12,000 feet in the air, Colette is trying to figure the best way to discreetly retrieve the cigarette lighter she pickpocketed from Bruce Freeman. She wanted his box cutter, but she didn’t think she could hide it in her teensy orange bikini. The Bic lighter was smaller and she was able to secret it away in the padding of the bikini top.

She is prompted to action when Afrodite walks up from the state room section with a flustered message that is meant for Vijay, but which all of them hear. “They’re gone,” she says. “I think they jumped out the back!”

This news changes everything. With Hansen and Sephora gone, only Afrodite, Vijay, and Fiona are left on the plane with their hands free and--at least ostensibly--on his side of this coup. Is that the right word? Coup? Theft of concubines? Cucking? Netorare? She’ll worry about precise terminology later. Right now she has a plane to take back.

She has Kiwi, Jane, and Mercedes. That matters because Mercedes can fly a jet. The doctor had her take lessons so she could infiltrate the syndicate of an international bullion smuggler a few years ago.

“What are we supposed to do then?” Vijay says. “You think he screwed us?”

“I don’t know!” Afrodite shouts back as she follows Vijay into the kitchenette. Colette pulls the lighter from her bikini top as those two are banging on the cockpit door and Fiona is busy twiddling her thumbs. “Hey! What the hell is going on here?” Afrodite demands of the pilot.

Colette flicks the lighter in her hands and once the flame is going she holds it under the little rectangular juncture between her cuffed wrists. The plastic slowly begins to blacken and deform until it is soft enough for her to pull apart. It stretches like melted string cheese before it snaps.

“¿Puedes volar este avión? ¿Si?” Colette says to Mercedes. Luckily, Colette speaks Spanish and no one else does, except for Saiyuki, who is all the way at the other end of the cabin.

“Si,” Mercedes says. “Es fácil. ¿Por qué?”

“Quiero secuestrar el avión.” She lifts her legs to melt the ties around her ankles too.

Mercedes nods and shouts something across the cabin to Jane in Italian. Colette knew that Jane speaks Italian, but didn’t know Mercedes does. Jane can’t respond because her mouth is taped over, but she clearly sees Colette break her melting ankle bonds, and it is clear she has the idea.

The twins speak all the same languages: English, German, and Dutch, so there’s no way to talk to Nan without alerting Flossie. Mercedes and Colette also don’t speak German or Dutch, and Jane is gagged. Kiwi’s only other language is Arabic--for some reason--but no one else but Vijay knows that one.

“Kiwi!” Mercedes yells. Kiwi is so high it takes three more times to get her to look up from the latest issue of Vanity Fair, which she has been reading upside down for most of the flight. When she does, Mercedes points over to Jane. By some miracle, Kiwi picks up on the directive and her eyes shift over to Jane. In turn, Jane holds up her bound hands and flutters her fingers in an elaborate gesture that causes Colette some glee. She had no idea both of them know sign language. That never would have occurred to her as an option.

Up in the kitchenette, Vijay and Afrodite seem to have come to some kind of understanding with the pilot. Colette wiggles her head in the center aisle to flag them down while pressing her hands and feet together to feign that her bindings are still in place.

“Ueh. . . Vijay!” she says. “I really really have to go to the bathroom.”

“So hop to the bathroom,” Vijay says. Colette didn’t expect her to be so dismissive. It makes sense though. There isn’t actually anything holding her to the divan. She has to come up with a quick excuse to overcome the objection.

“But. . . ueh. . . I need ‘elp to untie ze strings.”

“Seriously?” Vijay chirps as she walks down middle of the cabin to come collect Colette. “What are you? Three? You need me to wipe for you too?”

Unexpectedly, as much for Colette as for Vijay, Jane lurches up from her seat and shoves Vijay with her bound hands. Vijay rolls aside of Jane’s hands, moving off the center line like she should, and elbows Jane right in her duct taped face. Jane is barely a speed bump, being less skilled and tied up, but she provides enough of a distraction for Colette to pick up a bourbon bottle Sephora left nearby and swing it into the back of Vijay’s head.

Seeing Colette free, Afrodite rushes down the center aisle and all hell breaks loose in the cabin. Kiwi dives on Nan, probably mistaking her for Flossie, and viciously attempting to bite her fingers. Fiona inserts herself between them, but Flossie tackles her to the floor. Mercedes and Jane intercept Afrodite. Colette rushes to join them.

Saiyuki screams from the front of the cabin. “Catfiiiiight!”

