“What do you mean you still haven’t come up with a name for us?!” Noch asked incredulously. “You have to name the organization! You need to have a name in order to really be considered an organization! Even children in Gamma would know that! Come on man!”
Marcus shrugged in his seat next to his brother. “Our organization is too small to really need a name,” he said trying to not sound defensive.
“How are we small if we have the Eight waiting on us?” Noch asked.
When Marcus had no response, Noch turned to look out the window. The cloudy half-mooned night was quiet, the street still wet from the light sprinkling of rain an hour ago. Their black SUV was parked on a nondescript street in what looked to be a lower middle-class residential district. The street had restaurants and bars on both sides of the street, gas stations and conveniences on every corner of the intersections. Not a single car passed and all the buildings were dark. Across the street from the SUV, eight old-school long-body cars were parked in front of a nondescript restaurant with a white neon chef hoisting a burger on a tray in the window. It couldn’t be past nine in the evening and yet this restaurant was the only building that had any sort life.
The complete lack of activity in the block made eight men in front of the building stand out. The black suited men were smoking cigarettes as they tried to look casual hovering in front of this restaurant. The number of men was too specific. Those eight men weren’t guards. They were there to let the brothers know that the Eight themselves were present.
“Are you sure this is the right time for this, Noch?” Marcus asked. “We may have Old Town but the Eight still have all of Iota. They could touch us if they really wanted to.”
“I know,” Noch said, his voice unsteadily like he was fighting down laughter.
“So then we’re here to force our way into the Syndicate?” Marcus asked.
“No,” Noch said, his voice growing slightly more unsteady as a bubble of laughter escaped him.
"Then what are we doing here?"
“We’re going to make them bend over for us!" Noch said laughing. "We’re going to dagger each of them until they like it! With no lube!”
Marcus’ stomach lurched at the sound of his brother’s amusement. He still wasn’t too sure of Noch’s state of mind, but there was one thing that was undeniable. Noch was effective. Taking over Old Town and forcing a meeting with the Eight was probably child’s play for a member of the PSF, but knowing that and seeing that are two different things. Marcus just wasn’t sure too sure of how much the PSF took out for all that they gave his brother. The stories he was hearing about torture and... barrels made him sick.
That thought made Marcus turn to look at the two people in the front seats. For the thousandth time he wondered why they were here at such an important meeting. Those two of all people. George ‘Greasy’ Pallas and Lexi ‘Kisses’ Teris were the leaders of two of the larger organizations under their control, but both were problems.
Greasy was a chubby man of average height known for backsliding in the name of profit without a second thought. As the leader of the largest of the five organizations in the Blue Lion district, he’d broken the peace in the Blue Lion district multiple times trying to expand his territory, but he had numbers behind him and that made him a large immovable thorn in their side.
Kisses was a short thin former prostitute turned Madame. She’d been caught spreading dissention in the ranks of the other two organizations in the Rose Lion district, not once but on multiple occasions. However, she was too tightly interwoven in the surrounding organizations. She knew too many secrets that kept Old Town’s gears working so she too was untouchable despite her obviously mixed loyalties.
Why bring those two people to the most important meeting since this mission was started?
“It’s time, Boss-guy,” Greasy said from the driver’s seat.
Noch clapped his hands together and turned for the door but stopped when Marcus spoke.
“You know this is probably a trap,” Marcus said.
Noch turned back to Marcus with his mischievous smile in place and his cheek twitching. “I hope it’s a trap,” he said before turning to the two in front. “Come on you two. I want both of you close to me in there.”
As the two subordinates exited the car, Marcus grabbed his brother to hold him back. “Noch, we can’t use our powers in there,” he said.
“And why the hell not?” Noch asked.
“Because enough people are talking about the Crusader’s new powers!” Marcus said. “We can’t allow any powers in the underworld or else people might link the two! It’s bad enough with all the crap you’ve already done! This is the Eight, Noch. It’s not just gonna be a rumor anymore if they see it.”
Noch sighed. “I guess...”
With that, the brothers got out and the four members of the nameless organization were spotted as soon as they exited the SUV. However, the eight guards did nothing. The four of them walked up to the entrance of the restaurant and submitted themselves to a search. The pistols Kisses and Greasy held were confiscated and the four newcomers were allowed to walk inside with a curt jerk of the head from a bald man with a harelip.
