Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: Volume 1: Chapter 02

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

Volume 1: “The Heroes.”

Chapter 02: “Greener Grass On The Other Side.”

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, Lee and Pedro's Home Reality. Location, Daiyu Palace Casino. Plata Podrido, Mexico. Date, the morning after Pedro and Matthew left Pedro and Lee's home reality.

It was sunny during the late morning, with River being inside the living room of her penthouse apartment.

The only light coming into the room was the sunlight from the draped windows.

A little while ago, River and Lee had just finished their morning exercising, in the employee gym in, in the back of the casino, on the first floor. And they had come up to the apartment to shower, and change their clothing.

After doing so, Lee had just left the apartment, heading for the basement of the casino, to meet with Chang, about a shipment of something that Chang had delivered to his casino.

River was currently female.

Besides River's bra, panties, and white soaks, River was wearing casual clothing, the consisted of red pants, a white t-shirt, and some black tennis shoes.

As River walked over to the phone, she had something on her mind.

River thought, 'Where is Matthew?... I have not seen him since he had lunch in the casino restaurant yesterday afternoon. And as much as I think he is due for some time off, I think he owes it to us to tell us to our faces that he needs a vacation. Which we would be more than happy to give him.'

'And while Chang and Lee said not to worry about him. That Matthew will turn up. I am not so sure. Even, Annie told Lee and I, in the gym, that she had not seen Matthew all morning, nor last night. And that concerns me.'

By then, River reached the phone, on a small table. As she came to a stop, she picked up the wireless phone off its base, with her right hand.

As River dialed a phone number she had in mind, she thought, 'Now, the next step in finding Matthew, is to ask his friends. Since, Annie likely doesn't know where Matthew is, I will call Pedro and talk to him. I am sure he will have the time to speak to me.'

River then place the phone by her right ear, as it rung a few times.

When the other line picked up, River calmly said, in spanish, “Hello. Could I please speak to Police Chief Del Soto.”

The woman on the line answered, in spanish, “I am sorry ma'am, but the chief has gone on vacation for a few days.”

River replied, “Thank you.”

She then hung up her phone, and placed it back on its recharging base. As she turned to look towards the curtained windows of the room, she thought, 'My instincts tell me that Pedro is involved with Matthew's disappearance. And saying one is going on vacation for a few days, would likely give Pedro and Matthew a good head start, before people would start asking questions.'

'Though, it looks like I started asking questions sooner than they expected.'

'Though, the question is, if those two decided to run off together, what could have caused them to jump ship so suddenly?...'

'For them, they have had to work with us for over two years... It is not like any of us have threatened them. We haven't needed too, nor care too... Oh...'

River then recalled something, as she continued her thoughts, 'Chang mentioned, to Lee and I, that the night before last, Balalaika, B, and a few members of Hotel Moscow visited Pedro at his home. And I heard that Matthew for the event. And while neither of them were harm, that brush with danger would cause anyone to run.'

'But, Pedro already knows he cannot simply just run. We will find them both in no time... Unless... I think I better trace Matthew's steps from when I saw him having lunch at the casino restaurant, because I don't like where this line of thought is leading...'

River then walked into towards the hallway, that lead to the master bedroom she shared with Chang and Lee.

Seconds later, when she reached her bedroom, which she shared with Chang and Lee.

The sunlight coming from the sliding glass door in the room, provided plenty of illumination for River to see with.

She walked over to a chest of drawers, picked up her laptop computer, with its battery already fully charges, and she heading over to her large bed, whose sheets were already maid.

She sat down in the middle of her bed, as she set her laptop in front of her, and lifted up the screen from the keyboard of the computer.

As soon as she booted up, and logged onto her account, on the computer, she then used his computer to log onto the security computers of the casino.

After typing in and entering her user name and password, she was allowed full access of the security sections of the computer system. This included the video recordings of the security cameras.

As River worked to find the security camera recordings for the casino restaurant, for lunch time, yesterday, she thought, 'It is good that given our technological resources, we have plenty of hard drive storage space, and we don't have to delete any videos, nor other data, on our many RAID array computer systems, to make room for more data.'

River then found the recording of Matthew eating a sandwich, with chips and a soda, inside the casino restaurant, from lunch, yesterday.

River looked at the time stamp upper left side of the video, to confirm that it was the proper time and place.

River thought, 'Good. Now, where did you go from there?'

After ten minutes of fast forwarding, and switching from camera to camera, as Matthew moved throughout the casino, she reached the two thirty PM mark, when things finally got interesting. She watched as Matthew, while inside one of the front elevators, pulled out his cell phone, and called someone. Matthew’s back was turned from the camera, so she could not read his lips.

River mentally wondered, 'Who are you calling, Matthew?... Well, whomever it is, you were intelligent enough to know that people can read lips by look at the camera recordings.'

River next watched as Matthew exited the elevator, and enter the second floor, and soon gain access to the restricted section, in the back of the casino, on the second floor.

She paused the video, and she pulled up the log in security records of that key pad, and card reader. She found that it was Mal's key card and password that was used.

River thought, with mild amusement, 'Now, how did you do that?... How did you get Mal's key card, or copy of, along with his password.'

'Well, you did work for Michael Garibaldi. So, I am not really that surprised. Though, I am impressed... We have definitely underestimated your skill set...'

'Though, since that is the case, cloning a key card would child's play to you, since you were able to get your hands on Mal's key card, and returning it to him, without him realizing. And guessing Mal's password is not that difficult. Also, I know you knew the daily schedules of Annie and I. And you probably used those to intentionally avoid us, so we would not learn that you were planning something.'

'While Matthew, you is not as intelligent as I. You are clearly no slacker in the devious department. That is why you're our lawyer, in the first place.'

'All in all, this was a well throughout plan by you, Matthew.'

'Though, on another matter, I probably need to track down Garibaldi sometime. But, I will deal with that later. Now, to find out where you went, Matthew?...'

'Still, I best not mention to the others that it was Mal's key card and password that was used. I don't want to make him angry. But, I will send out an order for everyone to replace their key card and passwords on a more regular basis. It is clear that Mal never replaced the password he original picked out for himself to use. And that way, no one would be the wiser.'

River set the video back to playing, as she continued watch She soon saw Matthew gain entry into the technology storage room, in the same manner he did with the door to the restricted area.

River then saw, as Matthew grabbed one of the reality devices, and hidden it on his person.

River quietly said, in english, “Oh no...' She mentally lamented, 'I knew Annie giving Matthew that tour was going to cause problems in the future. But, not like this. And I believe Annie even showed him how to work, and do the diagnostics on those devices. Still, I am not going to tell Annie about this, because I don't want to upset her. She doesn't have many friends, herself. And Matthew is one of Annie's genuine friends.'

'And while their relationship is purely platonic... Annie previously being Darth Vader was a complete turned off for Matthew... I would hate to create a rift between those two...'

'Now Matthew, what did you do after you stole one of our reality devices?...'

River watched as Matthew casually left the storage room, then the restricted areas. With him gently shutting the door behind him.

River then watched as Matthew calmly made his way to one of the front elevators, and then down to first floor, and the gaming area. All the while, Matthew was just taking his time, in passing through the areas of the casino.

River mentally complimented, 'Intelligent thinking, Matthew. Rushing might have alerted someone. But, by calmly walking to the outside would likely not alert anyone.'

She then watched as Matthew walked out the front entrance, where he was met by a taxi. He got into the taxi, which soon drove away, with him in the vehicle.

River thought, 'So, you called a taxi, to come get you, just in time. That figures. And this shows that you are a skilled planner, Matthew.'

'You likely met Pedro somewhere and the two of them reality jumped. And given Pedro is a fan of fiction as Lee, among other series, you two could cause some trouble. As such, this needs to be handled, before the situation becomes a problem. I need to talk to Chang and Lee about this. I am probably going to need their help in bringing Matthew and Pedro back here, without harming them.'

River logged out of the security computers, and she closed her laptop. Which put her computer into power down, stand by mode, which required it to boot up and a password to use. Next, River got off her bed, returned the laptop onto the top of the chest of drawers, where it has been. And she walked out of the out of the room, as she headed for she knew Chang and Lee were presently located, in the casino.

(_)

A few minute ago, in the first level of the basement section of the casino, right below the first floor of the casino, near the vaults of Daiyu Palace Casino, Chang and Lee were walking down a hallway.

As they passed by the doors to some unused casino cages, Chang was in front, with Lee following right behind Chang.

Chang was male, and in his usual business clothing. While Lee was female, in similar casual clothing as River was wearing at the moment. Which was a bra, panties, and white soaks, black pants, blue t-shirt, and red tennis shoes.

Give their history together, Lee did not bother to ask Chang where they were going. Nor, why. Both of them, and River, had come to trust each other completely.

As such, Lee knew it was important to Chang, and that was all that mattered.

As they walked, Chang was in a good mood, as he mentally reflected, 'This is a good life, in so many ways... River, Lee, our children, our kingdom in that other reality, and my businesses here. Everything seems to be going very well. And I don't want to jinx what we have. Still, it is fun to think about what we could do in the future...'

'By itself, my casino here is making me money, hand over fist. And while I have only dabbled a little in the drug trade here, compared to my other ventures, that has only been pocket change.'

'I think I will leave Balalaika and Hotel Moscow to handle that angle of our arrangement. Which is a pretty good partnership. We both get something out of it. And to be honest, our organizations are the only ones we can trust on this planet, for the moment. So, in this case, working together is not so much boring, as a necessity... Besides, we now have friends on either side that if one of us betrayed the other, we would catch hell from the our friends and subordinates. And we both long since admitted that fact to each other.'

'As such, I do not mind Balalaika having her men... I mean women, keeping the cartels out of this town. Pedro probably does not realize how much trouble we have kept from even coming to this town. Not that I want him to think he owes us... Owes me. He strikes me as not the type of person to react well to feeling he owes debts to criminals.'

'And though Pedro keeps this town's civic sections running, we have to work in the background part of this town. Also, while I have Annie and Arcee, I use them sparingly, because they were clearly not in it for the money, but because they are bored. And I won't abuse that arrangement I have with them.'

'Still, I find it interesting, but not really surprising, that that my only other venture in this reality, that rivals my casino, is Rowan's little gender bending whorehouse. Which has been expanded five times, in size, since it opened, over two years ago... Well, for those that live here all the time.'

'I knew when I made the offer to Rowan, for that little venture. Where we could use those instant packets of Jusenkyo gender bending powder, both male and female types of powder, in her whorehouse, that it would be quite popular, no matter what price we put on per visit, and per use of packets.'

'And we have made more money in that venture, in one month, than the annual GDP of some nations I could name. With Rowan a very wealthy woman, and I am even wealthy.'

'Also, we pay the workers and staff there, very well. With a very good benefits packets. A few of the employees there, have already quit, and retired in luxury. As what we paid them over the course of every week, has been very generous. And if they do quit, we allow them to do so, on the understanding they keep their mouths shut. Which they do.'

Chang smiled, as he happily continued his thoughts, 'And we can get the packets real cheap, to boot.'

Chang then dropped his smile, as he mentally reflected, 'Though, I was tempted to also bring animal instant packs, but that raises too many possible problems. And the real stuff is just two dangerous to handle.'

'Even Pedro was nice enough to look the other way, when it comes to that whorehouse, because it brings money to the island. A year ago, I personally offered him a free open invitation visit to there, with him being able to use as many of those packets as he wanted to, for that visit. But, while he was polite about the offer, the prude has never taken me up on my generosity.'

'Not that I really mind, either way.'

