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Written in response (WAY late) to the Week #29 challenge/prompt on Resinality's ABJD Writing usergroup. Prompt was the following quote:

"I know indeed what evil I intend to do, but stronger than all my afterthoughts is my fury, fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evils."
– Euripides (484-406 BC), Medea, 431 BC


The House of Li



It was impossible to smuggle a weapon into the House of Li.

Wren stepped off of a WUNPO plane onto the tarmac of Beijing Capital International Airport, the largest one in the People’s Republic of China, six hours ago. She carried with her a small purse containing a sheaf of yuan renminbi and ten ounces of the purest Colombian cocaine. Half of the money went to purchasing her an outfit in the local style suitable for a representative of a drug lord – designer jeans and a carefully tailored silk shirt in red Chinese brocade – and a taxi ride to her destination. The cocaine, a sample for Li “brokers” to evaluate, bought her passage through the main gates.

The woman who was originally charged with carrying the sample was sitting in a holding cell at WUNPO’s district headquarters in San Francisco. She and Wren both had blonde hair and breasts. That was about where their resemblance ended, not that it mattered.

Before entering the compound, Wren was subjected to a full search. Her clothing was taken, checked by both x-ray and a chemical sniffer, her purse was examined, and her naked body was scanned as thoroughly as all the rest. Her passport, in the name of one Maria Tomonaga, was perused and checked against a computer database. They stopped just short of a cavity search. But only just.

It was impossible to smuggle a weapon into the House of Li.

After Wren’s belongings were returned and she was permitted to dress herself once more, she was escorted to a small waiting room. Her companion was a smiling young woman, all sugar and pleasantries to make up for the insult of the silent and professional men who had just stripped her down. On the way, they passed dozens of alcoves with priceless art and antiques displayed on low tables. Treasures purchased with generations of drug and blood money.

Wren’s escort left her with a smile, refreshments, and a promise that someone would be with her shortly. Then she was alone.

The guards of the House of Li would expect her to sit quietly, eating and relaxing. If she were a threat, this would be a ruse designed to lull them into a false sense of security, and once a sufficient amount of time passed – perhaps twenty minutes – she would make her move. Or she might wait until her target came to her, if she were after one of the “brokers.” If she were a true representative of the drug lord, she would cause no trouble at all, and leave without incident.

Wren did none of these things. She sat down on the sofa and, after taking out the remaining yuan renminbi, set the purse with the cocaine in it on the table in front of her. She slipped the cash into one of the pockets on her overly expensive jeans and toed off her high heels – those she kicked under the sofa, hiding them from sight.

After exactly ninety-five seconds had gone by, she stood up and went to the door. It was locked, and surprisingly sturdy for an interior door, but two well-placed kicks took care of that problem and then she was out in the hall. The sole of her foot would be bruised, but no matter.

Wren walked up the hall to one of the alcoves and lifted the antique katana there from the stand that supported it. She checked the blade over quickly – firmly mounted and razor sharp. Perfect.

It was impossible to smuggle a weapon into the House of Li.

Good thing Wren didn’t need to.

It had been almost three minutes since the smiling young woman left Wren alone in the receiving room. Time to get to work.

#


Wren’s hands on the bindings of the katana’s grip were gummy with half-dried and congealed blood. Her left side burned and stung every time she moved, just above her floating rib where a bullet had grazed her. She flicked blood from the blade of her stolen sword and bent down to take the gun from the hands of the dead man at her feet. She checked him over, found two spare clips in his jacket and pocketed them. The gun she shoved into the front of her pants – after setting the safety.

This would be much easier if she used the gun, but she couldn’t risk it. The sound of gunshots was too easy to follow. They knew she was here now, knew she was moving, and it was only sheer dumb luck on her part and a hefty dose of complacency on theirs keeping her alive. She needed to be as quiet as possible for as long as she could.

Wren lifted the sword and stepped through another door into a mercifully empty room. She wished she could claim that she’d lost count of how many people she’d killed, but her memory was as infallible as always. She knew every face, every blow, every cut. She would care about them – later.

The search was aimless – she knew only that her target was somewhere in the compound. Beyond that, Intel had been unable to give her any clues. So she wandered, and the body count rose while the clock ticked down.

It took nearly fifteen minutes of hunting before she found a door hidden within the maze of corridors where three men stood guard. They were all clustered around a radio, and two died easily. The third dodged her first strike, knocking over one of the chairs at their little desk in his haste. He hit her twice before she managed to slide her blade along his carotid in a spray of arterial red. She was getting tired, slowing down.

Wren turned and scooped the keys up off the desk – careless of them – and unlocked the door.

Jian was already staring at the door when it swung open, having no doubt heard the struggle outside his cell. He was as alert as she could have hoped for, considering the situation, which was a blessing. His eyes did not – quite – widen when she stepped inside.

Wren walked over and knelt, unfastened the cuffs holding Jian’s wrists behind him – he was sitting in a steel chair bolted to the floor – and then turned her attention to his ankles. By the time she had him loose, he was flexing his fingers to get the feeling back in them. His wrists were cut and bruised from the tight metal. She took the pistol and the two clips and pressed them into his hands.

"Are you steady enough for these?"

Jian nodded and got to his feet. He was dirty, and there was some blood, old dried brown and flaking on his clothing, but his hair was damp, as was his shirt. Waterboarding? She didn’t ask. No time. Later.

To get out, they picked a direction and stuck to it until they hit the outer wall of the compound, then followed that until they found a door. The guard post there showed signs of having been hastily abandoned. Doubtless the guards were inside trying to find Wren, and perhaps Jian by now as well – it depended on whether or not they’d noticed he was missing yet. They went through the door without any trouble – the walls were built to defend, not contain.

They ran six blocks clear of the compound before flagging down a taxi. The man driving it balked when he saw their clothing and the weapons, but Wren threw the entire stack of remaining yuan renminbi at him and barked the name of the airport. He shut up and drove.

The cabbie let them out at the terminal and sped off without looking back. The airport security personnel got excited when they walked in – guns were drawn and orders were shouted in Mandarin and Cantonese. Hunter and Jackson were waiting for them, though. Jackson "took custody" of Wren and Jian, and "confiscated" their weapons, while Hunter flashed his WUNPO SIU badge, as well as Wren and Jian’s badges – which he’d brought to Beijing with him – while waving around a hefty stack of official WUN operation-approved paperwork and impressively signed forms. A call was made to Tekla. Wren and Jian sat in a holding cell for a while.

A few hours later, they were on a WUNPO jet heading back to headquarters, each with a citation and a slap-on-the-wrist fine that no one really cared about. Formality required that Tekla admonish them both for "reckless behavior" and Wren in particular for "not informing the (heavily compromised) local authorities" of a planned operation in their jurisdiction – which she did, right after debriefing each of them and right before sending them to Laith for a once-over.

Laith slapped some bandages on both of them, and some stitches on Wren’s side, and declared them fine to go home. He did tell them to take the next day off from work, and limited them to light duty assignments for the three days after that.

Jian managed just under half an hour of sleep that night before he woke up, teeth clenched and silent, unable to breathe, pupils dilated and his body sticky with sweat. Wren held him down until he became aware of his surroundings. He blacked one of her eyes for the trouble.

Neither of them got much rest.
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