Description: Lord Vega summons figures from some of the most powerful organizations in the underworld to discuss the future of the world and beyond.
Mexico City, Mexico.
Each invited guest is met by an official-looking escort, offered formal travel by agents of the Mexican government in convoys marked with diplomatic plates. Those less trusting are simply provided with directions as they leave without fuss. Regardless, the streets marking the path to the destination are eerily clear of civilians.
All paths eventually lead to a plain-looking building not far from the center of the city. Despite guarded gates blocking access to a secure underground garage, there isn't a pause as the convoys are allowed to pass without hassle.
Moving with an almost clockwork precision, each of the invitees is led to a private elevator, staffed by a well-dressed operator. Each operator wordlessly activates their lifts once the occupants arrive, never looking away from the plain panels of buttons as they summon the quiet boxes up their tracks to the top floor.
The elevators let out into a well-appointed, yet somehow sterile looking atrium lit by clear glass ceilings that takes up the majority of the top floor of the building. All of which leads to a pair of doors marked by two silent guards in carefully maintained uniforms and a smiling Mexican woman that greets each party at the door offering a formal greeting by name before offering simple instructions.
"Each of you will be allowed two escorts for the meeting. The rest of your party can wait out here as needed. Please limit all recordings to audio, some of the guests are very private individuals."
And with that, the invitees are allowed into a room with a stark contrast to the brightly lit atrium. A long conference table sits in a room lit only by a few sparse overhead lamps and lines of displays pouring through tremendous amounts of data.
Seated at the far end of the table, flanked by a pair of silent Dolls, sits the master of Shadaloo, Lord Vega himself, silent until the last party has finally entered.
"Finally, it's time for us to discuss the future where power sits in the hands of those who deserve it."
Duke had very little to motivate him to come, at first.
He was a busy man. He had just acquired 50% of the remains of an entire Yakuza. He had the aftermath of Interpol and Delta Red picking through the pieces. He had to stabilize a criminal empire that was absorbing chaos and corruption. To respond to a self-help guide, a mere notice, would have been quickly dismissed. There was detail, however, which allowed Duke to come across the country, across the world to this.
The fact it was in Mexico City.
The crime boss had entered the room with his two escorts. One was a scruffy-faced man in a brown suit, carrying a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. The other was a grim-faced Yakuza, missing a pinky finger and bearing a pair of dark glasses. They weren't needed for Duke's protection. They were here as a matter of business and representation. Some people needed to rely on bodyguards.
Duke was not one of those individuals.
The dark-skinned boss approaches the table. The brown-suited man pulls out the chairs, and Duke takes his seat at the table, then the Yakuza, and then the man himself. Duke clasps his fingers, sitting at attention. He would not take notes. He just stares across the table at a man who needed no introductions. He knew Vega. Unofficially, the Syndicate was enemies with Shadaloo, though officially they were considered 'neutral.' He keeps silent now, as Vega declares that it was time to discuss the 'future' where power sits of those who deserve it. It was easy to talk about who deserves power.
Duke would need to see who actually did deserve it, in this meeting.
A bowler is tipped to the woman as she informs them of the rules "Thank you, m'lady". Placing his hat back upon his head, Burr steps into the room, flanked by a man and a woman, both in edwardiann-style suits akin to his own.
Burr hands one of them his suit jacket, and the other his bowler hat before taking a seat at the table, smiling pleasantly as he looks around at all the other attendees, then to Vega himself upon him declaring the meeting started. He honestly can't wait to see just what this man with so terrifying a reputation will say.
The Empress was less than amused to receive an "invitation" with a less-than-subtle "threat" towards people she "knows and loves." But... when you make a deal with the Devil and survive with your life, some allowances can be made for proper decorum. It's not his fault he's a megalomaniacal dictator with limited social graces.
Well, it is. But that's beside the point.
Anyone who is familiar with the public persona of the Empress would be hard-pressed to connect Honoka Kawamoto with the figure who strides in. Her lips are twisted into a cross between amusement and judgmental disdain. Her skin is tinted white as a Japanese geisha. The woman's clothes are better matched to a high-powered executive's -- a white overcoat of embroidered silk, over top of exquisite pinstriped pantsuit, with the occasional indigo highlights. Her hair is intricately and ornately styled in such a way as to make the woman's simple, country-girl alter-ego retch in disgust. Her lips are painted black, and her eyes lined with a dark purple.
As the Empress' cerulean eyes pass over the darkened arrangements, her lips curl into a faint smirk. No recording devices -- fine.
The Empress takes her seat at the conference table. Her two guards -- one male, one female, and both wearing well-tailored but otherwise nondescript suits -- remain standing attentively behind her.
The Empress glances about to the others here. The Dolls arouse some interest -- but only as she attempts to place a face. Duke and his men, though...
Her smirk takes another uptick at that.
With an unpleasant smile on his face, Vega continues. "Some of you are still too young to understand how much the world has begun to change. There was a time when the world was a smaller place, and arrangements were made by those of us with resources to work in the same direction."
The dictator pauses for a moment in an uncharacteristically thoughtful manner. "But ambition is a fire that grows to consume whatever fuel it can find, and unless the previous generation dies off, those that follow will always attempt to take the place of their forefathers as part of the natural order… but this time the previous generation had refused to grow old and feeble. We had surpassed nature."
Leaning forward, Vega looks intently across the gathered faces. "The world has proven to be too small to contain desire unrestrained by time, and so conflict erupts as we fight over scraps too small to satisfy our hunger. We make enemies of ourselves, doing the work of those fools that would call themselves 'heroes' for them."
Suddenly all the monitors across the room change, visions of the atrocities that consumed Metro City during Majigen replacing the previous flow of current information. More than the occasional glimpse of Jedah marks the screens.
"But now things have changed. In a moment of clarity granted by a foolish ancient struggling to lay claim for his own kind on the world that had banished them, we gained insight into the truth. No longer is there but one world for us to tear fruitlessly at against our better interests, there is in fact a cornucopia of Realms separated from our own world by mere membranes of reality!"
