Family Reunion: Part Five
Mitsuyu's eyes had gone wide in amazement at the sight of his granddaughter, but Jennings had no desire to give the old monster any further explanation as to the how or the why, even if he was dying.
Instead, he focused on Katrine.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded. "I gave express instructions that you were to return to Brightvale."
"And I expressly disobeyed them," Katrine answered plainly. "You aren't the boss of me. You don't get to give me orders after being absent my whole life. I thought I'd see what was so pressing that you had to ditch me."
"Where is Mr. Black?" Jennings asked.
"He wasn't that hard to ditch," Katrine told him.
Jennings knew full well that the opposite was true. Mr. Black was exceptionally hard to ditch, in fact. If Katrine had managed to shake him, it was because he had allowed it. Was he attempting to engineer some kind of happy ending for the family? If he was, he was sorely mistaken as to the depths of hatred this little triangle held for each other.
"And you," Katrine added. "You're another one of this little Qin criminal empire, are you?"
"I like her," Mitsuyu said with a smile. "She has spirit. She reminds me of you at that age."
"I am nothing like him!" Katrine shouted, echoing the words of Jennings earlier.
"Nor do you know anything about what I was like when I was at her age," Jennings added. "As I recall, you were absent."
"The maids kept me informed," Mitsuyu told him. "I regret it, of course. But you know as well as I that once you step down this path, there is no way back."
"What happened to your old saying?" Jennings asked bitterly. "That everything broken can be fixed? Or did you only mean things that are convenient to you?"
Mitsuyu gave Jennings a sad little look.
"In that, you are right," he admitted. "I was a fool. You all paid a price you should never have had to. No amount of apologies can make up for what I have done to you."
He gave another little cough, adding, "Not that it matters. I will be dead soon, I'm sure that at least will give you some gratification."
In truth, it did. Jennings would be glad to know the old creature was gone for good. That no more pain would come from him. But at the same time, deep down, he longed for a father that he had never really known. He knew if the old man died, any hope of a family would die with him.
Jennings wondered briefly if Katrine thought the same. If her hatred of him was tinged with a redeeming hint of longing... or if he had gone too far, and there was nothing but bitterness in her soul for him.
Instead, he turned to the guard who had brought Katrine in.
"There will be a green Grarrl nearby, correct?" Jennings asked.
He nodded. "There's been one lurking on the corner of the street since she arrived."
"Take her to him, make sure that he understands she is to leave," Jennings instructed.
Kicking and screaming, Katrine was led out.
"It's not too late, you know," Mitsuyu said in the silence that followed.
"There's far too much water under our particular bridge, father," Jennings replied. "I am sorry for what has happened, of course, but that doesn't change my feelings towards you."
"I didn't mean that," Mitsuyu added. "I have lived a long life and I do not begrudge it ending in this way, for all my sins. I meant that it isn't too late for you. You can still make amends with her. Please Ji, don't make the same mistakes I did. You are right, all things can be fixed. There might yet be a way back from the path we tread."
Another cough, "Your man, Mr. Black, he is skilled?"
"Reasonably," Jennings answered.
"More skilled than I?" Mitsuyu asked.
"Why do you ask?"
"If he is not, you may have made one more mistake," Mitsuyu told him. "This enemy of yours... if he is seeking to draw you out with my death, he will be watching this building. He now knows that you are alive – but also, he knows about her."
There was a sharp intake of breath from Jennings before he burst into a run, the pain in his leg numbed by the blood pumping in his ears. He'd been so foolish, attempting to get Katrine out of harm's way had just put her straight into it. He burst out of the warehouse, pushing his father's startled guards aside as he jumped out down the street. He reached a corner. There was Mr. Black, lying unconscious on the floor.
Brodman was clearly something else indeed if he had been able to best Mr. Black. Katrine was nowhere to be seen – she had been taken, Jennings knew.
The Krawk bent down to help his assistant, missing the figure creeping up behind him. The iron bar connected with the back of his head and Jennings slumped forwards over the Grarrl. Behind the pair, Mr. Brodman smiled the wicked grin of victory.
He had succeeded in capturing Jennings. He could kill him right now, but that wasn't enough. Jennings had to pay with more than just his life. Brodman's eyes drifted to a nearby alley, where Katrine lay bound and gagged.
It was time to play a game.
Jennings woke with a slight gasp, finding a bucket of water had just been thrown in his face. He looked up to the concerned sight of his father, while noting that his hands and feet were roughly bound.
"You?" Jennings questioned bitterly, anticipating the betrayal of his father.
