Loyalty is honour; secrecy is bliss.
-- A saying of the Omega-Alpha
"Azami!" Two men called, their voices penetrating the harsh wind that whistled down the urban street.
Cars passed, honking unceasingly. A pair of snowplows followed, leaving the snow banks and curb drenched in slush, snow and dirt.
The men paused. They wore dark, long, wintry trench coats. Beneath them, matching hoodies. The hoods were up, covering their faces from the harsh weather and judging eyes.
"Where is she?" one of them stated, a bitter tone and a mild, eastern-Russian accent.
Adriatic eyes shone from beneath the other hood, "What time is it?"
"Eight 'til twelve."
He looked up, and all he saw was a darkening overcast sky, dotted with infinite falling snowflakes.
Rolling down his sleeve to hide his watch, one of the men looked down the alleyway. His voice was husky in the cold air, "The alley."
A young woman was huddled behind a green dumpster, her back against a frosty, red brick wall. Shivering, she rubbed her hands together. The wind whistled down the alley. It was taunting her by waving the soft, black hairs that fell from beneath her hat. The hat had feline ears, frosted at the tips by the harsh air.
The wind howled, a fierce roar. The lid of the dumpster flew up, and then fell with a clamouring of plastic.
"Azami?" Inaudible, wispy. Distant.
No, I am imagining it. Her thoughts were frantic. She used a foreign tongue, which she reverted to only used in desperate situations or when comfortably among her kin.
Footsteps. Hard boots upon the wet pavement. She heard them, and thought nothing of them.
The Russian twins stopped before the shivering body. One of them smiled, the light from a balcony above showing the whites of his teeth. Hiding from the wind, are you, Azami? Might as well crawl into that goddamn dumpster!
He stepped forward, away from his brother.
The young woman returned the smile, her cheeks rosy. Darn formality. She saw a boot kick against the ground, and slush hit her face. She snorted, spat, and then brushed it away with a shaking hand. Her frozen voice managed to speak, "Stop trying to intimidate me."
The one behind spat, and the froth landed at her feet.
"Where's your coat?" The front. The one who kicked.
Her eyeshadow was unblemished, "What's my name, Alexei?" Alexei is always the one on the assault.
"Azami." They both answered. The one in the back bit his lip, Not your real name.
She nodded, aloof, "Then, I am open for business, boys."
"Got any Mary?" The brother in the back.
"No, we're not buying any more weed today," Alexei shot back over his shoulder.
"Maybe I'm not open for busi--"
"Eiih." Unison. Fifth letter of the English alphabet.
"I'm sorry, your accent..." She smiled, toying with them.
"Ecks." Alexei alone. Twenty-fourth letter.
The bitter smile. He's not letting Andrei speak. It tightened into a chilled grin.
His brother, in the back, fidgeted.
"One condition," the woman addressed as Azami replied.
"Name it!" said Alexei.
"Your coat." she said, indicating her hand-knit sweater and then eyeing the thick, black coat Alexei bore, an exact match with Andrei's.
Hesitance, "You wouldn't."
"She would, bro." Intoned Andrei.
"I am cold," Azami interrupted.
"And, how much?"
"The usual," she replied. "No hagglin'."
Alexei and Andrei, grinning from ear to ear, "Fine. We'll take six." Nu.
One brother handed the other his wallet. Andrei counted out the bills in front of 'Azami', and Alexei took off his thick trench coat.
The snow began to fall thickly.
The young woman withdrew a zip-lock bag from her purse. Japanese text was scrawled upon it. She looked up at Andrei, who was a head and a half taller than her. He's focused on something. Surely, he cannot read it.
Andrei came back into touch with reality, and pulled out an indigo, felt bag of clinking marbles. He smiled politely, "Put them in here."
She began to count out six pills, snow falling on her hand.
Her usual baggies have a large, cryptic 'E' on them, and nothing more. Alexei noted.
Andrei looked at Alexei. Alexei looked down at the pills. Andrei looked back down at them. And Alexi looked at 'Azami'. Then, the twins began conversing frantically in Russian.
Damn, they're suspicious, she thought. Their foreign, flow of words made her nervous. Just buy them already!
It stopped, like an oil rig running dry. Andrei turned to her, "We've seen these before. Where did you get them?"
You wouldn't believe me. Her face cleared of emotion, hiding any surprise. And she looked Andrei straight in the eyes, "They're from Tokyo. A new form." Not quite a lie.
Alexei was impatient, "We'll take it anyways. All six."
Seven black pods, as large as the marbles. Oval-like prisms, with flat edges. They shined in the faint light from the balcony above. They were obsidian, insidious, and darker than the overcast sky.
The storm clouds parted, the flurry ended and yet, the wind did not stop. It became frantic, frayed and failing. Like gunfire, the blades whipped through the air. The cold air was severed with each pass, and it bled a chilling sound.
There was a young woman, huddled in front of the dark, green dumpster. She had an east-Asian complexion, and a fair amount of make-up around her frozen face. A joint met her lips, and she inhaled.
A rope ladder fell silently, and a figure in black climbed down. They set foot on the black, steel balcony.
A dart hit her neck, and the woman known by the alias of 'Azumi' fell dead.
Ashok and Caitlin, sitting on their knees, looked up from the bottom of the pen; silent. The bashing of keys and the wailing of lungs had stopped. They stared, wide-eyed, at their baby-sitters.
Andrei and Alexei stared back, a playful gleam in their eyes.