounted to the wall, across from the couch. Also, the entertainment system was also attached to speakers set up around the ceiling corners of the room.

To Mathew's right, Pedro sat in a cushioned recliner, The chair was set to be up right at the moment.

There was another recliner chair, opposite to the chair Pedro was sitting in, in relation to the coffee table, and couch, in the room.

Both chairs faced at a diagonal angle, to the couch, to allow the person to both see the TV, but still be able to turn to look at those on the couch, if need be.

The only lights in the room, were single, soft yellow, light bulbs, in electric lamps, setting on the two small tables, between the two chairs and the couch.

And the floor of the living room had brown carpeting.

Also, the room was quite neat, for a bachelor pad.

Presently, Pedro had his entertainment system, and TV, playing a comedy movie. The volume on the speakers were set low, to act as background noise, as the two friends talked, while watching the movie that was playing.

Their conversation had been casual, and covered a number of topics, until Matthew muttered, in english, “I don't like this place.”

Pedro overheard Matthew comment. He turned to look at Matthew, as he casually responded, in english, “This town isn't that bad. I have seen the Babylon Five series. And to be honest, Mars Dome One isn't that great a place to live. It is debatable whether there, or here, is a better place to live.”

Matthew picked up his bottle of beer from the table, and he took a drink. He then set his beer back down on the table. He looked over at Pedro. He shrugged, as he conceded, “True. But, it is not this city I am talking about. It is the casino. Chang's casino.”

Pedro asked, “When it comes to that. You have a point there. So, what is it this time that is bothering you?”

Matthew answered, “A few things. Like I am just spinning my wheels. But mostly, I just don't get the respect I think I deserve.”

Pedro let out a laugh. He then said, “You are preaching to the choir.” He then leaned over, toward the coffee table. He picked up his beer bottle, took a drink of it.

Matthew was silent as Pedro took a swallow of his beer. Pedro noticed his friend's silence.

Next, Pedro set his bottle of beer down. After which, he leaned back in his chair, as he looked over at Matthew.

Pedro commented, in a concerned tone of voice, “I know this is bothering you. So, just let it all out.”

Matthew stated, “Well, if you want. First, I could live with chaperoning the girls, to their parties. But, at the casino, it is different. I get the sense there is just no real emotional connection there between my coworkers and I. And I am trying... I get the feeling they are just too blue collar, while I am too white collar.”

Pedro responded, “That could be the case. Though, there is not much you can do about it.”

Matthew commented, “To be fair, Chang has been a good, well paying employer.”

Pedro pointed out, “That is what makes Chang so dangerous. He knows talent when he sees it. And he does his best to get the most out of people, without them realizing it.”

Matthew replied, “Thank you... I think.”

Pedro let out a small chuckle. He then said, “You're welcome. And as always, you have my sympathies.”

Matthew stated, “And you have mine. Also, the worst part is that I know that River is a telepath, and Annie is an empath. They know I am not happy, but there isn't much they can do about it. Though, Annie does try to give me advice, and she is nice to me.”

Pedro replied, “Yea, at least Annie is trying. And considering who Annie use to be, that is saying something. So, what about Lee?”

Matthew stated, “Actually, it seems like Lee is wrapped up in her own little world. Even River and Chang show this type of response to both me, and the others, from time to time. And given how those three are romantically together, it doesn't take a genius to know their reactions are connected, somehow. And I while don't know the details, I getting the feeling that Lee, River, and Chang, go to somewhere else, in the multiverse.”

“Sometimes I hear Lee occasionally talking to Chang and River about heading back to somewhere else that they don't mention to others...”

“Where? I don't know? But, it is not here, in this reality. And given time dilation between realities, they could be spending some time wherever they go. Without us realizing it. Then, there is the whole Wash and Book issues...”

Pedro commented, “I know. And with their slowed aging, they could be spending a lot of time there, without anyone else noticing.”

Matthew stated, “Yea. Lee was a lucky bastard, or bitch. That pregnancy gave her a gender bending virus that also slows down her aging. While her age had already been turned back a number of years, due to some sort of water curse, Lee mention to me, a while ago.”

Pedro pointed out, “I agree. But, even it if appears otherwise. Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side.”

Matthew agreed, “Very true. But, we are not getting any younger, while some of them are. Or, at least we are getting older much faster than they are.”

Pedro sadly said, “I have to agree.”

Just then Pedro and Matthew heard the near by front door open.

Pedro pulled out his Sistema semi-automatic pistol. He pulled back the slide, which chambered a round in his pistol, and cocked the hammer, as he said, “I locked the door. And I am the only one that has a key to the lock.”

Matthew muttered, “Damn it.”

Both men looked over at the short hallway that lead to the front door. The entrance to which was directly in front of Pedro, to his right, along the same wall the TV was mounted too, on the far side of the wall, from Pedro.

Pedro held his pistol, in his right hand, as he took aim in front of him.

Just then, he saw to young, fair skinned two women, in plain clothing walked his living room, as they point their AK seventy-four rifles as Matthew, and himself.

Pedro quickly thought, 'AK seventy-fours?... Oh hell, you have got to be kidding me.' He quickly use his right thumb to switch on the hammer safety to his pistol, he then let his pistol drop to the carpeted floor.

One of the women said, in russian, “Clear.”

A second later, Pedro and Matthew saw B walk into the room. She stood beside the two women, to Pedro's left.

Pedro saw that B was holding her Tokarev T T thirty-three semi-automatic pistol, in her right hand, towards him.

Pedro then saw B look down at his dropped pistol, and then back up at him. B said, in english, “That was very wise of you.”

Pedro firmly responded, “I don't know how you got in. And I know that if you wanted us dead, we would already be dead. So, what do you want?”

B grinned, as she answered, “I will let Balalaika explain.”

Pedro and Matthew, then watched as Balalaika walked into the room, from behind the two rank and file Hotel Moscow members, and B. She came to stop to stand beside B, to B's right.

Balalaika looked around Pedro's living room, as she smirked. She then look over at Pedro, as she commented, in an arrogant tone of voice, in english, “I must say. For a man that abhors bribery. You have made quite a place here, on your police salary.”

Pedro calmly replied, “I am very frugal with my money.”

Balalaika responded, “That you clearly are. Get up. We need to talk.” She then turned to Matthew, as she continued, “And you shall stay. My... women will keep you company.”

Matthew choose to remain silent, as he looked at the intruding women.

Pedro got up.

Balalaika looked at Pedro, as she calmly ordered, “You, follow me.”

Balalaika then walked around her woman, and into another hallway, on the wall, on the right side of the TV, that was across from the chair that Pedro has been sitting in.

Pedro followed, with B right behind him, while she kept her pistol in her right hand.

As soon as Balalaika, Pedro, and B, has left the room, Matthew looked at the two women, as he said, “You know? I regularly chaperon Revy, and her friends. So, don't even though about trying to intimidate me. Nothing you could pull could compare to the insanity I have seen, first hand, that she and her friends have done.”

Both of the women stopped pointing their weapons at Matthew, as one of the women commented, in english, “We know. Just sit tight, and behave. You are not the target. And Chang would be annoyed if something were happen to you.”

Matthew said, “Thanks. And I am more than willing to behave.”

The other woman replied, in english, “Good.”

(_)

In another part of Pedro's home, Pedro follow Balalaika, as a causal pace, with B right behind him.

Pedro looked at Balalaika back, as he stated, in slightly annoyed tone of voice, “We both know I am not stupid enough to try anything. So, please tell B to lower her weapon.”

Balalaika kept her back turned to him, as she said, in a playful tone of voice, “Only because you asked nicely... B, do so.”

B was silent, as she holstered her weapon, in her shoulder holster, under her left armpit.

Pedro deadpanned, “Dare I ask how you know the interior design of my home, so well?”

Balalaika retorted, “I would answer you. But, I don't want you to do something stupid.”

Pedro replied, “Fine. Let's just get this over with.”

Pedro soon realized where they were heading.

A few seconds later, they came to the end of the hallway. In front of them, was the main bathroom of the home. The door to the bathroom was open.

The closed door to his right, lead to his bedroom.

And the closed door to his left, lead to a secondary bedroom, which Pedro has converted for his hobbies.

Pedro watched as Balalaika, turned to her left, and opened the door.

As Balalaika walked inside the room, Pedro saw that she had flip on the light switch, on the interior side of the wall, by the door.

The light switch turned on the soft yellow light bulb that was attached to the ceiling light, in the center of the room, The ceiling light had a fan attachment to it. Though, the fan was turned off, by the chains on the ceiling like itself.

Pedro follow her inside, as he thought, 'She even knows where switch to the ceiling light is at.'

As Pedro walked inside, Balalaika stepped to the right side of the room, as she looked around the room.

B stayed right behind Pedro, at the threshold of the door.

The medium sized room was line with shelves that had DVDs, Blu-rays, comicbooks, manga volumes and single issue, regular books, video games, music CDs, VHS tapes, various data backup discs in plastic jewel cases, and even few Betamax tapes, and laser discs.

Balalaika then turned back to look at Pedro. She smirked, as she casually insulted, “This is such a childish hobby for a grown man.”

Pedro looked over at Balalaika. He showed no emotion on his face, as he mentally realized, 'What I have learned from those series is the only reason I am still breathing. Not that I am going to tell that to your face.'

