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  1. Date: April, 1941 Location: Near the Burmese / Chinese Border ,, The jeep rolled to a stop at the checkpoint, the red mud-slicked sides testament to the quality of the roads along which it had traveled. In the back were bundles and sacks under the waterproof tarpaulin covering, and in the front was an unshaven man wearing a beaten and battered bush hat. From behind the dirty windshield, the man watched the uniformed soldiers manning the checkpoint as they not-quite-pointed their guns at the jeep. An officer marched to the driver's side, impassive Oriental features locked in what the young man probably thought was a stern poker face, the driver mused. He'd have to work better at it - the combination of wariness and officious hostility was all too evident to one who knew how to see them. ,, "Who are you?" the officer demanded in decent English, at least. The man in the jeep smiled up at him, tipping back the bush hat. ,, "I work for Pok Ma Ting." he said easily, a touch of some European accent in his voice. The officer shifted his footing at the name, but that was to be expected considering that Pok Ma Ting was chief of the local bandits and nominally an ally of the Japanese. He also had a nasty habit of mounting the heads of men who displeased him on wooden stakes... with their genitals in their mouths. The officer narrowed his eyes. ,, "You work for him?" he demanded, trying to sound incredulous. Though the man in the jeep was scruffy enough, he seemed a cut above Pok's run of the mill scum - deserters, bandits, murderers, opium fiends and rapists. ,, "Hard to believe, ja? I am a geologist, Herr. I look for gold... for Pok Ma Ting." ,, "You are German?" ,, "Ja. My name is Herman Klumperbum." the man lied. "I am a graduate of the university of Dusseldorf, and I-" he was cut off by the officer waving a peremptory hand. ,, "If you work for Mister Ting, you have papers!" The officer held out a hand, but the driver shook his head. ,, "So sorry, mein freund, but Mister Ting... he does not want people to know that I work for him, you see. In fact..." And the man leaned closer in a conspiratorial way, his manner prompting the Japanese officer to likewise lean forward. "He would be very unhappy if he knew that you knew. So it is best to forget I told you this, Herr. We are allies, Japan and Deutschland. I would hate for some mongrel Burmese to bring harm to an ally." The officer looked nervous. Tokyo was a long way away, out here in the jungle. ,, "You shall pass. But please, ask Mister Ting to provide papers for you. Other officers man this checkpoint..." ,, "And they may not be as wise. I understand." The German nodded. The Japanese officer nodded in turn and stepped back, waving a hand to his men to raise the checkpoint barrier. ,, "Danke." the German said with a smile as he started off again, passing the checkpoint into the small border town of Wan-Ting. ,, It was a trade post grown large over the years, situated on the Burma Road and swollen with the constant traffic back and forth. In recent years, though, the traffic was lessened, the constant trade along the route drying up since the Japanese occupation of China. The legitimate trade, anyway. The trade in opium, slaves and weapons was brisker than ever, and Pok Ma Ting owned most of it. And he would probably decorated a stake with the driver's own head and genitals, the driver reflected as he turned a corner onto the main market street of Wan-Ting and looked for a likely place to park. The fact that he knew Pok would probably only make the process slower and more drawn-out. ,, How did I get into this? James LaHaye, Capt, DCM, DFC, AFC, thought to himself as he pulled the jeep in behind a ramshackle looking hotel, now turned into a bar and probably a knocking-shop as well. He grabbed his kitbag from amidst the clutter in the back of the jeep and headed inside. Oh yes, I remember. He looked around the dank, smoke-stinking, gloomy interior of the bar and ,, Family. That's how. ,, * * * * * * The girl was really skilled, her brown skin gleaming in the lamplight as she smiled and swayed above him, and LaHaye was just laying back (but hardly thinking of England) and admiring the way her gyrations caused all sorts of pleasant sensations when the door shuddered under a heavy knock. ,, "Go away!" he called. ,, "Captain LaHaye? My name is Major Justin Tunbridge." an educated voice called through the door over the delicate moans of the girl. ,, "My apologies. Go away, sir!" LaHaye called back. Typical, a man was on his vinegar strokes and that was when someone had to try and- The door was kicked in by a booted foot. The girl screamed, but LaHaye's arm kept her from rolling off him. Instead, he rolled with her and came up onto his feet, pistol in hand and leveled at the doorway. The sergeant who had kicked in the door goggled at the sight of the female flesh and then double-goggled at the sight of a .45 automatic pointing at his face. ,, "Captain!" A slim figure, immaculately dressed and turned-out and wearing an officer's cap. "Lower your weapon." He paused. "Both of them, if you please." ,, "The last time someone kicked the door in on me, you must appreciate that they did not mean me well." LaHaye said calmly as he dropped the pistol onto the bed, shielding the girl's body with his own as he snatched up a sheet to wrap her in. "Ka mya, Thiri." he told her gently as he made sure she was decent. "Shin