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Previously, on TOURNAMENT ARC: Across the world, a mysterious organization recruits martial artists for a grand tournament, the Kumite, held once every five years. The winner will receive a prize of one million dollars, and the title of the world's strongest fighter. Who will be invited next? Will they survive the starting round to claim their spot, and a chance for victory? Who will fight to the top, and become the champion of the world's ultimate tournament?

Chapters: https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Tournament%20Arc
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>>5417268

New York City, USA
198X
5 years ago


Rain lands with a drumming noise on the roof of the car. The old wipers squeak repetitively on the windshield, clearing each fresh wave of raindrops. The engine of the Crown Vic hums. Tires splash through puddles collected in the worn-out sections of the old roads. It's the dim hour before dawn, and the street lights are still on to illuminate your way through the city.

Looking in the passenger side mirror next to you, you can see the black van still right behind you. From the outside, it looks like a perfectly ordinary van, a bit dour in color but probably being used to haul around a drumkit and speakers for a band, or maybe some construction equipment. Not many people would guess it holds a full FBI SWAT team, fully kitted out in armor and weapons, ready to drop the hammer.

The place you're about to hit is the real deal. If your info is right, this isn't your standard rat hole of pushers and thieves. The people here are linked to a global organization, a massive crime syndicate that goes beyond borders or nations. The sort of thing that's normally way above the pay grade of an ordinary New York City detective like yourself.

Fortunately, you're anything but ordinary. You have your training to thank for that, under the teaching of the man beside you in the driver's seat. Whatever happens, you'll be able to handle yourself.

That's what you tell yourself, anyway, trying to ignore the feeling of snakes coiling and uncoiling in your stomach. You stop yourself from biting your nails, an old nervous habit. A girl can't afford to keep a manicure when she's a cop, but you can at least stop them from being ragged.

"Nervous, J?" Pete -- that is, Officer Hayes -- glances over at you from the driver's seat.

>(Lie) No.
>I can handle it.
>Seems stupid not to be. These are killers we're dealing with.
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>>5417272

>Seems stupid not to be. These are killers we're dealing with.
>>
>>5417272
>(Lie) No.
>>
>>5417272
>>I can handle it.
>>
>>5417272
>I can handle it.
>>
>>5417272
>I can handle it.
>>
>>5417272
>>Seems stupid not to be. These are killers we're dealing with.
Getting wired keeps you alive.
>>
>>5417272
>>I can handle it.
Let's do this
>>
>>5417272
>>Seems stupid not to be. These are killers we're dealing with.
>>
>>5417268
>Seems stupid not to be. These are killers we're dealing with.
>>
>>5417272

"Yeah, but I can handle it," you say, trying to put some confidence into your voice.

Pete nods. "That's how you do it. Accept that you're scared, but keep going."

"Seems like it would be crazy not to be scared, if what you're saying is true, and this a gang of killers we're dealing with."

"You have to be a little crazy to do what we do." His huge, solid presence is reassuring. He looks up into the rear view mirror, checking on the van again. "We shouldn't have to get too mixed up in things. The squad of heavies back there will do most of the work. Couldn't keep them away if I wanted to, the captain was like a dog straining on a leash to get at the mailman. He wanted snipers, C4 breach, the whole nine yards. Probably would've called in a missile strike if he could. But I convinced him that we're not looking for a body count. We need people who can talk."

"You want more information on this syndicate you think is behind them," you say. "I'm still not convinced it's real. Sounds like something out of a comic book, or a video game."

"It's real," Pete says. "Trust me. The Circle of Shadows, they call it. Real mystery shit. Been trying to get the chief to let me look into them for years, but he keeps turning me down. Gets real touchy on the subject. He might not want to think they're real ... or he might be paid off. Hard to say. These people have real connections, J. We gotta be careful." He looks over at you again, the usual look when he worries about you. "I still don't know if this was a good idea for you to come. Sure I can't get you to stay on lookout?"

"Not a chance," you say.

>You have to protect the innocent.
>You have to punish criminals.
>You just want some excitement.
>>
>>5418440
>>You just want some excitement.
>>
>>5418440
>You just want some excitement.
>>
>>5418440
>You want the thrill

Loose cannon cop, the sequel
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>>5418440
>You have to protect the innocent.
>>
>>5418440
>You have to punish criminals.
I don't mind having a more (maybe self-)righteous character this time around, but I'm fine with going the adrenaline junkie cop route if that vote wins.
>>
>>5418440
>You have to protect the innocent.
>>
>>5418440
>>You have to protect the innocent.
>>
>>5418440
>You have to punish criminals.
>>
>>5418440
>You have to punish criminals
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>>5418440
>You have to punish criminals.
>>
>>5418440
>You have to protect the innocent.
Remember, Akoya is worst boy.
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>>5420360
I take exception to that.
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>>5418440
>You have to punish criminals
SUFFER NOT THE MALEFACTOR TO LIVE!
>>
>>5418440
>You have to protect the innocent
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>>5418440

"Criminals have to be punished," you say. "It's the best way to protect the innocent people out there, just living their lives. They come into this world clean as snow, but if there's bad stuff is going down where they're growing up, like this city, they turn bad themselves." You look out at the squalid streets of east Brooklyn, one of the worst neighborhoods in New York. How many kids out there are going to grow up knowing only this life of crime and violence? "If you let the criminals off, there's no telling how many more people will lose their lives or their futures. We have to make an example of them, to protect the others. Take one life to save ten. That's what it means to be a cop."

"The devil's clean-up men, that's us," Pete says, and chuckles.

Pete pulls the Crown Vic up into an alleyway and parks. The van comes to a stop beside you. The back doors open, and the SWAT team piles out, 13 men already geared to the nines in vests and helmets, carrying a mix of M4 carbines and Remington shotguns. You hope all this firepower won't be necessary, but it never hurts to be sure. You double-check your own firearm -- like many NYPD detectives who get mixed up in the rougher parts of town, you and Pete have both ditched your official service revolvers for unauthorized Browning Hi-Powers.

Stepping out of the car, Pete has a brief discussion with the SWAT team. "For anyone who doesn't know, I'm Pete Hayes. While the chief is nominally in charge of this op, he's back in his office eating donuts right now, so if you need something, talk to me." He waves in your direction. "My partner, Julia Fields. If she says something, it's like I said it." The SWAT members, grizzled veterans of the FBI, glare in your direction. You return their stares with equal force. You're not about to let some dick-waving feds intimidate you.

"Remember," Pete continues. "Our objective is to bag as many perps for interrogation as possible. Stick to non-lethal methods when possible, and don't get trigger happy in there. Any one of these assholes could give us the lead we're looking for to find the next rung up the ladder."
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>>5420615

The SWAT Lieutenant steps forward. "You know the drill, boys. Team Red, get into position, and wait for the go signal. Team Blue, you're with me." He looks at Pete. "Coming with us, Hayes?"

"Wouldn't miss it," Pete says, checking his own Browning.

The LT looks in your direction. He doesn't seem impressed. "Is she really--?"

"She's a little green, but she can handle herself," Pete says.

"If you say so," the LT says. "Just don't expect any of us to come running if she breaks a nail. The men have a job to do."

Oh, so that's how it is, huh?

>Trash talk back.
>Get in his face.
>Leave it.
>>
>>5420615
>you and Pete have both ditched your official service revolvers for unauthorized Browning Hi-Powers
Dangerously based
>>
>>5420617
>>Leave it.
He hasn't seen what you can do. And we have better things to worry about than ego.
>>
>>5420617
>>Leave it.
Dick-waving isn't good for efficiency.
>>
>>5420617
>Leave it
Remember, but let it be.
>>
>>5420617
>Leave it.
>But think of a one liner for after the operation is over.
>Actually, think of several.
>>
>>5420617
>>Get in his face.
>>
>>5420617
>Trash talk back.
"Last time I broke a nail was on a perp's skull. The skull broke too."
>>
>>5420617
>Trash talk back
"What men all I'm seeing are a bunch thumb suckers standing around doing nothing.
>>
>>5420617
>>5420700 +1
>>
>>5420617
>Trash talk back.
Just not any of the lines /qst/ is feeding. God, anons cannot trash talk for shit.
>>
>>5420617

It's not worth rising to the bait. Not while there's a job to be done. But you'll remember that, for later. You stay quiet for now, just folding your arms and giving the LT a challenging look. He looks back at you with scorn.