'Still, you is clearly trying to push my buttons. But, why?... Oh... This is about the church. You much have my police station bugged, as well as likely, my home, here. And you are here to rub your victory in my face. I was right. This is all about pissing me off. But, I am not going to give you the satisfaction of showing you my anger.'

Balalaika continued to smirk, as she said, “Not bad. Even Chang could show a bit of temper at this point. If I did this to him.”

Pedro guessed, “This is about that church you just finally bought today?”

Balalaika smile widened slightly, as she answered, “Yes. You showed quite a bit of political skill. From pulling strings in the shadows. In trying to prevent us from acquiring that piece of property. But, it was all for not.” Her voice became more stern, as she continued, “And this is your only warning. Stay out of our business.”

Pedro thought, 'I cannot fight them like this. And we both know it.' He said, “Fine. But, please inform me ahead of time, on such matters, to prevent further problems.”

Balalaika grinned wickedly, as she responded, “Fair enough. And I am glad to see that both Chang, and Yurick, were correct about you. You are competent and intelligent to know when leave matters alone.”

Pedro calmly asked, “Who is Yurick?”

Balalaika responded, “Ah. You know her as Melanie, or Melvin.”

Pedro calmly said, without the hint of emotion, “Yes. We are friends.”

Balalaika replied, “Good. Then, our business has concluded.”

Balalaika then walked passed Pedro, and B, as she went back down the hallway, they way they had come.

B followed close behind Balalaika.

Pedro waited a few seconds, before he followed. To give the two women some space.

Though, as Pedro soon followed the two women, he decided to leave the light on, and the door open to his hobby room open.

Balalaika, B, and Pedro soon made it to the living room of Pedro's home.

Balalaika and B entered the living room, and continued walking further into the room. Until they came to a stop, and turned around, at a position, that allowed them to see Matthew, their two subordinates, and Pedro.

Meanwhile, Pedro stopped at the threshold of the hallway, that met the living room.

The reason Pedro stayed at the threshold of the hallway, was so he could keep his distance from Balalaika and B, so as to not startle their two armed subordinates.

And Pedro position allowed him to see the two women, armed with AK seventy-fours, look over at him. Though, Pedro noticed that they were not point their weapons at anyone. Along with this, Pedro saw Matthew, silently sitting where Pedro had left him, with the lawyer silently looking around at everyone, with just his eyes.

Balalaika noticed her subordinates reactions, as well. She turned to the two women, as she said, in russian, “Not to worry, ladies. This man firmly understands the message we came here to give him.”

Pedro saw the two women relax a little bit, as he thought, 'My russian is not that great. But, whatever she said seems to have eased the tensions in the room.'

Balalaika looked over at Pedro, as she stated, in english, “I have your number, and we will be talking, over such matters, as we just discussed, in the near future.”

Pedro remained silent, as he thought, 'I just have to keep my cool for a little be longer, and it will be over.'

Balalaika giggled a little. She then commented, “Restrained. As expected.”

Pedro remained silent, as he looked at the blond russian woman.

Balalaika turned towards her two women subordinates, and she then looked over at B, as she said in russian, “Come. We have family that is expecting us back home.”

Balalaika then walked through the living room, and towards the hallway that lead to the front door.

B, and the two other women, then followed behind Balalaika.

A few seconds after the four women left the sight of Pedro and Matthew, they heard the front door of Pedro's home slam shut.

Pedro and Matthew turned to look at each other.

Pedro was first to speak, as he inquired, “Are you alright?”

Matthew questioned, “Yea. How about you?”

Pedro said, “They only bruised my ego.”

Matthew asked, “What was that all about?”

A thought suddenly occurred to Pedro. He walked over to Matthew, around the coffee table, to Matthew's right.

Pedro then leaned down, towards the right side of his friend's head. Pedro whispered, “My home here is likely bugged. And so is likely my home phone, and the police station. This is standard operating procedure for Hotel Moscow.”

“But, I believe this is over a piece of property I was using back channels to try to prevent Hotel Moscow from procuring. And I lost. And they came here tonight to rub their victory in my face, and also warn me to stay out of their business.”

Matthew quietly replied, “Oh.”

Pedro softly said, “I think it is best if you head home tonight. Tomorrow morning, I will debug everything, and rekey my locks. We will meet back here, tomorrow, at seven PM.”

Matthew quietly responded, “That should be fine with me. I have nothing to do tomorrow evening, at seven PM, given Revy and the others don't usually party in the middle of the week.

Pedro whispered, “Exactly. We will talk then. And don't try to call me, I have an errand I need to run, that will keep me away from the office.” He mentally added, 'I need to talk to someone I know, that I completely trust, before I make any big decisions on this matter.'

'I believe I need to pull the trigger on something I have been thinking about for a long time. Though, this one trigger I want to think about very thoroughly, before I decide on what I want to do about it.'

Pedro then leaned up from Matthew.

Matthew softly replied, “Okay.”

Matthew then pulled out a cell phone, that Chang had given him, from an interior coat pocket. He dialed the number he knew, to a local taxi service liked to use.

As Matthew's phone rang, at a comfortable volume, next to his ear, he thought, 'It is unfortunate, I do not have my own vehicle, and I can only use one of the casino vehicles for official business, or when I am chaperoning Revy and the others.'

'Though, it is good that this repuable taxi service, that Pedro recommended to me, has workers that know english. Though, Pedro has been teaching me how to speak and read spanish. Still, I am nowhere near fluent enough to speak spanish in a casual conversation.'

After the phone line picked up on the other line, Matthew greeted the person he was talking to, in english.

While Matthew arranged for a taxi to come get him, Pedro walked over to the chair he had been sitting down in, before Balalaika and members of Hotel Moscow has come into his home, uninvited.

Pedro leaned down, and reached for his bottle of beer.

But, as Pedro picked bottle up, from where it was sitting on his coffee table, he felt that it was almost completely empty. With not even a swallow left.

Without drinking from the bottle, Pedro set the bottle back down on the coffee table. He then sat down in his chair.

As Pedro leaned back into his reclining chair, he thought, 'That figures... Still, at least all that spy equipment I bought will not go to waste. I may have not been able to break into their radio transmissions, but I can check for bugs and wiretapping. Though, I cannot do much about the wiretapping right now... And anyway, these are issues I will deal with in the morning. After I get some much needed sleep.'

(_)

Ten minutes later, the taxi arrive, and the two friends said their goodbyes for the night, with Pedro escorting Matthew to the front door.

After Pedro watched the Matthew get into the taxi, with the taxi driving away, soon after, he shut and locked the front door behind him.

Pedro then walked back into the living room, where he carefully picked up his gun. He immediately removed the loaded ammo magazine, with six rounds in it. Next, he set the magazine onto the coffee table.

While holding his pistol away from him, but close to his chest, with his right hand, with his right fingers all gripping under the trigger guard, away from the trigger, he used his right thumb to turn off the hammer safety, to the load weapon, with the hammer cocked back. He then placed he left hand over the slide, as he gripped it. He carefully pulled back the slide, and forty-five ACP hollowpoint round, that he ejected the round from the chamber, and into the palm of his left hand.

Pedro then let the slide go, as it the internal spring made it slide back in place. Next, with his right hand, he move the his left hand aside from the pistol, while he pointed his pistol away from himself, and towards the floor, as he dry fired the pistol.

He then set his pistol down, on the coffee table, and he picked up his ammo magazine with his right hand. He used his left hand to put the single bullet in that hand, into the ammo magazine, leaving the ammo magazine with its maximum total of rounds it can hold, at seven bullets. All of the bullets were hollowpoint rounds.

Pedro next swap hands with his ammo magazine, to where the ammo magazine was in his left hand. After which, he used his right hand to pick up his pistol, by its grip. He then slide the ammo magazine into the bottom of the grip of the gun, until it clicked in place, while the chamber of the weapon was empty, and the hammer was not cocked back.

With that all done, Pedro holstered he weapon back into his shoulder holster, under his left armpit.

With his main weapon attended to, he walked over to the coffee table, where he picked up the two nearly empty beer bottles.

He then headed into the nearby kitchen. When he reached the kitchen, he turned on a light in the room. After which, he pour what little, warm beer, was left in the bottles, down the kitchen sink. Next, he dropped the bottles into the kitchen trash can, which had a plastic trash bag in it.

Pedro walked over to his refrigerator, and opened it. He pulled out another cold bottle of beer.

With a cold bottle of beer in his hands, he turned off the light in the kitchen, and walked back into the living room. Where he turned off the lamp light that was on the table, between the couch and recliner he had been sitting in. This left only one electric lamp

Next, Pedro walked around he coffee table, and he sat down in the middle of his well cushioned couch.

As he started at the comedy movie that was still playing on the TV screen, in front of him, and across the room, he saw that the movie had just ended, with movie switching to credits.

Pedro twisted the cap off the top of the beer bottle. He tossed the cap into a nearby small trash can. And he then took a swallow of the beer inside the bottle.

After he swallowed the beer, he set the bottle down, in front of him, on the coffee table. He then picked up his universal remote. First, he turned off the blu-ray player. Next, he changed the output on the TV, from one of the HDMI outputs, to the RGB output that was connect to his computer.