Vijay topples to the floor and worms a few inches forward before going face down in the carpet.

Afrodite howls as she cracks Jane and Mercedes’s heads together and sends them sprawling. Colette sails at her with a flying kick, but she spins to the side and attacks Colette over her shoulder. The bitch is fast--almost as fast as Colette. The flurry of fists and parries that ensues is quick even to those who can dodge raindrops, and comes to a halt only when Mercedes rams Afrodite from behind and pins her up against the end of a sofa. Jane grabs ahold of Afrodite’s left arm, unable to get them both as her own are still cuffed together.

“I’m gonna break your legs, you dumb cunt!” Afrodite yells, maybe Colette, maybe one of the girls holding onto her. Who’s to say?

“¡Vete a la chingada, puta!” Mercedes shouts back while punching wildly at her face.

Colette traps Afrodite’s other arm and hammers a fist into her bare belly. She hits Dite a few more times before Saiyuki crashes into her from behind.

“That’s right, bitch!” Saiyuki yells as they both tumbles to the floor. “I’m a fuckin’ ninja!”

Colette has little trouble pinning Saiyuki to the floor since her hands are tied. She shouts for the twins at the front of the cabin as she straddles the bucking California coed. They seem to have wrapped things up, quite literally, by using the zip ties Hansen left in the kitchen compartment to bind Fiona’s hands and bind Kiwi (who was already bound) to Fiona. Strangely, Kiwi continues to wrestle Fiona, as though uncertain which side she is on. “You two! Get down here and help us!”

The twins come together to help pin Saiyuki down and Colette picks up the sharp shanker left over from bottle she broke over Vijay’s head. She uses it to cut Nan’s ties and passes it on.

Jane finally rips the duct tape free of her head and then helps Colette hog tie the others near the state room at the very back of the cabin.

“The fuck are you doing, Colette?” Afrodite screams up at her from the floor.

“What I came to do. Kill Hansen.”

“You’re crazy! He was going to get us out of this shitshow!”

“Shut up, skank!” Jane shrieks, slapping Afrodite into a stupor as Colette checks Nie Hai’s trunk in the state room. She intends to open it up and let the Death Blossom loose, but they padlocked the damned thing, and she thinks they would need something stronger than a broken bottle to cut it open.

Colette knocks on the side of the trunk and assures Nie Hai that they have assumed control of the plane and will free her soon. Then she and the others make their way forward to the cockpit door, which Jane kicks open furiously.

Beyond the door, the captain turns to look back at them through her hefty mirror lenses.



“I know what I’m doing, you said,” Sephora mutters, mocking Sid Hansen as he makes his way down the stairs just ahead of her. “I’ve done this before, you said. They probably already took control of the plane.”

“All the more reason to move faster down here,” Sid grumbles back at her over his shoulder. “Now shut up. You’re giving away our position.”

Their position is in the Northeast emergency stairwell, one floor from the roof. Hansen has stopped at the security door blocking off access from the stairwell to the top level corridor. The top level houses the old presidential suite which the doctor occupies during his leisure time. As Sephora is a common object of the doctor’s leisure time, she knows the passcode.

“Titanium,” Hansen says as he examines the door and the little nine-key electronic pad mounted on the wall beside it. His tone is one of shared annoyance with Bruce, but it shifts to mild condescension as he directs the next part at her. “We’re gonna need to breach this with explosives. Cover your ears and be ready for contact--that means bad guys.”

“Or . . .” Sephora says, entering the four digit code on the pad. The little green LED illuminates in the corner of the pad and the bolt holding the door locked slams open with a loud mechanical thump. “I could just unlock the door.”

Hansen seems equal parts relieved and disappointed. “My way was more hardcore.”

“Whatever you have to tell yourself.”

Sid pulls the door open and silently slips into the corridor ahead of them. Sephora follows. In the dimly lit hallway leading to the doctor’s room, the kill team is like a moving wall of shadow, no more detailed looking directly at him than looking away. She feels at times like he might be something on her eye, obscuring her vision, and she can’t help but try to blink him away. She has considerable difficulty distinguishing his movements from changes in his size and shape. It isn’t until he’s pulling a KA-BAR knife from the throat of a thrashing dacoit on the floor that she realizes he has killed someone--two someones. They were the guards stationed outside the doctor’s suite. One caught a spinning machete through the skull and is already frozen in death. The other got a flying KA-BAR through the jugular and is taking a long time to bleed out. After Sid retrieves the knife, he rams it through the little man’s cranium. The blade goes all the way through his head, in the front and out the back, impaling his brain and killing him instantly. Sephora has stabbed a lot of people, but she always goes for the soft spots. She doesn’t have that kind of strength. It’s gruesomely impressive.

