8:22 PM, 12/25/00: Harlem, 110th Street

Down the darkened snow swept streets of Harlem a lone yellow junker rumbles down an empty road. The vehicle is caked with mud, its windows shattered and holes lining the exterior, scars of a narrowly escaped confrontation that it shared with its driver.

New York City.

The car makes a left turn and continues along.

Manhattan Island. 25 square miles of crowds, concrete; Crimes so cold, they'd whither the soul... and freeze the blood.

Pain shot through Marcus's shoulder again, causing him to wince, reminding him of what had transpired earlier that night.


The car pulled another left, and Marcus let off the gas. The rumble died down and the vehicle glided into the street.

Millions exist here, walking streets that may swallow them whole... or spit out their bones.

Quietly, the vehicle eased to a stop in front of a red brick apartment building. Pain knifed into him, and Marcus doubled over in another wave of agony. His breathing grew labored, the numbing fire that burned through his body keeping him in his seat.

How close had it come? For both of them? Why it happened, he never knew. But he did know who was responsible. That was all he cared about at the moment.

He took an aching glance up the steps to the building, and remembered what he came here for. His anger flared up, eventually blocking out the pain and enabling him to move. He gave his door a push and hobbled out into the biting cold.

When you've been locked away for the better part of 15 years, you got no choice but to rely on those closest to you to watch out for your interests outside...

Marcus looked up and down the street. Sure he was alone, he reached behind and pulled out a weapon, an Uzi with a fresh clip locked in. He gave the hammer a yank for good measure before placing it back in his pants.

In my absence my son was given the keys to my kingdom, placing his trust in those who "claimed" my allegiance.

He was unsteady, shaken even. He glanced down the street again, perhaps out of paranoia, then refocused his attention on the steps. it turned out, it was a decision both of us would come to regret, and on the streets of New York City...

Marcus limped forward, took the stairs one step at a time and eventually found himself facing the blackened windows of the building's door.

...regrets are measured, in bullets.

Three subsequent pounds summoned Jerry to the door.

"Ay Kev! I do think the bitches have arrived!" he called down the hallway before trotting up to door.

"Better be, Jay. This severe lack of pussy is killing the mood."

Grinning like a fool, Jerry grabbed the door and greeted the luscious ladies. He was surprised to find a lack of luscious ladies, who in their place stood a very angry looking Marcus, leaning on one good leg and torso soaked with blood.

"Yo, Marcus!?"

He limped in, pushing Jerry aside.

"Damn money! I didn't know man! I swear!"

"Bounce the fuck out..." Marcus ordered coolly, motioning him over to the door. When Jerry didn't move, Marcus gave him a push. "Now!".

Jerry disappeared into the night, and Marcus turned back to the hallway. The building was utterly derelict, wallpaper torn and left sagging on the walls, shoddy wooden flooring creaking with every step. To the left, a staircase led the way to the second floor, and to the right sat a small room. Ahead of him, a hallway led into another space. That was his destination.

He continued forward, reaching into his pocket to retrieve a pair of earplugs. Down the hall, to the left sat a pothead lighting up a bong on a couch, and to the right some chickenhead was staring at him with deep interest. Marcus paid them little attention as he passed, the bitch sidling up to the wall and the pothead continuing to breath in the drug, undisturbed. Marcus rolled the plugs into each hand and twisted them into his ears. With each nice and snug, he whipped out his two Uzis.

"Yo why you cheatin'?" Tye asked Reece, who were both playing a sports video game in the room. "Let me set my audible, dog!"

Marcus entered the room unnoticed, looking to the two clowns balking over the game.

"Heheh, fuck you nigga you needs to get up on it!"

His gaze turned from them and rested on the bald, black head of Kev Lar, who was sitting on a couch in the middle of the room with a girl laying beside him and resting her head against his leg.

"Both y'all niggas needs to shut the fuck up." he stated, shifting in his seat to get comfortable.

Marcus never took his eyes off him as he walked behind the couch, the noise of the game masking his footsteps. Although he didn't intend to do this subtly.