Along with this, his living room sound system directly hooked up his computer.

Though, the computer was set to a log in screen.

Pedro set down his remote, and he used his wireless keyboard to type in a password to log into his computer. As he did typed, he though, 'I am going to have to check for keyloggers. Both in hardware and software form, on my computer, tomorrow... I wouldn't put it passed Hotel Moscow to try something like that... Also, I will have to change the password on my computer, just to be safe.'

As Pedro's computer account logged in, the wallpaper that came on the TV screen was a beach, looking towards the sea, at night, with a full moon rising in the sea, in the distance.

He then used his wireless mouse, on his coffee table to pull up a shortcut that lead to a file folder. He then opened another sub-folder, and selected a specific audio track to listen to.

Pedro did so, by right clicking the file, selecting, play with VLC media player. A second later, the ten minute version of the music track, Blade Runner Blues, from the sci-fi film, Blade Runner. The volume on program had already been defaulted, to be set to a comfortable level. And the music track was set to be on a continuous loop of that one musical track.

Pedro leaned back in his couch, as he listened to the music, through the speakers in his room.

As the gently rhythm of the music track started to relax Pedro, he silently contemplated, in thought, with emotional tiredness, 'How did my life go so wrong?... So, insane?... I mean, when I became a cop, I knew there would be days when the mob would lean on me... But, no one told me that the mob would be gender bending badasses from other realities... And fictional realities at that... This is extreme... Bordering on the unbelievable...'

'Also, given I have been dealing with this insanity for over the two years, I am surprised I am still breathing, along with the rest of the city, and even Matthew. And while this was just a warning. I need to do something, before one of these groups of lunatics decides a warning is not enough.'

Pedro then continued to think about what he could do. And the pros and cons, of his options. As he continued to listen to the relaxing music in the background of his living room.

A little over half an hour later, after Pedro had finished his beer, he turned off everything in the living room. He then headed to towards down the back hallway, that lead to his bedroom, bathroom, and hobby room.

First, he turned off the light in his hobby room, and shut the door to that room. Next, he went into his bathroom, to brush his teeth, among other things. And finally, he went into his bedroom, to undress, and climb into his bed, under his sheets, to get some much needed sleep.

(_)

The next morning, it was a sunny day, and was very busy day for Pedro Del Soto. After he had gotten ready, dress, and he had eaten breakfast, he called his police station to let them know that he was going to be a few hours late. And when he did arrive at the police station, he was going to need several of his officers help in a project he would be doing that day.

Given it was rarity for Pedro to come in late to work, his second in command realized it was important, and did not question him on doing so.

After hanging up his phone, Pedro walked into his garage, and he retrieved the spy equipment, he has stashed in the room, near where he kept his car park. With the garage door closed.

As he entered the garage, he turned on a light, from a switch, by the door to the interior of his home.

While the ceiling lights came on, Pedro continued walking into his garage, as he thought, 'I will have to also change the radio lock on my garage. But, it will take time to order the equipment to do so. I will just have to use the manual lock on the garage door, when I come home at night. And I will just hope no one will break in that way, while I am gone.'

Pedro then started using his spy equipment to check his home, and valuables, for bugs.

Pedro checked all his electronics, his clothing, his furniture, his car, and a few other areas of his home, for bugs, wiretapping, and explosives.

And during that time, Pedro has found several electronic bugs. But fortunately, he did not find any bombs.

Included, there were electronic bugs in each of his house phones, and one on the phone line, in the box junction located on the outside of his home.

Though, he did not find any bugs on his cellphone. But, given how easy it was to wiretap a cellphone, Pedro realize how little that meant.

Pedro found a hardware keylogger on the back of his computer tower, which he removed.

Pedro also ran an anti-keylogger program on his computer, and he found two key-loggers programs, which he removed. He also replaced the anti-virus, and firewall programs. Then, he changed the password on his computer. With him writing down the password, and putting the piece of paper with the password, somewhere safe, so he wouldn't lose it.

Among the items in his spy equipment, was a kit to rekey locks with. He used the key he had from, previous home he lived in, as the master key template for his locks. And he planned to make more keys of that key, later that day.

When Pedro finished rekeying his locked, checking for bugs, and explosives, he went to his garage, locked the garage door, leading into his home, behind him. Next, opened his garage door, to allow the sunlight in.

Once the garage door began to hope, Pedro turned off the garage door lights, and got into his car.

Pedro started his car, and he back into his paved driveway.

When he cleared his garage door, he used his remote garage door opener, he had in his car to shut the garage door. He then backed out on to the empty street, set his car to drive, and headed for the police station.

Fifteen minutes later, Pedro reached the police station. Once Pedro was inside the police station, he held a meeting with the police officers in the station at the time.

While Pedro did not state whom was behind it, he did tell his officers that he found electronic bugs in his home this morning.

His subordinates were surprised to hear the news. Though, they fulling understood, and supported his next statement, in ordering them to help him spend the rest of the morning, using the spy equipment that he had placed in the police station, for electronic bugs, wiretapping, explosives, hardware and software keyloggers. And after they were sure there were no more keyloggers, they would change the passwords to their computers.

Pedro figured that with his officers helping, he could get the job down in a few hours.

They did not find any explosives. Though, much like in Pedro's home, they found electronic bugs inside, and around the building. Including, in the phones and phones lines. On a few walls, a couple of desks. And of course in Pedro's office.

All the computer has both hardware and software keyloggers in them, which were all removed. Once that was done, Pedro had everyone, including himself, change their account passwords on the computers, in the station. Along with the passwords to the network routers.

The reason Pedro did not have the computers in the police stations replace their firewall and anti-virus programs was because he did not want to risk messing with the files on this computers, before they could do a more thorough backup, instead of just the weekly backup, he had station personal do, by burning data discs, which were storied in a fireproof room in the station.

But, Pedro did order that all the wireless network cards in the computer towers, be physically removed from the electronics, and for them all to switch to only using wired networking.

Fortunately, Pedro had prevented the removal of LAN cables they had previously used to hook their computers up to each other, and the internet, using network hubs, and a router.

Fortunately, the computer motherboards accepted LAN cable network, via plug and play protocols.

Also, Pedro had them pulled out the old, wired only network hubs out of storage.

All with the passwords to the hardware were changed, and Pedro writing down those passwords, so he would not lose them.

Along with this, Pedro had only one computer connected to the internet, and the rest were only connected to station network, due to the use of records transferring from computer to computer, for processing of reports.

This was intended as a stop gap measure, until Pedro could replace the station computers with new firewalls and anti-virus programs.

By the time Pedro, and his officers, had finished, it was eleven AM. Which gave him enough time to review the police reports from the previous night, and current morning, before he headed out to lunch, around noon.

When Pedro got ready to leave, he told his officers he would be busy that afternoon. He then exited the station, got into his car, turned on his car, exited the parking lot he had parked his vehicle in, and he entered the nearby street.

As Pedro drove towards his intended destination, for lunch, he grimly thought, 'The problem with information warfare, is one is at disadvantage, no matter precautions one takes. Balalaika and Hotel Moscow did a thorough job of bugging my home, and the station, right under our noses. I just hope I can undo, or mitigate the damage this breach of information has cost me, and my boys... Still, that is my plan B. Right now, I need to focus on plan A, which I plan to talk to someone, I trust, about, this afternoon.'

'After I get some lunch from the Last Resort Diner...'

(_)

An hour later, Pedro had just finished lunch at the Last Resort Diner, and after paying for his meal, along with leaving a nice tip, he head out of the dinner, and back into his car. After which, he drove his car out of town, to talk to one of the people he most trusted, in all the world.

While Pedro drove out of town, and to the mainland, he listened to a soft rock radio station, as he thought, 'Lewis sure can fix a good meal. And the Lowe family coming in town is likely one of the few bright spots in my life, right now.'

'Soon after Lee first escaped into the multiverse, Ed stopped hiding in the back of the Last Resort Diner, and I realized her. After which, it was not hard to figure out that the Lowe family is running the Last Resort Diner.'

'Ed is a very unique, thought beautiful women. And with Ed, Lewis, and Stan, using their real names, it did not take a genius to figure out who Lori was, nor Rico. When Rico later showed up. And Rico seems to be doing fine at her job, as one of the waitresses there.'

'Still, the Lowe clearly kept our secrets, because if they hadn't, we would have been caught long before we did. And on the day, a while back, when I politely confronted them on knowing their identities, at the end of our pleasant conversation, I thank them for that keeping my secrets.'

'Also, because they were nice, I told them that they were welcome in this town. And I stated that they were a calming influence on the their friends.'

'They agreed. And we have had a wonderful friendship since then.'

'We have also invited each other to our homes, in town, for cookouts, and movie nights. Including, inviting a few of our friends. Though, when we have a cookout at my home, we invite my friends. When we went to their home for the cookout, they invited their friends. Which was surprisingly Chang's group, including Balalaika, B, and their very young children. Much to my displeasure. Though, I noticed that no other Hotel Moscow members came to those parties. Except Melanie.'

'Still, through all this, I never got the full story on what happened to Lee and River's two kids... At least the kids I know she has had... For all I know, from bits and pieces, from what Lee and others told me, is that somehow, Lee and River's two kids became the reincarnations of Book and Wash. And a few months ago, Wash showed up a full adult, and he married Zoe soon after. But, I know better than to directly ask them questions on those matters. Though, Zoe and Wash's wedding was nice.'

