Chapter 9: Setting the Stakes
"I'm back," Tohru mulled quietly, in front of particularly no one, as he reentered the base of Section 13 along with the available agents and soldiers who had all failed to retrieve Uncle, capture Daolan Wong, and keep their leaders and wild cards Jackie and Black from getting sucked into what only a chi wizard apprentice can presume to be a relocation portal.
The sight of blue black hair accompanying a small body didn't escape the edge of his eyes."Jade," he spoke, now staring in front of her, partly as reprimand, "what are you doing here?"
She shrugged, pretending to thumb-wipe the gunk on her fingernails. "Not much, except that I happen to know where Uncle Jackie happens to be." That last half came with a proud smirk of knowing such knowledge.
"You do? Where has he gone?"
"He went to Las Vegas. And I don't think Daolan Wong is going there to let evil Uncle rob the casinos by sword-point. So, where do I fit into this mission?"
"Jade, I think it would be best for you to-"
She stared at him unhappily.
"Sorry, Jade. It's just that with sensei and Jackie gone for quite some time-"Jade put another proud thumb on her stomach. "Hey, T-Man, don't worry. Jackie and Uncle get lost all the time. I don't get lost that easy."
"But...that's because Jackie and sensei are always having these adventures," Tohru replied as he watched side to side, his memories a gallery awaiting his viewership.
Tohru and Jade were silent for a LONG while. "For once, I'm short of a retort," Jade finally conceded. "But sitting around isn't going to help me find my uncles, right? I know he's in Las Vegas because he called me."
"And do you know where he is in Las Vegas?"
"Uh....no. Except he may be using a hotel telephone or something."
"That doesn't narrow it down very much," sighed Tohru, who raised up his pythons to calm a worrisome itch on his sweat-filled brow. He looked back up at Jackie's niece. "We'll have better luck when Captain Black calls in."
"Except Captain Black hasn't called in! He may never even call us until it's too late. Have you ever thought of that, Tohru?"
"I...try not to."
"Feh, that's the only bitty crack in Tohru," popped up Mama Tohru, who indeed was in Section 13 for some time, as Jade had thought hours before. "My little boy, he hopes just a bit too much."
"Mommy..." he spoke humbly.
"If Billy Goat mean that much to you, don't wait around and go find him. Maybe once you go to Las Vegas, you can sniff his garlic breath a mile away."
"Don't you have a chi spell to find Uncle again, Tohru?"
"That'll be too much, Jade. I can't do another spell unless I had a piece of food that Uncle ate. Uncle hasn't eaten in our home in days. All I have left for use are these; sensei's old magic tools." He rose up the dried porcupine fish and gecko. Jade took them and rubbed their textures. Old and rough, just like good old Uncle. They were also cold, as they had been preserved under a refrigerator since Tohru had little clue where to store them. He feared Uncle's wands would rot.
"We'll probably be needing them," replied Jade, her eyes focusing on the two magical "wands". "I guess this means our only hope is to go over to Las Vegas."
"Yes, and bring the talismans to cure sensei and give Jackie an extra boot of energy."
"That's boost of energy, Tohru."
"You are going around the world again? You came back to say hello so I have to say good-bye once more?"
"I'm sorry, mom. If there was any way of making it up to you."
"Ah, don't worry so much. Not a good time to gamble in Las Vegas, anyway. Too many good gamblers in the summer..... You should get Billy Goat soon if he mean so much to you. Move your secret agent men into the plane."
"But, I'm not a secret agent. I don't work for Section 13."
"Yeah, but you're a friend of Captain Black. That might mean something."
"Okay, here goes," he said before turning up the volume of his voice for the baffled agents to turn focus away from their computers. "Section 13 agents, I, Tohru, uh, Captain Black's friend, have received a tip that Jackie Chan made a call in Las Vegas. There is a chance that all of our missing friends, and enemies, are in that city."
The agents looked at each other and the keyboards rattled excessively, until satellite feeds and Las Vegas maps were all over the screen. After much typing, one agent stared up. "Got some Section 13 activity going on in L.V. Someone has activated a device that is attracting X-3's satellite surveillance, and strongly."
"I am certain that apparatus could only be the System Ghost!" the doors of the Section 13 laboratory closed shut as Dr. Kepler walked between where the agents and Tohru were sitting. "I had quite elevated hopes that the device would operate wonders beyond recognition. It appears to be the success I envisioned."