The main room of the restaurant had just enough light to see the red carpet on the ground. There were a pair of large double doors on a shadowed wall and two more black suited men stood guard outside these doors. Naturally, the four of them made their way to these doors and were searched again as soon as they approached. Once satisfied, the guards opened the door.
In this next room, eight men sat at a long table in the middle of a smaller room. There were sixteen angry looking men holding fully automatic rifles behind them. All twenty-four men stared their hatred at the newcomers. Four seats were arranged across from the table. In a meeting with men who had the gravitas of the Eight, the supplicant was expected to remain standing until offered a seat. However, Noch took one of the seats without a second of hesitation and that forced the other three to follow suit. A few grunts of disapproval could be heard and Marcus saw one of the Bosses have to restrain himself from saying something, but they did nothing else. When the newcomers were settled, one of the Eight, a wrinkled grandfather with sharp brown eyes and white hair, tried to speak, but Noch raised his hand to stop the man. Everyone in the room jerked as though slapped. No one silenced one of the Eight.
The Boss who restrained himself earlier slammed his palm on the table and pointed at Noch. “Who in Perdition do you think you are?” he shouted.
Marcus flinched, but stopped himself from leaning forward and soothe this altercation. He would let Noch handle this. His brother had done a good enough job of leading this organization so far. Not all his ideas worked, but Marcus had to admit that Noch was successful more often than not.
Noch chuckled and motioned Kisses forward. He whispered into her ear and the two of them began laughing loudly. The Eight all had their different reactions, but one thing was obvious. They didn’t like being ignored and laughed at. Unfortunate that none of them could tell Kisses’ laugh was forced.
“Is there something funny, guy?” one of the Bosses asked, a thick shouldered middle-aged man with blue eyes and spots of gray at the temples of his black hair.
“We like laughing, chief,” another of the Eight chimed, a burly man with slicked back dark red hair and ice blue eyes. “Tell us what is so funny, chief. We want to laugh too.”
Noch’s smile grew and Marcus frowned in his brother’s continued silence. What exactly was Noch up to here?
“And now we amuse you?” another Boss asked, a sour looking man with precisely cut blonde hair and bored green eyes.
Noch nodded as he chuckled. Everyone in the room froze, staring at Noch with shock open on their faces. Noch turned to look at his brother flicking his eyebrows up as though this was some great joke. Marcus felt a growing sense of unease in his chest.
The PSF may very well have broken his brother. This wasn't normal behavior. Noch was always odd but this? Marcus began fingering his ring. He told Noch no powers, he specifically said no powers. Noch was his Ota. He had to obey...as long as Marcus wasn’t in danger. Damn Noch. Always a step ahead. After a little while in silence, Noch turned back to the Eight and sniffed as he reclined in his seat.
“Let me understand this, boy,” the white haired Boss said. “You murder a protected judge, steal our affiliates in Old Town, demand and get a meeting with the Eight, insult the eight men at the meeting you requested and then sit, staring at them in silence while laughing to yourself?”
The smile on Noch’s lips faded. His head tilted as though in thought for a second before his smile returned with full force as he nodded.
“Now,” the white haired Boss continued. “Are you fully aware of where you are and who we are, boy?”
“And you know that we are the final say in all things underworld across the world?” the white haired Boss asked.
“You know that even though you took Old Town, we still have the resources to crush every single one of your organizations?”
Noch paused for a second before shrugging.
The angry Boss jumped to his feet, the two men behind him scrambling to catch the seat before it hit the floor.
“So what?” the small red-faced man asked, his dark blue eyes bulging. “You arranged this meeting to waste our time? Is that what your lives are worth? The chance to waste the time of the Eight?”
Noch’s smile grew as he stared at the orange haired Boss. The Boss’s face was growing a deeper shade of red as Noch’s silence stretched. Marcus couldn’t take this anymore. He tried to get up but something lashed around his waist to keep him in his seat. He turned to look at Noch.
Noch never took his eyes off the eight men. He stared them, giggles bubbling up from his stomach. The Eight stared at Noch unable to believe their eyes. A few looked to Marcus, but no more than they looked to Greasy or Kisses. When the thick shouldered Boss began getting to his feet, Noch finally spoke.
