Outlaw Star Fan Fiction ❯ Outlaw Star; The Ryunoken Sword(revised, rededited, and better than ever) ❯ The Man in Black ( Chapter 3 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]


The Man In Black

(Official disclaimer: This work is entirely a fan fic. I do not own the rights to Gene, Melfina, or any of the themes, concepts, planets, alien races, or any of the other characters that appear in the "Outlaw Star" anime or manga. So Bandai, Sunrise, or whoever owns the rights to "Outlaw Star," PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DON'T SUE ME!! I'm only doing this to honor your work and to show my respect and appreciation for what has become my favorite anime.)

"God damn it Aisha!" Gene screamed. "How the hell could you have let him take Melfina like that?" Aisha didn't believe what she had just heard. Was Gene actually blaming her for what just happened? There was no way she was going to let him pull that kind of crap with her.

Aisha was doing her job exactly as Gene told her. She was standing at the corner, watching the street for any sign of trouble. She yawned out of sheer boredom when suddenly, she heard Mel yell for her. Aisha turned around and saw that Davidson guy with his hands all over Mel. She ran straight for them, but the guy blew on a whistle, and then Aisha found herself surrounded by these weird metal face guys. She lashed out at them with some of her basic Po-hedaheda moves, the traditional fighting style of the Ctarl-Ctarl, but the metal faces just got right back up again. Aisha was about to turn up the heat and transform into her beast mode, when Jim and Suzu ran out of the alley they had just gone down with Gene. Suzu knocked the metal faces back with one of her shockwaves before slashing them across the chest. The metal faces thrashed in a seizure before crumbling into nothing. Hearing gunfire, Aisha and the others looked up to see Gene firing his guns at Davidson's car as he drove away. Unfortunately, Davidson's car had been bulletproofed. He turned the corner and was gone, taking Mel with him.

"What do you mean 'How could I have let him take her?'" Aisha yelled at Gene as she grabbed him by the collar of his coat. "Are you trying to say what happened was my fault?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying!" Gene yelled at her as he grabbed her by her belled collar.

"Why you stupid son of a..." Aisha yelled, just as Jim and Suzu got between them.

"Both of you stop it now!" Suzu shouted as she pushed them apart.

"Come on Gene!" Jim yelled as he pulled Gene back. "This isn't helping!"

"Jim's right," Suzu said. "If you keep arguing like this, Melfina's going to be the one to pay the price for it."

"What happened wasn't anyone's fault Gene!" Jim said as he continued to hold Gene back. "The only thing that matters is getting Melfina back before that guy hurts her!"

"Yeah, I guess you're right Jim," Gene said as he relaxed.

"Well then what are we waiting for?" Aisha asked. "Let's go find that asshole Davidson and rip him a new one!"

"Unfortunately," Suzu said, "we have no idea where he's going or even where we might be able to find him."

"Fred might know!" Jim said. "After all, he's the guy Davidson works for!"

"Then let's get going!" Gene shouted. "The longer we stand here, the longer that bastard has to do whatever he wants to Melfina!" As they all ran back to the car, Aisha began to think of how that guy had grabbed Mel in just the one second that she had her back turned. I hate to admit it, she thought, but Gene's right. I got careless and now Mel's in danger. Well, that guy had better not touch her. 'Cause if he does, I'll sharpen my claws on his lungs.

He watched the whole episode from the building top down the street. The man in black had followed them from Luo's place to the warehouse. After they parked, he had climbed up the fire escape of a building one hundred yards to the west. By the time he had reached the roof; Starwind, the kid, and the Suzuka woman had gone into an alley, heading for the back of the warehouse. Bringing up his binoculars, the man in black scanned the roof of the warehouse and found nothing. He pressed the small button on the left side of his binoculars, changing from visual to ultraviolet, then to infrared.

There they were. In infrared mode, his binoculars picked up the heat signatures of four Oni hunched on the roof of the warehouse. How many were inside he had no idea. Well, that didn't matter to him anyway. Melfina was his only concern. The others he could give a damn about. They would have to face God knew how many Oni were in the warehouse by themselves.

The sound of a scream yanked his attention back down to the street. Cycling his binoculars back to visual, he saw Haykon grabbing Melfina. The Ctarl-Ctarl Aisha ran straight for them, but the four Oni on the warehouse's roof stopped her. Shit, he thought. There was no way he could get down in time to save her. Besides, he wasn't ready to reveal himself to Starwind and the others yet. They had already run back out of the alley. Suzuka and the kid ran to help Aisha while Starwind fired at Haykon's car as he drove off. Well, he thought, I can't get down there to help, but there is one thing I can do. Leaning over the building ledge, he whistled down to Slag who lay sleeping at the foot of the fire escape. The big wolf looked up to his master as the man in black rolled his index fingers in a circle, then pointed in the direction Haykon's car was heading. Slag barked in understanding before getting up and running after the car. Go ahead and run you bastard, the man in black thought. But no matter how fast you run, Slag has your scent and you'll never escape from him.

Hearing the sound of yelling, the man in black turned his attention back to the street. To his shock, he saw Starwind and the Ctarl woman screaming at each other. Luckily, Suzuka and the kid were able to bring to two back to reality. He couldn't believe it. Their friend had just been kidnapped and they were fighting each other like a pack of spoiled children. These are really the people who killed Hazonko? he asked to himself. From what he could see, the only one of them with potential like that was Suzuka. She wasn't bad to look at either. Well, he could ogle her later. Right now, it was time to go to work. He about faced, strolled over to the fire exit, and climbed down. Upon reaching the bottom, he walked out of the alley towards the next street over where had parked his truck. Climbing in, he activated the homing signal on Slag's collar. The map screen on the dashboard showed his location. It looked like he was still trailing Haykon. It would be a while before he would know just where they were going.

Hearing the sound of an approaching car, the man in black looked up to see Starwind and his group drive past the intersection up ahead. Inserting the ignition key, he turned on the hover engine and the truck lifted off the road. With Slag chasing after Hakon, the man in black followed Starwind. With luck, he might be able to find a use for him and his friends after all.