The Empress frowns at this. Enemies of ourselves, he says... pfft. The woman's skin is colored much too densely to reveal the red rage crossing her features. "Please excuse my disrespect, Vega, but this is sounding suspiciously like an attempt to sell me a timeshare. Are you honestly proposing we set our various agendas aside for some foolish march into some demonic realms we know nothing about?"
Duke expression did not change.
It was a grim, impatient stare, a scowl carved across the crime boss's face. The yellow eyes were not fixed on Vega as he spoke. A lot of fancy words, but nothing of substance he could see for the Syndicate so far. He casts his gaze across the other groups that had showed up. Strangers to him. He takes a moment to keep his glare hard on Mr. Burr, and then, The Empress. A western leader, an eastern leader. Rivals, as far as Duke was concerned.
But when Vega mentions Metro City, his grip tightens on his fingers.
He now focuses his yellow eyes on the dictator. That had gotten his attention. The words were still more style than substance for the crime boss. And yet, as he keeps silent, one thing was clear on Duke's face. He recognized those images. And the man was tensing up, a well of energy building within him. The syndicate may not be interested in this.
But Duke was well interested in revenge.
Felicia had taken a few moments to get ready in the restroom prior to getting to the meeting itself with Mr. Burr--mainly she was there to make sure the meeting went smoothly for him and there was no trouble. To this end she had dressed in a light blue club-styl etube dress, a few bits of costume jewelry, as well as some high-heeled sandals. Coming in, she moves to where Burr is sitting primly and relieves the female guard near him to take her place at his side, more or less--with just a silent nod. She doesn't say much, she does however sit quite close to Burr and sorta snuggles up to his side a bit, looking as if she's taken to the part of 'arm-candy' quite well.
For his part, Burrs smile never wavers as he views the screens contents, nor when he takes in Vegas words. He ignores the stare of Duke as he pats Felicia affectionately on the arm as she takes her place finally "I have seen quite a bit of our newfound coinhabitants from this other world of which you speak, and they show great promise indeed". Sitting back, he centers his gaze on Honoka "Well, we ARE seemingly outnumbered in the world by those who do not share our..... 'interests'. Hang together or hang seperately, as the saying goes?". He looks back to Vega "I don't presume to make promises just yet, but i AM intrigued to hear what you have to say, Lord Vega"
Every conference has to have that one person stirring the pot, that one person making the uncomfortable statements that other people are afraid to make. Sometimes the role is passed along from one member to another; other times not. The Empress is okay making the initial statement for now -- and she leans back in her chair, folding her arms before her.
The flick of a white tail, though, draws her eye in the darkened room. The Ainu-Japanese woman nods to the man as he responds, and begins to nod in reply. See? Talking. That's a good thing.
She glances over to the impressive man with the giant scar about his neck. The psion can sense the marked shift in interest. That... could be interesting.
But it's not long before she looks back to Vega. If prior experience suggests a course of action, she's already bracing for the possibility of finding herself caught by the throat any second now -- 'pardon my disrespect' or otherwise.
"Realms /you/ know nothing about," Vega responds, his blank eyes settling in on the Empress as that familiar smile spreads across his face. "Majigen was not the first incursion from these other Realms, and that idiot Jedah is insignificant in the greater scheme, although extinguishing his pestilence will be a necessary step."
Once more the monitors shift. Some now show groups of mercenaries occupying villages of Darkstalkers while other flash images of visitors from other Realms, Ermac, Mileena, Sheeva. There is also the far off shot of a wizened old Chinese man.
"Only a fool would assume that Jedah and his Darkstalkers were the only group with interest in our world. I've already discovered a great many agents operating under the banner of an apparent conquer by the name of Shao Khan. A tyrant that apparently already holds claim over a multiple Realms whose empire would desire our Realm over all others."
A look of genuine annoyance spreads on the warlord's face. "He operates behind our backs, letting us weaken our own defenses as his agents infiltrate our world, seek out its weaknesses. Some rules that he is held by for the time being prevent him from launching his armies upon us, and from what I have gathered... currently we would be crushed in open warfare."
Felicia blinked as Vega spoke, looking over to the man with the blank eyes, they seemed to be fairly intimidated, from the stare they got. She blinked as she looked over the monitors and noticed the darkstalkers on the screens, raising an eyebrow but only brought an arm around to cling to Mr. Burr a bit closer. She took in the grainy image of Shang Tsung as well, not knowing who this man was, by the look on her face. Woah, this was some seriously heavy stuff the kitty had gotten herself into!
The Empress holds her position as the Shadaloo dictator affixes her with his pupil-less gaze, leers at her with that fearsome smile. Her smirk does not falter, for her impetuous statement has gone unpunished -- for now, at least.
In short, she's convinced this isn't some multi-level marketing scheme, or a timeshare slough-fest. She's convinced because, at some level, Vega seems to honestly feel as if he -needs- these people here. Herself included.
So she looks at the monitors, and their multitude of information. No recording devices -- that puts a serious damper on her particular style.
Though, at least the psion can can drink in Felicia's fear, for the moment. That's a bonus.
"Please allow me to make another impertinent clarification then. Are you asking us to settle our differences? To wipe the slate clean amongst ourselves, such that we might draw a line in the sand and begin to work towards a common goal?"
The Empress pointedly avoids looking at Duke, that borderline-playful smirk still levelled directly at Vega.
Burr pats Felicias arm, his his smile widening, due to both Felicias fear even if he doesn't say it, and the potential he can see with all this information. He says nothing otherwise, merely listening for hte itme being
"Those gifted with true power can accomplish great things, but there is a reason we've amassed organizations around us. There are goals that cannot be accomplished by a single individual, no matter how strong they are," Vega offers, with some apparent reluctance.
Waving a hand out across the monitors, they suddenly are interspersed with images of more Earth-born conflict. Battles between rival organizations and countries. A few points are interspersed with violent, isolated individuals like Akuma.
"An Empire that spans across multiple Realms exists out there, still slavering with unsatiated ambition. And we sit here on own single world, still arguing over cities… even street corners. A small-minded view that leaves us weak," Vega is practically seething, the air charged with the intensity of his current state.