“I was just waiting for you guys to bring out the men you intend to kill us with,” he said.
Everyone stared at Noch. Only Marcus could see his brother wading in the power of the Ota. He was shocked no one else could see the glow over his heart. It was as bright as one of those obnoxious flashlight.
The thick shouldered Boss sat back down and shrugged, motioning to the pinched faced orange haired boss. The small boss smiled and whistled. One of the sixteen black suits shouted and the double doors slammed open. Black suited men with fully automatic rifles and sub-machine guns began pouring into the room until there was barely any space left between the Eight and the four. The black suited men had their numerous weapons pointed directly at the four, but Noch just laughed as though he was watching some kind of sitcom.
“You look like you need help, boy,” the white haired Boss said regretfully. “Unfortunately you aren’t going to live to get that help. Isn’t right killing the handicapped, but an example has to be made. The authority of the Eight is cannot be challenged.”
“Seconded,” four Bosses said on top of one another.
The white haired Boss nodded and began to raise his arm when Noch spoke up once more.
“Give us control of the rest of Damokles, pay a nominal tribute into a charity fund of your choosing and I’ll allow you to leave this meeting alive,” he said.
The Eight looked at one another.
“All we want is Damokles and your contributions to good causes for now,” Noch said. Without taking his eyes off the Eight, he pointed at the men between the two groups. “Unfortunately, they’ll all die regardless of what you say.”
The Eight stared at Noch for a long while before turning to look at one another for a long minute. Peels of laughter suddenly broke out among the Bosses. They were holding their ribs, pounding on the table, drubbing their feet and some even had tears in their eyes. A few of the Bosses began pointing at the dark red haired Boss who held his hands up as though caught, shaking his head as he too laughed. After a while, the Eight regained their composure and the white haired grandfather motioned to one of the sixteen behind them. The man shouted and the amassed men opened fire as the Eight began getting up from their seats.
Marcus began to form a dome shield, but Noch had already surrounded the four of them. So much for not using their powers. As the bullets ricocheted off the dome, Noch turned to Marcus with a smile that made him uneasy. Noch’s nose twitched and he turned to their two subordinates, his smile growing larger. Noch made eye contact with Greasy, who smiled and nodded his thanks to him. Noch only stared in return. Another shield popped into existence and separated the brothers from their subordinates. Greasy didn’t notice the new shimmering air, but Kisses frowned. Her eyes snapped open when she saw the first shield beginning to dissipate. Kisses began shouting and Greasy looked over at her annoyed. His face crumpled into confusion when a bullet hit his arm. He looked down and saw blood spurting. He looked up at the still smiling Noch just as another bullet hit him in the stomach. Greasy then turned to Kisses. She was staring in wide-eyed astonishment at the blood leaking from three different points on the left side of her body. Greasy turned pleading eyes towards Marcus. The Crusader wanted to do nothing more than to save the two of them, but Marcus knew he couldn’t. He was horrified Noch would do something like this...but the move made sense in a savage way. Two problems solved in an ‘ambush’ by the Eight, an excuse that kept their respective organizations pacified even if they didn’t believe the tale.
Greasy saw that Marcus wasn’t going to do anything and Kisses was too busy staring at her increasingly injured body to try to do anything. The chubby man snapped and jumped to his feet, eyes searching for an exit. As soon as he was on his feet, a bullet snapped his head snapped backwards in a spray of blood and he crumpled to the ground in a heap. As the dome continued to shrink, Greasy’s body was hacked into flying bits of meat and blood with the unrelenting rain of bullets.
With more and more bullets continuing to hit her, Kisses accepted her fate. She stared her anger and hatred at Noch, the hot lead making her jerk and jump as though she was having a seizure. Marcus flinched when one of the bullets exploded one of her eyes in a spray of clear liquid, blood, and flesh. Yet she still stubbornly clung to life. Even as the bullets made her body look like a pin cushion rendition of the human body, just made sure Noch knew her hatred. Eventually she slumped in what remained of her chair before the still firing bullets knocked her dead body out of the seat.
