Chapter 8

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Welcome to the Jungle

 
If, through the process of instant teleportation, one had ended up in Stapleton, it would be criminally easy to misjudge its distance from the gleaming skyscrapers of Manhattan. One would have to be told, quite explicitly and possibly involving photographic proof, that it was a mere five miles removed.
 
Stapleton was one of those urban areas on Staten Island that hadn't seen anything interesting happen to it except being mentioned in several movies as ranking among the most mind-numbingly boring places at the US East Coast. Indeed, it would be easy to claim that Staten Island was so boring that the only thing the Navy left behind when it packed up in 1994 was a Tide Prediction Station. Well, that and the (relatively) sprawling naval base dead smack in the middle of Stapleton, 'abandoned' just like that.
 
Then somebody actually managed to convince the US Government to let them rebuild the naval station as a novelty hotel. The residents took notice, sat down with a brew and went "Huh."
 
A black BMW pulled onto the station's grounds and circled around into a big hall, ostensibly under reconstruction to house the hotel's sports & activities center. However, once the car actually came to a stop inside, it was clear that this was no ordinary construction site. The workers mostly sported ragingly neonesque hairstyles, moved heavy equipment with that ease that only came to physical adepts, and instead of building up, they were mostly involved with covering up what looked like a very, very big basement.
 
The BMW's doors opened to eject Trinity, Brandon Logan - and Rowena Logan, still at that age where she felt uncomfortably like a tall girl rather than a woman.
 
"Fade's been busy," Trinity said, surveying the operation. She thought back a few years; once, she'd been one of them. Now, between her loyalties both for her employer and her lover, it seemed like her youthful connection to Fade had simply withered for lack of attention.
 
Brandon Logan tapped his cane on the ground once, letting the sophisticated sensors in this particular model run a detailed echolocation survey of the whole area. He did have the blueprints and no reason to believe there were any surprises waiting, but it was good to make sure, at least. "He's also rather later than we'd agreed on."
 
"I could ask the boys," Trinity offered.
"See, I've been taught that you don't crouch down to pick up things on the floor. Same principle here: We don't ask for something - we get it."
"Might be you're not the most important person here, Daddy," came Rowena's reply. "Besides, I should be the one screaming for room service."
"I don't think you'll be enjoying that for some time, dear."
"I just hope this Simmons guy has a teaching bone in his body. The last gig was a total bust."
"Don't mind John," Trinity said, "he's just a frontal attack, assault rifle kind of guy. That's important to know, too."
"Oh, I didn't mind the lessons, I just wish you guys woulda let me sleep at night."
 
Brandon thought he detected a very, very slight blush in Trinity's cheeks - it was good to see that his lady in red had opened her emotional defenses a bit. It may have made her a worse warrior, but it made her a better human.
 
"Ah, there he comes now," Trinity said.
"Fade?"
"Simmons."
 
Rowena's first impression of Mark Simmons did not, in fact, inspire much confidence. There he was, that big guy with bandages still poking out from under his wifebeater, wearing dirty working jeans and jump boots. His hair was greasy, and he wore the dirty imprint of a twelve-hour shift with welding glasses on his face.
 
"Hope you don't mind if we skip the embrace," Brandon said; Mark smirked and held out his hand for a hearty shake.
"Wouldn't wanna pay for that cleaning bill," Mark replied. "Fade's not in town, I'm afraid. Urgent business. But, well -" Mark swept his arm through the air, showing the whole construction site - "we've been making do without him. Almost done, in fact."
"Actually, I wanted to talk to you, Marcus. Do you recall your trip to Australia?"
 
Mark hauled in his hand and slapped his forehead.
 
"Aw sh!t. I promised you some muscle."
"Indeed."
"But, well, can you still use that? I mean, sorry, I totally forgot about that. You should've called earlier!"
"No big deal, I managed. But I would like to cash in my token now."
"Well, sure, I could probably shake one of my guys loose, I've got them setting up the training area below..."
 
Brandon smiled.
 
"No, not like that." He took a deep breath, then finally said it. "I want you to train my daughter."
"..." said Mark, who only now consciously registered Rowena's presence. It probably didn't help that he pointed at her and went "That kid?"
"The very same."
"Sorry, 'nox, I don't do little girls..."
 
Trinity chuckled.
 
"Rowena, show 'Unca Mark' your birthday gift," Brandon said.
 
With a surprisingly well-rehearsed move, Rowena whipped open her jacket and exposed a shoulder holster with an FN Five-seveN.
 
"Bang, you're -" she begun while drawing the gun, but stopped when she felt Mark's hand tighten around her wrist like an industrial vice. It wasn't painful yet, but it promised a crushing to remember. She also noted that her line of fire was still well clear of Mark's head, whose face wore an amused smirk.
 
"...dead?" Rowena finished.
"Nice quickdraw," Mark replied, his voice stern but not unamused. "Not a polite thing to set up your kid like that."
"I had to convince the two of you that you should give it a try. I take it I've succeeded?"
"Good enough for me," Mark said.
"Yes," Rowena added, audibly taken down a notch.
"Splendid," Brandon said. "I'll be a bit busy in the foreseeable future, but you know how to reach me if there's trouble. Oh, and do let me know in advance when graduation day comes around."
 
It seemed excessively cold to Mark that Brandon pretty much took that as a cue to step back into the car and leave his daughter all alone in a strange new place, but he knew what the guy with the dreadlocks was doing. It wasn't cuddly, but the real world out there wasn't a walk in the park, either - particularly when you were affiliated with the infamous Equinox. It was up to Trinity to show a degree of (foster-motherly) affection, fetching Rowena's go-bag from the BMW's trunk and giving the girl a wordless hug.
 
She's old beyond her age, Mark thought, but weren't we all when we got into this?
 
Mark knew that leaving Rowena to ponder the situation wouldn't help her accept it in the slightest. Instead, he tapped her on the shoulder while the BMW drove away into the night.
 
"C'mon, kid. We're gonna find a room for you."
"Can we find some new clothes, too?"
"Uh, sure...I guess we can go shopping tomorrow. Why?"
"Because you just ruined my jacket."
 
Mark looked a bit dumbfounded. That damn grease...
 
"Sorry about that."
"Didn't like it, anyway." She looked around the site as Mark led her towards a contradiction in terms - a retro-style cargo elevator newly installed in the building to reach the sublevels. "So, you kill people for my dad?"
"Yeah."
"...a lot of people?"
"Facktons," Mark replied.
"Metric or imperial?"
Mark chuckled. "Heh. You just try and get your best one-liners in now."
"What for?"
 
The elevator stopped at the lowest level. Mark opened it up, revealing what looked like a large open sublevel - with a dojo, a translucently enclosed firing range and a well-stocked gym with attached obstacle course.
 
"'cause it's all downhill from here, kid."
 
FIN