It all happened so fast, that Fred still didn't know what had hit him.

He was busy going over some sales files in his office when he heard what sounded like shouting coming from the hall outside. Fred was walking to the door to see what the problem was when the door suddenly shattered with a blow from the other side. After the dust settled, Fred was greeted to the sight of Aisha standing in the fractured remnants of what used to be a solid Oak door. Aisha stood aside as Gene, Jim, and Suzuka stepped through the hole into the office.

"Gene Starwind!" Fred scolded. "I sincerely hope that you have the money to pay for that door your friend just wrecked!" It was then that Fred noticed how Gene's normally handsome face was twisted in anger.

"Alright Fred!" Gene yelled. He walked over to Fred and grabbed him by the shirt collar. He pushed Fred over to the desk and threw him on top. Although Fred had many pleasant dreams about Gene involving situations like this, something told him that this was nor the time to reminisce about them. "Where the hell is Davidson!"

"What?" Fred asked, beginning to feel deathly afraid for himself. His two bodyguards ran into the office and reached for their guns. Fred raised his hand to tell them to stand down, but Suzuka beat him to it. She swung her bokuto at his guards' heads and sent them flying. They crashed headfirst into the right side Cherry trees and dropped unconscious.

"He kidnapped Melfina Fred!" Gene screamed. "Tell me where he is right now you hear me!"

"Wha-what are you talking about?" Fred asked. "Davidson isn't a kidnapper! He's just a hauler! He's done some gunrunning, but that's the only illegal thing he's ever done!"

"Yeah," Aisha growled, "well I saw him do it! Hey Gene, maybe you should let me talk with Fred about where Davidson is. I bet I could convince him to tell us everything we want to know." Gene looked up to her and grinned.

"You know Aisha, that's not a bad idea at all."

"Now just wait a minute!" Fred said as he raised his hands. "What is going on here? Jim, you're the only one who seems to be acting with an ounce of sanity. Will you please tell me what the meaning of all this is?"

"Come on Gene just calm down," Jim said as he pulled on Gene's arm. "Fred doesn't have anything to do with what happened." Gene took a deep breath and released his grip on Fred. After pulling himself together, Fred listened as Jim told him everything that happened.

"I just don't believe it!" he exclaimed as Jim finished his story. It was true that Fred was secretly jealous of how close Gene and Melfina were, but he would never wish something like this upon her. "Davidson would never do anything like this! You've got to believe me Gene! Of course, I will admit that he was acting a little strangely when he came to see me."

"Oh," Gene said, "now you tell us!"

"Gene I believe him," Suzuka said as she placed a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Do you have any idea were Davidson could have gone?" she asked Fred.

"Well, he can't leave the planet," Fred said as he tugged at his right ear lobe. "Those starship weapons he was carrying belonged to me. Therefore, I confiscated the ignition key to his ship until they were returned. I imagine that sooner or later, he might go back to his ship."

"Where is his ship parked?" Jim asked.

"I believe that it's parked at dock 25 at Heifong City Spaceport," Luo answered.

"Gene," Jim said, "come on, he might be there already."

"Yeah right," Gene said, the angry look on his face unchanging. Without a word, he led his group out of the office. Stepping over the unconscious form of one of the bodyguards, Gene suddenly turned around and pointed at Fred. "You knew something was up but you completely ignored it!" Gene snarled. "If anything happens to Melfina, I'm holding you responsible."

As the four outlaws left, Fred found himself shaking uncontrollably. He knew that Gene probably wouldn't do anything to hurt him, but he would absolutely die if Gene started to actually hate him.

The meeting with Fred hadn't gone as productive as Gene hoped. Melfina was still in Davidson's slimy clutches and he had no way to save her. God damn it! Gene thought. It's all my fault! This is the third time that I let Melfina down! First with Harry Mcdougal, then again at the Leyline! Why is it I always fail her when she needs me the most? He, Jim, and the girls exited Fred's manor and headed for the car. All they could really do now was stake out Davidson's ship and hope that he came back there sometime later.

"Gene," Suzuka said as she again placed her hand on his shoulder, " It wasn't your fault what happened." Startled, Gene turned around and looked at her. He remembered that Suzuka prided herself on her intuitive skills. Aside from Jim, she was the only one who knew that he hadn't been with another woman since Melfina. Gene was envious of Suzuka and her control. Though he was the boss of their outfit, Suzuka was the one who actually acted like it. He always flew off the handle at the slightest provocation while she just dealt with it.

"Thanks Suzuka," Gene said. "But I still won't feel any better until we get Melfina back safe and sound."

"We all feel that way," she said. She was about to say something else, but Jim interrupted her.

"Gene!" Jim shouted. "Look at the car!" Gene, Suzuka, and Aisha all turned and looked at what Jim saw. Someone had plunged a knife into the upholstery of the driver's seat. The blade had been stuck into the backrest, right where Gene's heart would be.

"Hey," Aisha said. "It looks like someone stuck a note on the blade."

"That creep Davidson must be trying to get a ransom for Melfina," Jim said as he eyed the knife. Without a word, Gene pulled the knife out of the chair and pulled the note off the blade.

"Well what does it say?" Aisha asked, as Gene unfolded the piece of paper and read it.

"It says," Gene said as he looked at his friends, "Haykon has taken her to 356 Callisto Ave. Be careful, they have even more Oni there. A friend."

"Haykon?" Aisha asked. "I thought his name was Davidson."

"Fred said that Davidson was acting strange when he came to see him," Jim said. "Maybe this Haykon guy was impersonating Davidson to get his hands on Mel. But what are the Oni?"

"Traditionally," Suzuku said, "Oni was a Japanese word that meant demon. However, in this case, I believe it refers to those creatures that attacked us at the warehouse."

"That explains a lot," Aisha said. "But I'd still like to know why he's after Mel. Think this guy's one of our old friends the Kei Pirates?"

"I really don't give a rat's ass who he is," Gene growled as he crushed the note in his hand. "He's taken Melfina, and I'm gonna send him to hell for that. Callisto Ave is only a couple of miles from here. By car, we should be able to reach it in about five minutes."