'And when it comes to our employees there, and even a few customers probably would even believe where we got the packets from. Still, all the employees care about is getting paid, and the packets are temporary. And all the customers care about is the employees are willing, the packets work, and the sex rooms we have are very relaxing, with plenty of options for activities in said room.'

'And we have the rich and powerful coming from all over the world, as our clients. To the point we have a waiting list.'

'We are practically the Studio Fifty-Four of whorehouses, on steroids.'

'With our more influential clients keep the various governments, and other powers, of the world off our backs. As long as we have this unique vice, we have little to worry about.'

'And when they come to my casino. With them being those that are both rich, and whom are of a curtain temperament, are encouraged to come to my whorehouse, located near the middle of the island, away from both the casinos, and the Devil's Hotel.'

'And those are my whorehouse are encouraged to visit my casino. So, I get money for their vices, no matter if it is at the gambling tables, or in my bedrooms.'

'Still, we keep Rowan's whorehouse low key in those that know about it.'

'And when they come, all of them pay up front in gold, or silver.'

'After they are paid, our clients are allowed to choose their gender. How many whores that client wants, within reason. And the gender of their whores, for the next twelve hours. Still, while we do some sadomasochistic, it is very light. And we won't allow any drug use while at the whorehouse... No matter how much some of them have tried to bribe my employees.'

'I have a standing order that I will match any bribe, if it can be proven from a customer to do something stupid. Usually, an audio recording will do for prove. And we did have a security team dedicated to Rowan's whorehouse. With all the bedrooms, and other rooms of that whorehouse, being constantly monitored and recorded, with cameras and microphones.'

'Though, I have no intention to use these records for blackmail. And I have tight control on the records. I do this monitoring, as a way to protect the staff and customers, from unexpected problems.'

'But, this security team has nothing to do with Mal's security team a the casino. And the security team for the whorehouse is located in a basement level of the whorehouse.'

'I know how Mal feels about prostitution. And I will not put his personal feelings in conflict with the job he and his friends do for me.'

'Still, this anti-bribery tactic has made some of my whores wealthy. Well, wealthier than they already were, from what I paid them. And I can afford it. It is a drop in the bucket to what Rowan and I make from that place, within a week. While at the same time, this tactic helps to in sure that my employees stay loyal to me, along with the clients being prevented from doing something stupid that will ruin this enterprise for all of us.'

'Along those lines, having a rich client die on us is a bad idea for everyone involved. That is why all our clients have a medical check up, right before they are allowed to enjoy such vices.'

'This includes on the spot blood tests, to check for diseases. Among other things. With the technology we have access to, we can check on such tests, and have the computer results in a matter of seconds. We even do blood tests on our whores one a month. The my other employee, including the whores, for all my ventures, have to have a check up and blood tests, to check for possible problems, every seconds moment. I want to keep ahead of any possible problems that can pop up on us.'

'Also, both the clients, and my whores, have to all use condoms. This is to prevent possible pregnancies, and sexual transmitted diseases, in case our other measures fail.'

If there is a problem, such as a client being to unhealthy, or if it is a woman, and she is pregnant. We turn them away, and refund their money. Still, as a way to show there are no hard feelings. We offer then a few days in one of my better suits at the casino. And that usually does the trick in easy their disappoint. And with this tactic, I occasionally make some money from them, from my gambling tables.'

'And though, I admit it was tempting. While I did install security cameras in the whorehouse, I don't plan to do any blackmail. Lee said such clients more than likely try to get one of their governments to come after us, than pay us for our silence. And I agree with her.'

'Finally, on the matter, I have to admire Rowan's sense of humor. I let her pick out the name for our whorehouse. We call the whorehouse, the Bending House of Pleasure. Hahahahaha...'

Chang did not show it on the outside, as he mentally laughed, for a few seconds.

As he calmed down, he went onto think, 'And on a more personal note, my family in this reality, and the feudal reality, are doing great. We will have to visit our children, in the other reality, in a few days, to a week, our time. Though, when it concerns time, it will only be a few minutes that we are gone... Along with this, having extreme longevity is so useful...'

While Chang did not openly laugh at the last part of his thoughts. Though, he did crack a small smile on his lips, as he and Lee continued walking.

A few seconds later, they made it to an open door, which lead to the room that Chang was leading Lee too.

Chang walked inside, with Lee following right behind them.

As Chang and Lee came to a stop, side by side, with Lee being to Chang's right side, Lee first noticed the soft white florescent ceiling lights were on.

Lee then noticed a table in the center, with a rectangular, brown cardboard box on the table. The box was one foot long, six inched wide, and four inches high. Also, the box had packing table holding the cardboard closed.

The other thing Lee noticed about the table was that there were no chairs around the table.

Lee then saw that on the other side of the three were three of Chang's female chinese employees, standing side by said, facing Chang and Lee, across the table from them. All three of the of the women were wearing black businesses clothing, with black dress shoes. One was wearing a long skirt with her clothing, while the other two women each wore black pants, with a black leather belt.

Chang turned to Lee, as he said, in chinese, “I appreciate you not asking any questions.”

Lee looked over at Chang, as she replied, in chinese, “I trust you enough not to ask questions.”

Chang teased, “Thank you... So, would you like to know what is inside the box?”

Lee happily responded, “Knowing you, it could literally be anything.”

Chang let out a small chuckle. He then said, “I will take that as a complimented. Now, let me show you what I have just acquired from your world here.”

Chang then walked around, to the side of the table, that was to Lee's left. He then pulled out a pocket knife, and unfolded the blade to it. Next, he used it to cut through the packing tape at the top of the cardboard box.

When Chang was through, he folded his knife blade back into its hilt, and he pocketed the item.

After which, he used both his hands to open the top of the box, and slowly pull something out.

While the large item came out of the box, Lee saw styrofoam popcorn, that was used as packing filler, drop out onto the table.

As the item in Chang's hands was clear of the box, and styrofoam popcorn, he gently set object down, on the table, in front of Lee.

Chang then leaned back up straight, while he looked over at Lee. He smiled, as he rhetorically asked, “Now, isn't that one of the most beautiful things you have ever seen?”

Lee saw that the object on the table was a large, rectangular brick of gold.

Lee looked at the gold bar for a few seconds. She then looked back up at Chang, as she asked, “What did you get this from?

Chang said, “From a local source.”

Lee looked back at the gold bar, as she requested, “Can I hold it?”

Chang replied, “Sure.”

Lee walked over to the table, in front of her. She then picked it up with both hands. She found that it was heavy, as she looked at it for a few seconds before gently setting it back down.

Lee turned to Chang. She choose her words carefully, as she calmly questioned, “I know you have been getting gold from this reality for a few years. But, not in this large of a brick. So, I have to ask. Is this large gold bar the only gold bar you have received from this new source?”

Chang answered, “Yes.”

Lee inquired, “How did you test this bar authenticity?”

Chang stated, “By weight.”

Lee frowned, as she said, “That could be problematic.”

Chang questioned, “What do you mean?”

Lee requested, “I need a power-drill, with a narrow drill bit.”

Chang looked at his employees, as he ordered, in chinese, “Make it happen.”

One of the women walked out of the room.

A minute later, the employee that had left had returned with a small, battery powered drill, with a small drill bit.

Lee held the drill, with her right hand, by its grip. She made sure that drill was set to drill into something, and not set to unscrew something.

Lee looked over at Chang, as she requested, “I need to test this gold bar. May I have permission to do so?”

Chang responded, “You may do so. But first, please explain what you are doing.”

Lee replied, “Okay. In this reality, testing gold by weight is no longer reliably. Now, if this is soft gold, this bit will go straight through, in a clean manner. In which case, we collect the shavings and recast the bar. But, I don't think that is going to happen.”

Lee then over at the gold bar, as she leaned down towards it. She held the drill, with the drill bit, in the center, on top of the gold bar.

Lee held the drill both both hands, as she used her right trigger finger to turn on the drill. As the drill came on, she pressed down, and the drill bit began to corkscrew into the gold, creating gold metal shavings as the bit made its way into the gold bar.

A second later, the bit stopped in the middle of the bar. Lee then used the drill to widen the hole a bit.

When Lee was satisfied by the size of the hole, she pulled the bit out of the gold bar, and she set the power-drill on the table.

Lee leaned up, and looked over at Chang. She requested, “Have a look for yourself.”

Chang looked down into the hole in his new gold bar, and he saw the center of the bar had a silvery color metal.

Chang realized he had bought a fake gold plated bar. He leaned back up to look at Lee. He inquired, “What is that metal?”

Lee answered, “That metal is called, tungsten. It has an atomic weight close to gold. That is why weight tests are no longer reliable. Tungsten is also very dense, and it has one of the highest melting points on record.”

Chang asked, “Where does it come from?”

Lee stated, “Well, in this reality, most tungsten ore is mined from the central part of eastern China. A hundred miles from the coast. I am sure you appreciate the irony.”

Chang frowned, as he questioned, “Oh... I do. Still, since weight not longer works. How is the purity tested on gold bars?”

Lee responded, “Electrical resistance. A pure gold bar has a different electrical resistance than a gold bar with a tungsten core. These tests can pick up fake gold bars like this. Kits for these tests are sold off the internet. And are not that expensive. Also, quick test for gold coins is a magnet. Gold is not magnetic. If a magnet works, it is fake.”

“And don't feel bad about this, Chang. Many of the people reality, with any influence, or wealth, will suck you dry any way they can. This world's economic values is just a series of shell games twisted and mixed together. I knew about this fake gold bar scam before you came here. I just didn't realize it would become an issue with you.”

Chang forced himself to remain calm, as he stated “Everyone has lapses of judgment, on the information they share. Don't worry about it. This is not your fault.”

Lee responded, “Thank you. And keep in mind that entire nations have been suckered and bankrupted by this single scam. Fortunately, you just got duped on one gold bar. And I would suggest letting the issue go. We are all small fish, to the larger, more established sharks in this world. It is just the cost of one gold bar, which I am sure you can absorb with only minor issues.”

Change commented, in a casual tone of voice, “You're right. Reprisal over this matter would only have a negative effect on us. We will just not do business with that source, again. Still, this also means I am going to have to recheck all the gold our clients have paid for both the casino, and Rowan's little business.”

Lee stated, “I won't worry to much. The among of gold, per transactions, for the casino, and that little unique, and imaginative business, would likely not be faked. Besides, given you are the only people on this planet offering such... Delights. They won't risk getting banned, or worst, over some trivial amounts of gold.”

Chang cracked a grin, as he said, “That is good to hear. And this is why I keep you around.”

Lee replied, “And I thought it was because I was good in bed, and open to just about anything you and River want to try.”

Chang shrugged, as he joyfully conceded, “That too.”

Nearby, the three employees each suppressed the urge to lightly laugh at Chang and Lee's comments.

Lee commented, “Look on the bright side, at least the outer layer is gold. And from the looks of it, they were not pros. They used heat to soften the gold, then, stuck a slug of tungsten around it. Instead, of just being a gold coat foil around the tungsten. So, there is still a thick layer of gold. We can strip, and melt that off. Given how deep that drill bit when it, I figure you are out about half of what you paid for. So, it is not that bad.”

Chang replied, “That is good to hear.” He turned to his employees, as he calmly requested, “Salvage as much gold as you can from the bar. Reform the gold into smaller bars. And let me know how much gold we really got out of this deal.”

The three employee said, almost in unison, in chinese, “Yes sir.”

Just then, River suddenly walked inside the room. Everyone in the room turned to face her.

Chang and Lee recognized the concerned look River had on her face.

Chang was the first to ask, “What is it, River?”

