Theo Arnolds lounged in a restaurant, waiting for his order to be brought to him. He'd just finished a job, so he felt entitled to splurge a little. He ignored the stares of the other patrons; his combat gear didn't mesh with the posh, formal atmosphere of the place. But, given that he was able to pay the 2361 plaht for his meal in cash, the staff declined to throw him out. A waiter arrived and set a bowl down, and Theo grabbed the fork and knife. He had ordered Inyb Unadon; a dish prepared in Terran style using meat from a Tokan eel.

"An interesting choice," a scaly voice rasped, sitting down across from him. "As I recall, Inyb is very rare and very dangerous. Rare since it's as like to eat a hunter as it is to be caught, and dangerous since you need to be very careful to get the radioactivity off. Looks like my jobs aren't dangerous enough for you."

"Being about to die makes life more exciting, right?" Theo says, looking up at his most frequent employer, R'thm Bassam. "I'm guessing you have a way for me to recoup my little spending spree?"

"Exactly. There's this Yakuza group on Earth. Ryū Hasu. Name has something to do with a dragon, the pretentious fucks. Getting a little too ambitious."

"So what, we hit a couple of them?"

"No. You wipe them out completely." Theo looks up in surprise from his food, eel hanging off his fork. "Their oyabun - Moto Akio - and their wakagashira - Yoshirō Katashi - are far too intelligent for their own good. If left alone, they'll rival my own organization. I need to set an example."

Theo chews and swallows, turning the offer over in his mind as he does so. "Well... we'd need to find a way to gather them all in one place," Theo says, "Until we figure that out..."

"There's a reason I'm contacting you now. A shateigashira was killed in a shootout with the NGLA. I'm told my former protegee was the one who delivered the killing blow. At any rate, the entire group is heading back to their compound on Earth for the funeral. Two days' time. I'll pay triple your usual rate."

"Quadruple. Killing an entire Yakuza with just us will cost a lot."

R'thm makes a show of thinking it over, and then nods. "Quadruple it is. I'll see you when the job's done."

He gets up and leaves Theo to his meal. The mercenary wolfs it down, and walks outside after paying the bill. He then makes a call on his comm. "Hey Old Man," he says, "Rhythm Bass just gave us a new job. Everyone's to meet aboard The Raven ASAP. Will explain the details once there."

"Got it, Tee," Ricao Orsii, his friend and pilot, answers. "Alex, time for work!" Ricao says, his voice carrying through the comm. Theo shuts it off and makes his way to his hangar, dodging pickpockets and panhandlers. As Ricao had said, it's time for work.

"Alright lady and gents, listen up!"

The crew of The Raven straigtened up as Theo returned from his dinner. As their captain huddles with the crew in their locker room, Ricao enters quietly in the back. His apprentice, Alessandra, quickly goes to his side.

"What the job this time, Ricky?" She questions, absentmindedly fiddling with one of her new "experiements". The Altaic took a caution step away from her before answering. "Tee'll tell you."

"We just got ourselves a big boy job. A bunch of human pricks like your's truly-" This got a chuckle out of most of the crew, with Rayden frowning in disapproval. "-are starting to get a little too smart. Good 'ol Rhythm Bass wants them taken out."

Claudius raised his hand. "How many men?"

"A metric fuck ton, which is why we're leaving for Earth immediately. Old Man, your contacts in Japan willing to provide some intel on the place?"

Ricao started to walk to the cockpit. "Yeah- I'll call them on our way."

"Good, you've already been briefed. I want either a schematic of the building or the number of men that'll be present; hopefully both. Get us prepared for take-off. Brobot, go with 'im."

The Altaic nodded, and left. Before Theo could continue, Rayden interrupted. "So, you're telling us we're going to take out an entire criminal organization?"

Theo chuckled. "That's the skinny of it, yeah."

Alessandra quickly cut off Rayden. "There's only six of us, in case you forgot."

"I noticed, Dr. Frankenstein. That's why we'll be doing some actual recon, rather than the more traditional and fun method of blowing shit up. Point is this; we're getting quadruple the amount we'd normally get for a job like this. You in?"

An assortment of "yes sirs" echoed in the small room, ranging from half-hearted exasperation to sarcastic excitement. Theo laughed and then walked to his locker, where his rifle awaited inspection.

"Good, you didn't have a much of a choice anyway."