"Kepler, you crazy nut," said another agent. "We can't even tell who's using the device, even!"
Fumbling through his pockets for a device, and finding it, Dr. Kepler then punched in a few numbers on a calculator. "Probability of Jackie Chan's pockets being tight enough to withstand a relocation vortex at a certain velocity suggests..." He stared up at the screen, his incomprehensible expression comprehending a conclusion. "It is likely that Jackie Chan had preserved the device and is taking advantage of it as we converse."
"I like your math, Kepler," said Jade. "Now we know where Jackie is."
"This will be much more difficult than you think, Jade," said Tohru. "We still don't know where Daolan Wong and his men are."
"So? Go get your men into the plane!"
"Mommy, they're not my men!"
"What do I tell you about such people? Make them!"
"You're getting out of your mind, just like he is!" Kenzo stared to add to his reply to Daolan Wong's insane plea considering the blade-crazy Kirishima. The hotel room they locked themselves in had been helped considerably by Wong's spells. Several of them had allowed the necessary room service to come in, without any actual bellhops or human beings of normal ilk interfering. Kenzo had sworn a tray of hours de oeuvres tasted less metallic if it wasn't being transported, but Daolan dismissed such trifles of distress.
Meanwhile, Kirishima had become only a bit angrier since being captured; he had too much confidence and experience to know full rage while bound only wasted energy.
Daolan pushed Kenzo's arm, getting the man to retreat further from the room. "The idea was not to imprison Kirishima; only his sword; he is a helpless, raving lunatic without his weapons, as would be the case for the good chi wizard whose body he occupies."
"Which means you kept the sword?"
"Yes, but say that out loud again, and you will not near the treasure you seek."
Kenzo narrowed his eyes on Daolan Wong, who sighed as he had to speak more.
"Leave here, now. I have much to talk to Kirishima."
"Don't wait long. Bart Chang gets picky with his price when you're late for business. Less money for us," Kenzo clicked a pistol to illustrate the rest of his paragraph, and walked away, disappearing into a cloud of dust, Wong's special transport.
"Where...have you hidden....my sword?"
"Forgive me for the intrusions, Kirishima, but we are merely trying to protect you."
"From what?! I am Kirishima, master of a million swords, a death-rebel at every corner of the world, a man with no fear of anyone."
Daolan Wong smiled. "Your only fear is the very person you've become." He summoned a mirror in front of Kirishima's face. High nose, square jaw, graying thorns of hair....
Kirishima gasped. "What oddity is this? This is not the face of Kirishima. An old, decrepit man! What means of sorcery did you bring upon me!?"
"It is not sorcery, but the very curse that you, Kirishima, have been trapped in. You waited years to return to the earth you roamed, and now you see clearly the error of your ways."
"Kirishima makes no error!"
"It was not only you, Kirishima. It was an old man who did this to you. I discovered what kind of a legend you are, Kirishima.. You were desperate to find a way to flee the world of the dead, so you used an ancient magic spell, from the distrustful Ayurvedic people of Asia, to seal your soul in your precious sword. Little did you think though that you would take the body of my most persistent rival in the world of magic! Uh!"
"Transfer me from this body, if you know the how-to-do instructions."
"I know how to do that, but until then you are under my obedience."
"Kirishima takes no-"
"Stop! I grow weary of you speaking in the third-person! And you will have to take orders from me, Daolan Wong, if you are to find the very thing which would allow me to destroy all my enemies, and make sure you will never need to possess such a miserable body again!"
"The treasure of Kirishima," the warrior muttered.
"You call it your treasure despite your never finding it. You speak of the treasure of the Oni Iori Saganosuke, from an underground temple in a Japanese island. You kept that sword close to you because it was the only key to the temple's door, where the treasure laid behind, with no true owner left. Your key is so precious that it will crumble the moment it opens the door, which means you need to be much more careful than your current actions suggest. I knew that when Kirishima did come back, the first thing that was on his mind was to seek the treasure. But a man like you could only do so much when the world has changed in over a thousand years."
"What do you mean, old man? No manner of land can stall the great Kirishima!"
"But a manner of time can. Being in the good chi wizard's body won't give you all the time you need, or want. I have a deal to make, and it would make your wish come true."
"Deal?" There was a "lu" sound at the end, proof that Kirishima occupied Uncle's body.
"A trade of services. I will have the map to the underground temple, and in return you will open the door to the treasure."