The guards were turban-clad Adherents of the Righteous Fist, the doctor’s own elite personal guard, each an expert in kung fu, a master swordsman, and barely a speed bump to Hansen.

He plants a boot down on the dead man’s chest and yanks his knife back, wipes it on the other corpse’s shirt, then slides it back into its sheath. The same for the machete. He never made a sound the whole time. As soon as his blades are recovered, he raises his gun and kicks the suite door off its hinges.

Sephora waits a few seconds beside the door expecting to hear a lot of automatic gunfire and possibly explosions. None of that happens, at least not immediately, so she goes on in behind him.

The doctor’s foyer has chalky white walls and is adorned only by two Chinese paper lamps suspended from the high ceiling in the middle of the little entryway. Hansen is nowhere to be seen, so she tiptoes further into the suite, past a faded portrait of Qin Shi Huang--first emperor of China, and several bronze jian mounted on the wall beside it. She finds Hansen standing in the doctor’s tea room. He is a flat black human shaped silhouette against the display lights from the doctor’s China cabinet. Many of the pieces date back to the Qing dynasty, which is not the most sought-after period, but is the doctor’s favorite.

“He’s not here,” Hansen says.

“You checked the whole suite already?” Sephora whispers, somewhat surprised that he was able to clear everything so quickly. There are four other rooms--a theater, study, dining room, and bed room--and an observation deck.

“Yeah. Empty. Either he gave us the slip or he’s in another part of the building.” He cocks his head strangely, but she can’t read his expression through the hazy blackened death symbol he wears over his face. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” She pauses. At first she can only hear her own heart racing, a process of which she was oblivious before, but is now uncomfortably aware. Beyond her heart pounding she does hear something rattling, no, beating like an ultra high tempo drum. Gunfire. “Someone is shooting?”

“Bruce,” Sid says, then dashes past Sephora. She struggles to keep up with all the extra weight from the ammunition they hung on her. She hustles back through the doctor’s suite and expensive artwork, over the bodies outside the door, and back down the corridor to the stairwell door where she and Sid find Bruce Freeman just as puzzled as them.

“It’s coming from downstairs,” Bruce says. “Somebody is really rocking and rolling down there.”

Hansen wastes no time skipping down the steps. And although his demeanor is concealed under all that gear, Sephora can’t help but compare him to an excited child running to some kind of festivity. She and Bruce run along behind him all the way to the bottom of the stairwell, ten stories down--the ground level.

“Contact,” Sid says, peeking through the black glass slot in the door. That door opens into the main corridor on the ground level on the east end of the building, and has no lockout device like the one upstairs. Sephora tries to get a look through the glass, but Sid pushes her back. “Stick to the wall on that side.” He handles her by the bicep and forces her around him where she can’t see anything. The gunfire is unmistakable, barely muffled by the block wall at Sephora’s shoulder. “Bruce, bring up the saw. It’s chopping time.”

“Who are they shooting at?” Bruce asks as he lowers the bipod legs hanging from the barrel of his big black gun.

“Can’t tell. Dacoits are packed in like sardines down the hall. We’ve got their flank. It’s a crossfire if whoever is down there lasts long enough to shoot back.”

With that, Sid flings the door open and throws a grenade down the hallway. Sephora holds her breath. In front of her, Bruce’s chin rocks up and down, as he visibly counts down the seconds to the blast. When it pops, Sephora can feel it through the wall, the concussion reverberates in her chest like a single forceful heartbeat rattling her. Bruce cracks the door and ducks down, pushing the machine gun muzzle through the slim gap and firing blindly down the hall without exposing himself. The machine gun echoes up the stairwell with ear-splitting acoustic awfulness and Sephora covers her ears as brass casings pile up at her toes.

Sid kicks the door wide again and throws another grenade down the hallway while firing his rifle around the doorframe, then charges away from the door and hacks two Righteous Fisters to death on the stairs behind them. The doctor’s slaves are all afraid of those guys, but watching Sid dismantle them is like watching a polar bear tear apart baby seals. When the second man is dead, missing an arm below the elbow, his intestines mopping the floor, Hansen lies him out on the stairs and rams a machete into the corpse’s open mouth and out the back of his neck.