The whore that was nuzzling up next to Kev suddenly sat up at the sight of the bloodied man who rounded the couch, brandishing submachine guns. Kev Lar turned to see what the trouble was, and when he caught sight of Marcus he all but jumped to his feet.

"Marcus!" he blurted, a little more urgently than he would have liked. The two gamers whirled about in their seats, and all eyes fell on the man in question.

Marcus did nothing. He merely eyed Kev Lar with a stone cold gaze.

"Damn dun..." Kev said quietly, looking to Tye and Reece before looking back at Marcus with a smile.

"Look who ain't dead, yo!"

His enthusiasm sounded honest enough, but his constant blinking was a dead giveaway. He hadn't expected Marcus to be alive, but he also didn't want him to be.

Marcus chose that moment to speak.

"I ain't the only one." he said very plainly.

Only the game could be heard in the tense silence that the group shared. Kev shifted his weight.

"...whatchu talkin' 'bout nigga?" he asked evasively.

"You're boys fucked up Kev."

Marcus's tone began to rise and his eyes began to narrow.

"My Pops is still alive!"

Sincerity gave way to wariness as Kev Lar finally understood. Marcus knew it was him.

Tye and Reece rose out of their seats, sensing that shit was about to go down. The girl sat wide eyed like a deer in headlights and Kev eyed the desert eagle that sat on the table in front of him.

"Time is running out." the game's announcer chimed in.

"Better pick a play."

Marcus glanced at the two men who rose to the occasion, and snapped back at the sudden movement that caught his eye. On reflex, he lifted both weapons in Kev Lar's direction and gave the triggers a pull.

Kev was sent reeling back and over the couch under the subsequent storm that riddled his body with hot lead. The girl screamed and bolted, and Marcus turned his attention to Tye and Reece, both of whom were brandishing weapons. Marcus aimed and cut loose with another volley of bullets, first tearing apart Reece and then sending Tye back crashing into the plasma screen. Behind him, a shaking hand rose from behind the couch and pulled Kev Lar to his feet. He looked to the carnage that had taken place across the room, and pointed an accusing finger in Marcus's direction.

"I'm hit!" he cried, hobbling off into the hallway. "Kill that fucker Marcus!"

Marcus whirled and fired a burst after him, just missing as Kev disappeared from sight.

"You ain't getting away!" he called, and raced after him.

He raced back into the room when a stream of bullets suddenly cut through the hall. Fire continued to rain down the passage until only the audible clicks of empty weapons could be heard, and Marcus rushed in.

Near the stairs one prick stood, searching himself for another clip of ammo while another stood to his right, already loading in a fresh clip. Marcus chose him first, firing as he went down the passage and cutting him to ribbons. The next guy barely had time to grab himself a clip before he too was gunned down. More gunfire erupted from the room to the left, and Marcus ducked back into the hall. Bullets tore their way out of the room and pounded into the wall. When the firing ceased, Marcus took a dive across room's entrance, peppering the area with two blazing guns in mid-air. He landed on his back at the end of his leap, and looked up to the second level as a panicked voice sounded above him.

"Get in there and cap Marcus you idiot!"

A goon raced for the stairway, then recoiled at the sight of Marcus aiming for him from below. Shots found their way into his gut, and he doubled over and crashed through the second floor railing. Marcus spun himself onto his feet, a neat little trick he learned in Karate class as a child and marched up the stairs.

Marcus turned right, and found himself looking down another hallway with swishing double doors situated at the end, each swing revealing a fast retreating man wearing a turquoise bath robe behind them.

Kev Lar.

The doors suddenly burst open, and some fat guy with a baseball cap came lumbering out. He was sent spinning back under a shower of lead, breaking down the doors and kicking up dust. Two men were standing within the room, firing haphazardly at Marcus on his approach. Curiously enough, they only wore boxers.