"For once Gene, I completely agree with you," Aisha said. "Let's go find Haykon, Davidson, or whoever the hell he is and show him what happens when you kidnap one of our friends!"

The address Slag had followed Haykon to turned out to be a now defunct factory for Munchousen Drives. The building was used heavily back in the fledgling years of Heifong City, back when Heifong was used primarily as an industrial colony. When the planet swung more toward commerce and trading, the factory was abandoned. Watching in the safety of the shadows across the street from the building, the man in black waited in his truck. Slag sat on the seat beside him, perfectly still, but alert to the danger present in the factory. Using the infrared setting on his binoculars, the man in black counted at least ten Oni on the roof, and ten more on the street. He had no idea though of how many of the things were actually inside the factory. That's why he needed Starwind and his group to distract them. He checked his watch. Almost twelve minutes had passed since he had left his message for them in the car.

Where the hell are they? he thought. Melfina was all alone in the factory with Haykon, completely defenseless. That was something no woman deserved to have happened to her. He still remembered the first time he ever encountered Haykon. It was back when he escaped from the Kei. To support himself, he had gotten a job as a bouncer at a strip club on the backwater planet of Perseon. The money was good, the girls liked him, and he could have all the free beer he could drink. Still, it sometimes felt as though he was never putting his talents to their limits. But all that changed one night when he was walking home from the job and he heard a muffled voice scream for help. He ran down the alley he heard the voice come from and found one of the girls who danced at the club being raped by a grungy guy with greasy brown hair. Without wasting a second, he had ran straight for the rapist, pulling back his right arm as he ran. He punched with all his strength and cracked the guy in the head, crushing his eye socket and completely smashing the left eye. Later, when he turned the guy over to the police, the man in black learned that the guy was wanted for robbery, murder, and rape on at least twelve different planets. Not only that, he had a twenty thousand wong bounty on his head. Even with overtime, it would take him over six months to make money like that bouncing. Naturally, it wasn't long afterwards that the man in black quit the bouncer business to become a freelance bounty hunter.

He checked his watch again. Thirteen minutes had passed. If Starwind didn't get here soon, he'd have to go on and raid the factory by himself, whether he had a distraction or not. It was just then that he heard a car pull up. Looking to the factory, the man in black saw Starwind and his friends drive up and get out. About damn time, he thought.

"Come on Slag," he said to the wolf. Slag just turned, his eyes wild in anticipation of the coming fight. The man in black exited the truck with Slag behind him. The two bounty hunters walked to the corner, crossed the street, and then around to the factory's back. While Starwind and the others distracted the Oni, they would go in and deal with Haykon.

After what seemed like an eternity of driving, they had finally arrived at the address on the note. Jim jumped out, wanting nothing more than to run into the factory and get Melfina out of there. He may have been just a kid, but he wasn't naïve. His mind was screaming with the images of a thousand horrible things Haykon could be doing to Melfina at that very moment.

"Hold on Jim," Suzuka said. "Remember what that note said. We have to proceed with as much caution as possible."

"To hell with caution!" Aisha yelled. "I say we barge in there and tear that guy to shreds!"

"Wait a minute Aisha," Gene said. "We don't want to do anything that might get Melfina hurt." Walking around to the back of the car, Gene opened the trunk and pulled out a small weapons locker. Gene had walked to the back of the car and opened the trunk. He pulled out a small weapons locker and began to suit up with as much ammo and guns as he could carry. "Jim, do a scan of the factory and try to see if you can find Mel."

"Right," Jim said. He pulled out his P.A. and began scanning the factory's interior. "I've got two biological signs coming from the back of the warehouse. It looks like they're over in the power room."

"What about those Oni things?" Aisha asked.

"I can't pick up anything else," Jim answered. "Somehow they're able to avoid my P.A.'s sensors."

"It doesn't matter," Gene said. Jim had noticed that Gene had pulled out his complete arsenal. In addition to his usual pistol and shotgun, he had also equipped his collapsing rocket launcher, his knife, a small revolver, a larger revolver loaded with explosive bullets, and last but not least, his caster. Reaching into the locker, Gene pulled out two number ten caster shells, a nineteen, and a twelve. He placed the shells into his belt and closed the locker before placing it back into the trunk. "We know that they're there. But this time, we won't let them take us by surprise." Walking to the front of his group, Gene looked back to his friends. "Now let's go rescue Melfina," he said. "Remember, if we run into those things again, aim for the manji symbol on their chest."

"Right," Jim and the others said. Without a word, Gene drew his pistol and shotgun and began to lead the others to the door of the factory. Sure enough, the Oni appeared. A group of ten materialized out of thin air while another ten dropped from the factory's roof. Like the ones at the warehouse, this new group surrounded them and began to shift their hands into weapons.

"Get the hell out of my way!" Gene yelled. Jim ducked as his friends launched themselves into battle. Gene brought up his guns and started firing at the Oni in front of him. Suzuka drew her bokuto and dashed for the ones to the left. The wooden sword moved in a blur and four Oni went down at once. Aisha roared as her muscles began to pulse and bulge before launching herself toward the Oni on the right, knocking them right and left.

Waiting in what used to be the power room for the entire factory, Haykon stood by a massive generator, now caked over with grime and rust. He didn't see the Oni, but he knew that they were all around him. The Toku had sent an entire army of the creatures to help him. Ten were in position on the roof, twenty were in the factory, and ten patrolled the perimeter outside. Another seven Oni were in the room with him, hiding under the cover of their built in invisibility screens. Suddenly, the seven Oni with him became visible. They all exchanged glances as the communication nodules in their brains exchanged data through binary radio transmissions before they jumped towards the catwalk on the ceiling and vanished, leaving him alone with the android.

Taking a deep breath, Haykon relaxed. He was glad the Oni were gone. Their glowing green eyes reminded him of the hallucination he had seen earlier, the image of a wolf chasing his car. Haykon shuddered at the memory and reflexively rubbed the shoulder of his cyber-arm. Though he tried hard to suppress the memory, his mind couldn't help but recall how he had first encountered that damned wolf. It was only two years ago. He had finally escaped from jail during a transfer to Gehenna prison. A power blackout enabled him to escape from his cell and kill the guards. He then commandeered the ship he was on and set a new course for the Toward Stars Inn space station. He had hit out from the law for a good month on the station. Until the day "he" came for him again.