Kirishima laughed. "What fool! I will agree to your little deal, but once I open the door, no one can stop the great Kirishima! I will run in their with my treasure faster than those miserable flippers you call your feet! Ha ha ha! Now give me back my sword!"
The staff clapped the floor. Daolan pointed his rusty finger. "Your sword is what you will not be able to own for the time being, to keep sure you are below me. Tamper with me and you will never get your sword OR the treasure. I can find many other treasures if I wanted to; but for you, this is the only treasure that is of any value."
That shut Kirishima up, until he could find a retort.
Jackie had leapt from roof to roof, but carefully, since his shoes scratched loudly over the asphalt roofs, dulling the plastic soles that supported his footwear in place. Much concern for his uncle compelled him to expend anything else, including his own energy, to search the man who adopted him for over 20 years. But this was a summer season, the season ripe for tourists to get in the way and pay little attention to anyone except for themselves. Even if Jackie plucked himself from the merciless stew of community by making himself invisible and hopping off rooftops, little ease could be plucked just the same, for not one resembled the thin, gray-haired and bespectacled Uncle who was roaming around restlessly with a magical sword at hand. It was one of those rare moments where Jackie would be glad that something dangerous could be happening. It meant he would have an opening.
Jackie found it tedious to sneak through the unknowing tourists, who kept craning their necks to wonder why the air conditioning felt as strong as a human being's push. Luckily for Jackie, several tar beach roofs of the buildings were cleansed of any human contact, thanks to the fact that it was summer and tourist business stayed focus down to earth. He was able to leap from building to building in an invisible Ghost form, but his brown eyes ensnared some less comforting sights down below, for it seemed Daolan Wong had contacted the perfect casting agent to amass for him a criminal army.
Vanessa Barone. The whip-lashing dominatrix complete with red coat, adventure boots and an indentation beneath her clothes which suggested her malicious partner in crime, the bullwhip. Even in the metropolitan and relatively homogeneous section of Las Vegas, Barone seemed intent like the city was a jungle in itself, though her hands, restraining a grip on her whip, rattled like she wanted to mow down the monotony of the city, but couldn't for risk of an unfriendly date with the police.
Kenzo Yokanawa. The only Yokanawa who managed to escape maximum-security prison in Sacramento, Kenzo, real name Yukio, must've once again been in it for a quickie deal at money to climb higher up the social ladder. He didn't believe in the adage "Crime doesn't pay", but apparently found the practice to resemble a lottery ticket; you win, you win big, you lose, stay quiet, start over, and hope luck joins you this time.
"Not good at all," Jackie shook his head. "Daolan Wong's little circus is all over the place, blending in.... But there's no Uncle anywhere....Following them will be very dangerous, but it's the best choice I can make....Oh(!)"
Red, orange, rubbery, and stalking with fingers came two walking gloves, thieving tools made immortal by some unknown magic of pirate's lore. The gloves pondered the asphalt, ugly, dirty, breath-choking asphalt which they had liberty of not inhaling, just scraping for rubber. Still, scouting for Chang or his men was not a favorite duty of theirs. Making them collect grime over their sheens meant nobody would look up to them as fancy gloves to wear, thus allowing entry to the wells of kleptomania. And judging by the glitter and glimmer which dotted the city, nowhere else did they surmise a better buffet for burglary. Perhaps they were at the end of their gratuitous turmoils. A little wash back at the hotel would be perfect remedy.
Even with the System Ghost, Jackie hesitated before resolving to climb up a flag pole. When Jackie got back down, he thought of a better resolution. "If I were Captain Black, I would've called Section 13 for some help right now. I think he has. Las Vegas is now a very dangerous city, however. I can't allow innocent people to be hurt, but then...would anyone even believe me?" He stared at the hotel, where a criminal becoming friend had provided for services listed beneficial and kind. "Well, at least one person. She deserves it for helping me out...though not that no one else deserves it...I think she'll understand. But not until I know where Uncle's being kept.....
"Follow the dirty red gloves."
"Follow the yellow brick road-"
Jackie Chan, at 10 years old, reclined on a bench positioned before a white, 60-degrees Fahrenheit (the thermometer said so, though Jackie couldn't talk to it), and quiet appointment office of the closest hospital to Chinatown. He rested there for an hour until he stood up on a table of magazines to switch the TV off. He no longer needed the classic MGM movie. It was sure to come back again anyway.
