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"Not as of yet, Doctor. The public relations department has so far managed to divert any
calls of that nature. To judge from the news reports, the media have yet to determine a common
link between the reported victims, hospitalized and deceased, save for common symptoms to their
physiology." Epstein assured anxiously. "But I thought you might wish to be aware of any worse
case scenarios should they arise."
Idriss nodded, forcing patience into her speech. "Doctors Stafford and Voight have lent
their assistance upon the more…complex details of the project. What are their thoughts to this
A slight, awkward pause followed. "Well, ma’am, we’ve tried to get in touch with both of
them, more than once. They don’t seem to be answering their home, office or cellphones."
Odd. Idriss raised an eyebrow. For all their human inadequacies, Stafford and especially
Voight kept thoroughly predictable routines and were loyal to the company. "Are you certain? No
matter, I’ll try to reach them myself. Your concerns are duly noted, Mr. Epstein. Good evening."
She clicked off the cellphone and dialed Voight’s number, lines in her forehead creasing visably
with each extended ring.
Much better, the Celestial Blade warrior’s thoughts reckoned as he devoured the
last scrap of steak tartar and regarded himself in the mirror opposite the dining table. A
warm bath and fresh change of attire had improved his temperament a great deal. Clad in
a tailored, black Armani suit, his long black hair braided back neatly, the young warlord
chuckled to himself. The time would come soon to plan for war, to crush his adversaries
like so many filthy cockroaches, save theirs would be a much lower survival rate.
Father had taught him well, as acting Oyubun for the Yakuza faction within the
Little Nagasaki districts of NewCity, up until Shiro Khan’s untimely death shortly after
Tetsuo’s nineteenth bithday, the night of the young man’s regional tournament competit-
ion at the Matsuri Civic Center. The young man bowed his head slightly as memories of
the night flooded forth, his eagerness to succeed and the swell of pride attained at his
father’s final words to him, before the competition. "I wish my young rebel tiger luck,
and I am sure your achievements will continue to bring our household pride. You honor
our ancestors, my son."
Tetsuo bit his lip hard, choosing to draw blood rather than tears. That night
he’d placed first in regionals, earned high praise from his personal sensei and a shiny
trophy he’d destroyed not six hours later after hearing word from his dear father’s
most trusted associates…a night that would haunt his dreams as long as he closed his
eyes…car accident…Father had turned the keys in his Honda Prius, resulting in the ve-
Tetsuo ground his teeth, a low growl rising in his throat. Upon his honor and
the spirits of his ancestors, he would avenge his father’s death. But the luxury of
fond memories was not to be afforded now. There must come planning, preparation
to restore order to the legacy his father had left for him, and most importantly, the
strategies of war…
Drawing in a solemn breath, Tetsuo closed his eyes and focused his senses. "By
the honor I hold for our ancestors, I vow I’ll make you proud of me, Dad. May all who
oppose us rot in the Oni Courts below." As he consummated the sentence, the young
warlord reached for the phone and dialed a number. "Hai. Get me in touch with Jun
Matsuto-Sama. Tell him it’s Shiro Khan’s son, his heir."
Risha paced the floors of her bedroom like an animal forced into captivity. It
was too much, she couldn’t sit still. Dani in a coma , this weird new disease, and to top
it all off she’d been grounded. Her father had said as much, for her own ‘protection’.
Protection from what, her mind raced. Society? This outbreak, despite the fact she’d
never been sick a day in her life? She hated feeling this helpless…nerves going haywire
as her heart pumped spastically, arenalin coursing through her veins. A wave of nausea
wracked her stomach. She couldn’t just sit here and take it, that was certain…
But to go out, disobey a direct order from her father? Okay, her adoptive Dad.
her psyche admitted, reeling over options. Still, he was her guardian, wanting to love as
well as protect her…
Her mental facilities debated the options. Gnashing her teeth, Risha heaved a
sigh and drew her own conclusions. Hand reaching for her leather jacket, she fought
back a stray tear. "I’m sorry, Dad." She managed, biting her lip. "But you trained me to
be a warrior. And I have to do this." Beads of sweat trickled from her forehead as the
young woman stealthily made her way toward the window of her room, lifting it as quietly
as was possible, and ventured out into the night