“Sephora,” he growls. “Watch the stairs!”

She practically forgot Bruce stuck a pistol to her flak jacket before jumping out of the plane. She draws it from the holster and looks at it sideways. She doesn’t recognize the model. Guns aren’t a big part of the killer concubine training program. She knows enough to racks the slide. A cartridge ejects from the side of the gun, so Bruce must have already done that for her. Ah, well. She looks back up to Sid to say something, but quickly forgets what it was when she sees what he is doing.

He’s spearing the muzzle of his gun through the hole he made in the dead guard’s neck. He lifts the body into the air on the end of the carbine, the flash suppressor jutting from that screaming dead mouth, ropes of guts dragging the floor like streamers, blood pouring from the arm stump, and turns around to head out the door. He steps over Bruce on his way, dragging a stream of wormy gore over the mercenary’s back and thoroughly disgusting him.

“What the fuck, man?!” Bruce yelps. “Blech!” The kill team continues wordlessly into the hallway with the corpse hanging out ahead of him as a gruesome human shield.

“What’s he doing?!” she screams. Bruce just shakes his head. The kill team bellows something that sounds like a horror movie tagline out in the hallway. His words are punctuated by a hundred gunshots in the least, but somehow they are still discernible.

“Flee to your mother’s embrace or fight and die! There is nothing after--only void!” he shouts at an impossible volume.

“Jesus Christ!” Bruce exclaims. He can barely be heard over Sid’s maniacal cackling. It seems to echo off the walls and up the stairwell through the whole building. If Satan is real, Sephora is certain he laughs that way.

“Your lives are nothing to me! Your blood is everything!”

Bruce isn’t even shooting his gun anymore. He lifts it up off the floor and turns to help Sephora cover the stairs.

“And I thought the tear gas thing was fucked up,” she says.

“I can smell your fear!” Sid screams.

“Psych warfare,” Bruce says. “It’s one of his . . . I dunno . . . quirks.”

“Psycho warfare is more like it,” she quips.

“Your children will be left to the streets!”

“That one cuts deep if you think about it,” Bruce says.

Sephora does not want to think about it. She just wants this all to be over soon--one way or another.

After another few seconds without much noise from the hallway, Bruce takes a peek out there and tugs Sephora by the wrist to signal it is time to go ahead. They head through the door together into a mass grave. The sight of the carnage is somehow horrifying and uplifting at once. It’s awful, but it is accompanied by the relief of some massive obstacle being removed. The dacoit hordes are a huge menace, fearless and unstoppable by sheer weight of numbers, but when those numbers mean nothing their fearlessness crumbles.

Further down the hallway, Sid looms over a cowering dacoit next to one of the golden dragons that line the hallway. The man cries out for mercy, but Sid plants a boot down on his chest and stabs him no less than a dozen times in the belly while calling out down the hall.

“This is the sound of a slow death! You will make these sounds!”

Bruce cringes as he looks down the hallway at dozens of bodies still as logs. “Sid, I think you killed them all.”

“Most of them ran away,” Sid says. “Bunch of pussies.” Far down the hall, a dacoit leaps from behind a gilded dragon meaning to shoot them, but Sid shoots first, nailing him between the eyes with a pistol that was still holstered when the man jumped. Sid continues holding the gun out to point the way ahead. “Pretty sure I saw Fing Fong Fag himself go that way as soon as I came out here.”

“The throne room is down that way,” Sephora says.

“The throne room?” Bruce’s voice rises with surprise. “He got a throne room?”

“Of course he does,” Sid chuckles. “I kinda want to fuck him to death with an e-tool. Did you bring an e-tool?”

“Why would I bring an e-tool?” Bruce says. “We’re in a building.”

“I was just hoping.”

Sephora finds the body Sid used as a scarecrow not far from the door, so grated and gnawed by bullets that it is barely recognizable. The head is missing above the bottom jaw, and the other arm was blasted off completely.

“How did you not get shot?” Sephora screeches as she struggles to reconcile her perception of reality with the plain evidence in front of her.

“I used that guy as a human shield,” Sid nonchalantly says as he points at the ruined corpse on the floor.

“There’s nothing left of him!” Her words are only hyperbole in the strictest possible sense. The dacoit's chest cavity obscures her view of the flooring underneath it about as well as a chain link fence.