'And Simon's birthday was pretty good, as well. Considering Chang directly asked me, if my boys and I would provide security. So, Chang's own security team, could take the day off, to enjoy the party, with their friends.'

'In that case, I did as Chang asked. And he paid well for my boys and I to do so.'

'I did not mind doing so, that one time. Because, by doing so, I kept their insanity from possibly causing trouble elsewhere.'

'And through all this, Matthew was there to keep me company.'

'Also, Matthew and I agreed that mixing our friends was a very bad idea. Except for Matthew, Melanie, Boa, and a few others.'

'And having Annie, the former Lord Vader herself, over to my home, with Matthew, Bao, Melanie, and a few others, for drinks.'

'I must say. Once Annie had a few drinks, and loosened up, she is surprisingly funny to talk too. Given whom she once was.'

'Though, none us dared to make a pass at her, while she was in that state of mind.'

'If I had tried that. And if I had survived the aftermath. I would have to check myself into the nut house, for being incurably insane.'

'But, to give Annie credit. She is nice enough to Matthew, my boys, and I. So, I don't mind her being here that much. And I informed Annie of this. And she was nice about my comment. Though, we both knew that I couldn't stop her from living in Plata Podrido, even if I wanted too.'

'And if I told my superiors that I did not mind having Darth Vader living in my home town. They would lock me up in the nut house, for not believing me. Or, they would lock me up in the nut house for believing me.'

Pedro chuckled a little at his joke, as he continued his thoughts, with a bit of humor, in his emotional state of mind, ''Still, back to the Lowe family. The Lowe family's home, in town, is very nice, and fairly large. And they share their home with Rico. In addition, the Lowe family, seem nice enough. If a bit odd. But, compared with everyone one else, Matthew and I, have ended up being around, the Lowe family is practically normal. Even with their gender bending issues.'

'Now, to focus on the matter at hand...'

'I am not worried about Chang, Revy, or Balalaika’s groups becoming suspicious of me suddenly leaving town. They know that I know, that they know, there is no place on this planet I can hide from them. So, I am not worried about them doing something to me if I tried to leave down. As long as I return back to town, later today, I should be fine.'

(_)

Over an hour later, Pedro reached his destination, in the Mexican mainland.

Pedro had driven his car to a rural area of the countryside.

After his car came to a stop in front of the place he was heading for, he put his car in park, and turned off the ignition of his car, pulled out his key, and undid his seatbelt.

Next, out of respect for where he was going, he left his two guns, and his knife, in the center console of his car.

After which, he got out of his car and locked the doors behind himself.

As Pedro stood by the driver's side door, he looked over his car, and up at the open front gates of the Monastery he had come to.

The monastery was fairly large for its type. But, it was not ornate. Instead, the money it was given was most often used to build onto it, than used to decorate it.

The religious complex was of a simple design, that was just spread out of linking buildings. With a concrete fence surrounding the buildings of the monastery, that was occasionally tore down and expanded, as needed.

The monastery also had a small seminary inside.

Pedro continued to look towards the open front gates of the complex, he as thought, 'From what I understand, this is the place. And I am so happy I kept in touch with him, over the last few years... Now, to find someone inside to help me find him.'

Pedro then started walking towards the open front gates.

(_)

A few minutes later, one of the members of the monastery had lead Pedro to a garden in one of the courtyards of the monastery.

When Pedro and the other man reach the garden, neither announced their presence, as they stood several feet from another person kneeling down, as he worked on a garden, with his hand.

Pedro saw a black haired mexican man, in good health and physical shape. The man appeared to be in his early forties.

The man was clothed in simply attire for the job of gardening. He was kneeing on the brick sidewalk, over the front rows of plants, about twenty feet from Pedro.

The man that had lead Pedro to the courtyard then left the area, to carry on his usual duties.

Pedro then looked around, and he thought, 'There appears to be no one here, besides me and him. Still, I have to be careful about what I say. The walls may have ears... But, I might as well get the conversation started.'

Pedro looked down, towards the man, as he calmly said, in spanish, “Hello little brother.”

Paciano Del Soto did not looked up at Pedro. He hands continued to be in the plants and soil of the garden, as he responded, in spanish, “Hello older brother. I will be with you in a few seconds.”

Paciano then got up, and he knocked some dirt off his hands. As he turned to face Pedro, he wiped the dirt that was left on his hands on the upper front leggings of his pants.

Then, as Paciano started to casually walk over to in front of Pedro, he said, “I would offer to shake your hands, but I have a little dirt on them. Still, I find this to be a spiritually clean hobby. And also, it is the only task that one can do in the priesthood, that lets them get dirty, without breaking the rules.”

Pedro chuckled a little at the last part of his brother's comment. As he quickly calmed down, he casually responded, “Don't worry about that. I have been busy cleaning the mud from the gutters.”

As Paciano came a stop, a few feet from his brother, both men laughed Pedro's joke.

A few seconds later, as they calmed down, Pedro held out his right hand and Paciano shook his hand, with his own right hand. With both men giving a firm, but not tight grip in their handshake.

As they shook hands, Paciano said, “Good to see you, brother.”

Pedro replied, “Same here, brother.”

A few seconds later, they broke their handshake.

Paciano then watched as Pedro pulled out a device, from Pedro's coat, that he recognized was used to check for electronic bugs.

Paciano said, “Do not worry. This place is not bugged. We do not allow strange people to come here, without good reason.”

Paciano could tell that Pedro trusted his comment, for Pedro put the device back into his coat.

Pedro responded, “That is good to know. I also apologize for missing your ceremony, in being ordained a deacon. I was busy keeping my city one one piece. It is a full time job. Still, congratulations.”

Paciano said, “Thank you. And I long since realized why you could not attend.”

Pedro commented, “Anyway, I am surprised you have not been transferred somewhere else.”

Paciano commented, “Well, given my past, they want to keep me here a little longer. I am not the first former criminal to take this route. But, since I have given up all my worldly possessions, and I have been a model student for the last two years. They finally made me a deacon. So, I feel I will become a priest, eventually.”

Pedro commented, “I am sure you will do fine, as long as they don't transfer you back to the island.”

Paciano said, “I doubt they will send me back to the den of iniquity and vice I that came from.”

Pedro asked, “Speaking of your past, you still in the clear with your former rivals?”

Paciano answered, “Yea. For them, I am considered an example. A laughing stock of what happens when one of us loses their nerve. But, at the same time, they leave me alone, as a way to keep that door open, in case one of them wants to someday use it.”

Pedro inquired. “What about law enforcement? I did what I could there to help you, in that area.”

Paciano responded, “Well, you did help me get in here. And the government has left me alone. It is not every day that a mafia dissolves overnight, without bloodshed, and with the leader joining the church. Those in the government seem to not care why. And I honestly believe they leave me alone because they hope others like me would take the same route, and make everyone's lives easier.”

Pedro conceded, “I can see the logic in that.”

Paciano offered, “I know it is a bit of a drive, but you should visit here more often. We have wonderful late morning services.”

Pedro admitted, “I am not much of a religious man. And after what we have both seen on the island, I don't see how you can be?”

Paciano replied, “I don't see how you could not be?”

Pedro calmly responded, “Okay. We have both seen the same things. So, how can you reconcile what we know, with your faith in God?”

Paciano answered, “I admit that is a good question. And I have done some thinking along those lines. Also, it is not something I have been able to discuss with the others here, for obvious reasons. I don't want to be thrown out of the order, after spending so much effort to get where I am at.”

“But, I did come to an answer. The way I view is that we are either worshiping the creator, or we are worshiping the creator whom was created by a greater creator. Either way, our prayers working up the prayer chain.”

Pedro conceded, “I guess that could make sense.”

Paciano questioned, “I am glad you agree. So, why are you here?”

Pedro looked Paciano in his eyes. Pedro chose his words carefully, as he said, in a sober tone of voice, “I needed to talk to someone... And it had be in person. And you are the only person... I trust, that I can talk to about this... That would understand where I am coming from... I am thinking about leaving... But, unlike you, whom got out before he was in too deep. I cannot simply run and hide...”

Paciano immediately understood what his brother was saying. As he calmly asked, “They found the safehouse that you asked me to use my contacts to help you get, years ago?”

Pedro solemnly answered, “Yes. And they found it in less than a day after I first tried to run and hide.”

Paciano responded, “I understand what you are saying. You are planning to go further?... Into the beyond?...”

Pedro softly answered, “Yes.”

Paciano cautioned, “Are you sure you can accomplish this? The people you would need to get such technology from are no fools.”

Pedro admitted, “I realized that. But, I know someone that I trust, who can get his hands on one of those devices. I have a man on the inside. And he is sick of the way they treat him, as well.” Pedro continued, in a more sober tone of voice, “It is just that I am not sure if I am ready to pull the trigger on this.”

They were silent for a few seconds. Paciano then looked into his older brothers eyes, as he responded, in a supportive tone of voice, “I think you should do it. I think you need to take this leap faith.”

Pedro raised an eyebrow, as he replied, with a bit of hope showing in his voice, “You do?”