"I am not so blinded by personal desire that I can ignore the reality. I could eventually secure this world under my singular grasp through force of will, but in doing so I would destroy its most valuable resources: those strong enough to consider themselves worthy of rivalling me." It's clear that as much as he's subdued his ego to call together this meeting, it still rages within him.
"What I ask is that we acknowledge our reality. All of us old desire for real power, power we know we deserve, but it is power we will not be able to sustain in the face of an enemy that calls even now at our gates."
The dictator motions around to the surroundings dramatically. "I have one country now in my grasp, but there is no time for me to work for my sole benefit if I want to hold what I take. With so much strength unified toward a single objective, we can secure our home and then set out onto other Realms. Build an empire to rival that of Shao Khan's. We will bring war down upon him!"
Felicia doesn't have much to say, she's still a little shaken by all the images and talk she's seen of the darkstalkers out there. She's not even really seen another supernatural person for many years, nevermind one of her own kind. She re-arranges her tail against the chair and pulls it over her lap, as if she's self-conscious about leaving it hanging there.
Burrs slow applause echoes through the room "You seem to have all this very well thought out. Hang together or hang seperately indeed. The irony of this alone amuses me greatly! That we, some of which are classicly considered the greatest enemies of this world, would potentially be defending it and taking 'the fight to the greater enemy' is hilarious! Granted, the intentions are for personal gain and not the 'betterment of everyone', but that is beside the point.....".
He seems lost in thought for a few moments, grinning like a madman "and what gains those are........
"Not all of us want to rule the world."
The words come deep and heavy, a rumble from the dark-skinned man, as Burr finishes his praises. His hands have relaxed slightly. But his yellow eyes kept fixed on Vega. "In my line of work, power is collaborative. You grant some degree of control with those who work with you, in exchange for your control. What you can't destroy, you work with. You cooperate. Until they no longer are strong enough, in which well, natural order take its course." Duke nods his head. "You've made a strong argument that these entities on the other side are more powerful than us. I do not see any reason for my organization to work against someting stronger than it." Duke rolls his neck. "It seems more practical, in fact, to work with these figures in the real-"
"- I'm so sorry, I am late~"
That was the song of the man that strides in, interrupting the dark-skinned crime boss, dressed in the finest black tuxedo. Lee Chaolan was escorted by two beautiful women with purple hair; one dressed in what seems like a Miko outfit, the other dressed in some kind of leotard. Holding an arm around each one, the man seemed to... almost have forced his way in, with the standing presence. But the man may be more obvious than the others as well; Lee Chaolan makes no hesitation to hide himself from the public eye. Lee Chaolan hastily makes his place at the table, making sure to sit right by the Empress and her cohorts... and right in line with Felicia. "Felicia, darling!~ It's so wonderful to see you again!" Lee Chaolan coos as his escorts take their seats. "I didn't think you'd be bumping shoulders with the world's best." Lee Chaolan gestures towards Vega. "Don't worry about filling me in, I'm sure these fine people will get my up to date Lord Vega." Lee Chaolan states with the full influence. Leaning over towards the Empress's right hand man, he whispers.
"So what did I miss?"
The Empress, so outspoken just a few moments ago, has been struck bewildered by the notion that a man as forcefully arrogant as Vega has been... cowed into asking for help from others. He's strong, quite possibly the most powerful wielder of the elusive "psycho power" the world has ever and may ever know. And yet... he's scared.
The lady in white simply continues to smirk knowingly as she folds her arms before her. She has stirred the pot -- she's content to let the others have a turn to speak for once. The smart ones, the wise ones.
Mr. Burr has one approach: obseqious and sycophantish. These platitudes would mark him as an excellent operative for the Shadaloo criminal syndicate -- one to do the work simply and ask no questions. The Empress would be quick to write him and his "arm-candy" off without a further thought, if not for them having a seat at the same table as she.
Thankfully, Duke finally deigns to speak -- and they are words she finds herself agreeing with. Even allowing her smirk to fall into an amused smile, even allowing herself to nod.
And then -he- walks in. Duke she could handle. Lee Chaolan? The lady in white quickly loses her air of confidence, her lips pressing into a thin line. Was -he- invited, as well? ... Confident man, to bring in two floozies at his arm -- ones who she can expect aren't as well-armed as the catwoman by Burr's side.
The Empress finds herself staring at Lord Vega, hoping that the dictator can respond before she has to.
The psion does mentally release her guard into give the tl;dr summary to Mr. Chaolan though.
The sudden interruption is met with both Dolls suddenly moving with precision to place themselves between the loud arrival and their warlord. A protective shield for perhaps the most powerful man in this world.
The brash man was met with an impatient silence as a look of pure malice was locked on the disruptive source. Deep inside, that simmering hatred destroyed the fool a thousand times over for his impertinence, but it was restrained. As much as he might enjoy placing Lee's head on a platter, Vega knew such an act would waste all the work he had done so far to collect these potential allies.
Finally order would return, and Vega's attention returned to Duke as he spoke. "I'm not ignorant, nor do I have any need to deceive you all anymore. When first I learned that minions of some external force were infiltrating our world, I attempted to position myself to deal with their master." Hatred clearly being summoned up just below his surface, the atmosphere in the room takes on an oppressiveness with the weight of Vega's will. "In an insult, my offers were ignored. I've since learned that he already has an agent of our world under his thumb. A man by the name of Shang Tsung that lingers in the shadows as he labors to condition our world for his master. If you wish to hand your chain to a lesser cur, then so be it."
The warlord's attention then turns to focus on the room as a whole. "But if you wish to hold the power for yourself, I have gifted you all with the opportunity to stand as my..." There is a pause as the Psycho Master seems to choke on the unpleasantness of what he was about to say. "...my peers. With a thousand Realms to sate our lust for power, we can set aside our rivalry. A common enemy wishes to lay claim to what is our's, but in underestimating the strength of our resolve, he will be brought to his knees!"
Felicia was momentarily alarmed at the outburst, and detached herself from Mr. Burr momentarily--at least enough so that she could get up and slide those heels off ot fight--if she needed to. Course, if she needed to, she could fight with them on, too--a catwoman has to prepare themselves for such emergencies. Once things seem to return to normal and the dolls stand between Vega and the man, she relaxes a bit and sits back down. She leaned back as she sat still and listened to what the large man in red had to say.
