Jasmine’s hand was encased in a hard red shell, the lines on her skin crowding down her arm to the injured extremity. Danny had fashioned a crude sling to support the limb, though neither he nor she knew whether it was necessary or helpful. Swallowed by an overstuffed chair by the windows, she had closed her eyes and was perfectly still. She might be asleep, no-one was going to disturb her.
Chen stared at her from a desk all the way across the open plan office space. “I knew there was something special about your black friend. But how could she catch a bullet from the air?” he said. It was almost a whisper, as if he feared she might hear him. He was beginning to come out of the shocked state he had lapsed into after they had pulled him from his headquarters.
“Like I told you, we have our reasons for avoiding the authorities. Imagine what they would do to her if they found out about what she can do.” Kyle told him. Perhaps bringing the gang leader into their headquarters had been a bad idea. But there had been no way they would have left him out on the street, near catatonic with shock, and just waiting to be picked up by rivals.
“She saved my life. You saved my life. If I still had a crew to command, I would offer you all the help and protection I was capable of.” Chen shrugged. He noticed that the left sleeve of his jacket had started to part from the shoulder, damaged as he had been carried and dragged from his base. Tugging at an errant strand of cotton, he made it worse.
“Many of your people escaped with us. I am sure they were supposed to run into the guns of the group we knocked out. Perhaps you can reform.” Ersilia pointed out.
“Who would wish to work for a boss who let his base be ambushed so? And who had a traitor within his own ranks? I was a fool to think I could take on the real bosses.”
“That’s what happens when you play at gangster.” Carla snapped. The comedown from the adrenaline was making her edgy and annoyed.
“Will you believe me if I say I did it to make things better? If I could have a little territory, I could control it and keep the worst of the old gangs’ ways out. I would have to do some crime, to pay the way, but I would keep it away from the small shops and businesses and ordinary people.” Chen stopped tugging at the thread, and removed his jacket before he completely detached the arm.
“Like a Robin Hood sort of deal?” Tonya asked.
Chen frowned, trying to make the connections necessary to understand the comment. “That was a film, was it? I did not see it.”
“Robin Hood robbed from the rich to give to the poor.” Stone explained. “At least, that’s one version of the story. He was always up against the corrupt and powerful, protecting the little people. And always an outlaw.”
“Then maybe that is what I was trying to do. If it helps you understand me better. But now…. I am not safe. If they have aliens, then they shall roll over any who stand in their way, and it shall be worse than it ever was.”
“And they will come after us as well, I am sure. I do not know why, but I believe you about your motives. Perhaps we may work together. What do you say?” Ersilia’s question was aimed at the rest of the group. “We cannot allow gangsters to have alien warriors at their disposal. We cannot allow anyone to have alien warriors, I think.”
“Apart from you?” Chen pointed toward Jasmine.
“Jas is human.” Carla objected. “The aliens put something in her, but she’s still human.”
“I would be interested to hear more about that.”
“I’m sure you would.” Kyle had laid a warning hand on Carla’s arm before she gave away any important details. “We’ll need to ask around, to see if you’re genuine. But Ilia is right, there is no way we can let the local Mafia use an alien soldier for their muscle. We have to stop that, no matter what.”
“I will help, if I can. I apologise if I offended with my comments about your friend. Now, if I may, I will see how many of my people escaped. And how many still wish to work with me. I thank you for my life.” Standing, he gave a little bow to the people around the table. “Please thank your friend, when she wakes up.”
Chen walked to the stairs, a confident strut returning to his stride. “He left his jacket.” Danny pointed out after he had left.