Paciano grinned, as he answered, “Yes. The longer you wait, the worse it will get. As such, you have my blessing. And I wish you luck in your travels.”

Pedro said, in a joyous tone of voice, “Thanks.”

Paciano mentioned, “By the way, I talked to mom and dad, recently, on the phone. Considering their age, they are in good health, and doing fine.”

Pedro inquired, in a somewhat hesitant tone of voice, “That is good to hear... Still, from the way we are talking, I have to ask. When did I become the crook, and you the upstanding citizen?... When did I become the shadow to your light?”

Paciano calmly answered, “When I decided to step out of the darkness that has surrounded our lives.”

Pedro said, “And I think you are better for it...” He continued, in a sad tone of voice, “Yet, I fear that I am trapped in a dark abyss that I cannot get out of... No matter how hard I try.”

Paciano walked a few steps closer to Pedro, as he said, “Come here brother.” He then gently hugged Pedro.

A few seconds later, Pedro returned his younger brother's hug.

They held each other for a few seconds, before they broke the hug. Though, while Pedro let go of Pacino. Pacino did not completely letting go of Pedro. Instead, Paciano gently held Pedro by the sides of Pedro's shoulders, as he looked at his older brother, in his face. Paciano said, in a kind tone of voice, “Don't worry. I am sure that things will turn out well for you. Just have a little faith.”

Paciano then let go of Pedro, and he allowed his arms to drop back down to the sides of his body.

Pedro smiled, as he looked into his younger brother's eyes. He sincerely replied, “Thanks, brother.” He mentally added, 'And I think you are safe, because they know, that I know, that I could cause them trouble, if they, hurt, or killed, either of us.'

'At the end of the day, they just want me out of their business. I am not worth tracking down. So, if I lose them, I should be fine. The same goes for Matthew. As such, either way, my family will be fine.'

The Del Soto brothers then continued their wonderful conversation. With Pedro spending the next two hours visiting and talking with his younger brother. But eventually, Pedro had to leave, and returned back to the island of De La Plata Podrido. So, Pedro could finish his day at work, and later, be on time to meet with his accomplice.'

A few hours after Pedro left the monastery, he had returned to the police station. He stayed at the police station just long enough to review the police reports for that afternoon, and make sure that everything was already with his subordinates.

When Pedro was finally finished with his job, for the day, he then went to get something quick for dinner, before his meeting, at seven PM, at his home, with his friend, Matthew McCormick.

(_)

The evening, at seven two PM, Pedro stood over the outside awning of his front door, as he waited for Matthew to show up.

Behind him, the front door to his home being shut, but unlocked.

It was still daylight outside, with only the first hints of sunset showing in the sky.

Pedro thought, 'Matthew should be hear, any minute. One of Matthew's good qualities, is that he is almost always on time. So, it is likely traffic that is holding him up.'

'And I did a check around the block here, before I came home. I don't see any car, nor other suspicious vehicle, especially black SUVs, around the area, that being Hotel Moscow staked out, watching me.'

'Also, I know everyone that lives around me. There are no nearby homes that are deserted, at the moment, that can be used as stake out places again me, by Hotel Moscow. And if one of these families had trouble. They know to immediately come to me for help. Which none of them have.'

'In addition, those at Hotel Moscow, along with Chang's group, know, if they start harming, or killing the locals. Or, if the locals start to disappear, without reason. I will actively go after them. Consequences be damned. And I know that while they will eventually take my boys and I down, we will be taking some of them with us.'

Just then, Pedro saw a taxi pulled up to a stop, by the curb, on the side of the street, by his green, well kept, front lawn.

A few seconds later, after Matthew paid his fare, Pedro watched Matthew get out of the back of the taxi, on the side of the lawn. Pedro saw that Matthew was wearing one of his suits, along with his black dress shoes.

After Matthew shut the door, Matthew then turned and started walking towards Pedro.

As Pedro watched Matthew approach him, he thought, 'There he is, now.'

As Matthew's feet touched the walkway leading up to Pedro's front door, the taxi behind Matthew sped away at a casual pace.

When Matthew was about ten feet away from Pedro, Pedro asked, in english, “Any problems today?”

Matthew continued walking toward Pedro, as he looked at Pedro. He answered, in english, “No. It was just another usual day. Same insanity, during the same time of the week. How about you?”

Pedro responded, “It has been a busy day for me. But, the day is over. Now, let's go inside, get a beer, and talk.”

Matthew agreed, “Good idea.”

As Matthew came within a few feet of Pedro, the police chief opened the door to his home, and he held it open for his friend.

Matthew then walked inside Pedro's home, with Pedro following behind him. Pedro gently shut and locked his front door, behind himself.

(_)

A minute later, Matthew and Pedro each had a beer. Pedro was sitting on the couch, as Matthew sat in the cushioned reclining chair, to Pedro's left side, which was closest to the front door, and not the chair that Pedro has sat in the previous night. The chair was set to where Matthew was sitting up.

They each had an open, cold, beer bottle sitting near them, on the coffee table.

The TV in the room was turned off, and the only light coming from the room was the daylight streaming in through the front, windows of Pedro's living room. With the windows having white privacy curtains covering them. This allowed light in, but no one could see into the room.

As the two men got conformable in this seat, Matthew turned to Pedro, as he asked, in a direct manner, “So, are the bugs taken care of?”

Pedro looked over at Matthew, as he answered, “Yes. I even did another sweep, when I got home, a little while ago.”

Matthew replied, “Good. So, we don't have to worry about eavesdroppers?”

Pedro stated, “Not for right now. I even used my equipment to check for laser based eavesdropping for my windows.”

Matthew responded, “Okay. Now, let us get down to business. Was it me, or was last night a very close call for both of us?”

Pedro flatly replied, “Yes. It was. For both of us. The question now is, what are we going to do about it?”

Matthew commented, “Well, the obvious reaction would be to run. But, both of us are intelligent, and savvy enough, not to immediately jump, without first weighing all our options.”

Pedro agreed, “Exactly.” He mentally added, 'This is precisely why I talked to my younger brother, earlier today.'

Matthew thought, 'Okay. I will play sounding board to you, Pedro. You always have something interesting to say, on just about everything.' He inquired, “So, what are our options? And what are the possible consequences of those options?”

Pedro thought, 'Since I am spearheading this meeting. I might as well answer the hard questions.' He stated, “It all comes down to the two most simplest options. We stay? Or, we run? Either way, we are taking risks.”

Matthew said, “Yes. So, let's talk about the easiest option. We just stay.”

Pedro commented, “If we stay, we are going to have to deal with intimidation problems. Such as my eroding authority.”

Matthew stated, “And my sputtering legal career. As long as I am Chang's personal lawyer, I can't do some of the things I wanted too, when I first worked to become a lawyer.”

Pedro said, “And from what we saw last night, my hands are tied as well, when it comes to the actions of Hotel Moscow, and Chang's group.”

Matthew mentioned, “Then, there are these drunken parties, we get dragged into, that Revy and her group keeps putting on at the Rats Nest.”

Pedro complained, “And the worst part is all of them are spoken for, or too crazy, or untrustworthy, to make a pass at.”

Matthew agreed, “I know. It is like from the poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Water, water, everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.”

Pedro responded, “I agree. Because we are dragged there to be their designated drivers, we are not even allowed to drink alcohol. And we cannot risk letting our minds wonder, nor our allow our guards to go down around them, because one of them might become violent, due to being drunk. And I don't dare arrest them, because it would be suicide for me, and they know it.”

Matthew said, “So, it comes down to, if we stay, we are going to have to put our figurative feet down, and establish some boundaries with the others.”

Pedro pointed out, “Yes. But, these are the type of people that don't react well to people saying, no, to them.”

Matthew stated, “That is an understatement.”

Pedro commented, “If we assert ourselves too much, we will only get ourselves killed, or worse.”

Matthew said, “And if we stay, and do nothing, we are likely living on borrowed time.”

Pedro responded, “Yes. It is only a matter of time before Chang, Balalaika, Revy, or one of the others, comes to the conclusion we have outlived our usefulness. Then, they will either kill us. Which, given how nice we have been, our deaths will likely be swift, mostly painless. Or, they will decided they want to try to make us even more useful, while ironing out those parts of our personalities they don't like. Which means a fate worse than death.”

Matthew guessed, “That gender bending, brainwashing vat process?”

Pedro replied, “Yes.”

Matthew stated, “Okay. Then, we need to run. If you are half as clever as I know you are, I am sure you already have at least a few safehouses pre-prepared, elsewhere on this planet, long before Chang and the others showed up. We can just bug out to one of them, until we figure out a better plan.”

Pedro said, “Running to one of my safehouses will do us no good. We cannot outrun them that way. As I found out the hard way, when I ran to one of my best one safehouse, in South America. And they found me in under a day.”

Matthew replied, “Damn. I wish you had mentioned that sooner.”

Pedro commented, “Sorry. It is one of the more intense stressful, and embarrassing moments of my life. It was Revy, Fabiola, and Roberta that came to visit me. Right after I woke up. And Roberta had on his slasher smile, inches from my face.”

Matthew questioned, “Say no more. I understand. I have had a similar experience with that woman... And going to your authorities is a bad idea?”