All of them are startled by the sudden sound of automatic gunfire ahead. It’s coming from down the hall, around the bend where the corridor adjoins the reception area that used to be the hotel lobby. Sid moves on down the hall toward the source of the shooting. They stick behind him until he stops at the corner of the juncture and points on down the hall. “Stay here and cover the corridor. Lay down suppressing fire if fuckface tries to come back out of there.” Bruce hoists the machine gun onto the head of the nearest dragon statue. Sephora doesn’t have a machine gun, so she follows Sid out into reception.

The old lobby is a mess. The central security desk has been ripped to shreds by a hundred automatic rifles, and a sign directing the way to the Chinese Bistro has a fist sized hole in it that looks like it came from a bazooka. The half million dollar crystal chandelier that used to hang over the room is now scattered all over the floor in sparkling little bits that crackle under Sid’s boots. Sephora’s flip-flops don’t fare as well so she tries to avoid the biggest shards. It helps to walk on the bodies, which are numerous. Most of them are dacoits. A few are Adherents of the Righteous Fist. Some of them are neither. Some of them are white guys in typical street clothes, except for their flak jackets, ski masks, and compact submachine guns. They don’t look like cops. They have big guns, and SWAT teams don’t wear tee shirts, at least not on Law and Order.

“What happened here?” Sephora whispers.

Sid holds up a finger to silence her. It takes her another second to see the hand waving at them from inside the security rotunda in the middle of the lobby.

“Don’t shoot,” says the owner of the hand. “I’m coming up.” Sephora watches as he slowly rises up with his hands in the air. He’s a husky fellow with a mismatch of business casual clothing and lots of tattoos on his arms and neck. Whoever he is, the sight of him gets a rise out of Hansen. The kill team stomps toward him, vaulting the rotunda and scooping him up from the floor by the collar to hang at the end of his armored arm.

“Fedosov!” Sid bellows. “You fake Russian fuck-sack! I’ve been waiting a long time for this!”

“Oh shit. . .” Fedosov chokes. “Hansen.”

“You know this guy?” Sephora says. “Who is he?”

“He’s either FBI or Russian mob. Not sure which.”

“Me neither,” Fedosov says.

“I’m giving you ten seconds to tell me the best story I’ve ever heard or I stick a pistol up your ass and pull the trigger until it goes click.”

“I’m with Pearson! We hired mercenaries to fight the evil doctor who we thought was fake guy who works for Stromwell but it turned out he’s a real guy and he doesn’t work for Stromwell and his dacoits blew away everybody but me, Pearson, and that guy!” He points over to a far corner where a frightened looking man in a balaclava is crouching behind a potted plant with his palms exposed, a belt fed machine gun lying on the floor beside him. “That’s Cooter.”

Cooter? Sephora makes the most bewildered face she can. They hired a guy named Cooter to kill the evil doctor?

“Pearson,” Sid says. More than any man Sephora has ever met, Sid speaks like a caveman when he is angry. “Where?”

Pearson climbs out of a knee height cabinet inside the rotunda and flops out onto the carpet on his back. He raises his hand as Sid draws a pistol and points it at his head.

“Mr. Hansen, Carter Pearson, Illiad Consolidated,” Pearson says. He holds out a hand to shake. Sid does not take it.

“That’s him, Sid!” Sephora says as she recognizes him. “That’s the weird gay guy who paid the doctor to kill you!”

“That is highly inaccurate!” Pearson clicks back. “I am not a homosexual, and my cooperation in that matter was coerced! The doctor has mother in the dungeon!”

“Your mom is--There’s a dungeon?” Sid says.

“On sublevel 2,” Sephora answers. “And they did nab his mom. That's true.”

"Mr. Hansen," Pearson waves for the return of Sid's immediate attention. "You shouldn't be here. This is all wrong. The doctor knew you were coming. He said he's ready for you."

"Not ready enough." Sid motions to the battalion of dacoit corpses and chuckles.

"He's too diligent not to prepare for this. If you're here, I think it's because he wanted you here."

"You think he's suicidal?"

"I think he set you up. He had Illiad wire all that money to your Swiss bank account. DHS is already looking for you. They have a photo of you at the docks from this morning."

"I've never been to the docks and I don't have a Swiss bank account. I don't even have an American bank account."

"I know! I don't think his objective is what he told us! He's up to something else."

"All the more reason to kill him now before he can get away."

"I really don't think that's advisable. This could all be a trap."

“It sure as hell was!” Cooter shouts, kicking a nearby dacoit cadaver. "These gooks ambushed us! It's time for payback!"

"See?" Sid says. "Can't argue with that."


About the author

Mike Leon


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