The mechanical clank of the sensory deprivation shutters opening marked The Raven’s exit from Slip-Space into normal space. As he always did, Theo shuddered at the thought of what would happen if the countermeasures disengaged even a second too early.

"And we're in geosynchronous orbit above the Japanese Archipelago, Tee," Rayden says, "Just have to wait for the... ah, there it is." Rayden and Theo look at the monitor in front of them, as a synthetic face appears.

"Greetings, Spacer," it says, "This is model number R-34-LL-0C. Your ship is not scheduled for arrival today. Are you in the right system?"

"We are. Requesting landing on the Japanese Archipelago. Honshu, if possible."

"Our Honshu spaceport is currently full. Please hold for a half-hour while we erect a mobile hangar."

"Got it. Call us when you're done."

The screen cuts off, and the crew gathers near the map table, which is currently projecting the island of Honshu. Theo taps a location on the touchscreen, and the map zooms in to show a large dome, surrounded by a city.

"This is their compound," he says, "Only one entrance from the outside, but there are probably boltholes and escape routes not on the blueprints. Either way, our first goal is to cut the generators. With no decontamination procedures, no escape routes are available."

"Well," Alessandra says, "What if we delivered a payload from orbit? I think we still have a couple of those tungsten rods from that job on Drothe."

"No, Dr. Frankenstein. Too flashy; we'd cause too much collateral damage. This job might set us an inch away from increased NGLA scrutiny."

"Then how are we going to get in?" Ricao asked, "The Terran authorities know we're in orbit and where, so using breaching capsules isn't an option."

"I'm getting to that," Theo says, with a slight hint of exasperation, "So all of you let me finish."

"Anyway, the Old Man's contact also got us a list of some of the poor well-wishers' that'll be at the funeral tomorrow. Most of 'em are higher ups and surrounded by guards, but we got one who we should get to know."

Theo passed around the profile of one Hayato Norio, a Japanese male in his early thirties, with clear grey eyes and a clean-cut mustache.

"This is Hayato Norio, a Kyodai with the Ryu Hasu. He's a gunrunner for his main job, but tomorrow he'll be part of the security team ensuring the funeral goes according to plan. He'll be at the Hidden Lotus this afternoon, a nightclub that will have its grand reopening after the funeral."

Claudius was the first to piece it all together. "Let me guess; we're gonna snatch this Norio guy and torture him until he tells us what we want to know."

"That," Theo says, wagging his finger victoriously at the Skeaver, "Is exactly what we are going to do."

Rayden shuddered at the thought. "Couldn't we try something a bit less barbaric?"

Theo had already holstered his two customized machine pistols, and gestured for RRS-4 and Ricao to follow him. "Relax, we're not going to hurt him too much...physically, anyway."

As Theo walked out the door, he gestured to the Skeaver pirate. "Lab Rat, go ahead and set up the new VR room we got for the last job we took from the BCA. I wanna test it out."

3:00 Earth time; The Hidden Lotus, Tokyo, Japan; Earth

"Are we fully stocked on booze? We got all the dancers ready for tomorrow?"

The hustle and bustle of the nightclub's staff moved swiftly as the club's new owner Hayato Norio barked orders and directions at his staff. The kyodai took a brief moment between orders to breath in satisfaction, before continuing to yell at his workers.

"Excuse me, Mr. Norio?"

Norio turned around as three strangers- an African-American human, an aged Altaic, and a copper-colored robot- walked towards him, with the human and robot being armed. "Is there a problem here?"

"Oh, no- we're just here to drop off some of the spare tables and chairs you ordered."

"Ah, I'll send some employees out to help-"

Theo quickly cut him off. "Mr. Norio, there're some papers in our truck we need you to fill out."

The Yakuza sighed in frustration, and gestured for his on-site manager. "Make sure everything goes alright."

The four walked out the back door, to see no deliver truck and three dead sentries. "What the fu-"

Hayato Norio quickly crumbled as Theo injected a sedative into the Kyodai, knocking him out. "Let's get him out of here." Theo ordered, and the droid quickly draped the man over its shoulder. "Yes Theo."

Theo and Claudius gathered by the outside of the VR room, watching in amusement as the first five minutes of their new guest's clocked in. "What'd you upload for him, Lab Rat?"

"Simple is best when it comes to torture. A padded room, no sound except a rather annoying hum. Every minute is a day, and the humming is interrupted by a loud bang every "hour". He's been sleep deprived for about five days now. He's probably good to talk."