Pedro answered, in a matter of fact tone of voice, “In so many ways. Either we end up in the nuthouse, or they believe us, and they disappear us in a bad way. Or, Chang and the others, from out I spilled the beans on them, and they will likely have Roberta track us down, and we find out what they can really do, when they are upset.”

“I was in that situation once. When they found me at my safehouse. I barely going out of that incident in one piece. I don't want to roll the dice on something like that happening again. It is too damn risky. As such, any of those paths will likely lead to a horrible, slow, painful death for both of us.”

Matthew stated, in a sober tone of voice, “This situation just keeps getting worse for us.”

Pedro commented, “True. But, we do have another option. If you could get your hands on a reality device, we could run by reality jumping.”

Matthew pointed out, “From what I understand, doing that hasn't really worked out for anyone that has tried.”

Pedro commented, “True. But, then I am far more savvy than most people. At the worst, we have a lot of fun, before they find us, and bring us back here.”

Matthew thought about Pedro's comments for a few seconds. He then mused, “I have to admit that your idea has some merit.”

Pedro asked, with a mix of interest and seriousness in his tone of voice, “So, are you in? Will you do it?”

Matthew thought, 'Well, Annie did want me to take more risks. And the situation is starting to get a little too close from my comfort.' He said, “Okay. I will do it.”

Pedro commented, “Good. Still, there is the matter of getting passed River and Annie psychic abilities?”

Matthew replied, “I have a few tricks of my own. Annie is only tipped off with emotions. And I can control my emotions. And a clear mind can get past, River. Besides, I know their daily schedules. And neither of their schedules rarely change. So with luck, I can simply avoid them.”

Pedro responded, “Excellent. So, how do you plan to get the job done, without alerting the others?”

Matthew explained, “Several months ago, I realized I might need emergency access to some of the more restricted places of Chang's casino. In case I decided to try to make a run for it.”

Pedro commented, “So, you have thought stealing a reality device and running?”

Matthew flatly said, “Of course, I have thought about doing it. But, at the time, I did not know anyone that would help me. Getting the reality device is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out where, and when, to go.”

Pedro happily thought, 'Good. You were already planning and preparing to do this months ago. And you where just waiting for help. Like from me. And I don't mind you not telling me. Because, in dealing with telepaths and empaths. The less people that know a plan, the better.'

'Also, this means you can hide you thoughts from them for a very long time. I wonder how you can do that? Though, I will ask you later. Right now, you have a plan, and we have a window of opportunity to move on it.'

'Now, to inform you of what I can bring to the table, that you might not be aware of.'

Pedro responded, “Good point. But, not to worry. I know of several realities, places, and times, we could go to, and have a lot of fun at.”

Matthew replied, “Exactly. You are like, Lee, and Bob. Or should, I say, Lori?” He thought, 'It was an interesting experience, learning about the Lowe family, in person, when I went to the Last Resort Diner for some supper one night. Though, back to the matter at hand. And I know what you can offer me. That I lack. Because, to quote Lee, so long ago. You're my navigator.'

Matthew continued, “Your knowledge has allowed you to create a map of the multiverse in your head. A map that I am currently lack.”

Pedro said, “Well, all it takes is time, and learning about some of the nicer places in the multiverse, through collections like I, and other people, have.”

Matthew commented, “Yes. But, we just don't have the time to go through all of your collection.”

Pedro thought, 'Now, to find out how you plan to pull off your theft.' He questioned, “Unfortunately, not at the moment. So, how do you plan to get passed security?”

Matthew answered, “I have a lot of experience of getting passed security. And I know several tricks to quickly, and successfully clone security cards, just by passing by them. I cloned Mal's security key card, by using a face card reader, when he wasn't looking. The hard part was finding a place in town that would sell me that item, without alerting those at the casino. From there, it was not difficult to finding someone to make me a copy of Mal's key card.”

“Also, I know Mal's password. I have even successfully tested it. And I found it worked, because I wasn't caught. The password is the local date of when the Battle of Serenity ended, in his home reality.”

“After seeing the Firefly series and Serenity movie, it wasn't hard figuring out that was his password. And it wasn't hard looking up that date, offering Jayne a few drinks for free, got me all the information I needed to know, on dates, of his and Mal's home reality, without Jayne realizing why I wanted those dates. By the way, thank you for showing me that series and movie.”

Pedro commented, “You're welcome. And that man just cannot fully let go of his past.”

Matthew replied, “I know. And it is a lesson we should learn, so we can avoid such mistakes.”

Pedro responded, “You're right. So, do you know where the reality devices are stored?”

Matthew answered, “Yes. I know where some of them stored, along with other spare equipment. Such as their reality tracking devices, and odder pieces of equipment. I am sure that Mal's key card will work on the door leading to that room. And I have some understanding of how security in the casino works, so I can avoid being caught.”

Pedro complimented, “That are some nice, devious skills you have there.”

Matthew grinned, as he asked, “Thank you. So, what should we pack?”

Pedro stated, “We travel light. No luggage. And I will handle money and expenses, considering it will raise red flags if you take you gold from Chang's vaults.”

Matthew replied, “Good point. While it is tempting to try to get some of my gold. The treasury vaults are kept in the basements of the casino, pass where the casino cages are, below the ground floor. And it would raise questions if I tried to head down there.”

Pedro said, “I am glad you are not greedy.”

Matthew responded, “So am I. But, we will still need some form of currency. How do you plan to handle our expenses?”

Pedro replied, “Not to worry, I have some gold coins I have collected over the years. We can use them for barter and trade, for supplies, food, and lodgings. Also, I have some old U.S. cash. Before the U.S. went crazy on how they made their bills of currency. Which I am sure the newer dollar bills the U.S. made will not be accepted as cash in some of the more recent, past eras I wish to go too. But, I don't have a lot of that cash. So, we will have to rely mostly on the gold I have. Still, we have options.”

Matthew said, “That should be fine. U.S. cash has its limits. And in most cases, gold is still a respected medium for trade. Even if my home reality.”

Pedro asked, “Precisely... By the way, since we are going to reality travel, do you think we could get in touch with your old boss, Michael Garibaldi. He would make for one powerful ally. From what I understand, given what you told me, even Chang and the others thought twice about attacking him. And I think we would hit it off well.”

Matthew stated, “I think you guys would make great friends. The problem is I am not sure if he ever returned to his home.”

“Lee mentioned, in passing, that he did return home. But, I am not sure. And even if he did, I don't think he could protect us. Keep in mind, while I left beforehand, they did finally attack Edgars Industries headquarters. So, they were not as timid when facing Garibaldi, as we would have hoped.”

Pedro replied, “True. And I admit that it was a long shot, anyway.”

Matthew asked, “So, how many reality devices do you want me to bring?”

Pedro answered, “Just one.”

Matthew questioned, “Just one? Why? I mean if the one we have breaks, we will likely be stranded in the time, place, and reality, we traveled too.”

Pedro replied, “I have a very good reason. While I love preparedness and redundancy, if we take more than one, Chang and the others, when they do the inventory, might think we are going to try to get rich by selling our spare. In which case, they will never stop looking for to us, to prevent their reality technology from falling into the wrong hands... Well wronger hands than them?”

Matthew conceded, “Good point. Now, when and where do we meet after I steal one of the reality devices?”

Pedro suggested, “How about back here, at three PM tomorrow? That should give you plenty of time. And that time also allow us to be fully awake, without being tired. While also already having our lunches, beforehand.”

Matthew shrugged, as he replied, “That works for me.”

Pedro said, “Good. We will start our grand adventure through the multiverse, then.”

Matthew commented, “You sound like you are looking for to it.”

Pedro chuckled a little. He then said, “Oh but I am. More than you could imagine.”

The two men then continue to refine their plan for another hour, until they called it a night. With Matthew calling a taxi to take him back to Daiyu Palace Casino, for him to get some rest. While Pedro went to sleep early that night, as well.

(_)

The next morning was one of trepidation, and personal conflict, for Pedro.

Pedro knew he had to leave the city, but his personal sense of duty conflicted with what he knew he had to do.

Though, even duty had its limits for Pedro. And the risks were far worse for him than staying,

Also, Pedro had no doubts that Matthew would be able to pull his part of the plan. All Pedro had to do was subtly set things up, so when he left, the city would not collapse without him.

Then, all Pedro would have to do is return to his home, and wait to meet up with Matthew, that afternoon.

As such, Pedro's morning at the police station was one of tying up loose ends on a few cases. He made some changes on the daily assignments, and promoted a few people to positions that he knew they would do well at.

Also, he please a weekly duty schedule with his second in command.

Pedro also lied to his subordinates, as he stated he was going on a vacation for a few days.

Pedro hated lying, but if he told them that he wasn't planning on coming back, such news would quickly reached Balalaika, Chang, and Revy. Any of whom Pedro did not want to find out about his and Matthew's plans.

It was eleven thirty-two AM when Pedro had finally finished he business at his police station. He left though the front entrance of the building. As he exited the police station. He turned around, to take a long, hard look at the building that he had worked in for so many years.

Then, sighed. After which, Pedro turned around, and he headed for his car, to drive back to him home.

(_)

Twenty minutes later, most of which was due to traffic, from lunch rush, Pedro made it back home. He used the remote in his car to open the garage door, he then drove his car into his garage, and parked it.

Pedro then got out of his car, and he locked the car doors, right before he closed the driver's side door.