Haykon remembered it like it was yesterday. He was sitting in what had become his favorite bar on the station. He was eyeing the woman in the bar, trying to determine which one would be easy pickings, when someone walked up to him and asked if he could borrow a chair from Haykon's table. Haykon looked up to tell the stranger to piss off, and then felt the blood drain from his face.

He couldn't believe it. It was the guy who had caught him. The same guy who had crushed his eye. The guy told him to give up and come quietly, and naturally Haykon refused. He flipped the table right into the guy's face and dashed for the back door, firing his gun blindly. He missed the guy, but the shots caused everyone else in the bar to run wildly out the door. In the midst of the confusion, Haykon was able to reach the back door and escape. Running into the alley, he prepared to make a break for it when a snarling mass of fur knocked him down. Looking up, he saw a huge wolf standing on his back. The beast lowered its snout and sank its teeth into his left shoulder joint. He screamed in pain as the wolf shook him wildly and felt something crack in his arm. And then, something struck the back of Haykon's head, knocking him unconscious.

It wasn't until much later that he figured out the wolf belonged to that guy. But by that time, he was in Gehenna Prison, minus one limb. The wolf's fangs had completely shredded his muscle tendons and nerve endings while its fangs had crushed the bones in his left shoulder joint. The entire arm had to be amputated. Haykon had remained at Gehenna from that moment on until about five months ago. A group of Toku Pirates raided the prison and busted him out. They took him to one of their bases and made him an offer he couldn't refuse. They would provide him with both a new identity and a brand new arm. All he had to do was kidnap a specific bio-android girl and then turn her over to the Toku messengers who, in turn, would bring her to the Toku leaders. It was an offer he would have been crazy to refuse.

And so, he had spent the next five months in preparation. He endured two operations: the first to have his new arm attached, the second to have his face altered with cosmetic surgery. In between his operations, he was briefed him on his mission. He was to impersonate a man named Davidson, a hauler and gunrunner who, like Haykon, was missing his left eye and had a cybernetic left arm. Toku agents would kill Davidson and allow Haykon to take his place. He would then claim that someone had stolen the cargo he was transporting and have the cargo's owner, a broker named Fred Luo, hire the android's friends to find the it. The Oni would then take care of them while he delivered her to the messengers. And after that, his debt to the Toku would be paid in full. He could assume his new identity and never have to do anything for them again.

Checking his watch, Haykon saw that the messengers were late. Where the hell are they? he thought. And where did the Oni go? Pacing frantically, Haykon walked back and forth around the room. He kept telling himself to calm down and to relax. Eventually, he found himself standing beside the android girl, laid out on the table that he had previously set up for her. Looking down at her unconscious body, Haykon suddenly grinned as he thought of a way to ease his tension. Although the Toku had warned him not to harm the android in any way, vowing to castrate Haykon should he so much as touch her, Haykon reasoned that a little taste wouldn't hurt.

I've never screwed an android before, he thought as he reached for her. That injection I gave her should keep her out for the better part of a week. Besides, the Oni are out doing god knows what, and the Toku's messengers are late. I've got to find some way to pass the time. Grasping her cloak, Haykon pulled it up and over her head. He felt himself grow hard as he gazed down at her. She was so young, so perfect. Her body was slender, but in no way thin. Her curves were fresh and completely indistinguishable from a human. Reaching for her neck, he ripped off the necklace she wore and pocketed it. I might get a few wong for this, he thought. Turning back to the android, he undid her tie and threw it to the side. He then reached for her collar and undid the top button on her blouse. He licked his lips as his hands moved down to the next button, and then stopped as he heard a sound that turned his blood to ice.

Backing away from the android in fear, he frantically looked to every corner of the power room. He heard the sound of a snarl all around him but he couldn't locate its source.

And then, he saw it.

At first, when he saw the glowing green orbs, he thought that one of the Oni had returned. But then, Haykon realized that the eyes were far to low. It was at that moment that the beast slowly padded out from the shadows.

The wolf was exactly as Haykon remembered it. It was roughly the size of a Great Dane with a mostly silver coat. A wide gray strip ran from the top of its head all the way down its back. Light from the windows reflected in its eyes, making them glow bright green. Its fur was standing straight up and its gleaming fangs were bared. But still, the most intimidating thing about the wolf was its hight, rasping snarl. As the wolf advanced, Haykon slowly backed up. If that mutt is here, he thought, then that guy must be here too. The Oni must have left to take care of him. I'd better kill this mangy beast and get out of here with the android before things get out of control. Slowly, so as not to alarm the wolf, Haykon raised his cyber arm. He prepared to flip up his wrist and fire the needle gun. The spines may have been tipped with only tranquilizers, but when fired at full power, they would rip through the wolf's skull like a bullet through paper.

But before he could fire, something cold and hard pressed against the back of his head.

"Don't try anything smart," a rough voice said. "Unless you want me to put your other eye out." Haykon quietly pressed the button on the side of his left forefinger as he slowly started to turn around, even though he already knew just who it was that had the gun pressed against the back of his head.

It was the man who had captured him twice.

The man who had crushed his left eye.

The man whose wolf had destroyed his arm.

The man whose face Haykon still saw in his nightmares.

The man in black.

Mazren the Wolf.

Gene loaded the number nineteen shell into his caster and pulled the trigger. The accelerator rings in the barrel charged the shell and the caster fired an elliptical red energy blast toward the four remaining Oni. The blast struck home as the power of the number nineteen washed over them four creatures and crumbling them into dust.

"So much for that," he said. "Alright everyone, let's go in." Reloading his guns, Gene and Suzuka took positions on each side of the door as Jim ran to get behind Gene while Aisha took her position in front of the door. Gene gave Aisha the signal and Aisha raised her left leg. With a roar, she kicked and the door went down. Aisha ducked as Gene and Suzuka ran past her, their weapons drawn. They had entered into what had used to be the main production center of the factory. All around them, mammoth machines lay broken and forgotten, covered with dust and cobwebs.