The might of Lord Vega's strength is known the world throughout. Unlike most in the room, the Empress has full knowledge of just how wide a net his ambitions were able to cast in another world. As she looks upon the Dolls numbered 006 and 007, dreamlike memories from another man's dreams stir within her -- suggestions of terror, impressions of death and carnage. The other Vega did not stop at one country, or two, or even three.
And yet, here he is, proclaiming a need to work together with the others. To, as Mr. Burr so stated, unite as the saviors of humanity against the enemies from realms untold.
As not subjects. As -peers-.
The psion knows when she's being lied to. The psion knows what happens when a man of such convictions as Vega feels the need to -ask- for help. She's recognized the faces on the screens, remnants of the Majigen incursion and others like it. These are the worst of the worst -- demons who fight with a tenacity unlike any currently possible from those who value their own skin. If Vega has a means to stop them... she's willing to be part of it.
The Empress finds herself diverging from Duke's insightful opinion in this case -- for the simple measure that she knows Vega much more than she knows the scarred Syndicate. And in some measure -- trusts him to be more true to himself. Her hands clap together, quietly at first, but growing in volume. She's never really seen herself as 'lusting for power' so much as 'setting the world right' -- but if a God asks you if you'd like to eat at the table of the gods -- you say yes.
No pretense is lurking on her features as she speaks up. No duplicity, no scowl resides on her white-tinted features. No smirk; no emotion save stark pragmatism: "I cannot ignore the plight of the world. I cannot stand by idly while the world burns, while good people perish to uncaring oppressors. I will fight alongside you."
Duke's expression showed he had not yet been won over.
"I don't see how this is going to work out." That comes as the skeptical rumble from the crime boss. "You promise the moon and the stars, but you've already said yourself that you tried working with them. Your organization does not have a strong track record for cooperation." Duke seemed to keeping restraint on it. Even as the others pipe up as not subjects, but 'peers', joining in on the bandwagon, the crime boss was stubborn in his own skepticism.
Lee, however, has a different opinion.
"Oh, come on now." The executive exasperates, after being tied up to the Empress's mental connection. "You know you essentially accepted when you showed up." Lee Chaolan winks towards the Empress. "And I think the rest of you agree~" Lee Chaolan looks to the table, grinning broadly. "That this isn't simply a matter of our interests. Individually speaking, of course. It's a matter of simple logic. These outworlders operate outside the normal rules, operating in the shadows. We in turn operate in the shadows as well. Thus, for the sake of a purely earth-owned syndication, we would have to band together for the sake of unity, or else we will be replaced by, oh I don't know, goblin mafias or whatever it is." Lee Chaolan gestures idly at the notion. "The point is simple. We're already committed to a set of rules in the global playing field."
"This little club is to ensure we stick to those rules, isn't that right Lord Vega?"
As the invitees discuss his proposition, Vega settles back, observing the mood of the room. Each face here represents dozens more, sometimes thousands. Some of them are little more than what he would consider worthy of underlings...
But he'd tried the approach of courting some of these other powers to bend the knee. Some people didn't just want to be given strength, they wanted to cultivate their own. It was a position that the warlord could respect, even if it was held by inferiors.
Finally his voice broke through the conversation once more, backed by the confidence of a man that knew he held within himself an unrivalled power that merely needed a better conduit. A conduit that must exist out there, in all those other Realms. "As I said before: a single world can only sustain so much ambition. There is a man that has managed to spread his ambition out across untold Realms in a scope that was unimaginable until recently."
Intense, blank eyes seem to stare straight into the soul of all those present. "Unless you a born into power, you must have felt desire pull at you, drag you to greatness. You are deluded if you expect your own ambition to be left whole if this Shao Khan lays claim to our world. As ambitions meet, one will ultimately be consumed..."
The dictator motions to the screen, bringing attention as the images of Majigen appear once more. "We've seen what happens when outside ambition enters our world. It steals what should be ours by right."
Finally Vega's attention focuses in on Lee once more. "For the time being, by allying ourselves we can focus our priorities, secure our world. Eventually we will have enough strength that we will no longer need the shadows. Once people understand the truth, they will beg for us to provide them safety. We will be welcomed into the light as the rightful rulers, and our strength shall extend beyond imagination." With those words, Vega's mouth twists into that unpleasant smile.
Duke rumbles deeply.
"Be that as it may, as well as the opinions of my... fellows." Duke casts his yellow eyes amongst the others. "As my organization has not come forward to these outworlders, nor have we approach them either, there may be a tenative interest to cooperate." Duke rolls his neck. "But I will make this clear. This 'cooperation' only lasts as long as it is in my organization's interest. If this obviously becomes a scheme to better others at the cost of my people?" A plume of violet energy erupts from under his collar.
"I believe we would have to withdraw."
Lee Chaolan claps his hands together. "Of course Lord Vega! I for one thing that the people of the world can see a great deal of benefit with us assisting them." Lee Chaolan looks over his peers, nodding along firmly. "And let me be the first to say that I for one am proud and pleased to work together for a brand new unity." He reaches around for a glass to raise, but looks around, trying to find one amongst his two escorts. Sifting through them, he idly adds on.
"Now, Lord Vega, did you happen to have an agenda in place so far?"
The Empress is only concerned with a handful of people here -- and Vega is the one who poses the greatest direct threat to her existence. Duke? Lee? Burr? These can be handled. They are insignificant worms next to the power of the dictator before her -- and she's felt his own power.
That's why she didn't stop the madman from leveraging her tournament's own assets to spirit away one of its most prized assets. That's why she made a point of looking the other way -- which, in its own way, is how she came to respect the violet-haired executive seated to her right.
The Empress nods in approval, the barest hint of a smile crossing her lips as her psychic correspondence with Chaolan is completed. If Burr is to be counted, that now makes four against Duke's one.