Pedro then walked over to the door that lead into his home. The door was locked, and he used a key to unlock the door. After which, he used his a switch by the door to shut the garage door behind him.

Once he saw the garage door fully close, he entered into his own, he locked that door behind him.

Next, Pedro headed for his bedroom.

When he reached his bedroom, he found the curtained windows of his bedroom allowed in enough outside sunlight to see with.

Pedro headed over to his chest of drawers.

Pedro opened one of the top drawers and reached into the top of the drawer, with his right hand. There, he found a small bag he had taped to the ceiling of the drawer.

He pulled the bag off the top of the drawer, and pulled it out.

Pedro held the black cloth bag for a second in his right hand. While taped to the top of the drawer, the back has been very flat. But, now the bag was in his right hand, and it fill Pedro's cupped right hand.

Also, along with having tape on it, the bag was closed with a drawstring that was tied in a shoe tied knot.

Pedro used his left hand to undo the knot. Next, he cupped his left hand, as he used his right hand to pour the contents of the bag into his left hand.

As the contents fell into Pedro's left hand, they were revealed to be several different types of gold coins.

After Pedro made sure he had gotten the gold coins out of the bag, he looked down at the coins, as he thought, 'This should keep us going for about a month. Maybe longer. So, we should have some breathing room. And I tested all of the coins. They are genuine.'

Pedro then dropped the coins into various pockets of both his long coat, and pants. He then also pulled out, and pocketed, the other items in the bag, which were a few of rolls he had of old U.S. twenty dollar bills. All of the twenty dollar bills, in the rolls, dated back to around the middle of the twentieth century.

When that was done, Pedro set the bag on top of the counter of the chest of drawers, next to several items that Pedro kept as souvenirs of his many adventures.

Among the many mementos on top of the chest of drawers, that he had collected over a lifetime, he eyes were drawn to two particular items.

One of the items, was the green empty bottle of Ardbeg Providence. The other item was a brown wooden, rectangular box, that Ardbeg Providence had original came in.

This was the same bottle of Ardbeg Providence, and box, that River gave Lee, years ago, the day after their big, million dollar, poker game, which Lee one.

And Pedro was present, at the Rats Nest, for the toast using the bottle of Ardbeg Providence. After the toast was over, and the bottle was empty, Lee had given both the bottle, and the box it came in, to Pedro, as a gift, for his help.

Later that day, Pedro returned home, and placed the items on top of his chest of drawers, with a few other items.

As Pedro looked at the box and bottle, he thought, with a bit of melancholy, 'Its been a wild ride. But, this cowboy cop knows when it time to ride into the sunset... Now, to get some lunch. Once that is done, I will get a few ammo boxes. Of the proper calibers. With both armor piecing, and hollowpoint rounds. For my pistols, magazines, and speedloaders. It is nice to have options... I will put the items in my coat, and then I will be all set.'

Pedro then turned around, and exited his bedroom, as he headed for his kitchen, to fix himself some lunch.

(_)

Just over two and a half hours later, at two thirty PM on the dot, inside the back, restricted part, of the second floor of Daiyu Palace Casino, Matthew was beginning his heist operation.

Matthew was wearing his dark brown business suit that day. Which was dark brown pants, coat, and belt. With a white button up shirt under the coat. And there was a t-shirt under his button up shirt. Along with white underwear and white socks, he wore black polished dress suits, and dark brown tie around his neck.

All in all, with Matthew's clean shaved face, and parted, short hair, he looked very professional.

The reasons that Matthew was on the second floor was that this was the floor that Chang had some of his reality devices stored in.

Chang figured that technology that he did not want others, outside his organization, to see, but he still wanted access to, would be placed on the second floor. So, while the basement, with the cages, vault, and research sections, in the basement levels, could be sealed off, in case of flooding, technology, such as the reality devices were stored on the second floor.

Though, Matthew also learned, that when the basement levels were sealed, there were air systems, with plenty of fresh water, food, and supplies, on those levels, in several locations, that could keep people from suffocating for a few months.

At the moment, Matthew had already used his cloned key card, of Mal's key card, to open the door to the restricted part of the second floor, and he was heading for the locked, storage room that had the reality devices, along with other technology, inside it.

Matthew knew where he was going because, out of kindness, Annie had given him a tour of the place a while ago.

Annie had even shown Matthew what the various pieces of technology did. So, he knew what a reality device looked like. And Annie even showed him how he could tell if the device was functioning, without using it.

Matthew turned a corner, and he saw the door, to his left, on the far end of the hallway.

As Matthew approached, looked around, and he saw there were no one else around.

While continued to walk, Matthew thought, 'Good. No one else is here. As expected. If I am caught here, it is going to take some serious explaining. The good news is that I know that both resident physics like me. And Annie, while only a friend, has even tried to be helpful. So, even if Annie, or River, did learn what we were planning, there is still some wiggle room to save our skins, before they would alert Chang. And I think Lee would help also.'

'And speaking of Annie and River. I made sure to know where they were going to be, at this time of day, before I tried this. River is with Lee, in their penthouse apartment. I don't know what they are doing up there. Nor, do I want to know. As far as I am concerned, they could be having fun in their hot tub, or private heated pool up there, as long as they don't get in my way.'

'And as Chang's lawyer, I have access to daily schedule of a number of his employes. Including Annie. And while I don't know what she is doing. I know when and where she is going, from day to do. Right now, Annie is running an errand away from the casino, with Arcee.'

'So, my two biggest concerns are not here. And as for the rest of the security here. It is just understand human nature...'

'And doing this reminds me of some of the more foolish things I did in my youth. And my old friend and I have broken in and out of far more tighter security than this, while both of us were stoned out of our minds... Damn. I miss him. And I hope to someday find out what happened to him... But, not until I get clear of this mess, and get my life straightened out.'

'And speaking of security, I know that the security cameras on this part of the building are not pulled up on the monitors, unless someone tries to break into this area, with brute force. The cameras are mostly concerned with making sure the customers are not cheating on the gaming floor, and private game rooms, and the customers are kept out of the employees only sections of the first floor.'

'So, I don't have to worry about anyone in the security section seeing me seeking around here. Though, there will be a recording of me doing this. And I am sure they will eventually notice me gone, and trace back my steps to here. But, by then, I will be long gone, with Pedro by my side...'

'Now, to do the task at hand. The first rule of any break in is to have you escape planned and ready, in advance. I already called a taxi to pick me up, out front. The taxi should be here in ten minutes. Just enough time to get the device, check to make sure it works, and then head back downstairs. If my calculations are correct, I will arrive at Pedro's home just after three PM... And I do admire being punctual.'

Matthew then came to the locked door leading the storage area for some of the technology Chang had in his possession.

Matthew turned to face the door, as he pulled out his security key card.

He used the key card on card reader by the door. He then typed in Mal's password, on the numerical pad below the card reader.

A second later, the green light blinked on top of the card reader. Matthew reached out, and opened the latch on the door, and he then pushed open the door.

Matthew walked inside, as he pocketed his key card, and flipped on the wall switch to the ceiling lights of the room.

As the soft white florescent lights, on the ceiling came on, Matthew saw various technological devices lining the rows of the shelves in the room.

But, there were no weapons. Due to the a few weapon armories being kept in various parts of the casino. Such as near the vaults, in the security section, and in the penthouse. Among other locations.

Matthew gently shut the door behind him. Fortunately, he did not need to use his key card, nor password to exit the room.

Matthew knew exactly where the reality devices in the room were stored. He briskly walked passed a few shelves, until he found what he wanted.

As he faced the shelves lined with reality devices, he did not pick up the first reality device on the shelve in front of him, that was at his chest level.

Matthew thought, 'It is more than likely that if any of these devices were used before, it would be the ones on the end of the shelves. So, I will get another one, further down the shelve, and use the readout on it to test to make sure it is working. I am glad Annie showed me how to do this.'

'Given she was once Darth Vader, Annie really does like to show off her toys.'

Matthew picked up the third reality device, lining the row, on the shelf, he was looking at.

Matthew then carefully checked to see if it was working, by pressing a couple of buttons at the bottom of the device, away from the large red button in the middle of the device.
A second later, the readout at the top lead up for moment, showing that the device was in working order.

Matthew pocketed the reality device into his left, side pants pocket, as thought, 'Now, to get out of here.'

Matthew then exit the room, with him turning off the ceiling lights to the storage room, before he left.

After he gently closed the door to the store room, behind him, he turned, and casually walked back the way he had come.

The reason Matthew was calmly walking, and not walking in a hurried manner, was that experience had taught him that remaining calm drew less suspicious looks from others. Especially, security personnel.

Matthew then soon made it out of the restricted area on the second floor, and to the front elevator bay.

A few minutes later, he exited one of the elevator, in the first floor, elevator bay. From there, he calmly walked passed the two guards, by the express elevator, as he turned, and made his way through the gaming floor, the front area of the lobby. Matthew then made it out the front entrance, to be under the large awing, which was also a large carport covering, that was in front of the main entrance to the casino.

Once Matthew exited the casino, he came outside, just in time to see the taxi he had called drive up to the front, to stop by the curb in front of him, with the right side of the car facing Matthew.