Pete says, "I'd rather have her at my back than your whole goon squad, lieutenant. Are you ready to roll, or what?"

The SWAT leader shifts his glare from you to Pete. "Who gave a local boy jurisdiction over this op, anyway? Shouldn't you be running hookers off of street corners, or whatever it is you do?"

"Your boss put me in charge, that's who," Pete says. "Because he knows I'm not just some city cop sitting on my ass waiting on a pension. Because he knows the two of us, my partner and I, could handle this operation on our own, but we're letting his boys in on the game out of courtesy, because he's chasing the same rats we are. Because he trusts me more than you. Now are you gonna keep talking, little man, or are you going to shut up and jam?"

A cold stare from the lieutenant. "Any time, local boy."

"Then give the word and let's go. I ain't got all day."

The SWAT lieutenant barks orders into his radio, then leads his squad forward. Pete follows shortly after, and you stay behind him and to one side as you move in.

The target building is a meatpacking plant. The two teams of six split into squads of three to cover the ground floor entrances -- the front doors, the truck loading bay, and the rear employee exit -- as well as the roof skylight. You and Pete are with the loading bay team, it leads right into the main packing area and will probably have the largest number of perps to arrest and get secured before moving further into the facility.

You get into position, ready at the corner a short distance from the big truck-sized loading door, while one of the SWATs gets to work at the regular door, picking the lock as quietly as possible.

Pete gives you an appraising look. You nod back. You're tense, but handling it, like you said you would.
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>>5422368

The guy on lock-picking duty gives a thumbs-up, and his squadmate reports in on the radio. The LT gives the green light. The SWAT boys kick in the door and move in, weapons raised and shouting. Pete moves in a few seconds after them, and you follow his lead.

The loading bay leads right into the main packing room, just like the briefing said. There's thirty or so people in here, but most of them are just regular folks carving up meat at the tables, and hit the deck or start running as soon as they see the guns -- anyone who looks like they might make trouble was taken off guard by the sudden breach, and before they can do anything stupid they've got a shotgun stuck in their face and are shouted down. You and Pete help disarm and handcuff them.

The SWAT guys move further into the building, leaving you and Pete to cover their rear.

"Going well so far," you say.

"Don't let down your guard just yet," Pete says. "They could just be waiting for a chance to--"

A side door bursts open. Six men charge into the room. The guy in front is yelling at the top of his lungs, holding a machete over his head. Pete raises his gun in time and shoots him, and the swing of the heavy knife goes wide, but the man still barrels into Pete, and shoving him aside takes long enough that the others have closed the distance. Three attack Pete at once -- you're positive he can handle himself, but that leaves two for you to deal with, flanking you from either side.

>Use your gun, handle this as fast and efficient as possible.
>Stick to basic techniques, a reliable option that conserves ammo.
>Try something cool you learned recently, it's a good chance to practice.
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>>5422370
>Stick to basic techniques, a reliable option that conserves ammo.
>>
>>5422370
>Stick to basic techniques, a reliable option that conserves ammo.
>>
>>5422370
>Stick to basics

Meet gun with gun. Knife with fist.
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>>5422370
>Try something cool you learned recently, it's a good chance to practice.
>>
>>5422370
>Try something cool you learned recently, it's a good chance to practice.
>>
>>5422370
>>Try something cool you learned recently, it's a good chance to practice.
>>
>>5422370
>>Try something cool you learned recently, it's a good chance to practice.
Bonus points for artistic impression.
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>>5422370
>Try something cool you learned recently, it's a good chance to practice.
You can't hold the shiny option in my face and expect me to not pick it. I really want to see what our gimmick in combat is.
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>>5422370
>Stick to basic techniques, a reliable option that conserves ammo.
It's only two guys. Not to mention a few bullets could make the difference down the line.
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>>5422370
>Stick to basic techniques, a reliable option that conserves ammo.
>>
>Try Something cool you learned recently, it's a good chance to practice
>>
>>5422370

You holster your gun, not wanting to waste the bullets on these two. Your standard techniques, a mix of kickboxing and karate, are enough to handle these idiots. After disarming the knife on one and stunning them both with swift and brutal punch combinations, at the last moment you decide to practice something flashy and finish them both off at once with a leaping midair splits kick, jumping in between them and kicking both in the head at the same time, knocking both down and out.

"Not bad," Pete says, and grunts as he blocks a blow. "But no need to show off." He's already taken out two guys but is having a bit of trouble finishing the job with the third.

"Need some help, old man?" you say.

"Don't get cocky," he says, and swings around a hammer blow that sends the guy flying through the air, landing on a table that breaks under the impact.

You take a moment to dust yourself off and start applying some zipties to wrists. "How did these assholes get through? Aren't SWAT supposed to clear each room before moving on?"

"No idea. That hallway should've been locked down." Pete thumbs the radio. "Blue 4, what's your status?" No response. His brow furrows.

The lieutenant's voice comes over the radio. "Blue 4, report!" Nothing but hissing static in response. "Shit."

"We'll check it out," Pete says. "The rest of you, stick to the plan."

You and Pete head through the doorway the guys came from, your guns at the ready. The door leads to a long hallway, badly lit by buzzing flourescent lights. Two of the SWATs are here. One of them's had his head smashed against the wall so hard both his helmet and the wall are cracked. The other's in even worse shape. His limbs are bent out of shape and mangled, like they were crushed in something. You quickly check both for a pulse. Nothing.

"I was afraid of this," Pete mutters. "Most of these guys are punks low on the totem pole. Trainees and wannabees. But we've got at least one heavy hitter in here with us. If we can capture him, that's a good thing. He'll know more than these flunkies. But that's an 'if'. We gotta survive this, first."

"How dangerous could one guy be?" you ask.

"Kid, trust me. It's a big scary world out there. If you think guys like me are tough, well, there's always a bigger dog at the pound."
>>
>>5423785

A smear of blood leads down the hallway into another door. From inside you can hear the gruesome sound of bones breaking. You and Pete get ready on either side of the door, then with a nod from Pete, you kick in the door and enter with your Browning raised. "Freeze, motherfucker!"

A freezing room, the sides lined with stripped pig carcasses hung up on meathooks. In the center stands a gigantic man with ebony skin, his back turned to the door. He's got to be seven feet tall. Bald head and hugely muscled arms are covered in finely detailed, tribal spiral tattoos. He turns around to face you, revealing that he's holding the third SWAT squad member, or what's left of him, by the throat with one hand. A red puddle is spreading across the clean white floor below him.

The giant's mouth splits open in a big grin, revealing gold teeth implants. Four on top, three on the bottom, each engraved with a letter. It says, FUCK YOU.

"Sup, mothafuckas," he says. "You want some of this too? Come on in. Ain't got nowhere else to be. I got all day."

>Hands where I can see them, now!
>What kind of sick freak are you?
>[Just shoot him]
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>>5423788
>Hands where I can see them, now!
Something tells me this guy's bullet resistance is "just pisses him off" tier.
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>>5423788
>Hands where I can see them, now!
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>>5423788
>Hands where I can see them, now!
>>
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>>5423788
>[Just shoot him]
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>>5423788
>Hands where I can see them, now!
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>>5423788
>[just shoot him]

Try and wing him.
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>>5423788
>[Just shoot him]
Indiana Jones inspired you.
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>>5423788

"Hands where I can see them! Do it now!" Your finger itches towards the trigger, but you refrain from pulling it. The procedure doesn't say anything against blasting a perp who just ripped out a cop's throat with his bare hands, it's not like you'd be in the wrong. But something else holds you back, tells you it's the wrong move. "Let him go and put your hands up, you sick freak!"

Pete says, "Wild Dog, in the flesh. I'd say it was a pleasure to finally meet you, but you too damn ugly for that."

"So you know who I am, huh?" The giant -- Wild Dog, apparently -- whistles, impressed. "That's some knowledge for a city cop. But I guess you ain't just a cop, is you? I can see it. You got the skills. You know about the Ways."

"This city cop is taking you in, motherfucker," Pete says. "Want to do it the easy way or the hard way?"