After a while the shooting stopped and the final bullets flattened on the shimmering air of the dome around the brothers. Noch dissipated the shield and the last bullets sliding down the wall dropped to the parquet floor in a loud clatter. The Eight stared at Noch and Marcus, horror written into the features of every face sitting at that table. Noch cleared his throat and began getting to his feet when one of the bullet-deficient hitmen ran forward, brandishing a long knife from his waist. Bright yellow flames roared and engulfed the man before his third step, dagger clattering to the ground. The nearly white flames burned so intensely, the man was ash before he finished running. His remains were scattered to the wind by the remaining momentum of his failed attack.
One of the Eight tried to jump to their feet and run away, but Noch set off a small explosion in the Boss’ face. The blonde haired, green eyed Boss fell back into his seat and no one else tried to copy him. Another of the Bosses, the white haired grandfather, tried to speak, but Noch once again silenced the man with a raised finger.
When everyone was still once more, Noch raised his hands in front of him. He smiled as he jerked his fingers but nothing happened. His smiling face furrowed in confusion as he jerked his hands once more. Again, nothing happened, but his face broke out in twitches as enlightenment apparently hit him. This third time, he flicked his wrists as he jerked his hands and ten small white globes popped into existence above his fingertips. Marcus’s jaw dropped.
This wasn’t good. Noch may be a bit on the gratuitous side with his violence, but this was wrong. All the way wrong. The reaction he was inducing within those domes was similar to the hydrogen to helium burn of the sun. The intense heat of the small scientific wonders could be felt in the entire room. Something like this could begin to affect the planet's atmosphere if left for too long or done too many times. How did he learn that?
All of the Eight jumped to their feet, the mob of men in the middle of the room looking at one another. The sixteen men behind the Eight ran forward to help their respective Bosses get away, some dropping their weapons to do so, but no one made any real headway in that department.
“SIT BACK DOWN!” Noch roared.
The Eight paused. They looked at one another, some even turning to look at one of the sixteen who stood behind them. After a few seconds, the eight men returned to their seats following the example of the white haired Boss. The sixteen men behind returned to their posts, picking up their empty weapons as they went.
Once everyone was settled once more, Noch smiled. He gently blew on the ten miniature suns and the small white globes began drifting forward. Marcus was impressed to see that seven of the Eight sat in their chairs stone-faced. No fidgeting or trace of fear in their eyes. The pale man with sleek glasses and lanky black hair at the end of the table was the only one who showed any reaction. He was ignored during the whole meeting and now kept looking at the other seven men and the men in front of him as though one of them was going to save him. Noch turned to look at Marcus with that gleeful smile on his face. He began opening and closing his hands which altered the speed of the ten white globes. Noch giggled when he began reversing them slowly and bringing the globes back towards him. Noch clenched his fists and the white globes disappeared.
Streaks of white whizzed through the air above in complicated patterns no human eye could hope to track without highly advanced equipment. The white light began burning brighter then Marcus heard a faint sound. It was something akin to golf balls repeatedly being dropped into a bottomless tub of popcorn. The white globes cut through the assembled men like a hot knife through boiling butter and the terrified men put up about the same amount of resistance. Smoking holes began appearing in the impotent men and the dead men were looking at the smoke suddenly pouring from their bodies. The white globes flew close enough to the Eight to sizzle the gel in their hair, but they were never touched. Noch was proving himself to be a man of his word.
Clouds of smoke filled the small room and Marcus used the ring to throw open the double doors from his seat. The smell of burning flesh made him feel sick. By the time the air was clear, the ten white globes were no longer zipping through the air. He felt heat next to him and he turned to see the miniature suns slowly rotating as they floated above Noch’s head like a crown. The dead men were all swaying on their feet, somehow still standing as the air cooled and cleared enough for the Eight to make eye contact with the brothers. The thick shouldered Boss tried to speak, but Noch stopped him with a cautionary finger. The big red haired Boss with the movie star smile tried to say something, but Noch silenced him with the same finger.
After a few seconds in silence, Noch made pistols with his hands and began shooting at the swaying bodies. The bodies he pointed at dropped and he began laughing like he was having the time of his life. When the long dead hitmen were nothing more than cooling heaps on the parquet floor, Noch retook his seat. His eyes lit up and he smacked his forehead.
“I’m sorry I think I may’ve interrupted a few of you.”