"Let's go, then."

"I'm going to dial the ratio to a 2:1 inside-outside time. Basically, every minute out here is two in there," Rayden says, taking over for Claudius, "This is ideal for interrogation purposes. Switching setting to an interrogation room."

"Make his perceived temperature 38 C," Theo says, "And give me admin access."

"Done. Don't forget that I have admin access, too."

"I won't," Theo says, as he and Claudius enter the suite.

They open their eyes to a featureless, grey hallway with simulated background noise. They look into the one-way mirror at their prisoner, who's simply sitting.

"Doesn't look sleep-deprived to me," Theo whispers.

"Let's talk to him anyway."

They open the door and walk in, while Hayato stares at them in amusement. "If that was meant to be torture, you have a lot to learn."

"We want information-" Claudius starts, only for Hayato to cut him off.

"And you're going to have to do better than that to get it from me. I'm descended from a rōnin clan. Anyone who knows meditation can tune out that hum and get rest between the bangs. I'm actually feeling better than when you caught me; been working overtime on getting the Hidden Lotus up and running. Fifteen years of neglect as negotiations take place can really make things annoying."

Theo glances at Claudius in mild disappointment and summons the administrative control panel. He creates a gag on the victim, and changes the setting to a featureless black void.

"You want torture?" he says, as the man looks at him in confusion, "Let me tell you what'll happen here. The life support system'll send stimulants directly to your bloodstream. No naps for you, meditation or no. I've modified the gag to act directly on your voicebox. No vibrations from there will get through." Theo taps another few options, and continues. "Once we leave here, your restraints will also disappear, as will gravity. And the illumination algorithms. You'll be alone. Eyes open? Closed? Will you be able to tell the difference? No noise. No smell. Nothing but you and your thoughts. We'll leave you there for a bit."

Theo uses his administrative privileges to section off a space for him and Claudius, leaving Hayato in the void. He creates a pair of comfortable armchairs, along with glasses of water. "Come on, Lab Rat," he says, "I thought you were an expert at this."

"I set up the same VR environment that broke Felix."

Theo sighs and takes a sip. "Nothing we can do about that. Only wasted five minutes, anyway." Theo and Claudius settle down in the armchairs, letting themselves relax for a bit.

"Let's go back and take a look," Theo says.

"It's only been three minutes."

"That's enough time."

Theo summons his controls again, and the setting switches back to the interrogation room, with Hayato bound on a chair again, gag removed. In marked contrast to before, the man was shaking, obviously in distress.

"I gather that was a fun trip," Theo says, "Now, if you refuse to cooperate, we'll change the time gap. One second on the outside will be a year in here. We'll put you back in the void, capture us another one of your goons, and show him how we broke your mind. We're going to get our information either way, but tell us now and you'll remain intact."

"Okay... okay." the man says, regaining control, "I'll talk. What do you want to know?"

"What's security look like?"

"One hundred and twenty armed guards, each divided into six-man patrols. Always going to be ten active patrols, watching all areas."

Hayato allowed himself a small chuckle, only to receive a swift punch from Claudius. "It's a fuckin' fortress."

"Tell me more."

"The only area left unguarded is lobby where the body is being held until the funeral begins."

Theo's mind started to process the information, forming the bare bones of a plan.

"What else?"

Hayato stopped for a minute, unsure of what to say. Theo started to tap away at the admin board, and Hayato's discipline broke again.

"Alright, alright!"

Theo set down the admin board, listening intently.


"In addition, the kitchen's only one patrol and can be entered through a delivery tunnel located in an adjacent building. After exiting the kitchen, the room holding the body will be on the left."

"How well guarded is that building?"

"Two patrols. The tunnel's about a mile long, with another couple patrols on an hour shift."

"Who knows about it?"

"Just the funeral home staff and the guards assigned to patrol it."

Theo's mind worked in high gear now, thoroughly contemplating the entire schematic Norio had given them.

"What about weapons and armor?"

"Basic black market guns- MP60's, M. 4200's, and Peacekeepers. Some may have own custom gear, but that's likely few and far between."

"No armor?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

"What about the building's generators?"

"Located in the same hallway as the body and kitchen, but it'll be in the opposite direction of the corpse."

Theo nodded to himself, firmly forming his plan. Claudius knew better than to interrupt him, so he began to grab their victim.

"Hold up, Lab Rat."