"I can sense that we're not alone," Suzuka said.

"You're right Suzu," Aisha replied, her ears twitching. "I may not be able to see those Oni things, but I sure as hell can hear them."

"Jim," Gene said, "do a scan. Try and see if Melfina is still here.

"I'm on it," Jim said as he scanned the factory's interior again. "It looks like they're still in the power room and..." but Jim stopped mid-sentence as a look of fear came over his face. Looking at his young partner, Gene knew Jim wouldn't look that way unless something was seriously wrong.

"Jim what's going on?" he asked.

"I just picked up two other bio-signatures. And they're heading straight for the power room."

"Well then why are we just standing around here for?" Aisha asked. "Those must be the guys Haykon was going to hand Mel over to!"

"Jim,"Gene asked, "where's the power room?"

"It's over there," Jim answered. "Behind the main conveyor belt." Without wasting a second, Gene and the others ran to the door Jim had pointed at. But before they could reach it though, another group of over twenty Oni dropped down from the ceiling to land in front of them. They raised their hands and extended their fingers into spikes.

"Down!" Gene yelled as the spikes fired straight toward them. As fast as the Oni were, Gene was faster. He raised his hands and opened his palms. The light shields in his gloves activated and spread their defensive barrier in front of him and his friends. The spikes struck the shield and ricocheted in every direction possible, some even striking the Oni. Aisha and Suzuka jumped over the shield and once again threw themselves against the creatures. Jim ducked behind one of the derelict machines while Gene loaded his number twelve. After making sure that Aisha and Suzuka were out of the way, he fired at a group of three Oni to his right. The electrical energy of the number twelve struck the Oni dead on and the creatures disintegrated. He loaded one of the number tens and prepared to fire at another group of seven when they suddenly stopped attacking. They looked back toward the power room and then vanished into the shadows. What that was about, Gene wondered.

"Gene!" Aisha yelled as she grappled with two of the Oni. "I think I hear gunfire coming from the power room!"

Cocking his ear, Gene began to hear gunfire as well. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do as long as the Oni were still between him and Melfina. All he could do was hope that she'd be safe until he could get past these things. He targeted a Oni pair to his left, fired the caster, and blew the creatures straight into one of the machines.

I never get tired of seeing that look, Mazren thought. Whether they be a pirate, an outlaw, or just some punk with a big name; that look of fear on their face makes my job all the worthwhile. Well, that and the money I get when I turn them in. Haykon had just finished turning around. He had had some cosmetic surgery done, but Mazren still recognized him. Something about the scent, a mixture of slime and decay that all bastards like him possessed.

"Now then," Mazren said. "Put your hands up before I feed your other arm to Slag." Over to the side, Slag stopped growling for a second to lick his chops. But Haykon just smiled and slowly raised his hands.

"Now now then," he said. "Keep in mind that the bounty on my head is only good if I'm alive."

"That's the only reason why I didn't blow your head off when I first came in here," Mazren snarled. "I still might if you don't answer my questions."

"What do you want to know?" Haykon asked.

"For starters, what the hell do the Toku want with Melfina? They've never had any interest in the Leyline. And from what I've gathered, she can't activate it now anyway. What possible use could they have for her?" Haykon rolled his eyes up and he made a humming sound as he appeared to think.

"I really have no idea," Haykon answered. "The Toku just came to me and told me to get her for them. However, they did say something about wanting her purity intact. Maybe they just want her for a quick lay." A quick lay huh? Well there was no way in hell Mazren was going to let that happen, even if Melfina wasn't who he thought she was. "However, Haykon said.

"What?" Mazren asked.

"Maybe my friends would no more," Haykon said as he grinned darkly. Too late, Mazren realized that he had walked straight into a trap like a rank amateur. The Seven Oni who had just disappeared suddenly returned. In true Oni fashion, the creatures surrounded him and morphed their hands into weapons. "Why don't you ask them," Haykon laughed as the Oni rushed him. Mazren ripped his attention away from Haykon as the first Oni attacked. The creature slung its claws and Mazren ducked backwards as the claws missed his face by a matter of inches before he brought his gun up and fired straight into the Oni's symbol.

Haykon meanwhile, had decided to take advantage of the situation. While Mazren dealt with the Oni, he ran straight for Melfina. Luckily, Slag saw what he was doing and acted. Just as Haykon reached for her, Slag leapt and landed on the table, standing guard over Melfina. Haykon stumbled back and Slag leaped straight for his face. Haykon brought up his cyber-arm and Slag took it. The wolf's jaws scraped on the metal surface as he attempted to wrestle Haykon to the ground. Unfortunately, Haykon's cyber-arm was far stronger than a normal arm and he was able to maintain his footing.

With Slag taking care of Haykon, Mazren was able to concentrate on the Oni. He fired both guns at the two closest to him and they went down. Two more ran straight for him. He stepped to the left as one brought its sword hand down upon him. Bringing up his right foot, Mazren spun, and launched a snap kick straight from his hip, catching the Oni right in the stomach. The other stabbed at him with its claws and Mazren dodged as the claws flashed by his eye. He brought up his right arm and caught the Oni's between his forearm and shoulder. A quick twist and he felt the Oni's arm snap. Holstering his left gun, he brought up the heel of his left palm and struck the Oni in the face. With both Oni stunned and on the ground, Mazren fired and hit them in their manji symbol. The remaining two circled to both of his sides. They formed their hands into massive broadswords and charged. The clock in Mazren's head told him when to move and he back flipped out of the way. The two Oni ran together and ended up impaling each other on their own swords. If these things weren't so mindless, he thought as the Oni thrashed and crumbled, they might actually be considered dangerous.

Hearing a thud, Mazren whirled around. He saw that Haykon had successfully thrown Slag off his arm, flinging him into the wall and making him land in a heap on the floor. Haykon raised his arm and prepared to fire a needle gun embedded in his wrist underside. But before he could, Mazren was already upon him. Mazren grabbed Haykon's arm, and pulled him face to face.