River glanced at the three employees, then back to Chang, as she responded, in english, “Chang. Lee. We need to talk in private about something, I just found out. Right now.”

Chang and Lee realized there something was wrong, because of the way she was acting, and that she knew that Chang prefer that people in the cage area speak chinese. Given most of them were native to Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan.

Chang stated, in english, “Okay. You won't ask this, unless it is important. Let's head upstairs, and talk.”

Lee looked over at Chang, as she said, in english, “I agree. And I believe our business is concluded here.”

Chang turned to Lee, as he responded, “Yes. It is.”

River, then Lee, and finally Chang, walked out of the room, and into the hallway, as they headed to the apartment they shared.

Meanwhile, Chang's three female subordinates, in the room carried out Chang's orders on stripping and recasting the gold on the metal brick on the table.

(_)

Ten minute later, the three adult lovers made it to the living room of their penthouse apartment, in Chang's casino.

The only light in the room was from the sunlight, coming through the draped windows.

River was the first one inside the room, with Chang right behind her. While, Lee being the last one to enter the room.

Lee gently closed, and locked the door behind them. She then turned and walked further into the room.

The three adults then came to a stop. As they continue to stand, they turned around, to where they could face each other.

River stated, “We have a big problem.”

Chang asked, “What is it?”

River said, “You as both know, Matthew has not been seen since yesterday morning, at lunch?”

Lee commented, “Yes. And he will turn up, eventually.”

River stated, “I don't think so. And I found out that Pedro has disappeared, as well.”

Lee said, “This is not good.”

River replied, “I know. And that is not the half of it.”

Chang calmly requested, “Please, tell us what is going on, so we can solve this problem, as quickly as possible.”

River said, “Well, I did some checking around. And I found that Pedro told his staff, at the police station, that he is taking a vacation, for a few days. I think this was just a cover story, to give them lead time to escape.”

Chang commented, “Well, they are good friends. So, it would make sense that would run off together…” He then realized what he said, as he continued, “And that did not come out right... Because I am fairly sure they both prefer women...”

Lee and River giggled a little, over Chang's comment. With Chang taking their giggling in stride.

As they calmed down, Chang said, “Still, I do not see this as an issue. It won't be a problem tracking them. I would say give them a week, and relax some, then we will have Roberta go find them, and bring them back, in a manner that does not bring harm to them, nor give them heartattacks.”

River commented, “Easier said, than done.” She saw Chang raise an eyebrow, as Lee looked at her more intently. She continued, “You see, I checked the security camera footage. And I traced Matthew's steps, from the last time I saw him. Which was at lunch, in the casino restaurant.”

“Before Matthew left, he quietly broke into the restricted section of the second floor. And he then got into one of the technology storage areas, where he took one of our reality devices...”

Lee winced her face for a second.

Meanwhile, Chang rolled his eyes for a second, before he looked back at River.

River went onto say, “After which, he immediately made his way down to the first floor, where he left out the front entrance of the casino, and into a taxi that was waiting for him.”

Chang slowly said, “Okay... This could be a problem.”

Lee commented, “And given how knowledgeable, and savvy, Pedro is. They could literally be anywhere in the multiverse.”

Chang turned to Lee, as he stated, “True. Also, Pedro, and likely Matthew, have also read your stories. That means they know the tricks already tried in escaping into the multiverse. As such, they will not make the same mistakes that others have made.”

Lee looked over at Chang, as she replied, “Exactly.” She then turned to River, as she inquired, “Did Matthew take any luggage with him? That could slow him down.”

River commented, “No. I do not think either of them took any luggage, when they left. They likely knew, from what you wrote, that it would be best if they traveled light.”

Lee replied, “I guess so.”

Chang stated, “Okay. The first thing we need to do is find them, and bring them back, before they get themselves into so much trouble, in the multiverse, that we cannot get them out of the mess they are walking into.”

Lee turned to Chang, as she happily said, “I am glad you are concerned for their welfare.”

Chang looked over at Lee, as he calmly said, “Of course. They are nice guys, that are very useful to us. And they play the game well. As much as I don't like to admit it, this city would fall apart without Pedro.”

Lee commented, “And Matthew is too good a lawyer to let go so easily.”

Chang agreed, “That is true. And another reason I want to bring them back unharmed.”

River looked at both her lover, as she said, “For them to pull something like this, it is clear they did not like the situation they were in. And Balalaika visiting them, at Pedro's home, the night before last probably did not help matters.”

Lee commented, “Yes. I think Balalaika went too far doing that.”

Chang stated, “Agreed. Pedro has always had a good amount of common sense. And I knew if we leaned on him too much, he would bolt. I guess he convinced Matthew to help him leave this reality. With Matthew going with him. And I am sure that both of them would be resourceful enough to pull off such a theft under out noses. Though, it was Matthew that did the theft, in this case.”

River replied, “Yes. They are both very resourceful.”

Lee inquired, “Still, how do we bring them back? They are our friends. And we don't want to do it by force.”

Chang responded, “You're right. We will talk them into coming back. And we will make some reasonable changes. Prevent Balalaika and Hotel Moscow from threatening them again, like that. And we will get Revy, Rock, and their friends, to stop making them chaperon to their parties.”

River agreed, “That would be a good start.”

Lee said, “Yea. Just those two changes would greatly decrease the day to day stress those two are under.”

River stated, “To say the least. Still, after we find them, we need to convince them to come back on with us, willingly. Or, they will just run again.”

Chang said, “Yes. And they are too savvy to brainwash. And no, that is not an option. I learned my lesson on that.”

Lee commented, “And so have I.”

River grinned, as she replied, “Good.”

Chang asked, “Now, where is the closest reality tracking device?”

River answered, “I have one in our bedroom.”

Chang replied, “All the better. We will wait for you here.”

River said, “Thanks.” She then swiftly walked into the hallway, leading to the bedroom.

Less than a minute later, River walked back into the living room, while holding a small computer tablet sized device in her hands.

As she came to a stop, in the living room, she looked over at Chang and Lee.

Before Chang, nor Lee, could speak, River stated, “Already looking for them.” She then looked back down at the readout on the reality tracking device.

Chang said, “Good.”

Lee thought, 'If this is anything like reality tracking in my stories. Getting a lock at this distance, with this much time elapsing, could take a while.'

Though, just as Lee was about to head to the couch, to sit down, she heard River state, “Found them. From what I am seeing, on the readout, they teleport from Pedro's home. Probably, from outside his home. Since he would not want us breaking in, as we tracked them to another reality.”

Lee commented, “I agree. Pedro would likely teleport on his front lawn. So, any such trackers would get their job done question, and leave.”

Chang said, “Yes. Also, that would be a good meeting spot for them. And it does confirm that they are in this, together.”

Lee asked, “Still River, how did you find them so quickly? As such a distance? And time since they used the devices?”

River looked over Lee, as she answered, “We do not share all our most advanced tech with Revy and the others.”

Lee questioned, “I guess that makes sense. So, when, where, and what reality are they in?”

River answered, “Believe it, or not. They jumped to Chang's home reality. The Black Lagoon anime reality. Roanapur, Thailand. With the date being, March nineteenth, nineteen ninety-one. They arrived sometime in the early afternoon.”

Lee looked over at Chang, as she inquired, “Anything special about that date?”

Chang turned to Lee, as he answered, “No. But, I have to give Pedro props. He has to be the one using the reality device. Because this is likely the first place that Pedro would pick to go to. And he likely know that I, or others from that reality, will be some of those that will be coming after him. And by going there, he is slowing us down from tracking them. As such, he picked a good time, and place, that I might think twice about going too.”

River questioned, “How so?”

Chang turned to River, as he stated, “That date is before Hotel Moscow, and the Lagoon family. Well, Lagoon company. Showed up. At that time, I was pretty ruling Roanapur, with the other families there doing what I was told them to do.”

River pointed out, “Which means if we go there, you would to have to go as a woman, so your past self does not recognize you.”

Chang responded, “Yes. It cannot be helped. And I will have to go without my sunglasses, because, male or female, I still have the same basic face. And those during that time saw me more often with my sunglasses on, than without them.”

Lee asked, “True. But, you rarely wear them anymore, anyway... So, where did they land? And when? I figure we could make this quick.”

River answered, “Well, they landed somewhere in the middle of Roanapur. And I can get us to within an hour after they arrived, and a kilometer of where they teleport too. I cannot be more specific than that.”

Chang turned to Lee, as he commented, “Even our tech has its limits.”

Lee looked over at her two lovers, as she deadpanned, “That figures.”

River stated, “Well, anyway. This will make a goo distraction to break the monotony. And when this is over. Let's go visit the kids in our kingdom.”

Lee complimented, “Good idea.”

Chang looked over at River, as he commented, “Yes. A little while ago, I was thinking about us doing that.”

River responded, “I am glad you both agree. Now, let us go get ready, and get this matter taken care of.”

Chang said, “Lead the way.”

River was the first one to walked out of the living room. She carried the reality tracking device in her right hand, as she headed towards their bedroom, and their closets, with Lee and Chang following close behind her.

(_)

Over the next twenty minutes, River, Chang, and Lee got ready, while they also retrieved their tools, and weapons.

Among the items the three adults placed on in their clothing, Lee put on a bandolier over her shirt, across her chest. She placed her collapsible staff, in its sheath, on the bandolier, across her back.

Lee then put on another bandolier, which Lee put around her waist. This bandolier held her throwing knives. She then untucked her shirt, and pulled her shirt over her knives, to help hide them from prying eyes.

Next, Lee put on a black, light, cloth, jacket, to hide her collapsed staff, and most of her knives on her bandolier. Though, she left the front part of her jacket open, which did expose some of her knives that were on her bandolier.

River preferred not to have weapons, unless the situation was serious and enough. And given how skilled a fighter River was without weapons, neither Chang, nor Lee, argued with River on this matter.

And while all three of them had retrieved a reality device, to put in a pocket, for redundancy purposes, it was decided by the three that River would be the one using a reality device to travel from reality to reality.

The reason for this were that both Chang and Lee completely trust River. And the fact that River was both a telepath, and a genius.

Also, River kept the reality tracking device. And it was decided by the three of them, that she would be the one with their tracking device. When she was not using the device, she tucked in the back of her pants, under her untucked shirt.

River then put on a light, red, cloth jacket. And she left the front of the jacket open.

Chang sneezed and became female. She then changed her clothing. She wore a red regular bra, and red boyshorts. Over this, the clothing Chang wore was a long sleeved, long tailed shirt Ao Dai, that was orange color on the outside, with the interior lining being white.

River and Lee had gotten the Ao Dai for Chang, as a gift, for Christmas, a year ago, for those at the casino.

While the Ao Dai was a dress, it used pants, instead of skirts, as a bottom part. And Bao looked good in an Ao Dai. River and Lee agreed that they thought that Chang would like it for her female form. And when Chang opened his gift, they were proven right.

Though, the Ao Dai they bought for Chang was a different colors, when compared to the black and white Ao Dai that Bao occasionally wore to formal parties.

Under Chang's shirt, but over her underwear, she wore simple, red cloth pants, that had a draw string around the waist, with side and back pockets.

Chang also wore an orange sash was under her shirt, over her pants, that allowed her to place her holsters, behind her waist, like she usual did with male business clothing. The back of her Ao Dai hide her two pistols.

Given the formal clothing she had on, she wore flat soled slippers, instead of more casual shoes. The slippers were red and they matched the color of her pants.

The reason that River and Lee has picked out those colors for Chang's Ao Dai was the colors matched the male swim clothing that Chang liked to wear at the beach, or the pool, when he was not swimming. The clothing was a light jacket, that was left open. And swim trunks.