Theo tapped a few buttons on his admin pad, and a tape recorder emerged on a table, as well as a single glass of sake.

"Take a drink, Hayato. It's not poisoned, honest."

The Yakuza took a grateful chug, coughing slightly at the taste. "Why-"

"I need you relaxed. Repeat after me into this microphone." Theo ordered, gesturing to the tape recorder.

"I had a couple drinks while surveying the stocked booze. I headed home to sleep it off for a couple hours before returning to the club."

Hayato did as he was told, repeating the message verbatim. Theo, satisfied, quietly stood up and began to leave the room.

"What about me, and why the alcohol?"

Nodding to Claudius, Theo explained. "For one, I needed you truly relaxed to make the message believable. And two, I believe every man should have one last drink before he heads out."

"Wait, what?"

Much to his horror, the Skeaver brought him over shoulder and the three exited the VR room. He started to scream at first, but Claudius swiftly twisted his neck and killed him.

"You know the drill; dump him and haul ass back."

As Claudius began to leave, he heard Theo call out to him.

"Lab Rat!"

"Yes, Theo?"

"Don't fuck it up, this time."

"Frankenstein, how quickly could you make a gas bomb?" Theo asked, having gathered his entire crew.

"I could get the materials tonight, and have it done by morning."

"Good, then here's the plan. Our prisoner revealed that an underground tunnel for the catering delivery connects the funeral home to an adjacent building. Security'll be relaxed, but not impossible."

"The tunnel itself, on the other hand, is going to bee crawling with guards. That's why Lab Rat and Frankenstein are coming with me. Brobot, Braniac, and the Old Man will secure the building once all of us clear it."

"After the three of us get through the tunnel, we'll split up. Lab Rat and Frankenstein will plant the bomb on the corpse, while I'll shut off the generators."

"Old Man, can you gurantee us an escape route once we're done?"

"I can get us vehicles and a route, but that's likely it."

"That's all we'll need. Any questions?"

With everyone knowing their part, Theo dismissed his crew, went to his room, and ordered delivery. He'd need a somewhat decent meal and a good night's sleep for a job this tricky, after all.

"... I feel like such an idiot." Theo mutters, looking through the binoculars at the Ryū Hasu compound.

"Yeah. Looks like Norio got the last laugh," Ricao Orsii replies. The group was using a small, abandoned dojo as their staging point. The pair was wearing HAZENV suits while perched atop the roof, looking at their target.

"Hell of a lot of good the buildings being different does us if they're all under the same bloody environment dome," Theo growls.

"And how much you want to bet there's a lot more than just 120 guards there?"

Theo grunts, "With a compound that size there's at least five times that amount. Goddamnit, how am I getting in?"

"Oooorbital Bombaaaardmeeeeent," Alessandra's voice floated over the comm, her sing-song tone at odds with the insectoid rasp of a Niso voice.

"For fuck's sake, Alex, this is a precision mass murder, not an indiscriminate slaughter," Rayen snaps, also over comm.

"Semantics aside, Brainiac's right. We can't do anything too explosive."

"Well, we're running out of time," Theo says, "We'll just have to do what we do best."

"Improvise?" Ricao says, with a weary sigh.


"Alright, everyone suit up. We're taking a detour." Theo stated, putting his binoculars away and standing. Ricao followed, hefting his shotgun up and began walking downstairs.

"What's up, Tee?"

"I've run ops like these before, and been briefed in a similar manner Norio was several times. They'd give us the skinny of the security, but keep information hidden in case someone snitched."

"As my clientele grew more trustworthy or paid enough to own my loyalty and then some, I learned that more often than not there was always a hidden escape passage just for the big bosses."

"Isn't that a little...cliched?"

"It is, which is exactly why it worked. More often then not, that passage would lead out to public areas. Parks, museums..."

"And bars." Ricao replied, understanding what he was implying.

"Bingo, Old Man." Theo said as they joined the rest of the crew downstairs.

Theo briefly explained the next step of their plan, and the team quickly disassembled and left for the Hidden Lotus.

"You know what to do, Lab Rat." Theo stated, unsheathing his combat machete as the Skeaver took point. As the two brawlers approached the nightclub, two guards uneasily aimed their rifles at them.

"Stop right-"

Both fell silent as RRS-4 placed a bullet in one's skull from its vantage point from a nearby building. The other panicked and aimed his shotgun, but Claudius quickly aimed his sawed-off and fired both shells into his chest.