Uncle's shop caught a fury of flames in the kitchen. He wasn't cooking dinner; he never started preparations at 4pm, since a Chan dinner was commonly noodle broth, the tasty sort opened off metal cans. The rest of the shop hadn't been as lost a cause; Uncle surely would thank his lucky stars that the inventory didn't take the hit. If the inventory got damaged, the old man required talking to the hated insurance agents; their English was painful, and Uncle strained his back once too often to get his ears listening to the legal jargon in all their muddy glory.
When Uncle came to in his hospital bed, he told Jackie that he hated fighting the fire in the stove. He could've gotten away from the store and let firemen wash out the kitchen, Jackie thought. Instead, Uncle handled it by his lonesome, only to pass out from the gray fumes that stuck up his nose and down his lungs.
"But I gave fire a gooood whipping!" Uncle clamored, coughing just once and holding a possible second from Jackie's notice. "Remember, Jackie, wet towels work very well against big fire. Tell future wife that."
"Are you okay, Uncle? You're so calm. You could've died," Jackie replied.
"Fah! Then who would take good care of you in San Fransisco? Hmm? No one! I didn't want to leave you alone and so I passed out before the fire took the best of me."
"You must get your homework done."
"I already did, two hours ago, about an hour after I found you in the shop."
"What is it, Uncle?"
"Two hours, one hour, two hours, one hour. I do not understand your math, make it clearer!"
"It's been 3 hours since you woke up."
"Uncle…What were you doing in the shop?"
"I was practicing my chi spells."
"I went for an extra ingredient, and as I came back to the stove, the stove turned against me. It went up in fire. Cheap stove."
"I can't believe it…Chi spells."
"Yes, very good ones too."
"No, that's not it. Why were you doing chi spells again?"
"Something wrong about chi spells?"
"Uhh….No. I'm changing the subject….I guess. Do you need anything?"
"Yes, I need mung bean sandwiches. It's the restaurant on other side of my shop. I want you to buy two sandwiches and sneak them right here without any doctor looking."
"What? Sneak them?"
"You've seen doctors. Always they want me to eat strange American food. They think American food so tough. They don't know Uncle needs tough Chinese food because he has a tough boy for a nephew." Uncle gave a solid pat behind the back.
Well, that hurt more than two fingers on an average day....
"If I were Captain Black, I would've called Section 13 for some help about now. However, unh! with my wallet left behind-unh!- and a cell phone gone M.I.A..." His face rife with a harvest of unshaven stubs, Captain Black momentarily crawled on tweaked knees across the pebbly roads of Las Vegas, bumping into people's surprisingly tough legs (must be tourist season; bad time for detective work) because his eyes kept very fixed down to the road, the reason NOT so as to hide his facial features, but to spare change from the merciless trample of spoiled commoners. "Alright, just one more nickel and I'll dial in the big 1-3. Hmm, a penny," he held his chin thoughtfully. "Better hope pay phones take pennies." He then looked up and gasped, seeing his reflection. One course of action left to take..
"Yes!" Black's soaked arm dripped with triumph as one tiny nickel shone from reflective sunlight. This called for adulation.
"Thank you, fountain change!"
"Jackie? Chan? Jackie Chan? How does he prefer to be named?" Portia looked over her shoulder, staring at the unthinking clock and its red digital numbers. 5:10pm. "Nary a note to be found. I hope he hadn't thrown himself into the fray just yet." She wiped her hair with the towel slung around her doused form, evaporation teeming from any exposed skin.
"I tried being such a good sport about the situation. Really I did. Perhaps had Jackie's Uncle not gotten into this mess, I wouldn't be playing both sides of the coin. That settles it. If Jackie never shows up- no, I can't afford that either. If he knows, what was the point of transferring to San Fransisco? It was the best choice I had to get away.."
Portia turned and eyed the gloves unhappily. "Oh...You naughty little bits again," she sneered quietly. "
A/N: The problem I had with Captain Black was that he was stealing the show way too well. I had to trim his role in the fic.
OH MY FREAKING GOSH. How long did I leave this thing out to dry? If I can apologize a lot, I would type it all over, but now's not the time, maybe when I finish it. Rest assured, amigos, I am not dead, or abandoning the love for JCA. I might've disappeared but I don't like leaving things unfinished. Hopefully, this may revive the fic for the time it's able to. Well, adios.