Wolf had pieced together leads from a myriad of sources to end up where he was this evening. Standing in a storehouse lined floor to ceiling with massive wooden crates, the floor decorated with debris and unconscious Mafioso from different parts of the world. The rather abrupt departure of Alphonse Begnini had caused a vacuum in Don Cusmano’s ‘Family;’ the other organized crime groups, coupled with the Vega syndicate moving in on the old Sicilian, had served as the catalyst for the violence that reached into nearly every corner of Garrison City. Two of those groups, Russians headed by Kolya Podrov and Chan Kam-Shing’s Kung Lok group, were going head to head – and gun to gun – against each other in an attempt to bite off some of the territory left unprotected by the previous kingpin.
Wolf was about to crack open one of the crates that had been the object of the evenings hostilities, when he caught a scent that was at the same time familiar and foreign. A steady clap of hands echoed through the storehouse. Wolf had identified his observer from memory, so he did not bother to turn and face her, “When did you get into town, Natalia?”
“Come now, Волк*, is that any way to greet an old friend?” a lithe and somewhat scantily clad woman stepped from the shadows.
Wolf turned away from the crate. Beautiful and deadly, Natalia “Blacksheep” Zbruevaia, had been one of the Soviet Union’s top espionage agents. Having submitted herself to a ‘voluntary enhancement program,’ she quickly became one of the world’s most deadly assassins. Enhanced agility and reflexes, vision, and retardation of the aging process to near zero added to her already extensive skills. After the fall of the Soviet Union, she became a freelance mercenary, and had crossed Wolf’s path on numerous occasions.
“Old friend?” Wolf said, incredulously, “Last time we ran into each other you tried to throw me out a thirty-story building.”
She stepped closer to him, running a hand across his chest, “Oh don’t be so dramatic, we were only on the twenty-fifth floor,” she looked up at him and smiled a wicked smile, “I like the costume change by the way, it suits you. That armor was too cold, and –”
Wolf grabbed her by the wrist, “What are you doing here, Natalia?”
“Podrov hired me on as protection, and to, shall we say – eliminate – some obstacles for him,” her sapphire eyes hardened and she snatched her wrist from his grasp, “You and your band of merry men, for one.”
“Nice to know we’re universally loved.”
“TAROT is in the mix as well, Aaron,” she rubbed her wrist, “They have not forgotten how you played them.”
TAROT was the ‘Organization’ Wolf had always known, but until recently had not known their true name, or their true nature. It was they who had resurrected his brother Patrick as the Jackal, and turned him on the trail of Aaron and Kaye. After trailing them to Garrison City, the Jackal was able to snatch Kaye from the Strategoi safe house and use her as bait to draw Aaron out. The timely intervention of Kardiac and Capin kept the brothers from killing one another. The Jackal – Patrick – now spent his days in a Strategoi facility, his cybernetics reduced to basic functions, and starting a rehabilitation program to try to break the brainwashing enforced upon him by TAROT.
“I felt you should be warned,” Natalia continued, “This gang war that rages across your city isn’t all what it seems. You and your friends have made some very dangerous enemies. Enemies that don’t care about the collateral damage they cause.”
“So why tell me all this? It’s not like you don’t have anything to gain with me out of the way.”
“The times in the past have all been professional. I do what I do because it is a job. I get no perverse pleasure from killing, unlike some others I know,” she turned away from him, heading back to the shadows. “In another time, if things were different, who knows…”
Wolf listened to the sound of her footfalls for a moment, and then – nothing. She was gone, leaving behind an uneasy feeling deep in his mind. He would need to tell Kaye and the others, but for now, it was back to the crates.
The nails that held the lid of the first crate screamed in protest as Wolf pried it open. His eyes widened beneath his visor. If what Blacksheep told him had made him uneasy, the contents of the crate only increased the feeling.
Armor – similar in nature to his old costume – filled the crate…
** Волк is the Cyrillic (Russian) spelling of Wolf.