"Perimeter secure, Theo. Proceed or overwatch?"

"Overwatch, Brobot. Me and the Lab Rat can handle the goons inside."


Nodding his head, Theo and Claudius burst into the room. Several shocked Yakuza stood in bewilderment, allowing Claudius to leap at them. He instantly felled one down with a hack from his broadsword, turning around and thrusting it into the chest of another.

Theo hung back, putting Yakuza down from range with his machine pistol. As Claudius cleared the room, hacking away while his armor protected him with ease, Theo started to check the kitchen.

"Anybody in here, come out with your hands up and I won't kill you."

Immediately, two Yakuza sprung their attack, one wielding a kitchen knife and the other a meat cleaver. Theo ducked underneath the cleaver, thrusting his machete into his foe's chest. As the other Yakuza managed to slice his clothes, he smashed the barrel of his pistol into the thug's eye.

Dropping the knife and clutching his bleeding eye, the Yakuza made no resistance as Theo placed a round in his head.

Panting slightly, Theo turned and aimed his Claudius.

"All clear."

As the rest of crew returned, Theo gestured to a hatch behind the bar.

"This will lead to the building Norio was talking about. Lab Rat, Frankenstein, you're with me. Everyone else, secure the building and ensure we have a way out."

"Yes sir."

"Say what?" Katashi Yoshiro growls into the communicator, "Get some Kyodai down there immediately!"He cuts the feed off with that, and turns to look at Akio Moto, the leader of his group.

"What happened?" the elderly man asks, composed as usual.

"Norio-kun vanished, Sempai, and one of my boys heard gunfire near his project."

Akio clicks his tongue in annoyance. "NGLA?"

Katashi shakes his head, "No, they'd be more... severe. It's a mercenary crew. Operates out of a ship called The Raven. Haven't found any trace of a grudge between us, so they're hired by someone."

"Use as many people as you need, Kouhai. The tunnel under the Hidden Lotus opens to the only blind spot in our security. If they discover that while we're praparing for the funeral..."

"Figures it would be heavily guarded," Theo grumbles as he, Claudius, and Alessandra crouched behind a corner. The Niso had deployed one of her pet projects, a small drone coated in metamaterials they had pilfered from Dazzer Co. in a previous job. The prototype stealth scout was undetectable, save for the lens. "It looks like a good twenty or thirty in here."

"Sorry to interrupt," Rayden's voice comes through the comm, "But you might want to do this one quietly. Looks like they've caught wind of our attack on the bar."

"I hate it when they're smart," Theo grimaces, "Brainiac's right, we don't want to spook them further. We need some intel, though." He reaches into his pack and pulls out a needle, about a handspan long and very, very thin. Nodding to himself, he places it back in.

"... Boss?"

"Take out the first group. No guns; leave the leader alive."

"Which is the leader?"

"The one that looks the most important."

The trio slowly advanced closer to the patrol, watching as a majority split into small teams. Much to Theo's relief, they all seemed relaxed and at ease, unaware of the crew's presence.

"Let's make this quick- Claudius better know what he's doing." Theo ordered, aiming his rifle at the furthest target. He was hoping Claudius could do this without raising alarm and he wouldn't need to pull the trigger, but best to be prepared.

The Skeaver had climbed on the walls and kept to the shadows, placing himself above a squad of six gangsters further away from the others. The group had gathered behind a stack of crates, likely full of equipment or food for the funeral.

Claudius leapt down, easily slashing through the crew with his sword and claws. He only kept one alive, wrapping his arm around his mouth and placed his claws to his throat. Theo's finger casually hovered the trigger, waiting to see if anybody noticed the struggle.

Nobody did.

Looking over at the Skeaver, he saw him gesture for the two to join him. Alessandra and Theo quietly rushed over, and the three watched carefully for any reaction from the remaining eighteen guards.

Seeing none, Theo smiled and pulled out the syringe. Tapping on the needle, he looked into the guard's eyes.

"Listen up, buddy. This little concoction here puts your pain receptors into overdrive. A tap'll feel like a punch. And this..." He said, nodding at Claudius. The Skeaver took his claws and dug it into his shoulder. Their victim's yelps of pain were muffled, however, and Theo chuckled.

"I think you get the point. Unfortunately, it also ensures that you're given enough adrenaline to prevent you from going into shock. It's because"

"Science, bitch." Alessandra suggested, and the pair laughed maniacally.