"Don't touch my partner!" he growled before sending Haykon flying with an uppercut to the jaw. Hakon flew back a good twelve feet before crashing back first into one of the generators. Haykon landed and stumbled to his feet, blood dripping from his mouth and nose. He raised his cyber-arm and prepared to fire again. Mazren fired his gun and clipped the needle gun, shattering the casing and rendering it useless.

Now it's your turn you bastard, Mazren thought. He redrew his other gun and pointed both at Haykon's legs. He fired, but Haykon spread his palm and a circle of blue light appeared in front of him. The bullets bounced off the light shield and flew all over the room.

"Let's see," Haykon smirked, "enhanced strength, high pressure needle gun, light shield. What else did the Toku build into my arm? Oh yeah I remember." The top panel on his cyber arm opened and a long, humming metallic tendril extended out. "They also built in their latest model static whip!" Haykon laughed as he thrashed his arm and cracked the whip toward Mazren. The electrified tendril whipped across Mazren's guns, knocking them from his hands. Haykon raised his arm and cracked the whip again, aiming right for Mazren's face. Mazren ducked and rolled to the left as the static whip struck the ground, sending up an explosion of sparks.

All right then, Mazren thought as he rubbed his hands. The whip had sent an electric current through his guns, right into his arms. If you want to play games then we'll play games. Reaching to his back, Mazren grasped the handle of his katana. A quick press of the release button, and the magnetic clamps that held his sword in place released. He pulled the blade from the scabbard and assumed his favorite stance; hands aligned with his right hip, sword held at an angle across his body. Haykon, meanwhile, pulled his static whip back. He whirled it over his head and cracked it sideways at Mazren's head again. Mazren raised his sword and blocked, bouncing the metal tendril off the dull edge. He then angled his sword at Hakon and charged. He swung the sword underhand, bringing it up and over his head onto Haykon. But Haykon activated his light shield and successfully deflected the blade. The whip coiled back and attempted to wrap around Mazren's neck. Mazren raised his sword and blocked before spinning clockwise and angling his katana to bite into Haykon's neck. Haykon raised his cyber arm to block and the blade struck, hardly doing any more damage than a nick. Haykon raised his arm again and prepared to bring the metal fist down onto Mazren's head. Mazren jumped back, landing on his feet and reassuming his beginning stance. The arm had barely missed him. It instead had struck the floor, leaving a very prominent dent.

"Well what do you think?" Haykon asked, his face a contorted mask of sadistic glee.

"I'm impressed," Mazren answered. "The Toku weapons masters have remarkable skills if they can construct an arm and a static whip that can resist a sword like mine."

"And you haven't seen anything yet," Haykon grinned. Flexing his arm, Haykon increased the strength of the current running through the static whip. The hum became noticeably louder as the tendril began to glow a bright blue. Haykon raised his arm and cracked the whip again. Mazren raised his sword to block. But this time, the whip didn't bounce off the blade. Instead, the humming metal coil wrapped around the blade and drew tight. Haykon then began retracting the whip in an attempt to pull the sword from Mazren's hands. Mazren intensified his grip on the hilt, even though it took everything he had to hold on. The electricity from the whip was already transferring to the sword, causing the blade to glow with a dark orange light. The insulation in the hilt kept most of the electricity at bay. But still, enough energy got through to make Mazren's arms feel like they were being stung by a swarm of bees. Then there was the matter of Haykon's arm. Mazren was far stronger than most humans, but even so, he was no match for a cyber-arm that had been specifically designed by the Toku to kill. It wasn't long before he felt himself sliding toward Haykon.

"That's a real nice sword," Haykon grinned, as a panel on top of his hand opened to pop out a knife. "Maybe I'll keep it as a memento of you."

"You really like my sword?" Mazren asked. He then angled his sword so that the sharpened point aimed directly at Haykon. He then moved one hand to the pommel and pressed his palm against it. "Then you can have it!" He then let go of the sword with the hand he still grasped with while pressing against the pommel with the other. The sword, powered by the recoil of the whip and directed by Mazren's own strength, flew through the air. Haykon realized his mistake and tried to activate his light shield again, but was too late. The sword struck him through the sternum, embedding itself all the way to the hand guard. Haykon stood in shock for a while before falling to his knees. He looked down to the blade that he was impaled upon and laughed.

"Damn, isn't that a bitch," he said before he pitched over dead.

Taking a deep breath, Mazren walked over to Haykon and grasped his sword. The sword came out easily and with very little blood. The electricity from the whip had heated the blade so much that the wound had been cauterized. Looking over Haykon's body, Mazren felt a pang of regret. Now that Haykon was dead, he wouldn't be able to collect his bounty. Oh well, he thought, can't win them all I guess. Hearing padded footsteps behind him, Mazren turned to see Slag walking up to him. Slag sat beside him as Mazren kneeled down to check him over.

"Hey partner, you okay?" He ran his hands over Slag's legs and ribs. He sighed in relief as he found no broken bones. Slag, meanwhile, just grinned and wagged his tail. Mazren marveled at how such a bum could be so aggressive when the need arose. "You did good boy," Mazren said as he shook the fur on the wolf's neck. He stood up and walked over to where Haykon had knocked his guns. After holstering them, he then walked over to the table where Melfina lay.

Looks like we got here just in time, he thought as he eyed the top button that Haykon had undone. Looking her over, Mazren was able to better assess her. She was about 18, which would put her at the right age. She was also quite attractive, in an innocent sleeping child sort of way. He cradled her delicate chin in his big hands as he checked her pulse and breathing. They were a bit lower than he expected, which concerned him. He gently pried open her eye to reveal a dilated pupil. Moving his hands to the back of her neck, he felt under her hair until he found what he was looking for. Mazren gently pulled out the needle embedded in her skin and brought it up to his face. He licked the drugged end and confirmed what he expected. It'sdefinitely Milliara, he thought. The Toku are starting to get predictable. Well, I've got just the thing for that. Reached into the pocket in the interior of his jacket, Mazren's hands enclosed on the hypospray, already loaded with the antidote. He was about to bring it out when an idea struck him. You know, he thought, this could be the opportunity I've been looking for. It would save a lot of explanation time later.