"Oh, you know what way we about to do it." He grins again, once more revealing the FUCK YOU. "But why not make it interesting? You got the skills. Wanna test yourself against the best?"

You say, "Shut the fuck up and raise 'em already."

"You too, huh, girl?" He looks you up and down, appraising. "You got a little more fire in you than these punk-ass feds. I like that. You been training with this old codger next to you? What do you say, how about you? Want to go a little one-on-one, man-on-bitch?" Dog grabs his junk and sticks his tongue out. "See if you got what it takes to handle this?"

You're about to respond in anger, when Pete steps in with his arm raised. "Don't get yourself worked up. Just a dog barking." He gestures for you to take a step back, then starts rolling up his sleeves. "I'll fight him."

"What? Why?" You look back and forth in confusion. "Fuck this guy, we don't owe him some kind of honorable duel, let's just bring him in! What is this, some kind of 'I never back down from a challenge' macho bullshit?"

"No. Think of it as ... " Pete looks back at you, considering his answer for a moment. "Practice," is what he ends up saying. He hands over his gun. "Hold onto this, and don't worry about me. I got this."

>No need to get your hands dirty. I can handle this creep myself.
>If you say so. He's all yours, old-timer.
>Screw honor, if we have to fight him, let's do it two on one.
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>>5424847
>Screw honor, if we have to fight him, let's do it two on one.

You know the difference between victory and honor.
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>>5424847
>Screw honor, if we have to fight him, let's do it two on one.
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>>5424847
>If you say so. He's all yours, old-timer.
Pete's not telling us something, but for now I guess we should trust him.
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>>5424847
>Screw honor, if we have to fight him, let's do it two on one.
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>>5424847
>Screw honor, if we have to fight him, let's do it two on one.
>>
>>5424847
>Screw honor, if we have to fight him, let's do it two on one.
>>
>>5424847
>If you say so.
>>
>>5424847
>>Screw honor, if we have to fight him, let's do it two on one.
Our girl seems like a practical person.
>>
>>5424847

"Come on, Pete, stop messing around," you say. "Screw honorable combat or whatever. If you want to beat the shit out of him, fine, but let's two on one this sucker."

"I need to know if I can beat him," Pete says. "If I can't, well ..."

"What you 'need' to do is cut your bullshit and let me help you bust this perp," you say. "I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and watch maybe you get hurt and maybe this asshole escape. Either one would piss me off."

Pete looks vexed. "I'm not going to get away with this, huh?"

"No way," you say. You holster your gun and step up beside him. "If you want practice so bad, think of it as practice fighting together. I'm supposed to be your best disciple, right? We should know how to work as a team."

Wild Dog laughs. "You two got a cute father-daughter type thing going on. I gotta decide which one to hurt first. Which of you do you think would feel worse watching the other bleed out on the ground?"

Without warning, he launches into motion. An upwards swipe of his arm flings the SWAT's body towards you -- out of all the things you were expecting, that wasn't one of them, and it takes you off guard -- the body crashes into you and knocks you down. You can hear shouting, the dull smack of fist and bone, as Pete and Wild Dog start hammering at each other.

You're pushing the body onto top of you away but it's a two hundred fifty pound man in kevlar armor and helmet and it's all slippery with blood, you can't get hold of anything, have to gather your strength and brute force shove it off.

It only takes a few seconds, but it's long enough for Wild Dog and Pete to trade moves a couple times. At first it seems like they came out even, neither landing a solid blow -- but you can see that Pete is sweating and tense, while Wild Dog is relaxed and not yet fully exerting himself. He's huge, fast, and vicious. This is going to be tough, even two on one.

Before you can intervene, he launches a heavy punch -- Pete blocks it crossarm, but gets staggered back a few feet. You jump in from the other side to assist, launching a high kick, then pivoting and perform a follow-up kick with the other leg, but Wild Dog ducks the first attack and blocks the second by swinging one of the pig carcasses into you. The kick drives the meat out of the way, but it's enough time for him to take a few steps back and reset the position. He starts circling, stepping through the rows of hanging chains, and you turn to watch and face him as he does.

You need to take the lead here for a moment while Pete recovers.

>Be aggressive, hunt him down.
>Stay frosty, keep your defenses up.
>Get him talking, stall for time.
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>>5426018
>Be aggressive, hunt him down.
>>
>>5426018
>Damn, you are one heavy motherfucker. Where'd they dig you out from?

He really likes using his greater weight and muscle to keep us off guard. So I say get in close where he can't use it as effectively. Keeping outside his reach will just make him throw crap.
Of course, pump for info.

>Be aggressive.
>>
>>5426018
>Be aggressive, hunt him down.
I think we'll have to use the environment here and stick him with one of those meathooks
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>>5426018
>>Stay frosty, keep your defenses up
>>
>>5426018
>Stay frosty, keep your defenses up
>>
>>5426018
>Get him talking, stall for time.
Dodging/weaving through pig bodies in a freezer he's familiar with = he has the home turf advantage, the surprise element where hiding behind the right carcass hides your attack start-up animations from line-of-sight. Get him talking, listen for where he is, and maybe get some info on the side.

"Whatever op you're running, it must be pretty profitable if you can afford teeth like that."
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>>5426835
>attack start-up animations
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>>5426018
>Get him talking, stall for time
This guy already talks too much for a supposedly trained killer. If nothing else, it'll definitely give Pete a chance to get off his ass.
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>>5426018
>Get him talking, stall for time
If we can, let's try to position ourselves so that we can pincer him or that at the very least we aren't hindered by the carcasses.
Those hooks are usually on a rail system, so we could spare an eye to check how they can slide.
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>>5426018

You keep him talking, looking for an opportunity to get aggressive. "You must make a lot of bank to afford a grill like that."

"Girl, you have no idea." He grins to show off his teeth again. "I'm richer than the King of Siam. Lot of money to be made these days if you know where to look. Why don't you ditch that Uncle Tom mothafucka and be my bitch for a while? All the nice things you ever wanted, plus if you're a good little girl I'll give you a taste of grade A premium dark meat, heh heh."

The insults sting more than you want them to, and in your anger you strike out at the first opportunity, launching forward with a thrusting side kick. But it was a trap. His huge hand catches your foot. Massive fingers clench, almost breaking the bones, and he's not even using his full strength -- you can see now how he tore through three SWATs with his bare hands. "Uh oh," he says. "Better be careful. Naughty bitches don't get any kibble."

Ignoring the pain in your foot, you use his hands as a springboard to get some height and, turning in midair, use the other foot to kick him in the back of the head. He lets go, stumbles a few feet. You land on the ground, wincing in pain as your partly crushed foot takes the weight.

"Damn, not bad," Wild Dog says, rubbing his head. A kick to the back of the skull should have at least dazed him. He sees your confusion and grins again. "Girl, you gonna learn eventually. I'm built different."

Pete has recovered by this point, and steps up beside you. "Be careful," he warns.

"Yeah, I got that by now," you say.

Spreading out to either side, on an unspoken signal you and Pete both attack at once. But it's no good. Even with all your training, even with Pete attacking from the opposite side, none of your strikes can get through, and in fact you find yourself defending half the time as huge punches swing your way. He's too damn fast and strong. Worse than that. He's too damn good. Not only does he have his massive bulk, but he's got serious skills, the kind you can only get from years of experience in real combat. Way beyond a rookie like you.

Wild Dog fakes high, then slams a punch into your gut. An explosion of pain and nausea. Vomit forces its way out of your stomach and through your mouth, splattering on the ground.

Pete steps in to draw attention away, but eats a haymaker to the face himself. Goddamn it, you're just slowing him down! Can't you pull your own weight even in a two-on-one?

You resist the temptation to punch the concrete in frustration, and force yourself back to your feet, wiping puke off your chin as you face your opponent again. Pete spits blood onto the floor. You're losing, you realize. Something has to change, and it has to change now.
>>
>>5428580

Before you can think of anything, the door at the back of the freezing room slams open. Six SWATs move in, shotguns and assault rifles all pointed. "Freeze, motherfucker!" shouts the lieutenant. "Down on your knees! Do it now!"

Well, that's not how you wanted this to end. But it beats getting pulverized.

