Elspeth sat, weeping the darkened alley that had become her home. She was mourning the death of Abban the Soulless, Abban the Vengeful, Abban the Cruel. Grieving for him, who had been her protector, who had been like her father, even as she wiped his congealing blood from the blade of her katana. “So passes the Great Charlatan,” she was intoning his death rights, a lamentation that cut her deeply. Almost as deeply as she had cut him, opening his stomach, piercing his scales between the hind legs, the katana he had given her gliding through his armoured flesh, spilling his intestines onto the stony floor. The blade, crafted by a skilled sword smith sometime in the late 20th century, was a meitou, a ‘named sword’, passed through countless battles: to the victor the spoils. It was Abban who had plucked her from the streets, taught the art of the sword, a weapon still untraceable in the densely cluttered hive of tunnels beneath the city. “The Deceiver of Men has left this world today,” she held the blade by her cheek, “and he leaves it a better place through his death.” Her sword sings as it cuts at the air, reliving the strokes that gave Abban the cool mercy of the grave. “In his death he has revealed his truth, and for that I thank him.” The blade whispers now, as though consoling her, as it slides into its sheath and she pushes it back, beneath her red leather trench coat, hiding it away from the prying eyes of the streets, from the omnipresent blind lenses of security cameras alongside the omnipotent Custodians defending the interests of the Hestia Corporation. “I will have my revenge, father.”
Elspeth stepped into the crowded milieu of the street, opening the dashboard of her augmented reality system. Almost immediately the flickering of neon heralded the arrival of a news bulletin flashing into her field of vision, they had discovered Abban’s corpse quickly, far more quickly than she had expected.
“The hunt continues today for the killer of the last of the remaining Old Ones, dinosaurs cloned from fossilised DNA and cyberneticly enhanced as pets or as companions during the Age of Decadence…”
Elspeth flicked her eyes to the top right corner of the broadcast, closing it down, dispelling it from her view. Another background piece meant they were no closer to discovering her, and there was only one more kill for her to make now. She had discovered him, the man, if you could still call him that, disfigured and rebuilt, more machine than man. Abban had revealed his name to her, as he lay, bloody and dying, the name of the one who was responsible for infiltrating and corrupting the mechanical controllers in the brains of the Old Ones, who coded under the nom de keyboard ‘Magus‘, Richard de Guere, head of security at Hestia.
She had to move, to get away from the alley, to blend in with the mob. Neo-flagellants, whips cracking and slapping against the blood pouring from the wounds on their backs, pressed through the waste and rubble in the centre of the street, calling out the filth of humanity to repent. A soapbox doctor, hands flailing wildly, declaiming the slipping morality of the time, casting his prescriptions and cures into the uncaring crowds, voice projecting directly into her central cortex. She moved to shut him out; it was usually only a cheap hack that street monkeys could afford, operating using line of site. An urchin, leaning on a robotic leg two sizes too small, held out his hat towards her, but she could feel him trying to crack the encryption on her already diminished bank account. Elspeth lashed out at him, kicking his real leg at the knee, being too closely reminded of herself at his age, reminding her of Abban. He bared his four remaining teeth at her, cracked and yellowing, like a rat cornered and desperate, and spat in her face.
The katana was out before she had even thought about it, humming through the air, singing a song of violence and destruction. It split the urchin in two, for a moment, until he flickered back into shape. “The Magus can see you, Elspeth. He has been watching. He is so very disappointed…” The view through her augmentation faded to black, systems failing in quick succession, static dancing across her eyes. She lifted the glasses, saw Abban standing before her, as terrible and as majestic as ever. He smiled, if a mouthful of glistening, carnivorous teeth could ever be said to smile. “I am sorry, Elspeth,” the Tyrannosaur said, “but the Magus commanded it. You must no longer hinder us. Goodbye, my darling…” The katana fell from her hand as the lightening kiss of a Taser shot through her central nervous system, the Custodian behind her driving it deep into her spine. A truncheon, swung hard into her head, extinguished her life as readily as Abban had saved it, and as readily as he had condemned her to die.