The female valets, outside, under the awning, knew who Matthew was, and they paid him no mind, as he walked up to the right, back seat door to the taxi. Matthew then open the back right door, got inside, and gently shut the door behind himself.

Matthew gave the taxi driver instructions on heading to Pedro's home. And the taxi then drove away from the casino, as the vehicle had soon exited the parking lot, and on the streets of De La Plata Podrido.

(_)

Over twenty minutes later, inside the living room of Pedro Del Soto's home, Pedro was standing by the right front corner of the room, across from the entrance to the hallway that lead to the front door to his home.

He was dressed in his usual clothing, including his long coat, along with other items he planned to take with him into the multiverse.

The lights, appliances, and most of the electronics, in the home were turned off.

Pedro was peeking out the edge of his white curtains, with his left finger, allowing him to see out into his front yard, as he patiently waiting for Matthew to show up.

The reason why Pedro was not standing outside his doorstep, as he waited for Matthew to show up, like he sometimes did, was that given the situation, he stayed inside, and out of sight, just in case Matthew was caught, and he would not be a sitting duck.

Pedro looked across the room, and over at the DVR clock, under his wall mounted TV.

The clock's digital read out stated, three o'clock PM, sharp.

Pedro looked back through the curtains of the window, as he thought, 'Matthew should be here any minute...'

'Still, if he doesn't show. I have a plan for that, too...'

'The one part I didn't tell Matthew about my plan was my plan B. Given his punctuality, if he is over an hour late, I will know he got caught, or something went wrong. Either way, I am taking my car and running. Anyone who checks with the police station will likely hear about the vacation cover, which will likely buy me a few days before they start coming after me. Unless, then go back in time, and come after me just after I leave... Lord, I hope not...'

'And while I know they will likely catch me, I am not going to make it easy on them.'

'Still, if Matthew does show up, I will go outside to greet him. That way if they track us to here, they won't like break down the door to my home, to find out where we reality jumped at.'

A few seconds later, Pedro saw a taxi pulled up beside his front lawn, and come to a stop.

Soon after, Pedro saw Matthew stepping out of the taxi.

Pedro happily thought, 'Ah... There he is... We better get out of here a quickly as possible.'

Pedro then head for the front door of his home.

A few seconds later, as Pedro open the front door, and exited his home. With him gently shutting the door, he saw that taxi was gone, and Matthew was calming walking towards him.

Pedro quickly turned back the door, pulled out his keys, and he locked both the door knob, and the deadbolt of his front door, with his new key for his locks.

He then pulled back his key, and pocketed.

After which, Pedro turned back around, to see Matthew standing about six feet from them.

Pedro asked, “Any problems?”

Matthew replied, “No.”

Pedro questioned, “Did you get it?”

Matthew said, “Yes. I got it. And here it is.” He then pulled out the reality device, from a pocket, and he handed it to Pedro.

Pedro looked down at the TV remote shaped reality device, as he took it from Matthew's hands. He replied, “Thank you.” He continued to look at the reality device for a few more seconds, as he muttered, “This is such a small thing. It is surprising what it can do.”

Matthew stated, “Experience has taught me that small things can cause big problems.”

Pedro looked back up at Matthew, as he agreed, “You are right about that. So, would you like to head back to Mars, first? Even if it is just to visit.”

Matthew answered, in a sober tone of voice, “No. I left the morning after the night of both a police massacre, that insane chase, and that attack on Edgars Industries headquarters. And I am the only person still breathing that the authorities can tie to all three events. They may try to blame me for the mess.”

Pedro commented, “So, you are going to have to wait, until you are sure Garibaldi has returned? So, he can straighten out this mess for you?”

Matthew sadly replied, “Yes.”

Pedro commented, “Okay. That is not a bad plan.”

Matthew responded, with a bit more joy in his tone of voice, “Thank you. So, where do you want to go?”

Pedro answered, “I have a place, time, and reality, in mind, for a couple of reasons. But, first, I have to ask. And I don't like asking this question, but it has to be asked. Do you need to go to the bathroom, before we leave?

Matthew snorted, as he stated, “No. I am good. But, I agree that question had to be asked.”

Pedro looked at Matthew more closely, as he commented, “I see you still don't have a weapon on you.”

Matthew said, “I prefer to leave the fighting to others.”

Pedro shrugged, as he responded, “Fine. Your choice. I will handle the ass kicking. You will handle the paper work.”

Matthew agreed, “Works for me.”

Pedro inquired, “Now, onto another question that has to be asked. Have you got everything you wanted to bring with you?”

Matthew answered, “Yes. I am ready to go. And I take it you are, as well?”

Pedro replied, “Yes.”

Matthew requested, “Then, let's go.”

Pedro cracked a grin, as he said, “I thought you would never ask. Now, take a step closer, we will get out of here.”

Matthew walked up to stand beside Pedro.

Pedro had the reality device in his right hand, as he looked down at it. He placed his right thumb over the red button in the middle of the remote, as he asked, “Are you ready?”

Matthew answered, “Yes. And don't worry. I have done this before. You won't feel anything when it happens.”

Pedro replied, “Okay.” He then thought of the exact reality, place, and time, he wanted to go to, and he then held that thought, as he press the reality device.

The next thing Pedro and Matthew knew, they were standing in an alleyway, between two, three story buildings.

From above them they saw that it was a sunny day. And they noticed that the temperature was warm, but not hot.

As Pedro continued to look around, he commented, with slight surprise in his tone of voice, “That was quick.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he calmly said, “I know. So, where and when are we?”

Pedro looked back at Matthew, as he pocket his reality device, in his right side pants pocket. He answered, “Well, I figure they will start tracking us. So, I brought us to a time and place that will make them think twice before coming after us.”

“We are in an alleyway, in Roanapur, Thailand. The date is March nineteenth, nineteen ninety-one. I believe it is a Tuesday. I needed a date, and I choose that one. It is early afternoon. So, everywhere we might want to visit is open. And we have plenty of time before dark. When we probably need to leave the city.”

“Also, given the date, this is before Hotel Moscow, and Lagoon Company, came to Roanapur.”

Matthew smiled towards Pedro, as he understood what Pedro was stating. Matthew commented, “So, besides some minor criminals. While whom are vicious, but not very bright. We only have to worry about Chang, and his group.”

Pedro returned Matthew's grin, as he stated, “Exactly. And since Chang has always been a bit of a hands on type of person. He, or more aptly, she will come back to this time to track us done. With likely River and Lee. And Chang will have to do so as a woman, so her past self, and others here, don't recognize her, and risk creating a paradox.”

Matthew complimented, “Nice plan.”

Pedro replied, “Thanks.”

Matthew inquired, “So, is this the same reality as in the anime, and those crazy stories?”

Pedro responded, “Yes. I figured there was no point in involving alternate timelines.”

Matthew replied, “I agree. Still, it is a bit hot out here. Even for what I am wearing. And it has got to be hot for you.”

Pedro stated, “The city is by the eastern coast of Thailand. Once we get on the open streets, there should be a sea breeze that will help. And I have gotten use to wearing this clothing during hot days, back at my island. And you will get use to it, as well. You don't want to leave any clothing behind, that you might need in the next reality we good too.”

Matthew responded, “I see your point. Now, let's head out of this alleyway.”

Pedro complimented, “Good idea.”

Both men then turned, as the casually walked out of the alleyway, side by side.

A few seconds later, they walked out of the alley, and onto the sidewalk of a street. They both looked around, and they saw only a few people in the distance, on both sides of the street.

Both men looked then at each other. Matthew asked, “So, which way do you think we should go?”

Pedro answered, “Though, I have seen a map.” He thought, 'From the Black Lagoon anime, episode twenty-six, An Office Man's Tactics.' He continued, “It was mostly unmarked. So, I am not sure, myself.”

Matthew inquired, “Well, do you have a destination in mind?”

Pedro answered, “I always wanted to get a cold, decent beer at the Yellowflag.”

Matthew said, “Well, that is a good start. We will go right, and keep walking until we find someplace we recognize. Or, we can ask directions.”

Pedro replied, “Works for me. While Thai is the main language in this city, many people people here also speak english. And a few even speak spanish.”

Matthew commented, “Well, at least the language barrier here won't cause many problem.”

Pedro agreed, “You got that right.”

The two men turned to the right, and started walking down the sidewalk, as Pedro casually questioned, “So, anything else you want to ask me?”

Matthew responded, “Well, yes. But, let us not drop any names. Too many ears nearby.”

Pedro replied, “Agreed.”

Matthew said, “I understand why most of the people use the types of weapons they do. But, I do not understand why ms redhead uses her two weapons at once.”

Pedro realized Matthew was speaking about Revy, as he inquired, “The Inox Beretta ninety-two FS pistols?”

Matthew replied, “Yes.”

Pedro answered, “While I can understand the Inox, which is stainless steal, and protects the pistols from saltwater rust. I don't know why she uses those particular types of pistols either. Nor, do I know why she fired them both at the same time.” He thought, 'I have to pistols. But, on is my main weapon, and one is my holdout, includes I have problems with my main weapon, or I lose it in battle.'

Matthew said, “Well, I guess it is just one of those mysteries we won't solve any time soon.”

Pedro shrugged, as he agreed, “I guess so.”

The two men then continued walking down the sidewalk, in search of the Yellowflag bar.

To be continued.



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