The Empress breathes in deeply, nods quietly in response to Vega with a smile of total self-assurance. Her intelligence network has not failed her -- and combined with Lee's business savvy, it's clear she doesn't really -need- Duke's buy-in to proceed with negotiations -- though, of course, she is grateful to hear his tentative, if begrudging, approval.
Lacing her fingers together casually upon the conference desk, the Empress nods quietly. "I believe that our esteemed colleagues speak the truth. At this stage, of course, you hold all the cards -- but once we have access to the same information about these forces as you, the playing field will become level. What... can you share with us today, Lord Vega?"
The Empress is younger than she intends to portray herself -- so it's quite beneficial to mimic the mannerisms of the older gentlemen present.
"Our first step," Vega starts, settling back as negotiations begin to move forward, "is to put a stop to the conflict in the underworld. A great deal of underbrush has been burned away in Japan of late. Individuals to set in tradition and the past to see the future. All conflict between our organizations will come to an end as we leverage our combined effort to secure power as I have done here in Mexico."
The monitors shift to display major regions all across the globe. "With power and precision, we can knock out any rivals that do not side with us, and in doing so replace the violence and chaos with stability. Bribery and blackmail will secure the loyalty of some opponents. Some fools will need to be dealt with more permanently."
Some of the displays shift, showing previously violent regions of Mexico now lapsed into peace. "The common people care about being scared for their safety. We need to show them that we can provide the stability that their governments cannot."
All that is so utterly boring to a man that thrives on violence and conquest, but Vega has always found outlets for his darker desires even as he operates from the shadows. "But we also need to expand our reach. I've already allied with the Dragons in Africa. They've made a business out of invading other Realms and marketing the creatures they find there. With proper support, those operations can be expanded, and those creatures capable of fighting for our side can be converted. Those that come willingly can be welcomed into our expanding organizations; those that do not can be broken and made to serve their new masters."
Finally he turns to look Honoka dead on in the eyes, offering a faint smile to the Empress. "As for information, all of us should be allowed to keep some of our secrets. Everything we know about the other Realms and these Darkstalkers, however, must be an open book. Shadaloo's impressive knowledge of these matters will be an ever growing gift to those that sign to our initial charter."
Turning to examine the other gathered leaders, he continues. "Of course, as we expand our reach, we will route out all of Shao Khan's agents from our world. Take from them what knowledge they possess and then wipe them out for their impudence."
Duke rises up from his chair.
"That underbrush in Japan is still burning." Duke rumbles, violet flames shooting plumes over him. "I am currently dealing with rival gangs in the region. If you are offering assistance to my group in eliminating our rivals, and consolidating our power to bring peace..." Duke then rubs his chin. "Then I would be eager to participate in this arrangement. What resources will you offer my organize to secure Japan?" He turns to the rest of the members of the board. "What will you offer to consolidate control over Japan?"
Lee Chaolan just smiles.
"Well, I think we all might have to be a little open on just who controls what now, don't we?" Lee Chaolan grins at the rest of the board, but -especially- Duke. "I mean, I can be honest here. I happen to have quite a bit of interest in Japan too! But I am sure we can all work out just what pieces of the pie we want, and we can work that out. I certainly don't want to have anything to do with Mexico, for example!" He rubs his hands togethers. "And of course, we can share certain important information as we move forward."
"As it so happens, I think I may know of a link to one of the other worlds..."
The Empress seems pleased as Vega speaks to the massive upheaval in the Japanese underworld. She would totally own up to that, too, if it weren't for the scarred man on her left and the purple-haired man on her right -- but instead, she just keeps flashing her self-assured smile. Thumbs idly brush past one another as she nods quietly. The cessation of conflict between the factions was her plan all along, of course -- so Vega's adminition really is just preaching to the choir.
As long as Duke and Lee play along, of course.
Which they demonstrate by -not playing along at all-. Veins pulse along the sides of the Empress' head as she tolerates Duke's posturing. And then Lee begins his prattling, though... really, nothing he says can be considered all that -controversial- by her measure. But she insists on waiting until the time is right, measuring her responses...
Right up until Vega casts his pupilless eyes on her. Secrets, he mentions teasingly in front of everyone. She could speak -- but she has not been forced to speak.
And yet, the opportunity to bait out Duke's legendary temper in front of a council of his... -peers- is a temptation she can't refuse.
The Empress simply smiles, enigmatically. And states, "Should all parties present agree to your terms, Lord Vega, the underbrush will cease burning in a matter of days, Lord Vega."
The only reason any of this might be possible is the fact that there is new ground to be claimed instead of forcing others to argue over existing territory. There's no way that leaders capable of holding together organizations such as those gathered here are willing to casually toss aside the opportunity for power to another.
"All conflicts with organizations outside of our alliance will receive the full support of other members. A quick show of force will either force the opposition to bend the knee or position them for elimination," Vega offers to Duke, in a tone that manages to make him seem surprisingly calm and restrained. After all, Shadaloo has managed to position itself so that the majority of its holdings are uncontested, with only smaller branches slipping into the territory of those gathered here.
"This of course leads to the most important question of how we intend to deal with contested territory," the warlord allows this statement to linger, heavy on the air. "Conflict between our organizations cannot be allowed to fester or it will destroy our alliance. We could solve any disputes by allowing each to choose champions to fight..." That statement is left to weigh heavy. A solution like that would so easily give favor to a warrior like Vega.
"However, I expect that most of us here are unwilling to cede our power in a fight for position. That would simply place us back where we are right now, killing each other over territory."
Admist all of the discussion, the doors to the conference room suddenly burst open with a great bang as if they had been kicked rather than pushed. Half a dozen individuals dressed from head to toe in black tactical body armor flood into the opening with practiced precision fanning out into a standard room breaching formation that spreads them out into a loose semi-circle providing the optimal firing angles for each member of the team while ensuring that none will be in the way of another's aim. They level modern looking assault rifles at the assembled crowd in general but don't threaten anyone in particular, looking more wary than aggressive.
Just outside the door the slumped over forms of the two stern-faced guards can be seen stretched out on the floor. Neither seems to be sporting the tell-tale red plumes of bullet wounds on their clean-cut suits nor then expanding pool of sticky crimson that might suggest other vital injuries so it's likely that they're just unconscious. More tac-squad can be seen hovering over them, equally alert and ready for a fight.