Marcus ducked low under their aim and rolled into the room. Quick as he could, he leveled a gun on each man ended them both in unison. As the last of the casings clattered to the floor, Marcus cut across the room and peered out of a single broken window. He watched a limping Kev Lar duck his way beneath a hole in a fence and make bloody tracks down the alley, rounding a corner and clutching his stomach as he went.

"He's heading this way! "

Marcus ducked back in and hopped out of the window and on the fire escape. He clambered onto the ladder leading down and slid his way to the ground, not skipping a beat as he dashed through the alley. He slid through the gap with deft quickness, a slide that carried him a little too far; beneath the fence, past a parked car and right into the sights of a gangster who was taking careful aim at him from a fire escape above.

Marcus's feet reached a wooden fence, and he kicked himself off backwards just as three holes were planted in the ground, missing him narrowly. Marcus returned fire, one of his shots catching the man square in the face, who staggered and fell slumped against the window.

Marcus returned to his feet and headed around the corner, catching sight of a banger cowering behind a dumpster. Marcus gave him a passing blast of automatic fire as he continued down the alley, and watched three more goons appear from around a corner and take cover behind a dark blue Impala that sat parked at the end. He dove for cover inside of a dumpster as more bullets were sent his way. He risked a glance out, and saw that the car was trailing something. A big gas tank.

Marcus was thankful now, and would be thankful many times in the future for the plethora of dumbasses that consisted of nigh 80% of the amount of people he would have to defeat before his story was over, the kind that could never grasp the concept of exploding objects and the fact that taking cover around, near or even behind such things in a firefight was not the key to a long healthy life.

Marcus was all too happy to educate them.

A short stream of bullets ignited the tank, and the alley was ravaged by a destructive hot wind that obliterated the vehicle and every jackass behind it. Marcus ducked beneath the dumpster and felt the big green container give a lurch in the opposite direction. The resultant thunder pounded against his ears, reverberating inside the dumpster with powerful sonic waves.

Seconds passed, and Marcus clambered out and into the warm snowy night, flames roaring throughout the blasted alley. Smoking blood stains painted the wall near where the three stooges once stood, and the burning remains of the Impala only added more heat to the furnace. Marcus eased his way down the alley, protecting his face from the fires as he rounded the last corner, leading to a dead end and the stairs leading down to the cellar.

Marcus started down the stairs with guns at the ready when he pressed himself against the wall at the sound of Kev Lar's voice.

"...I think this is it for me."

It was rattled and hoarse, no doubt due to his injuries. Within, Marcus heard the creaking of a dumpster door and it's subsequent slamming. Splashing footsteps sounded the presence of more goons, and Marcus watched the flooded floor ripple with movement. He inched down the stairs, sidling up to the wall and spun around the corner, keeping his guns trained down the corridor. No one made themselves readily apparent, and Marcus slid his feet down the passage to keep his sound to a minimum. The passage turned only right, and he knew that this path led nowhere else.

Kev Lar was trapped.

He crept up to the corner leading into the next area and peered carefully around it. He could see a total of five men prepared to meet him, three hiding behind three water tanks and two standing at the rear. Marcus pulled his head back and weighed his options. His only cover was one corner, and under the combined firepower of five guns, no matter how crappy the marksmen operating them were he wouldn't be able to find any chances to fight back. He was outnumbered, and they were expecting him to come down any second.

However, they didn't know he was already there.

Blitz .

He dashed from the corner and down the cellar, in plain view of every gunman situated within. Suicide under any other circumstances, but Marcus was a pissed off negro wielding two submachine guns, and also the main character of the story. The five clowns wouldn't stand a chance.

The three situated behind the water tanks got a full dose of hot lead from Marcus's left weapon, the containers exploding with water and shrapnel as bullets tore their way through them, and Marcus directed his right weapon in the direction of the two men at the back.

He effectively perforated one of the thugs, and was about to lay waste to the second until the sound of a hollow click announced that his weapon had run dry.

His fantastic run was cut short.

Ice shot through his spine as he watched the final thug, unmolested, level a pistol on him. In that fleeting moment, Marcus knew there wasn't anything between him and the bullet the man was about to send his way.