The top shoulders and neck line parts of the jacket were orange. The orange blended, in fire shapes, to the white bottom parts of the chest back, and upper arms of the jacket. The forearms of the jacket were solid white.

The swimming clothing in question, was one of Chang's favorite swim trunks, he wore, which was orange and red. The red was a back ground color, with orange flame shapes climbed up from the bottom parts of the leggings to end an inch below the waistline of the swim trunks.

During one such beach outing, River commented that this was the same type of swim clothing that Chang liked to wore, match his counterpart's clothing in the Black Lagoon swimsuit magazine. Chang and Lee just lightly laughed at that revelation. But, nothing else was made of River's comment.

With Chang fully clothed, Chang then holstered both her two Beretta seventy-six semi-automatic pistols, into her holsters, that were located behind her waist.

Chang's pair of pistols were a replacement for her original pair of Beretta seventy-six pistols, which, Fabiola took with her, at Chang's tower, during the fall of Roapanur. And while Chang had long since learned that Fabiola had her pistols, she did not ask for them back, due to not wanting to annoy her, and Roberta.

The copies were almost same at the originals. Right down to the inlaid silver dragon pistol grips, and chrome colored, stainless steel coatings that both pistols had. The only difference was that the barrels were extended.

The pistols used twenty-two caliber long rifle rounds.

The standard magazine for the Beretta seventy-six pistol used held up to ten bullets. Chang has her pistols loaded with subsonic hollowpoint rounds.

The pistols had adjustable sights.

While the Beretta seventy-six pistols used twenty-two caliber rounds. One of the smallest pistol and rifle calibers on the market. The Beretta seventy-six semi-automatic pistol did have have a few advantage over most semi-automatic pistols.

The slide of the Beretta seventy-six pistol was located in the inside of the back of the pistol, above the grip and trigger, instead of being the entire to part of the pistol. As such, the top of the pistol did no move, only the section above the grip and trigger, where hammer was located, moved backward, when a bullet was fired from the pistol.

This meant less mass and weight shifted, when the pistol was fired. And with the pistol using such a low caliber, this allowed for better accuracy when firing.

And this allowed for the option of have a scope placed at the top for the barrel. Though, one would have to be careful of the slide.

Along with this, with Beretta seventy-six pistols extended barrels, Chang could attach suppressors to Chang's pistols, making them very quiet to use.

Along, with her pocketknife, Chang put a few spare, load ammo magazines, and a few twenty-two caliber boxes of ammo, for her pistols, in her pockets.

Also, it was decided that, as they traveled, Chang would be the one with the money. So, she carried with her a couple of rolls of older, mid-twentieth century, U.S., hundred dollar bills, and a few small bars of gold.

(_)

As all three adult finished getting ready, they gather near each other, in their bedroom, so they could jump realities together.

It was then that Chang immediately remembered, as she stated, “Hold it a second. I think I do remember something from the date Matthew and Pedro went too.”

Lee asked, “Okay. What do you remember?”

Chang said, “I will be right back.” She then walked into her closet.

Less than a minute later, Chang came out with a small book in her hands.

As Chang came to stand beside River and Lee, she paged through the book.

Lee and River look at the book, and they saw that it was a scrap book, with various pictures and article clippings.

Chang continued looking through scrap book, as she said, “When I was in Roanapur, I made this scrape book of the various things that went on there. I hide this in a cache, in another reality, before my defeat, at my tower. And I just remembered the date that Matthew and Pedro went too. I do not remember a lot from back then. Except for the big events.”

Lee commented, “Don't feel bad. Everyone develops gaps in their memories. The important thing is to remember the good times.” She mentally added, 'And Chang's cache in another reality confirms a theory I had about him... Well, right now, her.'

Lee then saw River crack a grin.

Lee casually thought, 'Given you are reading our thoughts, River. I guess this confirms my theory.'

Lee saw River gave her a small, single nod, in confirmation to her thoughts.

Chang responded, “Yes... Anyway, I remember meeting two men in the casino I ran there. And I think, around that time, there was a quick gunfight, started by a woman, near me, in the casino. Though, I am not sure why. But strangely, no one was hurt, nor was anyone caught, after that quick battle.”

River said, “It was good that no one was harmed. And we will be sure to try to avoid such violence.”

Chang continued paging through her scrap book, as she stated, “In Roanapur, that can be easier said, than done.”

Chang then found the page she was looking for. She held out the page for Lee and River to see. She pointed out, “Here is a picture of the security footage of those two men. Though, given video technology, and quality at the time. With the image was taken from an analogue feed. It is not that good.”

The picture was grainy, and not very detailed. But, the three adults saw Chang, as a male, in his business clothing, with two men, that had a passing resemblance to Matthew and Pedro, in what appeared to be part of a casino gaming floor.”

River commented, “That could be Matthew and Pedro.”

Lee stated, “Yes. And if it is them. This just confirms that they did go Roanapur at that date. With them meeting your past self, in a minor temporal loop between the three of you.”

Chang replied, “That is what I figured, as well.”

Lee said, “And we will be sure to try to avoid your past self, and the places you frequented. Such as your casino.”

Chang commented, “Actually, while we might want to avoid my younger self, we could go to my casino, and wait for them there. Given Pedro is such a big fan, he would likely go there. Also, he might think we would not try to go there. So, he and Matthew will not expect us to be there.”

“And should we do go to my casino, if we keep to ourselves, my organization, should leave us alone. They were always okay with pretty women, as long as those women did not cause trouble.”

River stated, “Okay. That would not be a bad idea. But, we can take our time when we get there.”

Chang said, “Yes. We can. There is no point in rushing.”

River commented, “Alright, let us get this over with. We find our friends, and we bring them back home. Then, we can visit our kids.” She then used her right hand to pull out her reality device from her right, side pants pocket.

Lee said, “I am okay with that.”

Chang stated, “That works for me.”

River asked, “Is everyone ready?”

Lee replied, “Yes.”

Chang closed her scrap book, walked over to the nearby chest of drawers. She set the book on the top of the chest of drawers. She then walked back over to join River and Lee.

As Chang came to a stop, by her two lovers, she stated, “Okay. Let's do this.”

River then thought of the time, place, and reality, she wanted to go to, as she press the red button on her reality device.

A second later, they found themselves in an alleyway. From the sky, they found it was daytime, and only slightly cloudy.

Chang stated, “Let us exit this alleyway. So, I can figure where we are at.” She then started walking out of the alleyway.

Lee and River followed her, as River pocketed her reality device.

As they soon exited the alleyway, they came to a stop, by the sidewalk entrances to the alleyway.

River and Lee was silent, as Chang looked around. Though, all three women noticed that there were not very many people on the street, at the moment.

A few seconds later, Chang turned around to face River and Lee, with her back to the street. She smiled towards them, as she stated, “The good news I know exactly where we are. And we are only a few kilometers from my casino.”

River shrugged, as she casually suggested, “If we are that close. Let us just walk there.”

Lee commented, in a slightly happy tone of voice, “I could enjoy the walk in the sun, with you two.”

Chang cracked a grin, as she responded, “Same here. And this is one of the safer times, in history, for visiting this city.”

Lee replied, “I don't doubt that.”

Chang offered, “You know, Lee. Considering how interested you are in us, and this town, I could give you a tour, right now?”

Lee responded, “Nah. We will do that later, when we have the time.”

Chang replied, “Okay.”

River suggested, “As nice as that sounds, Lee is right. We don't have the time. And onto another important matter. Given how this city, and other places, have eavesdroppers, behind every corner, we shouldn't reveal each others' names, nor aliases.”

Chang replied, “I can agree to that. And I will be mindful of what I say here.” She mentally added, 'I need to remember that I am not who I once was, in so many ways... Nor, am I now lord of this city... But, my changes have been in good ways. Not, bad ways.'

River warmly grinned at hearing Chang's thoughts.

Lee stated, “I can see the logic behind your request. And I will do as you requested, on this matter.”

River said, in a jovial tone of voice, “Good. Now, lead way, oh fearless leader.”

Chang giggled a little, at River's comment. She then turned to her left, and started walking down the sidewalk, with Lee and River following right behind her.

(_)

Elsewhere, in Roanapur, at that moment, Pedro and Matthew reach the front entrance to the destination, the Yellowflag.

They had been in town for just over an hour, and fortunately, they found, by politely asking directions, that the Yellowflag was not far from where they had arrived in the city.

The two men soon from the three story building, with the large neon sign, above the entrance, that stated, 'Yellowflag'.

As the two men walked into the bar, they came to a stop just inside, as they looked around.

Pedro stood to Matthew's right side

Pedro thought, 'There are not many customers in here. And none at the bar counter. Which, given the time of day, right now, makes sense. And that is fine by me. And I am sure Matthew is okay with this, as well. Now, where to sit down... Ah, we might as well sit there.'

Pedro turned to Matthew, was he quietly suggested, “Let's go sit at the bar counter.”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he softly said, “Okay.”

Both men turned back to look in front of them, as they walked straight in front of them, to the bar counter.

As they reached the bar counter, they each sat down in a bar stool, beside one another. The bar stools were wooden, with brown legs, and red tops. With Matthew being to Pedro's left side.

The two men look around, at the shelves, with rows and rows of alcoholic bottles.

Pedro openly commented, “You know. For a bar with such a wild reputation, I was expecting something a little more... Exciting about this place.”

To Pedro and Matthew's left, they heard a male voice ask, in english, “And where did you here that from?”

Pedro and Matthew turned to see that it was a very male, much older, and slender, though slightly taller, Bao, whom was wearing pants and a shirt.

As Bao walked up to them, from behind the bar, he commented, “Even though we get a few fights in here. Now, and then. This place is usually quiet.”

Pedro thought, with amusement, 'Well. Once Revy hits town, it won't be for long.'

Bao then came to a stop in front of the two men, as he went onto say, “Still, if you want some excitement, I can recommend some decent whorehouses, nearby.'

Pedro thought, 'So Bao, you don't even have a whorehouse upstairs yet. You were probably pressured into having to share you building after Hotel Moscow came to town, and they stirred up things, with businesses like yours being caught in the middle.'

'Still, I wonder how you kept that from happening to you again, in my town? I may ask you sometime about that. Though, I believe that was because you became friends with my brother and I. That would make sense. And you were nice enough. So, I had no problems with you setting up shop in Plata Podrido. Even though I didn't know who you were at the time.'

Matthew stated, “We came here for a drink, and to get away from some women, not go to them.”

Pedro smiled, as he happily thought, 'Nice one, Matthew.'

Bao let out a laugh. He then complimented, “I like your sense of humor.”

Matthew said, “I appreciate that.”

Bao asked, “So, what will you two be having? Just be aware it is a little early for heavy drinking.”

Pedro casually answered, for the both of them, “Just two cold bottles of decent beer. But first, we have a question. Do you accept gold coins as payment?” He thought, 'I would prefer to use gold, than my U.S. cash, because gold is more flexible. And usual welcome, most of the time. Also, my cash is in a more limited supply.'

Bao stated, “Sure. It is better than cash in some places.”

Pedro pulled out a small gold coin, from of his pockets, and he set the count on the counter, between Bao and himself. He questioned, “Will this cover both beers?”

Bao looked down at the coin, then back at Pedro and Matthew. He answered, “Yes. That and more, if you want. I will even consider that to include the tip.”

Pedro responded, “Good. Now, do the local taxis also accept gold as payment?”

Bao joked, “The taxi drivers here will accept anything as payment. Including a blowjob, if you are a pretty woman. Which none of us are.”

