The Century Club in...
Little Trouble in Big China
"I could sure use a bath" he said to his fellow Centurians. Wilhelm was always the
first to miss the comforts of the more civilized locations. "Before we find this Professor Troublé character, I'm getting a hot bath." Professor Touble. His name said it all, didn't it? The professor had made a startling discovery, and he was in over his head. Troublé had discovered some ancient manuscript, and our job was to keep it out of the wrong hands and deliver it to safety.
It was a given when traveling to Shanghai, that you'd spend a lot of time in the air. The arrangement that was made was to let local pilots get us most of the way. Then Justin would handle the last leg of the journey, in a borrowed pontoon plane. It was the right thing. This would keep Justin pretty fresh by the time we arrived. But still. Justin was a pilot. He'd rather go to a blind dentist then put his life in the hands of these hacks, so when he was finally able to get behind the stick, he felt rejuvenated, along with his fellow Centurions.
As always, Justin landed safely on the water, and coasted gently to the dock. Once the door opened, that rejuvenated feeling was sucked away. There, in the crowd, standing like an idiot, was Troublé. Shouting and waving the very manuscript we were sent to protect. Before we even drew our first Chinese breath, we were on the job. Wilhelm went as inconspicuous as he could right for the Professor. You had to look very carefully, but you could barely make out the shadowy figure emerge from the plane and creep along the shadows for Troublé. The Talon was with us. A man of few words unless he needed to say them. You would have sworn he was sound asleep during the entire trip, but he moved with silent and certain purpose of a man who knew his surroundings well.
Before anyone could reach the professor, "they" were on him. We knew there would be other interested parties, but we'd hoped that we'd get to him first. Without so much as a glance at each other, Wilhelm and the Talon instinctively knew that the time for stealth was over, and the chase was on!
Wilhelm sprang into action first! By the time he got to Troublé's original location he was already in the water sans manuscript, and the figures were getting away...jumping from boat to boat along the packed wharf. The Talon wasn't far behind. Justin, preferring his bullets do the chasing, pulled out his gun and was only briefly held up by some nasty looking locals. They all saw when one of the figures fell and cracked his skull on the dock. But no one expected him to burst into flames. The Talon and Wilhelm knew what that meant. Mantha! The elixir that was used by Jinda-hai gave them strength, and no fear, but also made their bodies combust upon death!
As the chase continued, the figures kept hurling obstacles in the heros' way. First laundry, then food products of the locals nearby. It was the fruit that slipped up the Talon. In all his training, he still couldn't do much about a slick surface. Had there been something to grab onto, then it would have been a cake walk. As it turned out, when he fell, sitting straight up on the small boat’s deck, Justin was able to pass him, using the Talon's own head to brace him from falling himself. The Talon was glad to help, but realized there had to be a better way. Looking around, he commandeered one of the few motor boats he could find, and quickly gave chase over the water.
When one of the cultists ignited a fuel source, Wilhelm dove for the water. It wasn't what he had in mind when he requested a hot bath. He surfaced and immediately grabbed the leg of a passing cultist, startling the shadowy figure and sending him down to the deck. As Wilhelm grappled with the cultist, Justin decided that his bullets could now be safely deployed to take out the last cultist, holding the manuscript. As the Talon casually rode by in his new-found-friend's boat, he found the winded Wilhelm, and Justin holding the manuscript, and some new found evidence.
In order to command Qín Shǐ Huángdì's army, one must complete the circle about the square, the union between heaven and earth. Scatter praises to the four winds: 東 (dōng - east), 南 (nán - south), 西 (xī - west), 北 (běi - north). Pat the horse's mane then make a surging fist. Finally, sing the ge'wei, the song of gathering.
The Green Dragon, the dragon of bounty, breathes life. The White Tiger, the tiger with claws of metal, snatches that away.
"It's referring to the army of a general that died a couple of millennia ago." said Wilhelm. "Well, whatever it is, we've got it now" said Justin. Along with the manuscript, they picked up a laundry ticket. Thinking that it may lead to those who sent the cultists, the team decided to pay the laundry a visit. The old man was polite, and pretended to be perplexed when he explained that the ticket was his, but was not for picking up.... but for dropping off. So, this was the drop off point. But who was picking up?
The Talon and Justin had been on enough adventures with Wilhelm to know that the beautiful woman who entered the shop they were surveilling was going to be a huge distraction for him. But there was nothing they could do now, short of running in guns blazing. A thought that had crossed Justin's mind several times.
Wilhelm could charm the eye liner right off of Cleopatra herself. But Ming Lee was different. She was something special. It was all he could do to not hand over the manuscript and blush like a school boy the moment she revealed that she was the one picking up. It took every bit of strength in Wilhelm to delay her by a couple hours. They just needed a plan. The team decided to consult with Professor Troublé, only to find that he'd been taken by the Jinda.
The pace of the Centurion is not the easy path, nor is it the clear path. Justin struggled with this. Life had been hard for him, and he thought that the mission was complete. We had the manuscript after all. The Talon, however saw the way of the world. The cruelty. The injustice. We'd been given one mission. But the Talon...the Centurions…always have an additional mission. But it was not the Talon's place to force this higher purpose on anyone. The Talon, with those steely eyes, looked at Justin and handed him the manuscript. "You must choose our course of action" he said, without a hint of judgment. The path before them seemed suddenly clear. The path of the Centurions is the one that makes the world a better place...the one that saves the helpless. Justin decided that we must go back for the professor.
The team decided to make a fake manuscript, and use it to barter for the professors life. When they met back up with Ming Lee, it seemed that without the manuscript, her cruel master Lo Fan, may take her life. Wilhelm, enamored with her, vowed to protect her as well, and she agreed to take them to see her master. The odds were not in their favor. Lo Fan was already known for his cruelty, and he was sure to have an army waiting for them. When they approached Lo Fan's (seemingly) abandoned warehouse, then entered. Wilhelm paused for a moment, as he noticed that the Talon had disappeared. Finally he noticed that he had decided to find his own entrance on the roof. "Yes. That might work better" Wilhelm thought. As he began walking again, within the warehouse, he was too far behind Ming Lee to do anything about the Jinda who suddenly appeared at her side, only to disappear with her a moment later in a puff of smoke! Ah...the trap!