Everything slowed to a crawl.

Marcus didn't know how he did it, but in the few nanoseconds he had before the thug pulled his trigger he managed to swing his left gun all the way around and rest its aim on the thug's face. The flash erupted in crisp detail, the casing seemed to float from the chamber as the bullet set sail and struck the man right between the eyes.

His arms flopped into the air uselessly, and were held rigid as he fell backwards into the water.

Marcus didn't move for a moment.

How the hell?...

He lowered his weapon, casting away his spent right. He focused his attention on the lone blue dumpster situated at the back of the room and reprioritized his thinking.

He stepped over to the container, lifted the hood and stuck his Uzi in Kev Lar's face.

"You weren't shit, until I brought you in." he stated, keeping his gun trained on Kev's skull as he coughed and sputtered.

...and then chuckled.

"You just like your old man." he managed between slight coughs, and he gave Marcus a wide smile.

"You always gon' git played, nigga!"

Marcus's face contorted into a look of pure disgust, and he gave Kev Lar a blast from his Uzi before letting the dumpster door slam down.

Justice served.

He turned away from the dumpster and let his gun clatter to the ground. Tired and sore, he ran a hand down his face.

A goon who was not quite dead from Marcus's previous rampage rose from the ground behind him, leveling his pistol on the unwitting gangster. He straightened himself up to take the shot, and a blast echoed through the cellar.

The goon reared back, and fell into the water once more.

Marcus whirled, and saw a familiar face standing across the room training a smoking pistol on the luckless prick. Marcus stepped forward.

"So you heard, huh?" he asked, relieved to see one friendly face this unfortunate night. The friendly face was a childhood friend of Marcus's, or at least his childhood anyway.

The man placed the pistol back in his coat and approached Marcus.

"A call came in about your Pops getting shanked. I had to see if you were ok."

The man took a look around the carnage, the dirty water mixing with the blood of the dead goons.

"What the hell happened Marcus?... "

"They tried to murk me too." Marcus replied, and motioned a hand in the direction of the blue dumpster.

"Mother fuckers with no loyalty don't deserve to live."

The man frowned, bringing his hand to his face in stress.

"Jesus Christ ."

Marcus closed the gap, clenched his fists and held them to the detective.

"I guess you gotta do, whatchu gotta do."

The detective removed his hand and gave Marcus a concerned look.

"Ok..." he said, but made no motion to arrest him. Instead, he turned away. "Ok. I'll take care of it."

Marcus watched him walk across the area and assess the situation. He approached the detective again.

"Don't owe me nothin'…" he said sincerely.

He was surprised to see the detective turn and give him a look of distinct anger.

"Marcus I helped raise you, and this is not how I expect to be repaid!" he fumed, leaving Marcus to drop his head.

Suddenly the detective grabbed him, and yanked him over to one of the bullet ridden corpses that soaked in the water.

"Look, you can't keep doing this! You've had some scratches before but this one-... we're talking one BIG FUCKING BANDAIDE."

He pulled Marcus away from the body and straightened him up. He gave him and incendiary look that froze Marcus to his core.

"It's the last time I'm saving your ass. " he breathed, the acute anger in his voice telling Marcus just how serious he was. "So you better do EXACTLY as I say, or you're on your own. Forever."

Marcus looked down, feeling a mixture of shame and guilt flow through him.

The detective eyed him furiously, but his expression relaxed when it became evident that his words hit home.

"Alright man..." Marcus whispered.

The detective released his hold, and the anger subsided.

"Now get the fuck out of here, kid." he said, jabbing a thumb towards the exit.

Marcus nodded and obeyed, limping down the passage and placing a hand on the corner before looking back to the detective one last time.

The detective smiled back.

"Merry Christmas."

Marcus managed a small smile himself, and continued up the cellar and back into the night.

The detective's smile waned when Marcus disappeared, and he looked back to the bodies that littered the place.

"...this is gonna be a shitload of paperwork."