Wild Dog's fists tighten. For a moment you seriously think he's about to go for it. Then you see him relax. "All right, you got me." He gets down on both knees and puts his hands behind his head. "Go easy on the handcuffs, officers. I got sensitive skin." One of the SWATs hits him in the face with the butt of his shotgun, but it just makes him laugh. His breath fogs up in the cold. He keeps on laughing as another tries to get a pair of handcuffs on him, but his wrists are too big -- eventually somebody who brought a set of extra-large cuffs comes forward and gets them on.

"Don't take your eyes off him," you say, rubbing your bruises. "He can probably snap those if he wants."

"I'll see you again, girl," Wild Dog says to you over his shoulder as he's pushed out of the room. "I'll remember that sweet ass. Bet I'll be comin' for it one day."

You watch him leave, filled with disgust.

It takes some time to go through the rest of the meat packing plant for evidence. Uniformed cops go through the place bagging things up. A dozen thugs are hauled away in patrol cars. An armored transport van is called in for Wild Dog. You give a preliminary report to the captain in charge, leaving out some details about what happened in that freezer.

You find Pete off by himself. He's looking down at something small in his hands, turning it over to see both sides.

You ask, "What is that?"

"This?" A wry smile. He shows it to you. It's a small rectangular piece of paper. "This is what this whole operation was about. The drugs, the money, the arrests -- all just a side bonus. All I really wanted was this little piece of paper, right here."

"It looks like a business card," you say, moving around to take a closer look. A name and phone number are printed in neat letters, no title or company. In the top right is a circle surrounding some kind of Chinese symbol.

"It is a business card," Pete says. "But it's also more than that. It's an invitation."

"An invitation to what?"

He shakes his head. "Sorry, J. This is a private party. It's something I gotta handle on my own."

>All right, if you say so.
>Whatever this is, you're going to need help.
>At least tell me what's going on.
>>
>>5428587
>Whatever this is, you're going to need help.
>>
>>5428587
>Whatever this is, you're going to need help.
>>
>>5428587
>At least tell me what's going on.
>>
>>5428587
>>At least tell me what's going on.
>>
>>5428587
>Is that why you needed to "test yourself"?
>Whatever this is, you're going to need help.
Let's not go the "avenge your mentor" route.
>>
>>5428587
>At least tell me what's going on.

Let's go the "avenge your mentor" route.
>>
>>5428587
>Whatever this is, you're going to need help
>>
>>5428587

"Whatever this is, is you're going to need help," you say. "Okay, I wasn't good enough to square up against Big Ugly back there, but I can still be useful somehow."

"No can do," Pete says. "You know your daddy would come back to haunt me if I let something happen to you. I told him I'd look out for you, and that's what I'm doing. If it were up to me, you'd be off at college or something. But you wanted to join the force, just like me and him, and eventually I gave in. Then you wanted to know the things I know about fighting, and even though I knew it was a bad idea, I gave in again. But not this time. I can't let you in on this one. You're already too close.

You don't know what to say. You lost your father to an accident at a young age -- you barely remember him at this point. Pete, his old partner, is the one who's always been there for you. Now you're scared of losing him as well.

Pete says, "I'm shutting you out before you get a target on your back, Julia. Sorry, but that's how it is. I'm not giving in this time. This is something I gotta do."

"Why you?" you say. "Why does it have to be you?"

"Because somebody's got to," Pete says. "If somebody else were doing it, they'd be doing it. But they're not, or they can't. There's just me. So I'm doing it. That's all there is to it." Seeing the worry in your eyes, he reaches out to ruffle your hair, something he hasn't done in years. "Don't worry about me, J. When have I ever gotten into a scrape and not turned out okay? I can handle this. Everything's going to be fine."
>>
>>5429655


Lyon, France
199X
Now


The lights in the briefing room go out, and the slide projector hums to life. From the lens emits a cone of soft light onto the blank white screen pulled down over the wall. Frederic Dupont, the team director, presses the remote button in his hand, and the projector whirrs and clicks as it loads the first slide.

The image shown is an old photograph of an average-looking Asian man, short dark hair, severe features, wearing a fine suit and sunglasses. He's getting out of the back seat of a car, onto a city sidewalk. Several other men, also wearing suits and sunglasses, are clustered around him facing outwards, a protective formation.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is our only known photograph of Han Yang." Dupont says. "A police surveillance team took it in 1983, in Hong Kong, as part of an operation to stop a gun running ring. The operation turned into a bloodbath, and although it stopped a major shipment, in the end it didn't do much to slow down the syndicate. At least we got this photo out of it. Miss Hastings?"

"Thanks, Fred." Jane Hastings, independant consultant, adjusts her glasses as she looks down at the files in her hand. "We don't know much about Mr. Yang. He became a major player in Hong Kong's underworld sometime in the early 70s, running a group called the Red Dragons. At the time, they were still about on par with the other crime syndicates fighting for dominance over the city. It wasn't until the late 70s that something happened to cause a sudden, massive rise in power and influence. Soon, Yang didn't just control the city, but had links to criminal organizations around the world, forming a true international syndicate. A global kingpin. Drugs, human trafficking, and his specialities, enforcement and assassination."

Dupont says, "We believe that Han Yang was the successor to an international criminal organization of mercenaries and hitmen, one we've been trying to get a handle on for decades. Information is scarce, but we have a name: the 'Circle of Shadows'. A bit dramatic, I think, but perhaps appropriate given their reputation for mystery and lethality. Sources suggest they suffered a leadership crisis in the late 70s, which resulted in Mr. Yang stepping in to take control."

>Why hasn't anybody taken this asshole down?
>Where can I get some shades like that?
>...
>>
>>5429658
>...
Smile: Gone
>>
>>5429658
>Why hasn't anybody taken this asshole down?
>>
>>5429658
>Why hasn't anybody taken this asshole down?
>>
>>5429658
>...
No glibness at such a force
>>
>>5429658
>>...
>>
>>5429658
>>Why hasn't anybody taken this asshole down?
>>
>>5429658

Why hasn't anybody taken this asshole down? you want to ask. But you keep quiet, and soon answer your own question. Same reason these assholes stay alive for so long everywhere else. They pay off the right people -- politicians, police commissioners, newspaper editors -- so nobody can get close to them. They use money and influence to build walls around themselves, walls so tall and strong they start to think they're invincible.

They're not. And it's your job to show them that.

Dupont continues. "Now, in addition to the criminal concerns we've discussed, one of the main ongoing projects of this Circle is a grand martial arts tournament, held every five years. This tournament supposedly has roots in the distant past, long before the Circle was formed, and they're only its current caretakers, one in a long line of succession. Whether there's any truth to these stories, we don't know, but the tournament is real enough, and dates back decades at the least."

Matthew from the data collection team speaks up. "There's not much of a paper trail. But there's something. A newspaper clipping from Hong Kong Daily Press, a diary, a few photos from the 60s. Things like that." The slide projector clicks, and one of those photographs is shown, an early color Polaroid showing a group of three tough-looking bastards at a seaside dock. "On the whole, these guys are tight on information security. But there's enough to go on, at least to confirm it exists, and takes place every five years."

"The tournament is called the Kumite," Dupont says. "Those who know of it say the winner is held to be the greatest martial artist on earth. At least, until the next tournament.

"Now, some of the fighters in this Kumite are contracted members of the Circle of Shadows. Others are invited from top martial arts circles around the world. This seems to serve as both as a recruitment process for membership candidates, and a way of keeping an eye on any possible competition -- and if necessary, squashing them.

"As an example of this last, we think this is the answer to the mystery of the famed disappearance of Daisuke Saito, a renowned karate instructor from Japan, fifteen years ago." The projector clicks and whirrs. A black-and-white newspaper photograph of a plain, honest-looking man in a karate gi, being handed a trophy at an awards ceremony. "Saito was an elite tournament fighter, and known to be a man of upstanding conduct. We assume that he won a spot in the Kumite, then was offered a chance to join the Circle, refused, and was eliminated."

>Sick bastards. That man had a family.
>This all sounds like something out of a movie.
>...
>>
>>5430565
>...
>>
>>5430565
>This all sounds like something out of a movie.
>>
>>5430565
>Something out of a movie chief

at some point, deadpan observation needs to be given.
>>
>>5430565
>>This all sounds like something out of a movie.
>>
>>5430565

From your seat at the back in the dark, you say, "This all sounds like something out of a movie. A secret fighting tournament? An international ring of assassins? If I didn't already know it was real, I'd say you were crazy."