"Yeah, science." Theo agreed, plunging the needle into the guard's vein. He looked over in mild boredom, waiting for the drug to kick in.

"We sounded just like Bond villains there."

"S'ppose so."

"This keeps getting more and more cliched. Anyway-" Tee poked the edge of his machete into his stomach, drawing blood but not much further. Despite that, their victim squirmed with obvious pain, his eyes contorting and sweat covering his brow.

"Tell us everything."

"Everything?" the Yakuza man asks.

"Everything you know about your operation and the funeral," Claudius says, positioning a claw above their victim's eye.

"Alright, alright," he says, panicked, "The funeral is tomorrow. About 300,000 attendees, 250,000 of which are actual Yakuza. The other 500,000 members of our organization will be in the compound during the funeral proceedings. Even if you get in, you're not getting out."

"You don't have to worry about us," Theo says, "We'll do just fine."

"And when the Oyabun is connected to the head of Earth's planetary government? How do you plan to leave and stay safe then?"

"As he said," Claudius growls, "Don't worry about us." The Skeaver covers the man's mouth and pokes him in the arm, drawing blood. The man squirms and groans, and as soon as the convulsions subside the Skeaver withdraws his hand.

"The fuck?" the man hisses, "I answered your bloody questions, didn't I?"

"Only one," Theo replies, "There were two. Details about what the hell is going on down here. 30 guards for a hallway is a bit much, right?"

"Antimatter lab, about halfway down. Got a hundred kilos of the stuff isolated. Base ten, naturally."

Theo stared at the man in horror. "You're shitting me, right?"

"Nope. Go check it out for yourself if you're curious."

Theo nods to Claudius, who covers the man's mouth and shoves a blade through his throat. "A hundred kilos of antimatter... you hear that, Old Man?"

"Aye," Ricao's voice floats over the radio, "Fuckin' suicidal assholes."

"That big?" Claudius asks

"That's nearly 20 etajoules of energy if it annihilates. That's a 4,780 megaton explosion. A comparable nuclear weapon would have a 21-kilometer fireball, kill everything in 45 kilometers, and scorch everything out to 375 or so," Alessandra says, dreamily.

"And is worth nearly a quadrillion plaht on the open market, more on the black market," Rayden chimes in.

"Using it would ensure mission completion," Alssandra says.

"And would bring the NGLA down on our heads," Rayden responds, "And drag in people unrelated to the mission. Both of which are, to put it mildly, bad."

"And we'd be missing out on the profit from selling it," Ricao says.

"Theo, I think they're noticing us," Claudius says, "Can we decide later?"

"Sure, Lab Rat. Remember to be silent," Theo says, looking at the Niso and Skeaver with him, "And I'll call as soon as I decide, Old Man."

"Frankenstein, do you have any of those cryo grenades with you?"

Alessandra gleefully juggled one in her hand like a baseball. "A cold hand to get rid of your hot-blooded enemies- Winter's Grasp, patent pending."

Theo nervously took it from her, and handed it to Claudius. She handed him another one, and the Skeaver nodded. "Same as before. Drop these on those fuckers."

Claudius did as he was told, climbing up the walls with ease. Once he was in position, Theo unsheathed his machete and looked over at his Niso accomplise. "Taser 'nade, now."

Doing as she was told, Alessandra took one for herself as Theo primed the bomb. Counting to three silently, the pair chucked their grenades at one group each while Claudius dropped the cryo bombs on the other.

The thirty men looked in shock as various started to convulse from the electricity flowing through them, passed out from the sheer shock, or lay dead instantly electrecuted. Claudius' group all immediately became incased in ice, with one shattered as the Skeaver slammed into him.

Theo went to work, chopping the Yakuza still conscious apart. One managed to gather enough fortitude to aim his pistol, only for Theo to awkwardly throw his machete into his chest. Looking at only one remaining thug left in his vicinity, Theo simply started to punch him.

Reducing his face and skull into a bloody pulp, Theo tiredly looked around for any more opponents. Claudius had sliced his way through the other tasered goons, while Alessandra was haphazardly knocking down the frozen statues of Yakuzas.

"Everyone good?" Theo asked as he tore his machete out of the corpse he'd thrown it into.

Claudius and Alessandra both nodded, the former cleaning his now-blood soaked blade. "What do you wanna do now, boss?"

Theo thought for a moment, before coming to a decision.