Pedro thought, with amusement, 'Not yet. For you. Still, let's keep the humor coming.' He playfully replied, “I am not that desperate.”

Bao let out a laugh. Then, without looking, Bao palmed the coin, and put it in his pocket. He stated, “I will get your beers in a second. And they will be the good, cold kind.”

Pedro requested, “Thank you. Do you mind if I could have the number, and use your phone to call a taxi, when we are finished here? Or, you could call them?”

Bao said, “I'll call them. And it won't be a problem. Just let me know when you both are are ready to leave.”

Pedro thought, 'It seems, when Revy, or the others, are not stressing you out, you are just as much a nice, polite person when you are a man, as you are as a woman, back home.'

Pedro replied, “Thank you.”

Bao then turned and went to get a couple of bottles of beer for Matthew and Pedro.

When Bao was out of earshot, Matthew quietly commented, “Well, Bao is nice, and humorous, as ever.”

Pedro softly said, “I agree.”

A few seconds later, Bao came back and set two bottles of beer, of the same brand, in front of Matthew and Pedro, on the bar counter.

Bao then left, to check on his other customers, other parts of the room.

The two men picked up their bottles, and opened the metal caps to their beer bottles. With them dropping the caps onto the counter in front of them.

Matthew took drink from his beer. He then look at the bottle, which was in Thai. Next, he set down the bottle down, on the bar counter, as he turned to Pedro. He said, “This is not that bad a beer. Even though I cannot read a word of Thai.”

Pedro heard Matthew, as he took a drink from his beer. He then set down his bottle on the bar counter, as he looked over at Matthew. He stated, “Well, I am not that good with Thai, either. Still, this is a good beer. Bao kept his word on this.”

Matthew inquired, “Yes... He did. So, what do we do next?”

Pedro cracked a grin, as he stated, “Cover our tracks, and have the time of lives.”

Matthew chuckled a little. He then complimented, “Good plan.”

Pedro replied, “Thank you.”

Matthew asked, “Though, for the immediate future. Where to next?”

Pedro answered, “I was thinking the Heavenly Dragon Casino. It is, you know whose casino, in this town.” He mentally added, 'That is one of the part that Lee did a good job expanding on, in her stories. Given's Chang's personality, he would likely just use a casino as a front, no matter what reality he is in. And I am sure, by this date, the Chang, of the here and now, already has his casino up and running.'

Matthew replied, “Okay. But, no gambling.” He mentally added, 'I guess this is another part in covering our tracks.'

Pedro said, “Of course not. We just walk inside, look around, and come out again.”

Matthew replied, “I can go along with that.”

Pedro responded, “Good. Also, I have one other place I would like to visit, before we leave for somewhere else. Any thoughts on where you want to go.”

Matthew requested, “Does South America sound fine?”

Pedro stated, “Yes. There are a few nice places I have been to, in South America. I have one in mind, already.”

Matthew said, “Good.” He then gripped his bottle of beer in a toast. He smiled at Pedro, as he said, “To a safe, and wondrous journey.”

Nearby, Bao was bringing a few drinks to some other customers, at a table. He overheard what Matthew said. He sadly thought, 'Those words rarely go together.'

At the bar counter, Pedro smiled at Matthew, as he picked up his bottle. He said, “I can agree to that.”

They lightly tapped their bottles against each other. Then, they each took a swallow of beer from their bottles.

After they set their bottles back down on the counter, Pedro commented, “Still, it is better to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.”

Nearby, as Bao headed back to the back of the bar counter, empty handed, he overheard Pedro's comment. He let out a quiet chuckle, 'That is more like it. Those two seem to have some good common sense about them. Though, I have no clue as to why they came to this small fishing town, turned smuggling route. But, that is their business.'

As Bao can around the back of the bar counter, he walked up to the two men, he asked, “Is there anything I can get for you gentlemen?”

Pedro and Matthew turned to look at Bao, as Pedro stated, “I believe we are fine. And given your soft chuckling, a few moments ago, I am guessing that you overheard us?”

Bao hesitantly replied, “Well, I didn't mean too.”

Pedro casually responded, “It is okay. It is just a lesson we need to be more mindful of our surroundings, when we talk to each other.”

Matthew agreed, “Yes. It is something we should do more of.”

Bao thought, 'I am glad they are understanding. I would hate to have to get rough with them.' He complimented, “Good observation.” He turned to Pedro, as thought, 'I wonder.' He asked, “Are you a cop?”

Pedro replied, in a jovial manner, “Not in this town.”

Bao let out a laugh. He then said, “Good answer. So, what type of people are you two?”

Matthew said, “Well, I am a more of a glass is half full type of guy.”

Pedro commented, “Same here”

Bao joked, “Good. With such outlooks on life, you two may make it out of the city in one piece.”

All three men chuckle a little at Bao's comment.

Bao looked over, at a nearby table, and he saw some customers leave the Yellowflag. He looked back to Pedro and Matthew, as he said, “Well, I cannot talk long. I got to go clean up after a few customers that just left.”

Pedro said, “We will be right here, we you get back. And thanks for the beers.”

Bao shrugged, as he casually replied, “Hey. You already paid for them. So, enjoy the beers. Let me know if you want another couple of bottles.”

Matthew said, “We will.”

Bao then turned from Pedro and Matthew, as he headed out the side exit of the bar counter, to clean up a table that some of his other customer had just left.

Half an hour later, and another round of beers for Matthew and Pedro, the two men were finished at the Yellowflag.

Since, Bao considered the gold coin Pedro has given him to be full payment for the four bottles of beers, and the tip, all that was left was for Bao to call a taxi for them.

Ten minutes after Bao called them a taxi, the taxi showed up.

As Pedro and Matthew were looking at the front windows of the Yellowflag, while they sat in their stools, with their backed to the bar counter.

Pedro commented, “There is the taxi.”

Matthew said, “Yep. Off to our next destination.”

Both men got up from their bar stools, and then turned to look at Bao, whom was standing behind the counter.

They saw Bao looking back at him, as Pedro said, “Goodbye, and good luck with this place.” He mentally added, 'You are going to need it.'

Matthew stated, “Yea. It was fun.”

Bao happily responded, “You two have safe and wondrous journey.”

The three men chuckled a little bit from Boa's comment.

Pedro then said, “Thanks.”

Matthew replied, “I hope you do the same.”

Both men then turned back around, to face the front exit of the bar, and they walked out of the bar, and to the taxi.

From behind the bar counter Bao watched out the front windows of his bar, as Pedro and Matthew got into the back seats of the car, from opposite back doors.

A few seconds later, as Bao watched the taxi drive away, Bao suddenly realize something. He thought, 'Damn it. I forget to get their names, without giving them mind.' He lower is right hand, to brush against his right side pocket, and the gold coin in that pocket, as he continued his mentally reflections, 'Still, I got a nice pay day out of it. So, I am not complaining.'

Bao then went back to his job, at his bar, the Yellowflag.

(_)

Twenty minutes later, the taxi that Pedro and Matthew rode in, reached their requested destination, with the vehicle pulled up to the front entrance of the Heavenly Dragon Casino.

Fortunately, the taxi driver did accept a gold coin as currency.

A few seconds later, Pedro and Matthew exited the taxi, and walked onto sidewalk between a street and the front of the highrise casino building.

Pedro and Matthew stood in front of entrance to the casino, as the taxi soon drove off.

The entrance was actually two sets of double-doors, which all let into the front lobby of the building.

Matthew stood to Pedro's right, as they looked around them. They saw that the building went at least fifteen stories high. Also, they noticed that guards posted at the sides of two sets of double doors that were the entrance casino. Along with this, they saw there were valets, in uniforms, standing at the ready, around the sidewalk, for those driving themselves to the casino.

Both men continued to look in front of them, as Matthew asked, “So, is this the place?”

Pedro said, “Yes.”

Matthew inquired, “You know about this place more than me. Is this original? Or, did Lee have a hand in it?”

Pedro answered, “The building was original, but not the casino is not. Still, it is a place of interest to visit.”

Matthew leaned to Pedro's right ear, as he quietly questioned, “And let me guess, the penthouse has a pool on it?”

With Matthew’s head near the right side of Pedro's face, Pedro softly responded, “You didn't pay attention that series, as you watched it? Did you? Because, towards the end of episode twenty-eight, for a few seconds, it actually showed the part of the pool, under an awning. And it was a nice pool, at that.”

Matthew whispered, in a slightly sheepish tone of voice, “I admit, when you lent me the series, I watched it, set to the english dub, in my office, on my laptop, while doing some paperwork.”

Pedro slightly groaned, as he thought, 'Given a number of people, we know personally, that are from the Black Lagoon anime series, I would have thought he would have paid more attention when he watched the series. But, at least he listened to the english track. Still, I know we watched some of it together, at my home. So, I am sure he knows the basics of this city, and how this city works. Also, I am knowledgeable enough about the situation to pull up the slack for both of us.'

Matthew softly continued, “But, at least I returned you copies back to you in the same condition you gave them to me.”

Pedro quietly replied, “Yes. And I appreciate that.”

Matthew softly asked, “Are those guards going to let us in?”

Pedro noticed that the guards were not even looking at them. He whispered, “They are not even paying attention to us. So, I don't see a problem there.”

Matthew leaned back up straight, as he said, “Then, let's go inside”

Pedro agreed, “Yes. Let's do that.”

The two men then started casually walked towards the left set of double-doors, that lead to the front, check in lobby of the casino.

When they reached the doors, two valets walked to the sides of Pedro and Matthew. With one valet opening one door, and the other valet opening the other door, as Pedro and Matthew walked inside.

Pedro and Matthew soon made their way to the gaming floor of the small casino.

Pedro and Matthew stood beside each other, as they looked around at the packed gaming floor. There were several rows of slot machines. Along with dealer tables for poker, black jack, and roulette tables.

As they two men made their way through the crowds, Matthew commented, “This isn't much different than the other place we have been to.”

Pedro thought, 'Yea. This is like Daiyu Palace Casino. I can see the layout and design inspiration that Chang took from here, from the Heavenly Dragon Casino, when he made Daiyu Palace Casino. Still...' Pedro said, “Like everything else. The difference is under the hood.”

Matthew agreed, “That is true.” He mentally reflected, 'I highly doubt this place has the levels of technology and security measures that the Daiyu Palace Casino has.'

Just then, from behind them, Pedro and Matthew heard a familiar, male voice, calmly said, in english, “I hope you are enjoying my fine establishment.”

Matthew and Pedro came to a stop. They turned around to see Chang, in his usual business suit, with his sunglasses on. Though, he appeared a few years older than the Chang they knew at Plata Podrido. Also, this Past Chang was flanked by four chinese men in black business suits, and sunglasses. With the crowds parting around the seven men.

Neither Pedro, nor Matthew, showed any outward expression at the situation, as Pedro thought, 'I have to remember, this is Chang of the past. So, I have to watch what I say.'

'And I have no doubt that Chang and his bodyguards here are armed. Also, while I might stand a fair chance against this Chang, alone, in a fight. Before he had the super-soldier serum. I doubt I can take him and his bodyguards in a fight, all at once. And Matthew is useless in a fight. His uses are found in more civilized ventures.”

'Still, I can make this work for me. I have just to bullshit our way out of this.'

At the same time, Matthew thought, 'This is the Chang of the past. He does not know us. As long as we play it cool, we are fine. Though, I will let Pedro do the talking. He seems to have a better understanding of how Chang thinks, than myself.'

Pedro causally said, “Ah... So, you are person in charge here? I must say that I am impressed.”