"It does stretch the imagination," Jane says.

Alan Chase, a British agent sitting next to you, finishes lighting a cigarette, and says, "So when's the next tournament coming up?"

"Right now," Dupont says, causing a stir in the room.

"Blimey," Alan says. "We'd best get a move on, then."

Dupont continues, "The qualifying round fights have been happening over the past few weeks, and will probably resolve by the end of the month. There's a tradition where the opening round takes place anywhere in the world, wherever the fighters happen to meet up, then and there. The following rounds seem to happen in a hidden location. We've been unable to nail it down, but our best guess is an island somewhere in the western Pacific.

"Now, onto information about the contenders we've identified. Our surveillance teams have monitored five opening round qualifiers, and we have the preliminary results of background checks on all of the victors so far."
>>
>>5431784

The slide projector shuffles again. The image now shows a young, muscular American with messy blond hair sticking out from under a red ballcap. He's holding a heavy bag over one shoulder, striding down the sidewalk on a city street.

"This is Jack Carter, drifter and underground prize fighter. Jack here the biological son of a man called Jason Carter, the previous leader of the Circle of Shadows. His death in that tower fire in the late 70s would have been the cause of the leadership struggle I mentioned. Now, Jack here leads a modest life on the road. Raised and trained by Max Hunter, a former Kumite contestant himself, but doesn't seem to have any other ties to his father or the Circle. We've been keeping an eye on him all the same. Now he's been invited to the tournament."

Jane says, "They have to know who he is, right? Why invite him? Seems like it's asking for trouble, bringing the son of the previous boss in."

Matthew says, "Could be that's the point. Stir up the rat's nest, see who in his own organization proves their loyalty and who turns traitor given the chance."

"We can only speculate on Mr. Yang's motives as to who receives an invitation," Dupont says. "But if you like that, you're going to love this." The projector clicks and whirrs. Two photographs, side by side: a young, serious-looking Japanese man in a karate gi; and a teemage girl with a family resemblance, wearing a highschool uniform. "The son and daughter of Daisuke Saito, Ryoma and Ayame, both heirs to his style. You can see some of our contestants have deep ties to the legacy of the Kumite. Again, we can only speculate, but I think we should assume this is some kind of trap to eliminate future problems."

"Perhaps he respects them as martial competitors," Alan says with a thin smile. "If you believe that one, I've a bridge to sell you in London."
>>
>>5431787

The next slide shows a tall, athletic mestizo woman with long dark hair and an apron tied around her waist, serving a tray of bowls in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. She has a lively expression, laughing with the customers.

"Mariana Rosa. Practioner of a rising martial art known as 'jiu jitsu,' a Brazilian style derived from Japanese judo. Blacklisted from the local tournament scene due to multiple rules violations, including attacking an opponent before the starting bell. Currently wanted by Rio police in relation to a massive dust-up at a drug den in the favelas, but she's either gone to ground or fled the city."

Alan has sat up and taken an interest. "Seems like quite a lady. Hope I'll get a chance to introduce myself."

Another pair of photographs, side by side. On the left, a young Asian man with a fashionable haircut and flashy suit, smoking a cigarette outside a nightclub. On the right, a surveillance picture of a man walking between rows of containers in a shipping yard. It's a bad photograph, but you can see the similarities in build and hair.

"Tao and Shan Yang. Han's two sons. Tao is the elder, heir to the empire, but he's a bit of a wildcard. Built up a real reputation in Hong Kong's nightclub scene the past few years. On the other side, Shan was disowned and thrown out as a teenager. Lost his hand somewhere along the way. Disappeared for a while, but he's resurfaced working with the Miami gangs that used to work for Jason Carter. This fight just took place recently in Hong Kong, with Shan emerging the victor."

Jane says, "And their father arranged this? Pitting your own sons against each other in a death tournament, that's some kind of special evil."

"A test, perhaps," Alan says. "The elder can shape up and get with the program, or the younger can redeem himself and return from exile."

"That concludes the matches that have taken place already," Duponts says. "These are the five contenders we know to have advanced to the main tournament."

You think over the fighters, deciding which one of them has caught your interest.

>Carter's kind of cute, not gonna lie.
>What's a highschool girl like Ayame doing in a tournament for killers?
>Does Ryoma know what happened to his father?
>What was that about a favela drug den?
>The Yangs don't sound like a happy family.
>>
>>5431790
>What's a highschool girl like Ayame doing in a tournament for killers?
>>
>>5431790
>What was that about a favela drug den?
I'm sorry. Tall, athletic dark-skinned women are my fetish. I'm sorry.
>>
>>5431790
>Does Ryoma know what happened to his father?
>>
>>5431790
>Carters kind of cute, not gonna lie.

The prodigy of "World of warriors, lets battle" is my favorite.
Ryoma is second, Mariana is a further back third, Ayame fourth and Tao is dead last. Not least because he lost.
>>
>>5431790
>>Carter's kind of cute, not gonna lie.
>>
>>5431790
>What was that about a favela drug den?
Brazilian criminal waifu
>>
>>5431790
>The Yangs don't sound like a happy family.
>>
>>5431790
>>Carter's kind of cute, not gonna lie.
>>
>>5431790
>>The Yangs don't sound like a happy family.
>>
>>5431790
>Does Ryoma know what happened to his father?
>>
>>5431790
>Carter's kind of cute, not gonna lie.
>>
>>5431790
>>Carter's kind of cute, not gonna lie.
This sounds silly, but what is the ethnicity of our girl Julia?
>>
>>5431790

"Carter's kinda cute, not gonna lie," you muse out loud.

Despite the darkness, you can sense Alan smirking. "Two young, blonde, muscular Americans? A match made in heaven, or perhaps in Hollywood. Don't invite me to the wedding, I can't stand them, honestly."

"She's right, though," Jane says. "He's a handsome devil. I imagine he has no trouble finding a place to stay the weekend when he needs to. Might be a lot of broken hearts on the road out there."

It's not just his looks that you're thinking about, though. The son of a crime lord, raised by a prize fighter, now a drifter. It's quite a story. You wonder what his plans are for the tournament ... and what the Circle's plans are for him. If he is in danger, you're not sure if you'll be in a position to help. Could be you'll get the chance. But you'll also have your mission. You can't afford to get distracted. If it comes down a choice between the two of them, you know what you'll have to do.

You take something out of your pocket. A small rectangle of stiff paper, which you flip over in your fingers. In the dark, nobody else can tell what it is.

It's a business card. Just like the one Pete had, five years ago. Name and phone number. Top right, a circle drawn around a chinese character, the one you now know stands for 'shadows'.

However, unlike Pete's, which he took from Wild Dog back then, this invitation was intended for its holder.

You were invited to the very tournament you've been investigating all these years.

This could be a golden opportunity ... or it could be a trap.

When you received this card, you:

>Let the director and the team know. You wanted everyone on board with this.
>Told one person you trust. It would be hard going it alone.
>Kept it to yourself. This is something you have to handle.
>>
>>5434320
>Told one person you trust. It would be hard going it alone.
>>
>>5434320
>>Told one person you trust. It would be hard going it alone.
>>
>>5434320
>Let the director and the team know. You wanted everyone on board with this.
Go against the tropes.
>>
>>5434320
>Let the director and the team know. You wanted everyone on board with this.
>>
>>5434320
>Let everyone know
this chance is once in a life time.
>>
>>5434320
>>Kept it to yourself. This is something you have to handle.
>>
>>5434320
>>Let the director and the team know. You wanted everyone on board with this.
>>
>>5434320
>Let the director and the team know. You wanted everyone on board with this.
Implying guns will do anything.
>>
>>5434320
>Let the director and the team know. You wanted everyone on board with this.
>>
>>5434320
>Let the director and the team know. You wanted everyone on board with this.
>>
>>5434320

When you received the invitation, at first, you thought about going solo on this. For you, taking down the Circle isn't just a job. It's personal. It's up to you to do whatever it takes to bring these guys down, even if that means stepping outside the bounds of the law.