The sound of heavy boots on the polished floor echoes into the room as a lone individual draws closer. By the sedate pace they are setting, they don't seem to share the professional sense of urgency displayed by the abrupt entrance of the assault team, but within a few seconds the footsteps resolve into a recongnizable figure.
The woman that steps forward into the room cuts a rather striking figure against the backdrop of the faceless black-clad soldiers. She is dressed in a similar fashion though her heavy modern body armor is composed of only a thick tactical vest and some joint padding rather than the full coverage suits of her guards leaving her head and arms exposed. The latter is covered by a thick web of intricate interwoven tattoos, tribal in nature by their appearance, creating smooth curves that end in hooked barbs and jagged corners that the more astute might note resemble the scales often present on the back of dangerous lizards.
Kira takes several paces into the conference room allowing her sharp gaze to drift from one side to the next as she takes in the faces of those assembled. A shotgun rests across her shoulders, both arms lazily draped over its ends, but the dozen or so guards seem to get slightly more tense as she enters. The cigarette in her mouth glows with the faint orange hue of fresh embers as she inhales deeply and the smoke in her lungs drifts out through her nostrils in two thin trails of vapor a moment later. Her expression remains neutral and unreadable for a few seconds until her eyes settle on the face of the one who had so cordially invited her to this gathering.
The mercenary's lips twist up into a sudden fierce grin, lips peeling away to show her teeth to Vega. "So, this is your idea of a secure meeting place, huh?"
The Empress assents with Vega's summation of the situation. "I believe Lord Vega has the right way of looking at the situation here. A costly war of attrition does not benefit anyone, at large. A war will be costly to both sides, and damaging to any shared efforts to combat an unwelcome presence. So... we can continue to fight, to let our men be picked off by the nosy Interpol and Delta Red agents... or we can simply end the conflict by letting the current territorial situation stand." The Empress smiles engimatically -- if they know the score, she's content at letting that knowledge suffice. If not... well, she doesn't expect Duke's temper to allow that situation to remain for long.
But then another faction decides to make her presence known. Guards are disarmed -- and rendered moot. The Empress' own two guards begin to raise their weapons at the hostile figures, but the Empress has a cooler response.
Insofar as raucous laughter can be considered 'cooler'. She raises a calming hand to the guards at her back, smiling -directly- at Kira. "Oh, this is -precious!- Please, please, let's spill some blood! Let's get the tensions out now... and find out who -really- drives the bus, shall we?!" She extends her open hand towards Kira, beckoning her onward.
The Empress has not deigned to rise from her seat. But the way her left hand closes to her wrist suggests that she's not as calm as her demeanor suggests.
And as if to answer the Empress's question, the thundrous blast comes.
Duke slams his fist down upon the table, a blast of chi roaring out from around him. More air than fire, fortunately, but if the Empress had hoped to draw out the temper of the crime boss, she had succeeded. In tandem, Kira had forced her way in, but the Syndicate boss did not care. His only concern, and tensions approach breaking point, was the woman who had the nerve to challenge him, even just subtly.
And now, the crime boss was looming over her.
"Of course," Duke begins, with the halting, steady presence of a man who had already lost his patience. "The conflict can end right now, with a stroke of my hand." The man was still boiling force streaks of chi energy. "I am willing to be peaceful, but so help me, you better learn your place." Duke looks towards Kira, and narrowing his eyes, he nods gravely. Finally, he turns back towards Vega. "If we are going to have the strong leading the strong, I expect that -weaker- members will defer to the stronger members. That is how you would like it..." The crime boss turns his nose up in disgust.
Lee Chaolan, however, being MUCH more cautious and keyed in as Kira makes her dramatic arrival, steadily slips backwards AWAY from the table as Duke brings down the hammer, so to speak. And before Vega makes HIS response. Somehow, during this process, he managed to procure a highball glass, half full as well. Sipping it, he raises a glass high. "Welcome!" He states, raising the glass to Kira. "Also, three.... two...." He scoots the chair back another few feet.
As the Black Dragon enters, the immediate reaction is for the two Dolls flanking Vega to suddenly move forward, placing themselves carefully between the armed entrant in their master. It's only a few moments longer before a flurry of motion enters the room. With silent precision, each of Kira's armed escorts is violently disarmed, crushed up against the wall or planted to the floor. From the sickening sounds and sharp screams, it's obvious that some bones are broken.
The room has been filled with near-identically dressed Dolls, each of them emotionlessly moving into position to surround Kira, the Killer Bee taking an position directly in front of the mercenary leader with a focused expression on her face.
"If you're going to try to make a threatening entrance, don't attempt it against someone who could have you killed without a second thought, Volkov. If you wish to retain your place in this alliance, you will apologize to our new partners. If you'd like to change your mind that can be arranged as well." For most people such a threat would mean little more than an opportunity to renege on the deal, for Lord Vega it carries a far more potent threat.
Then he turns to look directly at Duke, his face twisted into an annoyed sneer at this current circumstances. "If the arrangement was that the weak would bow down to those stronger than them, I would have brought each and every one of you by force and simply done as I pleased. The weak can be clever in ways that offer value. Someone able to slip right under the Syndicate's nose and dispose of centuries of order has merit. We will stick to the lines as they are drawn, lest we spend the rest of our time arguing."
The mercenary shifts her attention to the Empress first. She says nothing but the three soldiers on her right respond to the simple turn of her head in that direction. Almost as if they had practiced it, all three go from aiming at the general vicinity of the room to focusing on the Asian woman and her two guards. A trio of red neon dots blossom to life, one on each of their hearts, as the laser pointers of assault rifles zero in on new targets. In response to the challenge, Kira waggles her eyebrows but never stops grinning.
"Looks like you already have your hands full, princess."
Lee's toast draws her attention next and she inclines her head in his direction noting his 'subtle' withdrawal from what is likely to be ground zero in a few moments. Kira is beset by a wave of mixed greetings. Fear, disdain, /and/ levity. Huh. All she needs is outrage to round things out. But that's already been arranged, hasn't it? Something mischievous sparkles in her eyes and she actually joins him in the countdown.