Past Chang thought, with mild amusement, 'This man can clearly recognizes authority, when he sees it.' He replied, “Thank you.”

Pedro questioned, “So, what caught your eye about us?”

Past Chang answered, “You both have the look of people just looking around.” He mentally reflected, 'And people looking around, and not gambling in a casino, concern me. Because it usual means they are gambling in a different way.'

Pedro admitted, “That would be correct.” He thought, 'There is no point in denying the obvious.'

Past Chang requested, “Now, who are you?”

Pedro thought, 'So, how do I sidestep this?... Ah, that might work. And it is a good plan.' He casually said, “We prefer not to give our names just yet.”

Past Chang looked around. He then turned back to Pedro and Mathew, as he inquired, “Understandable... So, what do your profession?”

Pedro thought, 'Now, to implement my plan.' He lied, “We are in the G.T. trade.”

Past Chang thought, 'They are part of the drug trade of Golden Triangle. I wonder if our contacts overlap. Or, if they are with our rivals. Still, they are not acting like rivals. So, I will give them the benefit of the doubt... For the moment... Though, this is a conversation that needs to be done in private.'

Past Chang calmly requested, “Perhaps this is best to discussed in my office.”

Pedro thought, 'That was no a request. That was a subtle order. But, I have a way to side step it.' He cryptically said, “I have found it useful to learn to speak, with one's peaceful intent lying outside of one's words.”

Pedro mentally reflected, 'I am enjoying channeling a cross between Kung Fu's Master Po and Star Wars Yoda. And if I am right. This grasshopper will think I am testing him.'

Past Chang thought, 'He is testing me. But, for what? Still...' He stated, “Let us walk as we talk.”

Pedro thought, 'I cannot get out of this one. But, I can keep Matthew and I in the crowd here.' He said, “Fine. Lead the way.”

Past Chang walked pass Pedro and Matthew, with the two men walk right behind Chang. Pedro and Matthew noticed that Chang's four bodyguards were not walking, meaning they wanted the two men to walk behind Chang, and the bodyguards to walk behind the two men.

Pedro and Matthew immediately got the hint, as they starting walking up to where they follow Chang right behind him, with the four bodyguards walking right behind Pedro and Matthew.

Past Chang kept a casual, slow pace, as he lead them through the gaming floor, with those around them, that were not gambling at a table, stepping aside, to allow them to continue on their way, unhindered.

Past Chang thought, 'Now, to get to the point.' He asked, “Why are you here?”

Pedro stated, “The business we are in is looking for others to work with.”

Past Chang mentally realized, 'They are looking for more smuggling routes. And I believe this is a test of cleverness to see if I can cut a deal in public, without anyone but us being the wiser... Not bad at all, on their parts... Now, to get their opinions.' He inquired, “And what do you think of what you see here?”

Pedro thought, 'Now, to butter him up.' He answered, “From the looks of it, you have quite the profitable business here.”

Chang replied, “Yes. I do.”

Pedro thought, 'Now, for a little honesty. A good con always needs a respectable dose of honesty.' He sincerely complimented, “It speaks highly of your skills. Both here, and I would guess, in other areas.”

Past Chang thought, 'Like drug smuggling.' He stated, “Thank you. Still, how do I know you are who you say you are?”

Pedro cracked a grin, as he said, “You don't.”

Past Chang thought, 'He is either bullshitting me. Or, he is on the level. I am not sure which. But, either way, this man clearly has talent. And they clearly know who I am, and what I am capable of. Also, I have a feeling that his silent friend has potential, as well. From what I have seen, he has shown no emotion, and allowed him friend to speak. As such, they both might be useful.'

Past Chang came to a stop, and turned around to face Pedro and Matthew, as he asked, “So, what are you plans here?”

Pedro, Matthew, and the Chang's four bodyguards came to a stop as well.

While, Pedro and Matthew did not take their eyes off Past Chang. From the corner of their eyes, they noticed they had stopped between the long sides of two crowded, and very active roulette tables. Pedro and Matthew were also aware of the four, likely armed, bodyguards

Pedro thought, 'Now, to find a believable excuse that will allow Chang to leave us be... That will likely work.' He said, “Well, this is more of working vacation for us. And on second thought, I believe I might do a little gambling.”

Chang responded, “Well, have a good time. And if you wish to contact me, let one of my men know.”

Pedro thought, 'Now, to let my last comment respectful towards him.' He responded, “We would not take any action in this town, nor through this town, without your prior approval, beforehand.”

Chang smiled at Pedro and Matthew, as he said, “That is what I wanted to hear. Have a good evening, gentlemen. I am sure we will be in touch, later.”

Though, just as Past Chang and his men were about to walk away, from Pedro and Matthew, Pedro and Matthew suddenly heard an all too familiar female voice say, in english, “Found you.”

Pedro and Matthew turned to their right, to see though the break in the crowd, that across the roulette table was Daiyu, River, and Lee. With Daiyu standing in the middle, Lee was to her right, and River to her left. All three women had looks of amusement on their faces.

Pedro thought, 'Oh, hell. It is them. And from their viewpoint, they likely only see us.
I are going to have to be careful in how I handle this situation.'

Matthew thought, 'I expected them to find us. But, not this soon. Though, Pedro is doing such a wonderful job, I will let him handle this. Still, I could have a little fun with this... And that is such a lovely dress that Chang, or in Chang likes to be called in her female form, Daiyu. While River and Lee look, okay.'

Matthew casually said, “Hi... Daiyu... Nice dress.”

Daiyu replied, “Thanks.” She mentally added, 'At least they were being polite about the situation.'

Lee said, “Now boys, you are coming back with us. We hope you do so in a peaceful manner.”

Pedro commented, “Easier said, than done.” He mentally reflected, 'Also, with River here, I have to be mindful of what I think.' He focused on River, as he went on to think, with mild amusement, 'Yes River. I know you are reading my mind. Though, from the look on your face, you clearly don't know that Chang's past counterpart, along with four of his bodyguards, are right beside us. You just don't see them from your angle, due to the crowd of people between us.'

Pedro saw River's eyes widen, as he continued his thoughts, 'I am surprised you didn't sense them.'

River forced her expression to return to normal, as she quietly said, “Too much background noise.”

Pedro heard what River said, as he thought, 'Oh. This many people, in one place, makes it hard to single out people from the crowd?'

River nodded once in confirmation.

Pedro thought, 'Okay.'

Daiyu calmly inquired, “So, what is it going to be? Are you going to come with us, nicely?” She continued, in a more firmer tone of voice, 'Or, not?

Pedro cracked a grin, as he stated, “I believe you will have to speak to the master of this house.”

Suddenly, the crowd around the roulette table thinned, and the three women saw who was with Pedro and Matthew.

To Pedro and Matthew's right, were four bodyguards in black suits, and sunglasses. And to their left, was Past Chang, in his business suit, while wearing his sunglasses over his eyes.

Lee thought, with worry, 'Oh hell. This is not good. But, I better let River and Chang handle this. And follow their lead.'

Daiyu looked over at River, as she thought, 'Why didn't you tell me my past self was so close?'

River turned to Daiyu. She shrugged, as she softly said, “Even I miss a few, now and then.”

Daiyu thought, 'Fine.'

Daiyu and River then looked back to Past Chang.

Past Chang looked at the three women, they back to Pedro and Matthew.

At the same time, the three women saw the Chang's four bodyguards start to tense up, as they got ready for a possible fight.

Past Chang continued to look at Pedro and Matthew, as he asked, “Do you know these women?”

Pedro continued to look at Daiyu, Lee, and River, as he answered, “Yes.”

Matthew cracked a grin towards the three women, as he commented, “They are nothing but trouble.”

Past Chang turned to the three women, as he said, “I found that to be the case, for women in general.”

The three women slightly growled at Past Chang's comment.

As Daiyu stopped growling, River and Lee continued growling for another few seconds, as they both look at Daiyu.

Daiyu noticed this, as she thought, 'River, I know I am going to pay for that comment in the bedroom. Also, I am starting to realize why I have had to face so many strong women in my life. Karma made me eat those words.'

A few seconds later, River stopped growling, with Lee soon stopping as well. With the three of them looking at at the men across the table.

Meanwhile, Past Chang began staring at Daiyu, as he thought, 'There is something familiar about that woman. But, I cannot place her.' He stated, “Ladies, I am going to have to request that you come with me. I have some questions for you.”

River and Lee tensed up their bodies, as they prepared to either fight, or run.

On the other hand, Daiyu was resigned herself to what she knew she had to do next, as she thought, 'Damn it. I always wondered why the crazy chick in the dress started a gunfight, in my old casino, for no reason. Now, I know why, and who. I have to start a gunfight to keep my past self figuring out it is me. I have to do it with one pistol, or I might still tip them off, as to who I am. Still, in this case, it is good that I tend to leave a bullet in each chamber of my pistols.'

Daiyu then swiftly used her right hand, to reach behind and under her dress, to pull her right pistol. She then pointed it in front of her, as she began firing across the roulette table, towards the men. Though, she was careful not to hit anyone.

As the shots began to ring out, the crowd ducked for cover.

Even Past Chang and his bodyguards were caught off guard, as they behind the tables.

But, Pedro, Matthew, Lee, and River remained standing, as Daiyu continued to unload he pistol.

Meanwhile, Pedro quickly realized, 'She is not firing at anyone. She only doing this to keep from having to face her past self. I can understand that. Still, this is our chance to escape, as well.'

Pedro used his right hand to firmly grip Matthew's left upper arm.

Matthew turned to look at Pedro.

Pedro said, “Let's get out of here. So, follow me.”

Matthew replied, “Okay.”

Pedro let go of Matthew's arm, and he started walking briskly towards the front entrance to the casino, with Matthew walking right behind him.

(_)

At that moment, across the roulette table, Daiyu stopped firing, at she looked at River, then Lee, and back to River, as she stated, “This way.” She mentally added, 'Fortunately, I know a back way out of here, that only my past self, and I know.”

Daiyu then holstered the pistol in her hand, as she started running towards the nearby stairwell. River and Lee ran right behind her.

When the reached the stairwell, Daiyu noticed there was no one nearby her, except for River and Lee.

River and Lee then watched as Daiyu walked to a wall, that was under the staircase.

Daiyu the pushed against the wall, with the wall giving way, to reveal that it was a secret door.

Daiyu turned to River and Lee, as she ordered, “Get in, now. This will lead us to the outside.”

River and Lee quickly walked into the secret hallway. Daiyu then joined them, as she closed the door behind her.

Just as the door closed, men in black business suits, whom were also wearing sunglasses, stormed into the stairwell after them, only to find that they had lost the three women.

(_)

Around that time, Pedro and Matthew reached the lobby of the casino, they saw other chinese men in black business suits and sunglasses, rushed passed them, and towards the gaming floor.

Both men knew that it was best to just act calm, and continue forward at more normal pace, towards the exit. Because, doing so would likely not draw people's attention towards them.

They soon made it outside, and into one of the taxis that was almost always near the casino, waiting for fares.

After Pedro and Matthew got into the backseat of the taxi, and shut the doors, the taxi driver looked forward, as he asked, in english, “Where too?”

Pedro requested, “Take us to the best golf course in the area.”

The taxi driver replied, “Alright.” He then started put his car in drive, and started driving down the street.

Matthew asked, “Why are we going to a golf course?”

Pedro coyly answered, “It just deals with something I have wanted to do for a while now... Don't worry, my reasons will make sense, soon enough.”

Mathew replied, “Okay.”

They then rode in the taxi, as the taxi driver took them to their destination.