But you came around to the idea of bringing the team in. Your best chance of getting something done was to use the full resources at your disposal. After all, this was the point of leaving the NYPD to join Interpol: to have the power and resources to go after these scumbags.

Dupont might be a bureaucrat, but you're pretty sure he's as on your side as he can be. Jane and the consultants are solid. Alan and the other agents, they're a strange bunch, but you've put your life in their hands before, and come out the other side. You have reason to trust everyone here.

There's always the chance of a turncoat. People are human. Everyone has some kind of leverage that can be used against them. But you judged that you had a better chance of success bringing the team in on this unexpected opportunity.
>>
>>5437934

Dupont says, "Now, although we had plans in motion to observe the upcoming tournament, we've had a bit of a monkey wrench thrown into the works. Either an opportunity, or a warning, depending on how you look at it." He indicates you, in the back. You raise your hand in acknowledgement. "Miss Fields here has received an invitation to the tournament, as one of the fighters. Once again, Mr. Yang's choice of who to invite to his tournament are a mystery. Either her martial skills have caught the eye of the Circle -- not unreasonable, considering Julia's prowess, which I believe we're all aware of -- or, the option we should prepare for, which is that this is a trap, or a warning."

"Against Julia, or all of us?" asks Jane. "Do they know about the task force?"

"We have to assume that Interpol has a leak," Dupont says. "Anyone outside of this room, right now, is considered a security risk."

"So the old plan is out, then," Alan says. "What's the new plan? Send Julia in there and hope for the best?"

"Something like that," Dupont says. "We're working on ways to place team members into supporting positions. For example, Mr. Chase, it seems that certain elite VIPs are afforded entrance as spectators, so we're looking into passing you off as one. It's tough to plan alternate methods of entry, considering we don't know the location of the main tournament. But we have contigencies."

He looks at you. "How are you feeling about all this, Miss Fields?"

>Honestly? I'm excited. I want to see how tough the competition is.
>I want to take these bastards down.
>Just focused on the job, sir.
>>
>>5437935
>I want to take these bastards down.
Given we were thinking about just that recently, this feels the most honest.
>>
>>5437935
>>Honestly? I'm excited. I want to see how tough the competition is.
>>
>>5437935
>I want to take these bastards down.
>>
>>5437935
>I want to take them down.
>>
>>5437935
>I want to take these bastards down.
>>
>>5437935
>>I want to take these bastards down
>>
>>5437935

"I just want to take these bastards down," you say in a grim voice. "Whatever it takes."

"Understandable, given your past connections," Dupont says. "Just remember not to let your personal feelings interfere with your work. We've got a job to do, and a lot of people counting on us. If possible, we want to dismantle this entire organization someday. Let's not blow our shot.

"That leads us to the last fighter we have confirmed for participation ... Julia's opponent." The slide projector clicks again. "He's quite a character, as you can see."

You wouldn't recognize him from the setting, a jungle of dense, twisting trees. Or the clothes, light military khakis. But that bald head, huge shoulders, and ugly mug are unmistakeable. And of course, there's the teeth. He's smiling, standing over the dead body of a jaguar, holding a bloody knife.

"This is 'Wild Dog', real name unknown. Gone by a variety of aliases through the years, this one seems to have stuck. Inner city boy, repeated arrests for violence, more offenses at the juvenile detention centers. Caught the attention of the U.S. army. A few years later, he's a Green Beret. CIA, Special Operations Group, working off the grid in South America. This photo is him in Nicaragua, helping run drugs for the Contras. Implicated in several atrocities in the region. He went AWOL some time ago to join the private sector, and has been working as a mercenary in Africa ever since. Angola, Sierra Leone, anywhere there's money to be made."

You look at the photograph. It looks back at you. An unfortunate memory of the past, of what started you down this road. Now you're here.

The team splits into smaller groups to discuss the proposed avenues of infiltration, like the idea of setting up Alan as a VIP. Ironically, despite your starring role in this mission, there isn't much for you to do right now. Your part in this is straightforward.

Fight. Win. Secure your spot in the main tournament.

And then -- we'll see.

To deal with some of this tension, you head to your preferred activity for both staying in top combat readiness and letting off steam.

>Shooting range (improve gun handling and accuracy)
>Gym (improve kickboxing skills)
>Run along the riverside (improve stamina)
>>
>>5438774
>Run along the riverside (improve stamina)
>>
>>5438774
>Gym (improve kickboxing skills)
>>
>>5438774
>Run along the river

Stamina will win fights.
>>
>>5438774
>>Run along the riverside (improve stamina)
>>
>>5438774
>>Gym (improve kickboxing skills)
>>
>>5438774
>Run along the riverside (improve stamina)
>>
>>5438774
>Run along the riverside (improve stamina)
>>
>>5438774

Though Interpol HQ has a gym, you prefer to get out into the city. The gently curving stone walkways along the banks of the Rhone river make for ideal jogging paths, with beautiful scenery. You pass by trees, bridges, the occasional small boat moored at riverside, and small groups of city folk out enjoying the fine early evening of summer. You enjoy the fine exultation of your body moving efficiently, every muscle and fiber fine-tuned and working in harmony, breath flowing effortlessly.

You push yourself pretty hard on these runs. Stamina wins over speed in the end, and it's important that you be able to outlast anything you get put up against. Big, strong fighters might be scary and powerful, and swift, agile martial artists might be evasive and deadly, but they both expend a lot of energy doing so, and often gas out early. An opponent who's exhausted is far easier to handle, and you want to always be in position to take advantage of that.

That's all true, but the other reason you like to run is that it helps you think. There's a clarity to it. The effort and exertion pushes all the clutter and worry out of your mind, and you can focus on what's in front of you.

After a good long burn, you finally pull up in exhaustion, wiping sweat from your forehead. The sun has started to sink below the horizon, highlighting the buildings of the city in tall shadows. You perform a few quick stretches to relieve some tension, then go to stand at the riverbank, where you look out at the sunlight glowing on the rippling surface of the river.

Unable to run any longer, thoughts and memories have come crowding back in. Unwilling, you recall the events that set you on this road.

It all started with that warehouse raid, where Pete found the business card. And then ...
>>
>>5440045


New York City, USA
198X
5 years ago


The raid on the plant was a success. But you're pissed off. Pete is stonewalling you, and the main investigation is more concerned with the drugs, guns, and processing the perps. You lack insight into the real situation here, and you know it, and you don't have anyone to turn to.

Frustrated at being left in the dark, you resolve to act on your own. So you:

>Follow Pete to a clandestine meeting one night
>Haul Wild Dog to the interrogation cells
>Hit up your own contacts in the city's criminal underworld
>>
>>5440047
>Hit up your own contacts in the city's criminal underworld
>>
>>5440047
>>Follow Pete to a clandestine meeting one night
>>
>>5440047
>Hit up your own contacts in the city's criminal underworld
>>
>>5440047
>Hit up your own contacts in the city's criminal underworld
>>
>>5440047
>Hit your own contacts

Gotta continue to be a loose cannon.
>>
>>5440047
>Haul Wild Dog to the interrogation cells
Practically the worst option, but I want to build up our fight.
>>
>>5440047
>>Hit up your own contacts in the city's criminal underworld
>>
>>5440047

You get in touch with your more reliable contacts in the city's underworld, hoping that some clue will lead you onward.

In a smoky bar, over a game of 8-ball, you ask what your opponent, a sometime-dealer, has heard about the people behind the meatpacking plant that got raided. He doesn't know anything specific, only that a lot of money and product came in and out of there. "Big player, don't got time for the likes of us," he says, before pocketing a stripe.

In a gym on the outskirts of town, a place where some powerful but less-than-savory training partners gather, an experienced fighter has recently discussed rumors with Pete about the underworld of martial arts. "They say the biggest tournament of all, it's a death tournament. Gotta put your life on the line to be the best."

The rest of your searching turns up nothing. The information from your drug contact seemed to confirm what you already suspected, but not much else, about the people behind this. They're powerful. Connecting that to the veteran fighter who was talking with Pete about the underworld -- could some kind of martial arts organization be behind this? It seems crazy to think about, but you also would have thought it was crazy to shoot energy out of your hands, before Pete showed you what he could do.