"Frankenstein, you and Lab Rat go check out that antimatter lab. Isolate as much of it as you can, but try to leave enough that we can still blow this place up. If you can't, take it all. I'm going to plant the gas bomb."

"So how are we going to clear this out?" Claudius asks the Niso beside him, "Tase 'nades and kill?"

"We can't be sure that it'll get all of them," Alessandra replies, looking at the myriad scientists and guards in the room, "And even if it does, we might accidentally short-circuit containment."

Claudius also scans the room, and notices several ventilation openings in the ceiling, as well as a duct above them. "Would the Cryo Grenades work?"

"Yeah, the Winter's Grasp would take them out. You can set them on a timer, too."

"Alright. Give me a couple Cryo Grenades-"

"Winter's Grasp."

"And teach me how to set the timers. I'll crawl up in the vents there and drop a Cryo Grenade-"

"A Winter's Grasp."

"Down in each corner, set on a timer. Then, once each of the Cry-"

"Winter's. Grasp."

"Once each of them explode, we can go in, lop off a few frozen heads, and grab the antimatter. Sound good?"

"Sounds perfect. To set the timer, just press these buttons on the top. Each one delays by ten seconds."

Claudius nods, and grabs a few grenades from Alessandra. He flattens himself out, and crawls into the vent. His plan goes off without a hitch, and moments later he smashes the frozen Yakuza as Alessandra taps at the antimatter isolation console, splitting the mass into two. That done, she calls Theo on her communicator, "I isolated some, Boss. 18 kilos to blow the place and 82 to sell. What markets you putting them on? Legal or black?"

Theo finished planting the toxic bomb on the corpse as he heard Alessandra's voice chime in. "Well, how much of this do we sell?"

"How many portions did you divide it into?"

"I could only isolate it into one container. We going illegal or legal?"

As he silently placed the corpses of the two guards into a nearby closet, Theo quietly responded with obvious annoyance. "We let the Old Man sell it to his underground contacts. He'll get us a decent price, but make sure nobody goes around blowing up planets or something."

"Roger that Boss. Good to go on your end?"

Theo unsheathed his machete and ventured out back the way he came in. He slinked past two patrols as he approached the generator room. Inside, a trio of guards were lounging as the geneartor quietly hummed. Cursing silently to himself, he knocked on the wall to gather their attention.

Surprisingly, only one of the Yakuzas investigated the noise. As he peered outside the door, Theo slammed the barrel of his pistol into his throat as he tackled him. He gasped in surprise, but was knocked unconscious when Theo slammed the grip of it into his skull.

The two other guards looked in surprise, but not before Theo threw his machete into the head of one. He leapt at the other one, putting him in a quick chokehold. Covering his victim's mouth, Theo twisted the guard's neck with a violent jerk.

Panting, Theo cut the wires of the generator and sprinted back down to the tunnel. He met Claudius and Alessandra, who'd kept a steady guard waiting for him. "Let's get the fuck out of here."

The trio emerged on the other side of the tunnel and entered the Hidden Lotus. Inside, Ricao and Rayden has set up an impromptu barricade to wait for them. As the team gathered together, Theo gestured for them to leave. Ricao's contacts left the delivery truck in the back alley, with just enough space for the crew.

"Nice job, Old Man."

"Don't mention it Tee. Did we figure out what we're gonna do with...that?" He said, gesturing uneasily to the container being lugged into the truck.

"We're gonna sell what we have."

"And the rest?"

"Use it to blow this compound and the surrounding neighborhood up. Which is why I advise we get the fuck out of Dodge."

Ricao hopped into the driver's seat and put the key in the ignition. "Don't have to tell me twice."

"I'm impressed we've gotten this far," Ricao says, "I actually expected there to be more of an uproar."

"It's probably because you left some antimatter in the containment field," Rayden chimes in, "It lets them create their own narrative. Some mercenaries were hired to steal some antimatter, but couldn't get all of it in time. No reason to disrupt the funeral tomorrow, and..."

"... we can always make more," Katashi Yoshiro says, speaking to Akio Moto.

"Quite a story there, Kouhai."

"You think I was mistaken, Sempai?"

"I think that's a perfectly natural, even intelligent conclusion to draw from what happened. But..."

"Something feels odd?"

"Yes. And I've learned to follow those feelings," Akio says, and then snorts in self-derision. "And now I sound like I'm in one of those old gangster movies."