(_)

At the moment, back inside the casino gaming floor, Past Chang was standing up. As he found his footing, he looked around, and saw on of his chinese men looking back at him, only a few feet from him.

Past Chang walked towards the man as he asked, in chinese, “Is anyone hurt?” He then came to a stop in front of the other man.

The man in the black business suit and sunglasses, answered, in chinese, “No. We are still checking everyone. But, we think we got lucky on this. Still, we lost the three women, and the two men have disappeared in the confusion. Would you like us to send teams to go after both groups?

Past Chang stated, “As tempting as it would be, I have to decline. No one as been harmed, and dragging this out would only work against us... Still, make sure no one, especially the staff and customers, have been harmed. If they have, get them medical attention, and tell them we will pay for all medical bills while in the city, in exchange for their silence.”

The man replied, “Yes sir.” He then went turned around, and walked away from Chang, to rely his employer's orders.

Past Chang look around the gaming floor, as everyone began to get up, he heard in various languages, a few of which he did not know very well. Also, he heard some of his men telling the staff and customers, that everything was now fine, and for them to go back to business as usual.

And for the most part, it appeared that allaying the staff and customers' fears were working. One a couple of staff that were dealers, were not back at their jobs, as most of the customers in the room when back to gambling.

Past Chang thought, 'I will cut the staff some slack on this. I do not want dealers to have shaky fingers. I will bring fresh dealers in, while I give those on the staff, that were here, a break for an hour. And they should be fine in an hour, or so.'

'Still, that woman had us dead to rights. And the way she fired her pistol. She was trying to avoid hitting anyone, while appearing to being aiming at someone. She clearly did not want to talk to me. And I know enough about such women to know better than to push my luck.'

'And I swear, that pistol looked like my pistols... Though, that could just mean she has good taste in pistols.'

'And it is a good thing Shenhua is on vacation. Or, this might had turned into a needless bloodbath. A few shots fired is not going to cause the police to come by, unless someone is harmed. And if someone is harmed, I will just pay the medical bills, and sweep it all under the rug. The main thing is this event does not harm myself, nor my business... And I have a feeling I will someday get the answers to these questions... One way, or another...'

Past Chang then went to help his staff make sure everyone was unharmed. After he had confirmed there were no injuries, he had the dealers and staff that were present, take a break for an hour. With other dealers on staff, to come in to sub for them, for an hour.

All the while, Past Chang also had any damage repaired. And within three hours of the event, everything was back to business as usual for Chang, and his business, the Heavenly Dragon Casino.

(_)

A few minutes after the shooting stopped, outside of the Heavenly Dragon casino, in an alleyway, on the back side of the casino, along the wall, from the known exits, a secret door was opened from the inside.

After the door was pulled into the building.

A second later, Daiyu walked into the alleyway. After a couple of steps, she came to a stop, and looked around.

After she saw that no one else was there, she turned back to the entrance, as she stated, “All clear. You can come on out.”

River and Lee then walked out, in the alleyway. Daiyu then walked back to the door, and she used a hidden latch on the door, to pulled the secret door closed, and flush to the wall.

Daiyu turned around to look at River, and Lee, as they looked back at her.

Daiyu stated, in a disappointed tone of voice, “Sorry about that. But, I could not think of any other way to keep my past self from capturing us.”

River said, in a supportive tone of voice, “I understand.”

Lee replied, “I am okay with it. And I noticed that you were able to avoid hitting anyone.”

Chang responded, “Yes. I made sure not to hit anyone on my account. And the bullets I use in my pistol will not go through the walls of that room.”

Lee questioned, “That is nice. Also, I have just begun to realize why you fight with such low caliber weapons. You use those pistols, just in case you have to fight in a crowded areas? Such as the gaming floor of a casino.”

Chang answered, “Yes. This is the same principle that air marshals use lower caliber weapons and ammunition, on airlines. So, their weapons don't go through things, except their intended targets.”

River complimented, “That is good foresight on your part.”

Daiyu warmly smiled towards River, as she replied, “Thank you.”

River returning Daiyu's smile, as she said, “You're welcome.

Daiyu asked, “So, what do we do, now? Because, I am fresh out of ideas.”

River stated, “Well, they are not going to willingly come back with us. And this place is too dangerous to try to confront them, again. We came close to causing a paradox here. I don't want to risk doing that a second time.”

Daiyu replied, “I agree”

Lee suggested, “How about we just lay low, and wait for them to jump again? Then, we follow them. And if the reality, and situation allow for it, we confront them again, there.”

River said, “That is not a bad idea.”

Daiyu commented, “No. It isn't. And this way, I can show you both a few of the places in this town, while we wait for them to leave.”

Lee inquired, “I look forward to it. So, where do you want to go to first?”

Daiyu answered, “There is a good chinese restaurant, elsewhere in town, that serves a nice house soup.”

Lee asked, “That one that Revy raved about?”

Daiyu grinned, as she said, “The very same.”

Lee replied, “Cool.”

River commented, “I could go for a bowl of soup.”

Lee inquired, “Then, let's do that. Besides, I like house soup, as well. So, what about their drinks?”

Chang said, “They serve canned lemonade and sodas, that are chilled.”

Lee replied, “Okay. That sounds fine.”

River playfully requested, “Now, lead the way.”

Daiyu responded, “Okay. Just follow me. I know where a few taxis frequent, that is a couple of blocks from here. We will then ride over to the restaurant.”

Lee said, “Sounds like a nice plan, to me.”

Daiyu casually replied, “That is what I thought.”

Daiyu then turned to her right, as she started walking towards one of the ends of the alleyway, with Lee and River following right behind her.

With Daiyu soon give River and Lee to tour of Roanapur.

(_)

Around twenty minutes after Pedro and Matthew left the Heavenly Dragon casino, by taxi, they reached their next destination.

After the taxi came to a stop, just outside the north end of Roanapur, Pedro pay the taxi driver a gold coin, which the driver gladly accepted, as one of the largest fares he had all year.

Pedro and Matthew then got out of the taxi, with them walking around the taxi to stand next to each other, on the side of the road, with Pedro being to Matthew's right side.

As they stood off the side of the road, beside each other, the taxi they had just exited, drove away.

The two men look out in front of them.

There were standing in front of a set of large, well kept golf courses. There were no fencing around the golf courses, and in the distance, they saw the golf course met up against the jungle that surrounded bordered that side of the city.

To their right, about a hundred meters from them, they saw the road that lead into the golf club house.

The club house itself was about two hundred meters from them, to the northeast of them.

They also saw a few people on the fair-way of the links. But, none of them, nor their caddies, were looking in their direction, due to them being interested in what we are doing.

Matthew continued to look out in front of himself, as he asked, in a sarcastic tone of voice, “Dare I ask why we are here?”

Pedro faced the golf courses, as he flatly answered, “To pay someone a visit. Just let me do the talking...” His voice turned to a low growl, as he continued, “Among other things.”

Matthew asked, “Why you in such a bad mood? Even with what happened at the casino, we have been having fun, so far.”

Pedro was quiet for a few seconds. He then asked, in a more relaxed, “Actually, I am not mad. I have been looking forward to do this for a while now. But, thinking of who we are going to confront slightly annoys me.”

Matthew questioned, in a matter of fact tone of voice, “And who are we looking for?”

Pedro answered, in a casual tone of voice, “We are looking for a fat son of a bitch that likes to play golf.”

Matthew sarcastically stated, “Why do I have a feeling this is person has wronged you in some way.”

Pedro conceded, “Not directly. Let us just say his example has caused me problems. As I said, it will make sense when we find him.”

Matthew inquired, “How can you be so sure that you target is here?”

Pedro pointed out, “It is a nice warm day, with a slight breeze out here. Perfect golfing weather.”

Matthew said, “I will give you that. So, does you plan risk the space time continuum of the multiverse?”

Pedro shrugged, as he replied, “Not really.”

Matthew asked, “So, where do we look first? The clubhouse? Or, the nineteenth hole bar? which I am sure is inside in the clubhouse building.”

Pedro stated, “No. We are uninvited guests. We need to avoid that building, so we don't attract too much attention. Besides, as I said, with this weather, he is likely outside, for now. We just have to find him. If we do not find him, within the hour, then we will head to the clubhouse.”

Matthew said, “Okay. Lead the way.”

Pedro started walking across onto the golf course nearest to them, with Matthew following behind.

As they walked, Matthew commented, “By the way, I did not get a chance to tell you. But, you are clearly one of the best bullshit artists I have ever seen.”

Pedro replied, in a happy tone of voice, “Thank you. While I prefer to be honest. Knowing how to bullshit comes in handy, from time, to time.”

Matthew agreed, “That is does.”

The two men spent the next fifteen minutes walking around the fare-ways of the golf courses. Pedro was careful to keep his distance, as he and Matthew walked around, looking for the man he was targeting.

After another minute of looking, Pedro spotted the man in question.

Pedro said, “There he is, over by the putting green, to our left.”

Matthew looked in that direction that Pedro was looking, as both he and Pedro turned and started walking in the direction of the man.

Matthew saw an overweight man in a brown colored police uniform and sunglasses, standing on the putting green, with a teenage boy that acted as the caddy for the man.

The boy had the golf bag set beside him, as the man held up gold club, and was lining up his shot, with the golf ball, ten feet from the hole of the course, on the putting green, with the tree line only about fifteen feet in the opposite direction from which Matthew and Pedro were walking from.

Matthew immediately recognized the man, as he stated, “That is Roanapur Police Chief Watsup.”

Pedro said, “Yes.”

Matthew asked, “And he is who we are after?”

Pedro replied, “Yes.”

Matthew said, “It is starting to make sense.”

Pedro stated, “Yes. I loath cops that support bribery. And barring a few exceptions, those from here, that are now in my town, are so disrespectful of my authority, because Watsup here. Because he allowed them to walk all over him. And he was a greedy bastard that was willing to take a bribe at a drop of a hat. Along with this, he likely supported this among his subordinates. Because, he was real open with his men, on what he was doing. And he preferred to be on the golf course, than keeping his city in one piece.”

Matthew replied, “Okay...” He then noticed Watsup's holstered revolver, which was strapped to the right side of his belt. He pointed out, “But, he is armed.”

Pedro commented, “I got a bulletproof vest, and I will introduce myself as a cop. Relax I got it covered.”

Matthew said, “It is your ribs.”

The two men continued to walk closer, to Watsup and the caddy.

As they got closer, Pedro quickly used his right hand to reach into right, side pants pocket, and he pull out his badge. He held his badge open, for those around him to see.

Several seconds later, as they came closer, they watched a Watsup sink his ball into the hole.

When Matthew and Pedro were within twenty feet of, Watsup, Watsup leaned back up. He and the caddy then turned to look two men approaching them.

Pedro said, “Police Chief Watsup. I need to speak with you.” He mentally added, 'And I am not going to give you my name.'

Pedro continued walking towards Watsup, as Matthew came to a stop.

Watsup asked, in english, “What is this about?”

By the, Pedro was four feet from Watsup.

Pedro pocketed his badge. And as he took another step, he quickly made his right hand into a fist, and gave Watsup and upper cut, to the jaw, while he said, “This.”

Watsup was caught completely off guard, as he was knocked to the ground, on his back. When he hit the ground, he let go of his golf club.

Pedro quickly walked over to the dazed Watsup. He leaned down and pulled out Watsup's pistol. He then swiftly unload it, with him tossing the bullets, and pistol way from them. Pedro then turned, leaned down, and picked up the golf club that Watsup had been using. After which, Pedro leaned back up straight, while he held the golf club by the handle, with the golf head part of the end facing towards him.