Mazren shifted his hands to the device beside the hypo and pulled out a syringe, the size and shape of a standard pen. Taking Melfina's hand in his own, he pressed the tip of the syringe into her middle finger. Pressing the button on the side, Mazren watched as the reservoir at the end quickly filled with a sample of Melfina's blood. Satisfied, he pocketed the blood sample he had taken and took out the hypospray. Gently turning her head, he moved a lock of her hair aside from her neck and pressed the hypo against her Carotid artery, injecting the antidote into her bloodstream. Melfina moaned slightly as the antidote began to work its magic and Mazren nodded. It looked like she was going to be okay.

"And now, I'm going to get you out of here," he said. He kneeled down to the floor to pick up her cloak. As he brought it up, Slag came trotting over. Mazren saw that Slag held the tie and necklace Haykon had removed from Melfina in his mouth. "You're right," Mazren said as he took the tie and necklace from Slag. "She'll probably be wanting these back as well." Turning back to Melfina, Mazren wrapped the tie and necklace in the cloak before setting them all in Melfina's lap. He then slid his hands under her and lifted her up into his arms. Hearing Starwind and the others approaching, Mazren walked with Melfina in his arms toward the power room's door with Slag trotting behind him.

There were only three left.

Suzuka raised her bokuto and prepared to bring it down on the last three Oni when, all of a sudden, they stopped attacking. The creatures looked towards the power room and then towards each other. They exchanged glances, as if sharing some kind of message between themselves, before jumping towards the factory's ceiling and vanishing from sight.

"You cowards!" screamed Aisha. "Come back here and fight!"

"Forget about them!" Gene yelled as he ran for the power room's door.

"Gene wait for us," Suzuka called out to him. She frowned as Gene completely ignored her. It was just like him to go charging in head first into any situation. She was worried about Melfina as well. But charging in blindly would serve no purpose. In truth, it would probably get Melfina hurt. Running after Gene, Suzuka and the others eventually caught up to him. He was only ten feet from the door when it suddenly flew open with a kick from the other side.

After her initial shock settled, Suzuka saw who had opened the door. She brought up her bokuto and prepared to fight. The others were doing the same thing. Gene reloaded his caster while Aisha began to swell her muscles again. Jim, regardless of his small size, had drawn his gun as well. This certainly adds intrigue to the situation, Suzuka thought.

The man who stood in the doorway was tall, taller than even Gene. He probably stood over six feet. His shoulders and chest were broad and his arms and legs were well muscled. He wore a black leather biker jacket with studded shoulders, faded black jeans, and black boots. The only article of clothing he wore which wasn't black was the grey body armor under his jacket. His black hair was cut short and brushed to the back. He had intense dark green eyes and iron hard features. The most prominent of which was a jagged scar that ran through his right eye and almost the length of his face. On his hips, two large pearl-handled semi-automatic pistols rested in quick-draw holsters. On his back, a katana sword with an elaborately crafted handguard hung in its scabbard. The upper arms of his jacket each held four throwing knives in sewed on loops. Those are the same type of knife that was plunged into the car seat, Suzuka thought. In his arms, the man held Melfina who moaned slightly, her cloak bundled up in her lap. Hearing a growling noise, Suzuka looked down to see a large silver and gray wolf standing by the man's side. The wolf's fur was raised and its fangs were bared.

"Down Slag," the man said. His voice was deep and rough, indicating strength and confidence. The wolf obeyed his commands and appeared to calm. The man then turned his eyes upon them. He scanned them, as if evaluating them, before settling his gaze on Gene. "You Starwind?" he asked.

"Yeah," Gene answered as he brought up his caster. "What about it?" The man in black nodded and strolled out of the doorway. He walked slowly and easily, as if being surrounded by four armed people didn't worry him in the least. This man, Suzuka thought, is either incredibly stupid, or an unbelievably powerful fighter. As they continued to watch him, the man walked up to Gene and held Melfina out to him.

"Here, take her and get her to safety." Gene blinked in surprise, as if that wasn't the thing he expected the man in black to say. Still, he didn't refuse. Gene nodded and holstered his caster before he took Melfina from the man into his own arms. Looking down upon her, Gene's face twisted in anger. Walking over, Suzuka saw that Melfina's necklace and tie had been removed and the top button on her blouse was undone.

"That bastard!" Gene growled. "He tried to rape her!"

"No," the man in black said. They all looked towards him. "Haykon said something about delivering her with her purity intact. He probably just wanted to cop a quick feel. Luckily, me and Slag arrived in time. Oh and in case you're wandering, the necklace and tie are wrapped up in the cloak."

"Where the hell is Haykon?" Aisha asked. "I'm gonna show him what happens when you try to do that to a friend of a Ctarl-Ctarl!"

"In hell," the man answered, "Courtesy of my actions."

"Who was he going to deliver her to?" Jim asked

"The Toku Pirate Guild," the man said. I don't know why they want Melfina, only that they do. And they'll kill anyone who tries to stop them. If you all value your lives, then I suggest that you get off planet before sundown. More will come, and they won't be some two-bit punk like Haykon." Without another word, the man in black pushed past them with his wolf in tow.

"Now if you'll excuse me," he said, "I have business to attend to."

"Hold on a minute," Jim said. The man in black turned and looked down at him. "Are you the guy who left us the note in the car?" Jim asked. The man didn't answer. He just stood there, his face an unreadable mask. Regardless, Jim smiled at the man in gratitude. "Thanks a lot for helping us save Melfina mister." But the man didn't respond in return. He just scowled as if Jim had insulted him and turned away.

"I didn't do it for you people," he said. "I did it for my own reasons."

"Well, whatever you reasons may be," Suzuka said, "you have our gratitude regardless. You also seem to know quite a great deal about the Toku Pirates. At least tell us your name so we might know how to contact you should we need your help again."

"You want to know my name?" he asked. "Then look it up. And you won't contact me, I'll contact you. At least, I will if my assumptions about Melfina are correct."