Faced with a dead end in your investigation, you decide to work out some frustration. The best place to do that is the secret gym that you and Pete use, the place you work on techniques that aren't meant to be shown off. It's in an old, worn-out building, and quite frankly, it sucks. But it's secluded and soundproof, and has plenty of space for punching bags, a throw mat, and everything else you need.

You set right to work on the heaviest punching bag. You feel a sense of inadequate strength after getting overpowered by that son of a bitch, and want to set to work on improving it right away.

You didn't get a chance to put your arts into play, either. It's still something you're inexperienced in using, as Pete insisted you needed the right level of physical training first. But if you're going to be facing up against opponents of this caliber in the future, you're going to need the kind of edge that chi arts can give you.

The form that your chi takes is:

>Force, blunt, brutal
>Ice, steadfast, sharp
>Water, adaptive, relentless
>>
>>5442782
>Force, blunt, brutal
Sounds fun.
>>
>>5442782
>Water, adaptive, relentless
To go with our stamina training
>>
>>5442782
>Ice, steadfast, sharp
>>
>>5442782
>Water

Flow like water, swift as the wind
>>
>>5442782
>Water, adaptive, relentless
>>
>>5442782
>>Ice, steadfast, sharp
>>
>>5442782
>>Water, adaptive, relentless
>>
>>5442782
>Ice, steadfast, sharp
>>
>>5442782
>>Force, blunt, brutal
>>
>>5442782

Water is fluid and graceful, easily flowing from offense to defense and back again. It can cleanse and calm, or it can storm and swell. It can act with flexibility and grace, or it can gather its strength and smash things apart in a raging torrent.

Right now you're in a raging torrent sort of mood.

Your frustration at being left in the dark, at your own inadequacy, builds a rising anger that swells and churns, until it bursts through. A strike creates a crashing wave that snaps the heavy punching bag off the chain. It flies several feet across the room, landing on its side with a thud.

Pausing to cool your anger, letting it flow away, you take a drink from your bottle. Your gaze is drawn towards the door.

Surely Pete will show up here, saying he's sorry he kept you out. That he understands you're ready to tready a dangerous road, and that he's willing to accept your help taking down this mysterious syndicate. That there's nobody he would rather have at his side in dire straits than you.

Any moment now.
>>
>>5445428


Lyon, France
199X
Now
He didn't come, of course. Later, you tried again to get him to change his mind, but there was an argument. You lost your cool. Things got heated. You saw him off at the airport when he left for Asia, but it was awkward, and you were left thinking about how you'd patch things up when you saw him again.

You never did.

There was no funeral. Body was ever found. But you never heard from him again.

Two more years before Peter Hayes is legally declared dead by the state. But you know in your heart he's gone. He got too close to the Circle, and paid for it with his life.

Criminals will be punished. One life to save ten.

Over the next week, the hastily revised mission takes shape. Your fellow agents search for other opportunities to infiltrate the tournament. The consultants pull in data about fighting styles, histories, and projections. Everybody works around the clock, knowing this will be their best shot.

The tracking and surveillance team has identified that Wild Dog is currently working as a security contractor for a mining corporation, buying up resource deals on the cheap from guerillas and dictators in Africa. However, he currently has plans to travel to Monte Carlo, probably to attend the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix race coming up. And of course, you could always wait for him to track you down on his own, something you're sure he's capable of.

Each approach has pros and cons. Africa, he's more familiar with the terrain, but you could find a secluded spot, without worrying about civilians being endangered. Monaco, there's the opportunities and dangers of a crowded urban environment. Here in France, it's home ground, but you risk ceding the initiative and getting ambushed.

You have the intelligence advantage, for the moment. You can set the scene for your unpleasant reunion.

>Savannah, Congo
>Streets, Monaco
>Riverside, Lyon
>>
>>5445434
>Streets, Monaco
They're only Italians.
>>
>>5445434
>Streets, Monaco
>>
>>5445434
>Streets, Monaco
>>
>>5445434
>>Streets, Monaco
>>
>>5445434
>Riverside, Lyon
>>
>>5445434
>Streets, Monaco
>>
>>5445434
>>Riverside, Lyon
>>
>>5445434
>>Streets, Monaco
>>
>>5445434
>Riverside, Lyon
>>
>>5445434


Monte Carlo, Monaco
Day of the Race


The sound of the waves of the Mediterranean splashing against the cliffs comes through the open window of your luxurious hotel room. Yesterday the sounds of powerful engines tore up the air for hours during the qualifying rounds, and they'll do so again today, during the main race. But right now, it's quiet except for the waves.

You stand at the window looking out at a beautiful city, a place between the cliffs and the sea, between history and the modern world; you could almost believe, for a moment, you were just here to enjoy a vacation. Spend the day on the beach, hit the casino in the evening, get trashed at night. Do it all over again the next day. Sounds like a grand time.

But that will all have to happen some other time, in some other life, after all this is over. Right now, you've got a job to do.

The team threw together what plans they could think of, took what precautions they had time for. Spotters will be in position on rooftops by now, and a few of your fellow field agents, like Alan, will be stationed at strategic points through the area.

However, their ability to influence events will be limited. No sneak attacks or team-ups. The Circle's spy network will be here too. They're already out there, somewhere, watching, waiting to observe the engagement. One of the strange rules the organization seems to take seriously is the one against outside interference -- despite the unusual venues, and no prohibitions on sneak attacks, the fights are still strictly one-on-one.

The team will observe, and try to be in position to step in if you lose, stop things from getting too bad. But your best shot at furthering the investigation is to win. That part is all up to you.

While waiting for word of your opponent's whereabouts to come in, you spend the morning in preparation, getting yourself ready for what's to come.

>Customize your gun for close quarter combat.
>Stretch and do a few quick exercises, making sure you're warmed up.
>Meditate and drink an herbal tea said to improve chi circulation.
>Go over a map of the city, memorizing potentially useful routes and locations.
>>
>>5456052
>Customize your gun for close quarter combat.
I love gunfighters in fighting games.
>>
>>5456052
>>Stretch and do a few quick exercises, making sure you're warmed up.
>>
>>5456052
>Meditate and drink herbal tea

Chi seems like the deciding factor in most fights.
>>
>>5456052
>Customize your gun for close quarter combat.
We will not be denied GUN user
>>
>>5456052
>Stretch and do a few quick exercises, making sure you're warmed up.
I'd vote gun, but it feels like it's missing synergy with us not having voted for the shooting range earlier. Gunchads, persuade me otherwise.
>>
>>5456335
Marksmanship isn't necessary in close combat anyway.
>>
>>5456052
>Customize your gun for close quarter combat.
>>
>>5456052
>Meditate and drink an herbal tea said to improve chi circulation.
>>
>>5456052
>>Customize your gun for close quarter combat.
>>
>>5456052

You had to get a new gun recently -- lost the old one off the side of a ship when you took a punch to the face, near the end of that little affair up in the Arctic. You go over every part of it, making sure it's customized just the way you want it. Certain features for marksmanship or safety get in the way when you're fighting at close quarters like you do. You file off the front sight to avoid snags; raise the trigger guard to adjust the recoil angle; and polish the slide to prevent jams. You point the empty gun at the window and pull the trigger. Click. Feels just right.

A fighter who has awakened their internal energy has a durability beyond normal limits. In a battle against another awakened fighter, this advantage is offset by the increased power of the other's offense. Weapons are just lumps of metal and wood, they don't channel energy like the body does, so you can survive hits that would kill a regular person. But it still hurts like hell. Your gun won't kill Wild Dog, not while he's in fighting mode and his energy is up. But it will fuck him up. Enough to give you an advantage when it counts.

The radio handset on the table crackles. "This is Finch," you hear Alan's voice saying. "Target spotted and on the move."

"This is Crane, acknowledged," Dupont says. "Starling, are you there?"

You put the gun on the table and pick up the radio. "I'm here. Where's he at?"

"Upper streets," Alan says. "It's a crowd, but he rather stands out."

"Don't do anything stupid," you say, picking up the gun again. "I'm on my way."

As you move through the city, the air hums with anticipation. The race is about to begin. Engines roar, echoing between the old stone buildings, as the cars are tested for final checks and moved into position. Everything is on edge, waiting for the moment that will unleash all that coiled power into noise and fury.

You're nearing the area when Alan radios in again. "Lost sight of him. He's a tricky devil, that one."

