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    The city was washed in the wet, white snow that was the trademark of this region. It was midday on Christmas eve. The businesses hosted half days on the christmas holidays and most of the working class were headed to the Residential District where their warm homes called and their loving families worked on Christmas dinner. Blake Thrice passed through the Res. with barely a second glance and any of the chimneys, the smoke curling out of them and beckoning any strays in from the snow. He ignored the laughter of children playing and pelting each other with snowballs, even as they accidentally hit him with one and it splashed icy snow onto his coat. As the passerbys strayed past Blake, they went out of their way to stay out of his. One young woman circled around him so far her footprints sank into the deep snow off the curb. To these people, Blace Thrice meant war and death. To Blake Thrice? These people were lazy, worthless, and expendable.

    He passed quickly through the Idustrial district, and into the Underworld. Even the scum that lived there avoided him. As he approached The Stiche's den- information could be bought if you had the right cash down here -a few pickpockets skittered away from the door. The Stitche was the best source, he knew anything and everything that was going on at any given time, but he charged high rates so the local filth hung around his door, hoping for an easy mark. Blake was not the said easy mark. When he entered the den, he shook the bottom of his trenchcoat free from the clinging snow, and scraped his boots across the grated metal floor- a bitter thought crossed his mind, welcome home, Blake Thrice... welcome home.

    "So yer back? Who're ya huntin' this time?" the wheezy voice of The Stitche breathed hotly over Blake's neck. He didn't flinch, he was used to these kind of scare tactics. He'd been here before.

    "You already know. Why bother asking." Blake's voice was harsh, like someone who had been out in the cold too long- but it wasn't the cold that had turned his voice this way.

    "You a ruthless one, Thhrice." Blake turned around to face The Stiche as the informant breahed out his name, and even his stomach twitched at the sight of the grotesque thing before him. If anyone's ever heard the phrase Snitches get Stitches, that explained The Stiche's appearance. His mouth hung limp on the right, and was half stitched together in a gruesome smirk on the left. His eyes were stitched shut, and there was a scar where his ear should have been on the right side. His hair was shocked white and patchy, a tuft here and there over a head that was a patchwork of metal plates. Blake shrugged past him into the room and leaned against the back wall, covering his back. "You lookin' for the man that killed yer brother still..."

    "Yes..." Blake's voice was barely a whisper, he and his brother had been close, but one routine Bounty turned bad and a drugged out freak had put a knife between Jace's ribs.

    "Good, 's wha I call'd ya here for." He gave Blake a greasy, folded over piece of paper that felt too much like human skin to hold too long. He handed The Stiche a large wad of bills and stuck the paper in a large pocket on the inside of his jacket, then turned to the door. He stopped in the doorway and his fingers stroked the butt of his custom pistol, he glanced over his shoulder.

    "Hey Stiche?" the freak turned around slowly, "No one can know I was here."

    "Ya know my policy, boy... nothin's a secret if ya got the righ' cred." Blake nodded slowly and spun around, jamming the pistol against The Sitche's forehead.

    "Can't sell secrets if you're dead, Informant." the pistol whined on, charging as he flipped off the safety, and then he pulled the trigger. Six flaming-hot bolts of super-heated metal exploded from the silencer into The Stiche's already broken skull. Blood, brain matter, and bits of skull exploded against the back wall, the table, the workbench, and the floor- The Stiche, was dead. Blake ripped the tablecloth off the table in the corner and wiped the blood from his cheek and his gun, then dropped it over the body on the floor. "You should have picked a better career path."

    With that, Blake Thrice walked out the door, the same as he came. His heart still hard, and his head clear. Yet his pocket carried that reassuring weight of the name of his brother's killer. As the wind blew, it carried a vague copper-smell along with it... but no one dared challenge him.