"No." Mitsuyu shook his head. "My guards followed your abductor here – I came as soon as I was sure he had left."
The old Lupe leaned back, giving a deep guttural cough.
"I don't have much longer left before the poison takes complete hold," he added. "You should be glad I am spending my last hours running across this accursed city, cleaning up your mess."
"A mess of your making, in part," Jennings cut back bitterly while making short work of the bindings on his wrists.
Now, Jennings took in the room Brodman had left him in. It appeared to be a form of interview room, with a shattered one way mirror across one wall, and a desk and a few chairs next to where Jennings had been unceremoniously dumped. Papers lay strewn across the floor, some bearing the hallmarks of Area 26. Whatever this place had been, it clearly wasn't in use any longer.
"Katrine, did you see her?" Jennings asked as he stood up.
"No," Mitsuyu answered.
Another coughing fit took him, and he had to steady himself on one of the chairs. Doing so appeared to trigger something, as an old tape player on the floor near the smashed pane of glass began to play.
"Do you have any idea how easy it is to buy large quantities of plastic explosives in Neopia Central?" the voice of Brodman asked from the recording. "Very easy, I can tell you that. You'd think Slothite grew on trees around here or something. But we'll get to that later. Know that I have your daughter, Mr. Jennings. We're going to play a little game."
"I slipped you a little of a Pow-Pow Potion while you were sleeping," the voice on the tape continued. "It was developed by Meridell wizards during the Kass war for use against invading Darigan troops. Even people with minimal magical ability can pre-program a point at which the drinker will automatically wake up. It was banned after the conclusion of the war and the only known bottles were seized by the Defenders. Of course, I claimed them during my escape – and I've programmed it to wake you at exactly five in the afternoon."
Jennings checked his pocket watch with some curiosity.
"Now I bet you're wondering about those explosives, aren't you?" Brodman continued. "Well... it's such a delightful little game, don't you see? I'm going to hurt you Jennings – but you're going to choose exactly how. I've split the bomb in half. One half is attached to your lovely daughter – she's inside a disused warehouse at pier number six in the Docklands. You probably don't know the place, but I hear that's where they held your funeral when they thought you died. I thought it appropriate. Don't head for the door, there's more to this game."
Jennings had already been moving.
"The second bomb is planted inside the blimp that Channel 9 use, after they upgraded from that weather balloon," Brodman added. "It's a much bigger bomb... and wouldn't you know it, I appear to have set the blimp on a collision course with the remains of the Twelve Ways. You remember that, don't you? The place where you had me arrested? Well, after it exploded last night, it has been seeping raw magic into the area... and if it was to come into contact with a large explosion... why, the results would be simply awful. I've calculated the blast radius – wouldn't you know it, it stops just short of pier number six in the Docklands.
"You have a choice, Mr. Jennings," Brodman said with maddened glee. "Let most of the people in this city die, but save your daughter. Or let her die and save the rest. You'll find that both bombs are set to go off at exactly six – one hour from now. You should be able to reach either in time, but not both. This way, you get to choose exactly which form my revenge will take. Choose well – I'll be watching."
The tape clicked off, filling the room with ominous silence.
"He has made a mistake," Jennings said at last. "You woke me half an hour early."
He showed his father his pocket watch. The time was only half four.
"But that still won't give me enough time," Jennings added. "It's clear what I must do. One life cannot come above the lives of millions. I have to stop the blimp."
Jennings found a hand on his shoulder.
"No, you don't," Mitsuyu told him. "Don't make the same mistake I did. Don't put your family before your business. Go to her."
"You'd have millions die?"
"No, I will stop the blimp," Mitsuyu told him.
"You?" Jennings asked incredulously. "You may drop dead at any minute... and how would you even reach a blimp in the air above Neopia Central?"
"Trust your father," Mitsuyu answered with a heavy cough. "I will last – and I am the Smuggler, remember? Getting to a blimp should hardly be an issue for someone who has avoided the Imperial Guards for so many decades."
"No buts," Mitsuyu maintained. "I will last, I promise. Two Qins, two directions. That sounds like providence to me. It's not too late, for either of us. Let an old man die by saving a city. What is it I heard you say about this place? A city named Redemption... everyone gets a second chance. Well, this is mine. My gift to you – save Katrine. Save yourself from becoming me."
Jennings wordlessly nodded, and his father left.
The younger Qin wanted desperately to shout after him, to somehow apologise and make it right – to tell him that everything could be repaired, but he bit back the words, too cowardly to voice them.
Instead, he focused on his goal. He had to save Katrine.
To be continued...