"What the hell do you mean by that?" Gene asked, still holding Melfina is his arms.

"Sorry, that's my little secret," the man said coldly as he started to walk away.

"Actually," Aisha said as her hand darted out to grab the man's shoulder. "I think you'll tell us right now!" The man in black stopped and stood still.

"You have five seconds to remove your hand or else!" he snarled.

"Oh yeah!" Aisha snarled back. "And just what do you think that you can do to a Ctarl-Cta..."it was then that the man in black moved. In a blur of motion, he spun around, pulled back his right arm, and struck Aisha in the chest with the palm of his hand. Aisha was knocked back and sent rolling head over heels before colliding into a wall. Her hand clenched her chest and she wheezed in agony. It looked like she was having trouble breathing.

"Aisha!" Jim screamed. He ran over to her side and grabbed her shoulders. "What the hell did you do to her you bastard?" he yelled at the man.

"Calm down kid," the man said in disdain. "She'll be alright in a second." Just then, Aisha gasped loudly. Her chest rose and fell as her breathing returned to normal. "She should consider herself lucky that I used one of my more gentler techniques," the man said as he prepared to leave again.

"Hold it," Suzuka said. He may have saved Melfina, but his attack on Aisha was enough to convince Suzuka that the man in black was a threat. She redrew her bokuto and charged. She decided to show the man one of her own "gentler" techniques, one that would knock him out for the rest of the day. The man in black reached to his own sword and drew it in response. In one swift move, his katana came down on Suzuka's bokuto, cleanly slicing her wooden sword in half before returning to its scabbard. Suzuka looked at the remains of her sword in shock. With her skill, a wooden sword was far more deadly in her hands than the finest steel broadswords. The fact that this man could break her bokuto with only a minimal effort proved that he was no one to be trifled with.

"You're the one they call "Twilight"Suzuka aren't you?" Startled, Suzuka looked up to the man.

"Yes," she answered, not sure what he meant.

"I've heard of your skill in the kenjutsu style," he said. "Normally, I'd jump at a chance to spar with someone of your skill. But as I've already said, I have business to attend to." He then turned around and left them all standing stunned.

Despite her normally cool reserve, Suzuka suddenly felt herself blush at his comment. She hoped that the man in black wasn't going to be an enemy. She also hoped that she would meet him again. She could learn a lot from a fighter who possessed such tremendous ability.

"Gene?" a soft voice asked. Suzuka and the others turned their attention over to Gene. Melfina had opened her eyes and was looking up at him.

"Melfina," Gene said, a worried look on his face. "Are you alright?"

"I guess so," she answered. "But what are we doing in this place? And why are you carrying me?" Gene laughed in relief. Suzuka just smiled. Melfina was safe and that was all that mattered for now. The man in black could wait until later.

"I'll tell you everything later," Gene said. "But first, let's get out of here. This isn't a safe place to be right now."

"Alright," Melfina said. Turning around, Gene carried Melfina out of the factory. Jim helped Aisha to her feet and she leaned on him as he helped her walk. Watching Gene lead them out, Suzuka marveled at how much he had changed since she had first met him. He was certainly much more mature than he used to be. And as he carried Melfina to safety, Gene certainly looked dashing enough. But as they exited the factory, Suzuka suddenly felt very uneasy.

"What's wrong Suzu?" Aisha asked.

"Aisha," Suzuka asked. "Do you hear any more of those Oni around?"

"Nope," Aisha answered. They've all split. Why do you ask?"

"It's nothing," Suzuka said. Her instincts were rarely ever wrong, but she still got the feeling that they were being watched. It's probably just stress, she thought. Between having Melfina kidnapped, fighting those creatures, and that man in black, we've all had a quite a day. I'm going to make myself a very large kettle of tea to help calm my nerves as soon as we get home. But before that…

"Aisha? Suzuka asked.

"Yeah Suzu?"

"Stop calling me Suzu."

Unfortunately, it wasn't her own exhausted nerves that had set off Suzuka's alarm. From a rooftop further down the street, two pairs of very unfriendly eyes watched them.

"Damn it, damn it, damn it!" Harry McDougal cursed. His violet eyes were wild and his aqua hair shook with anger. "We had her! We had the dirty little bitch and we lost her! Damn it, damn it, damn it!" To his left, Harry's adopted brother Ron lowered his binoculars and looked over to his younger brother.

"Now just calm down Harry," he said. Behind them, the Oni that had survived Starwind's attack on the factory appeared behind them. "Remember, this is Gene Starwind that we're dealing with. After all he's put us through, we can't afford to underestimate him anymore. Not if we're ever going to be free of our debt to the Toku."

"Do you think that maybe we can go visit them tonight?" Harry asked. He began to giggle hysterically, thinking of how good it would be to see the look of fear on Melfina's face as he appeared in front of her. He wouldn't knock her out this time. He wanted to hear Melfina's screams of fear and pleas for mercy as he dragged her by the scruff of her neck to the Toku.

"No," Ron said. "Haykon totally screwed up on his assignment. They'll be on their guard now. Let's go back to the ship and wait. If I know Starwind, he'll probably take the android off planet to protect her. And I think I know where he'll take her first."

"When we meet them in space," Harry asked, "then can I kill all her friends while she watches?"

"Sure," Ron said with a smile smiled, the scar on his mouth stretching with the motion. "Anything for my little brother."

"We're gonna show them once and for all what happens when you mess with the Mcdougal brothers right Ron?"

"You're damn straight!" Ron laughed.

Turning his attention back to the street, Harry watched as Gene Starwind and his friends drove under and past them. Just you wait Melfina, Harry thought. I'm gonna make you pay for how you chose Gene over me.

(The McDougle brothers are back and they're after Melfina again! Melfina may have been rescued, but her life is still in danger. Will Gene and the others be able to protect her? The man in black has been revealed as Mazren the Wolf. Who is he and why did he save Melfina? Stay tuned for our next exciting episode! Same Outlaw-time! Same Outlaw website! Send all comments, praises, flames, and death threats to ronin6401@yahoo.com)