Emperor: Sneak Preview
By M. Hadley
An alarming realization struck the powerful Don of Delta City, Salvador Silvia, as he waited patiently at his table, flanked by his Number Two and a boisterous stripper in a star-spangled bikini. Surrounding him was a colorful cast of rogues: to his left were the sensational Asian criminal siren known as the Empress of Dragons, her entourage of sexy kunochi in barely-there ninja jumpsuits, the circus ringmaster-themed Master of Ceremonies, his clown henchmen, sword-swallower, and the second-in-command of his Crime Circus, the Bearded Lady,. To his right was the yellow and black striped Queen Bee, her similarly themed Hive Girls(brainwashed supermodels all), and the old mad scientist known simply as “The Lord”, with his massively overgrown simple-minded behemoth of a son, “The Disciple”.
He leaned over to whisper in the ear of Jacob Glass, his Number Two. “I need a costume.”
The always reserved Jacob blinked for a second, before replying, “But you are a businessman, sir.”
“Aren’t you always talking about healthy competition in the marketplace, Jakey-boy?” Don Silvia spat slightly, half in jest, half in annoyance as he ran his coarse fingers through the red locks of the stripper sitting in his lap, snuggling against him.
“We sell drugs and protection, sir.” Glass replied without missing a beat. “Not insanity. We’re in the midst of madmen, low-lives, and thieves, whose various motivations are all over the place. They are not your competition, sir.”
The stripper chuckled heartily at the madmen remark, joined by the Don.
“Yeah, you’re right.” The crimelord agreed composedly. “ It’s not like we’re losing customers…just, the fear thing…that’s what I’m talking about. I worry about my reputation, Jakey-boy. It’s not what it used to be. The store owners pay up, sure. But you can see the defiance in their eyes, and its not because of the superbroads prancing around in their short underwear. I only have the muscle-bound mooks in too little suits, armed with pistols, blackjacks, and other forms of crippling technology. How can you compete for fear with a broad that can control carnivorous bees or a man with a mind-controlling top hat and a fire breather that worships him like a god?”
“People put their stock in fear too much, in my opinion.” Glass coolly took a sip of his brandy. “Fear turn people against you. Fear makes you lose business. Respect is what you want, sir. Respect…is something you can buy and sell.”
The Don stared at his lieutenant for a second, his eyes narrowing into slits as he considered the possibilities. “You’re a good brain, Jakey-boy.”
Glass smiled embarrassingly, basking in his employer’s praise. “I got the business cards right here. I can pass them out after the festivities. Of the crop, I think Queen Bee and the Empress of Dragons can be bought-”
“Why the hell we’re here…and how long we have to wait, Jakey-boy?” Don Silvia moaned, polishing off his liquor in one gulp and slamming the glass on the table as hard as he could without shattering it.
“Aw…you don’t like my company?” the stripper pouted playfully, crossing her arms over her bountiful chest.
“Of course, sweet thing.” The Don nudged her chin with his index finger and thumb. “But I have a stripper pole in my office…and you’d look better with the Delta City skyline behind you than this seedy setup…”
“Actually, ‘Yoshiwara’ is a brilliant name for a strip club, boss.” Glass smirked, reclining in his plush chair. “Just like the Japanese red-light district, we’re here for carnal pleasures, and disarmed at the door. Someone had class when they opened this joint.”
“Anybody can read Wikipedia, Jakey-boy.” Don Silvia snorted. “But…you got a good brain, nevertheless.”
There was a subvert nervousness, uncharacteristic of his superior, that Jacob Glass was picking up on. It was healthy paranoia, one trait vital to the operation of helmed by a brilliant leader. The host of the informal get-together was unknown, and his emissaries mysterious. Glass was still baffled by how the hooded figure had effortlessly infiltrated their fortress-like skyscraper headquarters, a feat failed by many of Delta City’s superhuman champions. It was as if he had simply materialized within the expansive office of the Don, undaunted by the impressive level of firepower wielded by the mob boss’s security.
The voice of the intruder was mechanical, as if filtered through an intercom. He had simply extended an invitation to Yoshiwara, a fresh component to the Don’s metropolitan empire. The enigmatic creature waited for no answer. Before the stunned Don could whip out his own golden Magnum, the cloaked being had vanished just as suddenly as it appeared. The Don thought it initially beneath him to play to another’s tune, especially someone that was unknown. However, he also thought it a sign of weakness, a crack in the veneer of invincibility he had so long crafted as Delta City’s greatest underworld figure, if he did not show his face for the proceedings.
Now the kingpin waited, successfully hiding his bated breath, for what would unfold next. His right hand lingered near his left golden cufflink, a secret summoner for his ubiquitous army of enforcers, stationed in front of the club and hidden around it.