The sound of violent thumps and thuds behind her doesn't even prompt a reaction from the blonde mercenary. She just remains in place with a loose stance, inhaling another long drag from the cigarette in her mouth so that when the serious woman moves to stand before her Kira has a nice fresh cloud of smoke to blow casually into her face.
Giving the Doll a bored expression, she completely ignores Vega for a moment and turns her head to peer at the carnage behind her. All of her men are down in various states of disarray, slumped over or prone. The ones who remain conscious stay down without putting up a fuss. They had anticipated this - counted on it actually. Which is why they were all wearing much thicker padding than usual. Those bone-destroying punches would be merely bone-cracking and most of them would be back on their feet within a month. It was a loss she could handle, these were all rookies anyways, despite being dressed up in the garb of her elites. Impressive response time though. She didn't even see where those girls were hiding. Something to keep in mind for the future.
Kira turns back to peer into the eyes of the Killer Bees looking unimpressed then steps to move past her and approach the table, coming to a stop at the far end opposite of Vega. "You're right, my apologies," she offers in perfect English though her accent is clearly Slavic in nature, perhaps Russian. Her lips quirk up at one corner into a smirk as she inclines her head in a gesture that doesn't look terribly respectful.
"Next time, I'll knock first."
Despite their injuries a few of the downed soldiers can't help but chortle at that. It's unlikely that anyone here besides one of Kira's men would get the reference. The only time she knocked on doors it was with ballistic missiles.
With a deft flip of her arm, the shotgun goes from resting across the mercenary's shoulders to sliding into a thin loop of nylon on her back. She moves over towards Lee, the only person currently holding a drink and thus the only sane person here by her reckoning, and casts her gaze around the room to see if she can't find the source of his refreshment.
When it comes to the Empress, Duke's outburst is first addressed with a casual wave of her hand. She knows the crime lord's fiery temper, and she's prepared to take -some- incidental damage from the exchange -- as evidenced by the raising of a single hand and a series of coruscating light patterns that roughly describes a globe of space directly surrounding her person. What looks like a cheap parlor trick is actually the interaction of her powers interacting with Duke's own -- an exchange that even manages to push through her psychic barrier and ruffle her hair about.
The table... well. Duke probably made sure not to damage it; the scorching would have been substantial if he had but willed it to.
But then Kira's entrance demands its own display -- hence the laughter, which does not subside even as the flash of laser targeting dots dazzles the eyes of herself and her guards. If she was concerned that Kira would follow through on her threat, the "princess" wouldn't have told her guards to stand down.
For she has the confidence of knowing that Lord Vega would follow through on his assurance that those in the 'family' would be protected by the 'family.' And the sounds of those guards being systematically disarmed -- muted and expected though the process may be -- is quite welcome to her.
"If you'd like to take your seat, the grownups are talking now." For the Empress still has not deigned to rise from her seat, even amidst the carnage and Lee's tactful withdrawal. Knowing the -true- nature of this meeting certainly aids in her read of the room.
As for the exchange between Duke and her gracious host, the Empress smiles patiently -- even smugly?! - at Vega's clarification of exactly why -each- of the people has been invited here. "I had thought it to be public knowledge, but in case it isn't -- I believe I've shown that our organization is just as capable as any other in this room. Though Lord Vega certainly have had our disagreements in the past, he speaks wise words..." She addresses Duke and Kira in turn, as she concludes: "... and it would behoove each of you to remember them."
She pointedly breaks her gaze with Kira, turning back towards Lee. "It's quite all right for you to sit down now, Mister Chaolan. I promise I won't bite. Hard."
The response from both the Empress and Vega comes like a hammer.
It was plainly obvious now, that the woman who had outplayed and outsmarted the Yamaguchi Yakuza was present now. And now, as Duke had prepared to bring down the hammer on -her- gang... Vega was making this new arrangement one which stood between him and his goal. And this small waif was smug at him about it.
There is a cracking noise.
Duke's body storms up fonts of energy, the crime boss looming over the Empress. His yellow eyes were transfixed on her, his face twisted up into a snarl, his hands tightened into fists. The sickening crack is heard as the sheer power of Duke's tension was crushing his bones, the restraint tearing the man apart. A hell's gaze was boiling down at the Empress. The man twists his neck, audible snapping the bones in it. Blood oozes from the corners of his eyes. But ultimately, ultimately, he says four words.
"Then so be it."
The man turns, facing Vega with the same fierce gaze that he brought upon the Empress. "Penalties. What are the penalties and repriations between members on misconduct? Tell me what a lesser member needs to do so I can wring her neck from her spine?" The words come like hammers. For a moment, Duke seemed to be willing to play... or was just as willing to walk away, with a hot new vengence upon every single person in the room.
Lee, however, instinctly has another highball glass prepared for Kira, loaded with a screwdriver. "Ah! Where did this come from?~" He asks knowingly. As The Empress also mentions him, ANOTHER highball seems to come out, out of sleight of hand. "Goodness! I just don't have enough hands for all these glasses." He gives a toying wink to the mercenary queen AND the Dragon Lady.
"Would you ladies like to help me?~"
Things are beginning to return to a more relaxed state, and there was a part of Vega that had truly wished someone had dared to insult him further, to defy the order he had helped impose. An opportunity to demolish a lesser and remind all others involved why it was his word that now drew them here.
But it was time to wait. The opportunity to be gained by making allies at this moment outweighed the violence that clawed up from Vega's soul. It took patience to build up an organization like Shadaloo over the years. Patience, and knowing the right time to unleash destruction upon his enemies.
"There is a simple rule that has helped lesser mortals rule over themselves in the past: blood for blood. If your people are harmed, the same shall be unleashed on the aggressor two fold. If your resources are damaged or stolen, you shall be repaid by the one responsible two fold." It's quite apparent that Vega has thought this through, and is utterly bored by such mundane topics. "Guilt shall be determined by those in our alliance that are not involved."
There's a bit of a pause, a spark of dark enjoyment in Vega's soul as he considers the next part, his lips splitting in that awful smile. "And if any betrays this council, then their end will become our priority. Those that aided them will be consumed by our wrath, and all that remains shall be taken as spoils."