During all this, Pedro never took his eyes off of Watsup.

Nearby, Matthew turned to the teenage boy, with the boy looking back at him. Matthew said, “You might to get out of here.”

The caddy understood him, as he left the gym bag behind, while he ran off, towards the clubhouse.

Matthew turned his attention to Pedro, and Watsup.

Watsup looked up at Pedro, as he asked, “Why?”

Pedro retorted, “Oh. Where to start?... Well, you can consider this to be on behalf of all honest, vice loving cops everywhere, whom loath bribery.”

Pedro then started using the gold club in his hands, to beat on Watsup's arms, legs, and stomach. He was careful not to permanently harm him, by hitting any vital areas. He also did not hit Wastsup with the side of the end of the club with the gold head on it.

As Pedro continued hitting Watsup with the golf club in his hands, he thought, 'Too bad I cannot serious harm, nor kill him, because I do not want to creating a paradox. But, this is going to leave some nice bruises. And he will be sore for a few days. Also, the way Lee killed him was poetic. So, I am okay with letting him live, for now.'

Pedro then continued beating Watsup for another minute, before he decided it was enough, and he tossed the golf club away from them.

Pedro then turned to look at Matthew. He saw that Matthew had a calm expression on his face.

Matthew calmly asked, “Feeling better?“

Pedro replied, “Yes.” He thought, 'Though, I am still a bit annoyed.'

Matthew said, “Good. Let us get out of here.”

Pedro suggested, “To the tree line, for cover.”

Matthew agreed, “My thoughts exactly.”

As they turned and started walking way from Watsup, Watsup groaned, “You will pay for this.”

Pedro kept his back turned from Watsup, as he casually replied, “I already am.”

A few seconds later, they made it to the tree line, and by then, they were walking beside each other.

A few seconds later, they came to a stop, just inside the brush, and out of sight of the golf course.

While standing close to each other, Pedro turned to Matthew, as he asked, “Do still want to go to South America?”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he said, “Sure. And you said you had a place in mind.”

Pedro replied, “That I do.”

Matthew grinned, as he requested, “Then, give me a pleasant surprise.”

Pedro returned Matthew's grin, as he said, “All you had to do was ask.”

Pedro then pulled out his reality device from a pocket.

Unfortunately, Pedro was still a little upset. And while he thought of the specific city he wanted to go to, in South America, he only vaguely thought of a modern time, and he was not thinking of what reality they were going to at all. So, as Pedro pressed the red button on the reality device, the reality device teleported Matthew and himself, they headed for a time and place they were not expecting to go to.

(_)

Reality Pedro and Lee's Home Reality. Date, two days after Pedro and Matthew went missing. A day after Chang, River, and Lee disappeared with notice. Locations, Plata Podrido, Daiyu Palace Casino, Annie office. Time, During the afternoon, on a sunny day.

Annie Skywalker was dressed in her usual pants, belt, shirt, shoes, and robes, among other clothing items, underneath. And she had her deactivated light saber hooked to the right side of her belt.

She was sitting in her cushioned chair behind her desk in her office. The door to her office was closed, but unlocked.

There as a single office chair in front of her desk.

While Chang had assigned an office to each of his top staff, Annie had rarely used her office, because office settings reminded her too much of some of the more unpleasant times in her life. When she was Darth Vader, trapped in that damned black suit, while she, or at the time, he, was forced to deal with the bureaucratic hell that was the Galactic Empire of her home Star Wars reality.

And in the past, dealing with bureaucracy put Vader a bad mood. The worst part was Vader had found that bureaucracy was the one thing that the force could not solve, nor destroy.

This is one of the reasons Vader had not killed Grand Moff Tarkin. Because Tarkin was one of the few people that could share the load on the bureaucracy that he could tolerate for more than five minutes. And Tarkin knew this fact, though, Tarkin never pushed his luck on the matter.

Annie took a deep breath. While she slowly exhaled, she forced herself to relax, as she thought, 'That is all over now. And I have much happiness to look forward to in my current life. And from what I am sensing in the hallway, outside, the person I called here, is about to reach my door.'

As Annie sensed the person reach her office door, and whom was about to knock on that do, she said, in english, “Come in.”

The person did not knock, and instead the person opened the door, entered, and closed the door.

Annie looked at the person she had called on the phone, to the person's personal, encrypted cellphone, to come visit her that afternoon.

The person was one of Annie's good, and long time friends, Fabiola Iglesias. She had her long green hair in a ponytail. She wore black socks, black boots, black leather pants, black leather belt, a green blouse, and a black leather jacket. Under that clothing, she wore brown boyshorts, and a green sports bra.

Annie said, “Hello Fabiola.”

Fabiola inquired, in english, “Hi Annie. So, why did you call me here? You didn't give me any details on the phone.”

Annie offered, “All in a moment. First, would you care to sit down?”

Fabiola said, “I would love too. Thank you.” She then walked up to the chair in front of the desk, and she sat down, in it.

As Fabiola got conformable in her seat, she looked over at Annie. Fabiola thought, 'Let's do some small talk, first.' She asked, “So, how is the part time pit boss job coming along?”

Annie stated, “It is okay. It doesn't pay as much as the other job I have here. But, the job helps to keep my force senses sharp. And I do enjoy using the force and my own skills of observation, on the gaming floor, to catch cheats, and solve issues, before they become problems.”

Fabiola replied, “Glad to hear it.” She thought, 'Now, to get down to the heart of the matter.'

Fabiola requested, “Now, let's get down to business. Why did you call me to come here? Even I know you don't like being in an office setting.”

Annie responded, “I need someone I trust, to do something for me. And you are the only one I know that I trust to do this job. Whom has the abilities to do so. And that you can do this job discreetly. I will even pay you for this job.”

Fabiola stated, “You don't need to pay me. I have enough wealth, as is. But, I would like to know what I am getting into, before I agree to it.

Annie said, “The reason I called you is that I need to find some people.”

Fabiola asked, “Who?”

Annie answered, “This has not been widely known yet. But, two days ago, Matthew and Pedro disappeared. And yesterday, Chang, River, and Lee, left the casino, without telling anyone where they were going. And they have not come back sense then. Which is odd for them. Considering, I can sense when they leave, and when the return. With them only usually being gone for five minutes, our time.”

“Along with this, I cannot sense any of them on the planet, through the force. Meaning they are somewhere in the multiverse. And we need to quickly find them.”

Fabiola commented, “So, Matthew and Pedro finally got tired of everyone pushing them around, and they figured out a way to leave this reality, without anyone else realizing it. Good for them. It shows they have some backbone, and originality. Also, I am guessing, that the day after, Chang, River, and Lee, figured out they went missing, and they went looking for them, without telling anyone. And with them being gone of so long, you are worried that something might have gone wrong, and they might all be in trouble.”

Annie replied, “That is what I figured.”

Fabiola thought, 'I might as well tell her. I trust her to keep this to herself.' She stated, “Well that does explain some of how I met all them, as they are now, in the multiverse.”

Annie questioned, in a slightly confused tone of voice, “Huh?”

Fabiola answered, “While Roberta and I were searching for Lee, we ran into Matthew, Pedro, Lee, River, and Chang. They said they were from our future. At the time, we were wondering how they ended up in another reality, together. With Lee being a woman, then. But, due to paradox issues, we could ask them any serious questions.”

Annie flatly asked, “And why did you not share this information with the rest of us?”

Fabiola shrugged, as she responded, “Not to sound like one of your old Jedi teachers. But, it is sometimes best for one to allow the future to play itself out.”

Annie questioned, “Fair enough... Still, that is why you didn't say much about your hunt?”

Fabiola coyly said, “For the most part.”

Annie inquired, “Do you know where they are? Or, should I say, when?”

Fabiola responded, “I know where, and when, they will be. But, because that is where my past self is, I will have to look for them elsewhere. Though, I do not understand why can't you go find them? You and Arcee would likely be able to find all five of them, and drag them back here, in no time.”

Annie answered, “Because, Arcee, Mal, and I are holding down the fort here, and keeping this town running, while they are all gone.”

Fabiola inquired, “What about Balalaika and Hotel Moscow? Do they know that those five are missing?”

Annie stated, in a concerned tone of voice, “Not yet. And I would like to keep it that way. Because I am not sure what Balalaika would do if she knew that Chang and Pedro were not here, to reign her in.”

Fabiola questioned, “What about you?”

Annie asked, “What about me?”

Fabiola inquired, with mild annoyance in her tone of voice, “You are, or were, Darth Vader. And you are afraid of Balalaika?”

Annie admitted, “More like I am afraid of that side of me. And I am afraid Balalaika might do something foolish that would bring that side of me back to the forefront. Don't get me wrong. I am in full control of myself. And there is no split personality with me. It is just I don't want to put myself in a situation where I am tempted to go back down that path.”

Fabiola said, “Okay. I can fully understand why you would be wary of getting back in touch with your dark side. No pun intended.”

Annie asked, “I will let that one slide. Do you have a tracking tablet, and reality device?”

Fabiola answered, “Yes. I have both in my hotel suite. Roberta and I even have a few spares reality devices in our suite. I think I will take an extra one, just in case.”

Annie complimented, “Good idea.”

Fabiola commented, “I also need to tell Roberta that I am leaving on an errand for you. But, I will keep the details of this errand vague.”

Annie replied, “Fair enough. I would prefer to stay on her good side.”

Fabiola deadpanned, “So, does everyone else.”

Annie stated, “With good reason. Which is one of the reasons why I am asking you, and not her, or your friends, to do this job. I want this done, low key. I want you to find them, and either bring them back, or come get me, so I can bring them back. Without harming, nor killing, any of them, nor those around them.”

Fabiola said, “Okay. I can do that. And relax. Unlike the others, I can do low key. I will even forgo my usual weaponry, and use those two custom Beretta seventy-sixes I took from Chang, years ago. Fortunately, I bought some shoulder holsters that will fit them. Along with a few extra ammo magazines, and ammo boxes, as well. And they are all in the suite I share with Roberta.”

Annie raised an eyebrow in interest, as she questioned, “The twenty-twos? Like the pistols that Chang currently uses?”

Fabiola replied, “Yes.”

Annie commented, in a casual tone of voice, “Okay... That is about as low key as one can get with firearms.”

Fabiola responded, “Yea. It is. Anyway, I should be fine. If I am unable to find them within a few weeks. Or, if I run into some trouble I cannot deal with on my own. I will return here, and we will do something else.”

Annie replied, “I can work with that. And if you are not back here in two weeks, my time. Arcee and I will come looking for you.”

Fabiola responded, “Good. I guess I better get going.”

Annie warmly smiled at Fabiola, as she said, “Have a safe journey.”

Fabiola turned Annie's smile, as she commented, “And good luck with keeping things calm here.”

Annie maintained her smile, a she replied, “Thank you.”

Fabiola said, “You're welcome.”

Fabiola then got up from her chair, walked over to the door, opened it, walked through the threshold of the door, into the hallway, with her gently closing the door behind her.

Annie looked at the door, as she sensed her good friend walking through the hallway, towards the front entrance, and to the parking lot right outside, where she had parked her car.

Annie thought, 'I hope Fabiola can pull this off. She is the only person I know of that could do this, without it all blowing up in our faces... Ah hell... Who am I kidding?... The multiverse spanning adventures always end up going wrong in someway... But, at least I continue to try to do things the right way... And maybe we will all luck out this time, without anyone getting hurt.'

Annie then continued her thoughts for a few minutes longer.

As Annie finished her contemplations, got up from her office chair, and left her office, to resume her duties.

To be continued.



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