"Be careful, Finch," you say. "This guy is a pro, but he's also a sadist. He might go out of his way to hurt someone tailing him. Watch your six."

You watch yours, is what you expect Alan to say in response. You can hear his sardonic tone saying it now. Except he doesn't.

"Finch?" Dupont asks. "Status report. Come in, Finch."

Nothing but dead air.
>>
>>5458320

A foreboding shadow under an archway draws you to an alley. That's where you find him, lying on the ground at an odd angle. You kneel down to check. The blood is still fresh, but it's already too late. Alan's gone.

"I knew I smelled the law on my tail. Didn't think it would be you, though." Wild Dog steps out from around the corner. He's a little older than you saw him last, five years ago, but if anything he's grown in size and immensity. He has a few new tattoos, and a noticeable new scar across his face. "Long way to come for a New York City cop."

"I'm not just a cop anymore," you say, standing up and squaring to face him. As much as you hate it, you feel a tremor of fear. Last time you faced him, it was two on one, and you still lost. Can you really do this? You shake off those thoughts. Start thinking like that, and it'll come true. You have to believe you can do this. You have to.

"Yeah, I heard you upgraded. Interpol, right? Let me guess, you got all bent out of shape over that old timer you got your ass beat with last time. Mothafucka who stole my ticket to the tournament. You probably don't even know what happened to him. That why you joined Interpol? Trying to track down the ones who done it? I bet it's been burning a hole in your mind these last five years, not knowing what went down." He grins. There's the teeth again, the golden FUCK YOU. Some things don't change.

>What happened to Pete Hayes?
>You know why we're here. Get yourself ready.
>*Shoot him*
>>
>>5458321
>You know why we're here. Get yourself ready.
He probably expects us to shoot him, but doesn't expect us to shoot him after we take a stance.
>>
>>5458321
>You know why we're here, get ready.
>I also know you won't tell me shit unless I beat it out of you.
>>
>>5458321
>You know why we're here. Get yourself ready
>>
>>5458321
>*Shoot him*
>>
>>5458321
>>You know why we're here. Get yourself ready.
>>
>>5458321
>>You know why we're here. Get yourself ready.
>>
>>5458321
>You know why we're here. Get yourself ready.
>>
>>5458321
>*Shoot him*
>>
>>5458321
>You know why we're here. Get yourself ready.
Save the gun for a surprise hit.
>>
>>5458321

"You know why we're here," you say. You've been fearing and anticipating this day for years, the day when you'd have to fight this man again. Now that it's finally here, you hardly care. He doesn't matter. It's what's behind him that counts. You feel yourself entering a zone of total focus as you take your fighting stance. "Get yourself ready."

Wild Dog chuckles. "Look at you, all serious-like. You gotta learn to loosen up, girl. Have a little fun. People like you and me, we're different. What we know, what we can do. We don't have to play by the little people's rules. We can do want we want. Why you gotta run around playing at lawman?"

"Because of people like you," is what you say. "Criminals have to be punished, and someone has to do it. It's me."

The grin. FUCK YOU is all the answer he needs to that.

Unexpectedly, like a boa constrictor striking, he snaps into motion. He crosses the distance in the blink of an eye, and a massive arm rockets a heavy fist towards you.

Fortunately, you had a feeling he'd attack first, and you're ready to go on the defensive. You allow your instincts from years of training to take over, stepping away and leaning back. The punch whistles through the spot your head occupied a moment ago. The second strike, a kick, you stop with a pre-emptive kick of your own, jamming the attack before it starts; the third you duck as you bring your leg back, then fire it out again, slamming a side kick into his stomach.

You hop backwards out of range, avoiding his swift grab at your outstreched leg. He uses his own off-balance momentum to lunge forward in a grab attempt, both huge arms reaching out on either side, but you move in this time and drive your foot up at a sharp-angled front heel kick, smashing your heel upwards into his jaw. That stuns him for a moment, enough for you to take a few steps back and reset your stance.

That kick would have knocked out most people, or broken their jaw, or both. Wild Dog seems unfazed, rubbing at his chin. "Okay, you been practicin', I got it. You get shook when you did a round with me back then, huh? Five years ago, huh. I bet I been on your mind since then. You been steppin' up yo' game so you can hang when you found me again. Well, you found my ass. Think you got it what it takes now? Face your old fear 'n shit?"

"You're nothing to me," you say. "You're just--"

>A bad memory.
>A stepping stone.
>Round one.

And then you:

>Unload your own offense.
>Use the environment for an advantage.
>Observe him for openings.
>>
>>5462982
>A stepping stone.
>Unload your own offense.
>>
>>5462982
>A stepping stone

>Unload your own offense.
Neutral special. Gun.
>>
>>5462982
>Round one.
>Use the environment for an advantage.
He is provoking us to go on the offense, so any openings he presents might be fake ones.
>>
>>5462982
>A bad memory
>Unload your own offense.
>>
>>5462982
>A bad memory.
>Use the environment for an advantage.
>>
>>5462982
>A bad memory.
>Use the environment for an advantage.
We picked a city for the possible environmental advantages, right?
>>
>>5462982
>A stepping stone
>Unload your own offense.
>>
>>5462982
>Round one.
>Use the environment for an advantage.
>>
>>5462982

"--a bad memory." And with that, you go on the attack. Your retaliatory strikes have given you a small advantage, which you intend to make full use of.

First, you draw your gun. The sound of the gunshots rings through the alley as you fire, but it's drowned out before it gets far by the deep noise of the racecars on their pre-race circuits. Wild Dog raises his forearms in a boxer's block -- with his aura slowing the bullets, and his arms infused with chi, the bullets can't penetrate or wound, but you still hear him grunt at the impact. Not much damage, but it locks him down on the defensive as you step forward.

When you get up close, a fake punch draws his defense away long enough for you to shove the gun in his stomach and fire again a few more times. Those ones hurt, point-blank to the gut. You slam him in the face with your pistol -- you hear the crunch of bone -- then hit him with a double spin kick, one quick attack to knock him off balance, a second powerful one to follow through. A third jumping spin kick is infused with energy, an arc of water giving extra impact to the blow.

"Oh, shit." Wild Dog touches his upper lip, where blood is flowing from his nose. He snorts a big glob of blood and mucus onto the concrete. Then he looks at you and grins, blood mingling with the gold. "It is on now, mothafucka."

The crowd goes up with a cheer as the starting flag is waved. Engines roar to life. The race begins, a battle of steel and rubber and gasoline.

Most of the spectators surrounding the race circuit are focused on the track and the spectacle unfolding before them. Only a handful nearby notice the muffled sound of gunshots coming from the second-story window of a townhouse, overlooking them. They turn to look upwards, but the noise couldn't have prepared them for what comes next. That's you, crashing out that same window, falling two floors, and landing in a heap of glass on the ground.

Wild Dog follows you out, landing lightly on his feet. The crowd is trying to scatter, but with everyone packed in like this they're having a hard time getting away. Your opponent isn't about to stop politely for them to leave. So that means you can't either. You push yourself up to your feet, trying to shake off the impact and get yourself ready. Crowds of people on either side. And, you realize as a ton of metal screams past, the racetrack is behind you. Nowhere to go.

>Stand and fight
>Focus on protecting the civilians
>Spot an opportunity
>>
>>5463823
>Spot an opportunity
Not sure if we can afford to take our attention off Wild Dog to protect the civilians. Our whole deal is punishing the guilty anyway, not protecting the innocent.
>>
>>5463823
>Spot an opportunity

I'm sure a racecar is fine if we judo throw him onto the track and it hits him.
>>
>>5463823
>Spot an opportunity
>>
>>5463823
>Focus on protecting the civilians
>>
>>5463823
>>Spot an opportunity
>>
>>5463823
>>Stand and fight
>>
>>5463823
>Spot an oppertunity.
>>
>>5463823
>Focus on protecting the civilians
>>
>>5463823
>>Focus on protecting the civilians
>>
>>5463823
>>5463828
>Spot an opportunity
>>
>>5463823
>>5463828
>Spot an opportunity
Environmental hazards - I dig it.
>>
>>5465238
apologies for that 2x-post
>>
>>5463823
>>Spot an opportunity
>>
The fight undergoes a stage transition:
>>5470281



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