"You're intelligent enough that your gut is usually well-informed, Sempai. Even if it's not well-fed."

Akio chuckles sadly. "If there's one unexpected effect in old Shibo's death, it's that our food budget halved."

Katashi nodded and smiled thinly, amazed as always at his boss' ability to separate personal feelings from business practicality. The old oyabun had been a childhood friend of Akio's, but that didn't prevent the old man from inciting Katashi into arranging his death.

"How about this, then," Katashi says, "You, me, and our personal squads stay up on the station. The funeral goes on..."

"And if disaster strikes, we're safe. How quickly our foe figures this out tells us how powerful he might be. Good thinking, Kouhai."

"I might indulge in the praise more if you didn't figure out my intent the instant I started talking."

Fifty minutes later

"You ever wonder how we can get limited GalNet service in Slip-Space but nothing else?" Theo says, looking at Ricao Orsii.

"I can't say I have, Tee," the Altaic replies, "Or at least I don't ask about it."

"Where's your sense of adventure, Old Man?"

"Overridden by my sense of caution. You do realize that GalNet has some connection to the most powerful faction in the BCA, right?"

"Come on, how bad could that get?"

"You do realize that the weakest crew in that faction caused the Distress Terracide to get at one person, right?"


"And I even heard that the leader of that faction, who supposedly has an even higher personal body count, chewed them out for being inefficient. And they still remain under the radar."

"... maybe we shouldn't poke too much. At least we can see that our job was a success."

"Yes, the explosion of a Yakuza compound caused quite the stir. We're exiting Slip-Space, so perhaps you should go contact R'thm?"

"Good thinking," Theo says, and vaults over the couch to go to the communications room. He finds a contact labeled "Rythm Bass" and places the call.

"Theo," the Skaakian says distractedly, "I've transferred three times your usual fee to your account."

"We agreed on four times, R'thm," Theo says.

"That was for successful mission completion. Akio, Katashi, and about a fifth of their organization escaped. They got jumpy at the last minute, nothing you could have predicted. But the job is only three-quarters done, so you get three-quarters payment. Lucky you I'm too distracted to make a big deal of it; Bliss has vanished, and that's put me in a bit of a bind."

"Bliss has... what?"

"Check the news, Theo. I've got to go."

Theo joined his crew in The Raven's meeting room, where a bright display of what was once Bliss was being shown. The crew's reactions were mixed; Ricao and Rayden had a look of complete shock and horror on their faces, while Claudius' cold apathy was evident by his disinterest. Alessandra was a mix of respectfully mournful and genuinely curious, while RRS-4 simply stood emotionless.

For Theo, his anger at doing a job half-right was more of his concern than whatever happened on Bliss. "Plot a course for MegaPlex, Old Man. We've got loose ends, and I want to work on finding a way to tie them back up whenever we're off the clock."

"Tee, are you not seeing what just happened? Terra Prima just destroyed an entire planet!"

"All I see is less competition."

Rayden looked over in intense anger at his captain. "Are you fucking kidding me, Theo? Millions of people just died! An entire planet has been destroyed. Do you have any idea what this means, even abandoning the moralistic side? Trade will be disrupted, militaries thrown in disarray-"

"Way to put a downer on things, Brainiac. What you're saying is less contracts, which means less money for us.'"

Rayden looked in complete shock, before returning to his quarters to grieve for the collective loss. Claudius snorted, and he also went back to his room to rest. This left Ricao, Alessandra, and Theo.

"Did you manage to find some buyers for the antimatter?"

"I've got a couple people interested that aren't completely insane. Most of them were on Bliss, though, so we'll have to see what we can do."

"What do you think about this?"

Ricao shrugged. "It sucks, but there's not much we can do about it. Let the government handle this wildfire."

"And you, Frankenstein?"

Alessandra's wild spark in her eyes was dimmed, but she shrugged as well. "I'd be more concerned about what can generate that kind of destruction to begin with. I'd like to figure out what it was, see if I can't make a bomb out of it.."

"We'll investigate it if we're hired to. Otherwise, you'll do it off the clock and at your own expense. Clear?"

She nodded, and returned as well. Ricao and Theo looked at each other, the former with concern and the latter with curiosity.

"Something up, Old Man?"

"Tee, this is obviously bothering you."

"It's not...whatever that shit was. Apparently, the top men in the Yakuza got out of the blast. They're somewhere, and I intend to hunt them down eventually. I hate a job unfinished."