ne-kaùn-yéh-là?" ,, "Ne-kaùn-ba-deh." she replied, smiling shyly at him before throwing a distrustful look to the soldiers and grabbing her clothes. "Kan kaung ba zay." she murmured to him before giving him a last smile and slipping from the room. The major and sergeant stepped aside politely for her, then turned back to LaHaye as he pulled his clothes on. ,, "You speak the language like a native." Tunbridge noted with a trace of admiration as he crossed to the window. Outside, the courtyard of the rundown colonial house that was now a whorehouse was overrun with half-naked children and their mothers. "Any of those yours?" he asked as he looked back over his shoulder at LaHaye. ,, "Who knows?" the Dynamic shrugged into his shirt and buttoned it with deft motions. He moved with eerily precise, flowing grace, the entire act of dressing taking maybe thirty seconds. "The women here know of a certain root. Supposedly, they only have children if they want to... Or if the tea they make isn't strong enough." He came over to the window and joined the major in looking at the spectacle beyond. "Maybe that one." he pointed to a paler-skinned child. "But then, he could be anyone's. Mostly, though, they are their mothers children, not the various father's." ,, "Curious attitude." the Major observed. ,, "I'm a curious person, but then I'm sure the file tells all." LaHaye smirked sardonically. "Sir, I'm likely to live out the century, or beyond, barring accidents. I will still be this young-seeming when your grandchildren, and may you have many of them, are dead. If I have children, I'll likely outlive them too. As yet, I'm not sure how to handle that thought, so I don't think about it." ,, "Practical, one supposes. Well, I see the tales were not exaggerated." Tunbridge nodded as though satisfied. "His Majesty's government has an assignment for you, Captain. A hunting expedition." ,, "Go on." LaHaye said as he pulled on his boots and fished a cigarillo out from a case. He offered one to Tunbridge, who declined, and lit it with a match struck from his boot. ,, "Three men, British soldiers. Deserters, actually. They faced the death sentence recently after a court martial." ,, "That nasty business over the American nurse, wasn't it?" LaHaye said as he blew a smoke ring. "Filthy buggers. So some rabbited?" ,, "Yes, but that isn't enough alone to warrant calling on your services." ,, "Of course not." LaHaye said, one corner of his mouth turned up in a cynical smirk. "After all, she was only a negro, correct?" Tunbridge opened his mouth to protest, but LaHaye waved a hand at him. "On with it, sir." he said, an expression of profound world-weariness settling on him. ,, "We would have organised a hunt for them regardless." Tunbridge retorted stiffly. "However one of the men was a sergeant in the quartermaster's office. And we believe they took with them some valuable paperwork regarding our troop deployments and supply dumps. And they ran straight for the border to China." ,, "Lovely. Rapists, cowards and traitors." James snorted blue smoke. "What makes them think the Japanese won't simply take the information then snickersnee their heads off. They have a strange but strict definition of honor, that lot." ,, "Our local sources tell us that they've ingratiated themselves with local bandits, who will probably act as brokers in this deal. The Japanese forces in that area liaise heavily with elements that the Chinese government previously suppressed." ,, "That means Pok Ma Ting." LaHaye said with a sigh. "I can't believe nobody has slit that fiendish little brown swine's throat yet. He's got to be eighty years old now." ,, "You know him." The major looked astonished. ,, "Oh yes." ,, "Well wonderful. You can maybe negotiate-" LaHaye shook his head slowly, but definitely. ,, "He wants to use my privy parts for an ornament." he said, then added. "And he won't be slow about removing them." ,, "Ah." ,, "There was a woman involved. His fifth wife." ,, "Aaah. But that was a while ago?" the officer asked hopefully. ,, "Well, fifteen years or so. But there was also an opium shipment..." ,, "So negotiation is out." ,, "Quite." LaHaye stood and stretched. "But that's alright. I dislike him almost as much. He's a slaver, and I can't abide slavery." ,, "So you have a plan?" The major asked as the Dynamic strode towards the doorway. ,, "Yes. I plan to go and find Thiri and take up where we were interrupted." ,, "I meant about the plans." The major said with a hint of exasperation. LaHaye shot him a grin. ,, "Yes. I plan to make it up as I go along." He gave the officer a jaunty wave. "Toodles." ,, * * * * * * "Can I help you?" The wizened old lady asked the European in the local bastardisation of Burmese and Chinese. ,, "A room please." James answered in the same tongue, and gently caught her hand as she turned back with the key. "Is Pok Ma Ting still king of Four Dragons Street?" ,, "Pok Ma Ting always king of Four Dragons Street." she answered sourly. "And he does not like white men." Her sour manner brightened when LaHaye placed a silver coin on the counter. ,, "Pok Ma Ting likes nobody." James said with a smile. She nodded. ,, "This is true, except if they make him rich. Then he likes them plenty, for awhile." she turned and shuffled out from behind the counter. "Come, I show you room. You want girl? Boy? Pipe?" ,, "No to the second two, but maybe a girl. Later." he replied as he followed her upstairs.
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