The Empress hadn't walked into this meeting without some measure of awareness that her secrets could be revealed to everyone present. She, perhaps more than anyone in the room, had everything to lose and very little to be gained. Not only was the ruling clan of yakuza systematically dismantled through clever employment of artifice and deception, but a great deal of assets were won as well.
And now... it's become clear to Duke exactly -who- this tiny little woman is, and just -why- she's earned her seat at the 'grownups table' as she's put it. Though successful, there were some empty checkboxes on her bucket list -- items that Duke would be sure to piece together in due time, she's now sure.
She's completely mindful of the large man's terrifying presence. It washes over her in waves -- without an active defense in place, the oppressive aura is enough to send ripples of pressure across her skin. The snaps, crackles and pops are not those of a breakfast cereal -- but palpable signs that the man is doing everything he can to contain himself within the presence of their host.
Her heartbeat rises, but her composure remains intact; despite her fear, the only thing that occurs is her smirk growing less obvious, her lips pressing into a line. Not cowed into submission, but she's also not pressing her advantage any further.
"I appreciate the offer, Mister Chaolan, but perhaps another time? Alcohol has a way of loosening my tongue... in unkind fashion." A placid smile is offered his way, far from the smugness she's worn like a glove for the rest of the meeting.
To Vega, and his modest proposal, she considers the ramifications -- and realizes that it's really no different from the impending doom she's faced for the past few months anyway. She answers -- making a point of ignoring the force of the aura impressing upon her from a certain Syndicate executive.
"Only the vanquishing of Shao Kahn and whoever else dares to test our combined might concern me. Petty squabbles beneath us -- a thing of the past. Provided that no retroactivity clauses are hidden in the fine print, that arrangement is acceptable. I only just met you ladies and gentlemen, after all."
The Empress slides her chair back, and away from Duke, only -now- moving to rise to her feet. The 5'5" woman won't be able to see eye-to-eye with Duke, but that doesn't stop her from looking up at him, inclining her head in silent thanks for his restraint. She smiles back at him -- though it's an honor she shares with each member of the council. "It was a pleasure meeting each and every one of you. Thank you all for your time."
The lady in white curtsies to their gracious host, her two guards addressing him in properly diplomatic fashion. "Now, if there is no further business that demands my presence...?"
As she walks over to take the drink so kindly offered by Lee, Kira turns and spreads her arms towards the petite Asian woman in a 'be my guest' gesture. She stops moving long enough to bend her knees slightly, working a mocking curtsey into the gesture, still grinning like a wolf.
When she gets to the far side of the table she takes both drinks from Lee even before Honoka manages to decline the offer. Somehow Kira knew she would, she had that look about her of someone who thinks far too highly of themselves while looking down their nose at others. Simple pleasures like getting hammered would be beneath such a person. The contents of the first glass vanish in a couple of seconds, the mercenary sucking them down in a few quick gulps without any apparent effort or discomfort. She sets the empty vessel down then lifts the other glass towards the departing Empress with a wink.
"Way ahead of you, cupcake."
The second drink she takes a little more time with, merely sipping about a quarter its contents down on the first go then turns to Vega. Her expression becomes bored again. His proposal is pretty much standard practice in the circles she runs in except her personal policy was one of utter destruction. It tended to get the point across a little better to other would be thieves and vandals. However, she conceded mentally after a moment, it was entirely possible that property destruction amongst those present would be likely during the course of going about their business.
"How...archaic. But I guess if you want to get old school I can get behind that."
"Please, Empress, the loosening of the tongue can only be kind~"
Those were the words from Lee Chaolan as he gives a wink... and as Kira takes both glasses off him. "Of course, as it so happens I have a Virgin Screwdriver...." How does Lee Chaolan find room to have two more highball glasses... "And even Virgin Vodka, if it so suits you my dear!~" As the Empress rises, however, Lee Chaolan does not rise with her. "Alas, if you cannot attend for the nitty gritty, I am pleased to share any further notes with you. After all, if you scratch my back, I must go ahead to scratch yours~" Lee Chaolan turns around in the chair, which somehow swivels. Was his the only one that swiveled? Arching an eyebrow, he fixes his gaze on the Empress as she leaves.
"Could I have your number, just in case?~"
Duke, however, turns towards the upwards-looking Empress as the direction is given. Glowering down with burning eyes, he stares a hole through her. "Then so be it. I am a member of this council. And I fully expect my peers... will know the required restraint when dealing with my organization." Another shudder of energy flows over him, as he storms towards the exit. His two assistants, stunned for a moment, quickly scramble after their boss, as he goes to take his leave. Duke being mad was no surprise, naturally. But he had to command the troops, give the orders... and make very clear the terms of engagement.
He would not be made a fool by a mere woman like that.
"One more thing before you leave."
Vega's words glide through the tension with a complete lack of care. As much as the warlord had placed emphasis on the fact that he was offering opportunities as peers, it was still clear that in many ways he considered himself above such triviliaties.
"We may have rules to punish acts against each other now, but this treaty is not something to be taken lightly," Vega's tone is heavy, restored to its usual station as dictator. "You may consider it worth tossing aside lesser resources to spite your former enemies in a petty feud, but your tools are not merely your own. If any of you prove to be a drain on our alliance through intention or ineptitude..."
The pause lingers for a few moments before the warlord's face splits into that inhuman imitation of a smile, "...you can be replaced."
Lee Chaolan glances back towards Vega.
The executive had every reason to feel that terrifying presence. If there was one thing that Lee Chaolan had demonstrated an overwhelming talent in, it was the fact that he could reach a legendary scope in both intention and ineptitude on draining resources. Staring down the barrel of a man who probably knew ALL too well just how much of a parasite that Lee Chaolan and his kin could be, the executive keeps the relaxed smile on his face as he rises up. Handing off all remaining glasses to his groupies, he keeps his gaze fixed. And finally, he gives his response directly.
By flashing a thumbs up.
Log created on 14:44:33 04/03/2016 by Vega, and last modified on 13:09:17 04/07/2016.