Black Dragon

Prologue: Heirlooms

0600 Hours

San Francisco, California, USA

The night was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of breaking glass. All it took was one pane of shattered glass for Alexandra Reyes to bolt from her bed with her Heckler and Koch pistol in hand. The ergonomic grip of the USP Compact allowed her to aim comfortable and accurately. The magazine of the deceptively small pistol held eight forty-five caliber rounds. Whoever dared intrude in her house would have a nasty surprise.

Alex stepped over the running shoes and travel pack at the foot of her bed. She moved on the balls of her feet, with her hips down. This would reduce the noise she was making as she moved around on the old wooden floor inside the house. Listening to the footsteps, it was fairly obvious they were coming from the third floor. There was crashing around inside, perhaps because the burglar was looking for something.

It was fairly obvious this was no cat burglar. Perhaps some street thug just getting into burglary, Reyes thought.

The idea of simply fleeing and calling the police forced itself into her mind. She reasoned against it, as a thug might fire at anyone running from the second floor. It was often the careless ones who resorted to violence without hesitation. A normal person would have panicked and ran from the house, but Reyes was no normal person.

Pistol in hand, she advanced slowly down the hallway. The small hallway in the old row-home seemed much longer. Alex eventually reached the stairwell, and asked herself what approach to use.

It's either speed or stealth. If I rush in, I'll have the advantage of surprise, but I'll need to aim faster. Stealth would give me good time to advance slowly, but he might just decide to head downstairs.

Reyes heard clattering coming from upstairs. Then, the unmistakable sound of a vase shattering was heard upstairs.

Shit! There goes grandpa's old vase, she thought. That was worth a fortune! Whoever's there has no respect for history!

It was then Alex decided to forgo stealth. She barreled up the stairs, pistol leveled and ready to fire. She saw the intruder. The thug was a man dressed completely in black, with a face concealed by a ski mask. He was holding up an old scroll, with the shards of ancient pottery on the floor. In the background, there was a shattered window with a hook and rope attached to it.

The man turned, saw her pistol, and ran. Time slowed down as Alex focused on her target. The USP's report echoed throughout the room. The man fell forward, yelling incoherently as he slammed into the floor. Alex moved over the man, and pointed her pistol in his face.

"Freeze!" she ordered. "Or next time, your kneecap won't be the only thing I target."

The man was quite still. Wanting to see the intruder's face, Alex removed the man's ski mask, and saw an Asian face beneath it. The man started to curse in a language Alex recognized as Japanese, but he otherwise remained submissive.

"What's your name, and why are you here?" Alex asked, training the pistol on the man. She reached for the scroll, and it quickly vanished into her pocket. "And what's so special about that scroll?"

The man remained silent, and bit his lip. However, Alex fired her pistol into the ceiling. "Next time, that will be your kneecap," she warned.

The man spit and sneered at Alex. "Don't bother threatening me. More of us will be here soon, and then you'll wish you were dead."

"You're forgetting the police. The SFPD won't look to kindly on you sneaking into my house," Alex ordered.

"We own the police," the contempt in the man's voice was obvious. "A few generous donations to certain officials work wonders in this city. Plenty of break-ins go unsolved. What's one more? Don't think we haven't planned this in advance."

Just then, voices in Japanese began yelling outside. The prone man yelled out something in response, and Alex again began to think fast. Another two gunshots, and the man's kneecaps were gone.

So he wasn't bluffing, Alex thought. If they're this determined to get the paper from the vase, time to get out of here. At least there's one less pursuer to worry about.

Running back to her room, Reyes felt relief in the fact that she jogged every morning. The travel pack next to her back was a testament to her part-time hobby of hiking. She liked to keep a small pack of necessities in case she had to travel to remote areas for long periods. After throwing herself into her shoes and getting her pack and wallet, she darted out the front door as fast as she could, USP still in hand.

She ran past the small lot next to her house, and saw the burglar's accomplices. There was about a half-dozen men in ski-masks and black clothing. An extension ladder reached up to her townhouse's third floor window. Alex only got a cursory glance of the situation, before she turned a corner and headed downhill for the house of one person she knew could help. Luckily, gravity was with her as she ran down one of San Francisco's infamous hills.

Hideo Yamato-sensei, I'm coming! she thought. Her elderly martial arts instructor was the one friend closest to her at the moment. The fact he was proud gun owner and a sixth-degree black belt also helped. The fact he might be able to translate the scroll would be an added benefit. As she ran, she felt her pocket. The scroll was still in there, and hopefully, still intact.

By the time Alexandra Reyes reached Yamato's house and rang the doorbell, she turned around behind her. She could see no pursuers, though she could clearly hear sirens off in the distance. Soon enough, the door creaked open.

Seeing the sweating and haphazardly dressed young woman early in the morning, the old Japanese man almost fainted. The fact she was holding a loaded handgun also did not escape the wizened instructor.

"Everything alright?" he asked.

"Do I look alright?" Alex replied. "There's thugs after me, and a long story. Mind if I explain?"

"Come in," Yamato invited as he held the door open.

By the time the door closed behind her, Alex had realized something big was going down.