A bump in the road woke Han Xin up from his sleep. It had been a busy couple of days and there had been no time to rest. While certainly he and his team needed significantly less sleep than normal humans, they still needed some sleep. About 2-3 hours a day was typical for Red Tide soldiers, a perk of their enhanced bodies. They hadn't slept in over 2 days on this mission and it had started to take its toll. So on their journey North, Han had ordered his men to drive in shifts, so that everyone could take some time to catch up on sleep. They were going to need it.
While Han knew that his group had the distinct advantage in battle over whatever group Qi Lian would be able to throw together, he also knew that Qi Lian was incredibly clever. She would not be easy to kill or capture. In Han's view capturing Lian was preferable to killing her. He knew that an alive captured Lian would draw out any hidden group to try and break her loose. But time was of the essence now, there was a clock that was ticking.
By sacking several large governments Han knew that he had put a big shiny target on the backs of his soldiers. The governments would come out of their daze and confusion soon enough, and might even chance civilian deaths to eliminate the threat of this group. Bombing them would certainly be on the table. He needed to execute his plan by tomorrow night at the latest, in order to avoid this fate.
Han looked up at the time, 7:18 AM, he had been asleep for 3 hours. That was good enough for him to feel rejuvenated. He looked around now at his surroundings. Though it was still pretty dark, the sun was rising in the sky and he could see the mountains in the distance. There were red streaks running down through the green evergreens. It was really beautiful. It was too late in the year to see the incredible foliage in this part of the country, as nearly all the leaves had fallen off the trees now and most that were left were only colored red. Yet for someone who hadn't seen such sights before it had a certain majesty.
When Han awoke he saw that Qi Jiguang was now in the driver seat. Sure these cars were capable of self-driving, but Han didn't trust the technology. Especially when he wasn't sure what Qi Lian might have planned for them. It was better to not be on autopilot in this kind of scenario.
"Qi Jiguang are we closing in on their position yet?"
"Sir we don't have an exact location anymore. But the last known location was in Plattsburgh at some tractor supply store. We will be there in about 5 minutes."
"Good Jiguang. We will need to investigate. Are the drones shut down over this area yet?"
"Yes sir, we made sure there are no drones within a 100 mile radius, though it wasn't terribly difficult, there weren't many in this area to begin with. They seem to be about a decade behind up here."
"Hmm, that may be a reason that Qi Lian chose this area. Difficult to track her here. We will be using that to our advantage as well. We can't have them bombing us now can we?"
"I would hope not sir." Qi Jiguang said with a nervous chuckle.
Han looked over at Qi Lee. While there wasn't much variation in the appearances of the Red Tide soldiers, there was at least some differences. Han found Qi Lee incredibly beautiful, indeed his plan after this was all over was to start a family with her. The only problem was Han had no idea if she felt the same way about him. They had always had a friendly relationship, but he had never asked her to take things to the next level.
Ironically even though the Chinese government very much wanted the Red Tide soldiers to procreate, very few had developed romantic relationships. Perhaps it was related to the fact that they had never themselves lived in any sort of real family. The Red Tide soldiers had scientists and medical doctors and of course military personnel as their family. Han very much resented this. He had never known the caring touch of a mother, nor the stern discipline of a father. He didn't even know if these stereotypes he had imagined for a mother and father were even real. Is the mother caring? Is the father the one gives discipline? These were questions he and the Red Tide soldiers would never know.
Qi Lee began to wake up. Han watched as her eyes began to open, drinking in her lovely smooth face and dark hair, which h noted was pulled up in a pony tail. Then Han realized he was staring at her, how creepy would that be? He quickly glanced away as she opened her eyes and began to stretch. Han didn't know what to say to her, she left him breathless.
"Where are we?" Qi Lee asked.
"We are pulling in to a Plattsburgh tractor supply store, the last known location of Qi Lian." Qi Jiguang answered.
"Oh very good. Shall we go and interrogate the locals?" Qi Lee asked, looking at Han Xin.
"Oh um, yes of course. Let's go and interrogate." Han answered, a bit bewildered.
Han up until this point hadn't had much time to stop and realize how much time he was spending with his lieutenants. Everyone had known early on Han's fondness for Qi Lee and Qi Jiguang. The three of them had developed a close friendship. Surely no one knew what Han felt in his heart for Lee though. Perhaps that was the problem, perhaps he needed to tell her.
Han felt quite awkward with all of these thoughts racing through his head. It made him a bit uncomfortable giving orders to Lee. Was this normal? Is this what love is supposed to feel like? Is this even love? Han did not know.
The group got out and walked up to the store. They read the sign, it said closed on the door. The store hours began at 8 am. Han looked down at his watch. 7:25 am, this would not do. They were already well behind Qi Lian, they could not afford to waste more time. Han looked through the door and saw a worker setting up inside. He attempted to enter through the doorway but it was locked. So Han grabbed a hold of the door and ripped it off of its hinges and walked inside.
"Hey, we are closed and what the... what the heck did you do? You are going to have to pay for that."
"Money? Is that all you worthless beings care about? No wonder Earth is in such rot and decay." Han responded to the clerk.
The clerk walked right up to Han face to face.
"You don't scare me, even if there are several of you. I learned Karate years ago, made it all the way to red belt, don't make me use it on you."
Han looked over at Qi Jiguang and Qi Lee and chuckled.
"You hear that, we should be afraid of this red belt., um Jake is his name."
The three of them chuckled loudly.
"You asked for it!"
Jake then began to raise his foot in the air to give Han a kick. Han moved rapidly out of the way and then moved in and punched Jake in the face. Jake fell to the floor from the impact of the tremendous blow. Blood splattered everywhere across the floor, running from Jake's jaw from a combination of the punch and impact with the floor. Han reached down and grabbed Jake with one hand and lifted him off the floor.
Jake was a bit dazed and confused and clearly in tremendous pain. He moaned in agony. Han then pulled Jake closer to his face.
"Are you ready to do as I say young man, or would you like to try out some more of your red belt Karate moves?"
"I... I... am ... ready... to... do as you... say." Jake said, though it was quite painful to talk.
"Good, now take a seat." Han said setting Jake into a chair.
"I only need one thing from you boy so listen closely."
"Qi Jiguang, when do you think Qi Lian was here?"
"Sometime last night sir."
"OK Jake, who was it that was working your cash register last night?"
"Mmmmm mm.... me" Jake answered.
"Oh well that is quite fortunate for us now isn't it. Qi Lee bring me some pictures of Qi Lian."
Qi Lee brought over a device and showed the pictures she had compiled of Qi Lian to Jake.
"This lady, do you have any idea where she went?"
"Yyy.. ye... yes. Mmmm.. Martin Kkkk..... Kkkk... Kemp"
"Qi Jiguang pull up anything you can on a Martin Kemp."
"Already on it sir."
"Well Jake I would like to thank you for your service here today, it has been very professional."
Han turned and walked away and his men followed him, leaving Jake in a bloody mess on the chair.
"We have what we need now. Let us find this Martin Kemp. He holds the key to finding Qi Lian now."
"Yes sir, we are on it."
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