Chapter 44: The Lee Family
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A few hours later…

“So…that’s the infestor, right?”

In the hotel room on the 6th floor of Second Home Hotels, Adrianna watched as a young man in a black jacket collapsed on the ground and began convulsing. Behind the man, the large body of a Zerg infestor quickly disappeared into thin air.

“Yep.” Athena sat in a chair a few steps away, carefully observing her friend’s reaction.

Not long ago, Athena had given Adrianna the basic information about the Zerg units. She kept the existence of the Protoss hidden on purpose. So far Adrianna had reacted quite well, all things considered.

“The ability to permanently enslave a person’s mind. I know a few Imperial commanders who would love to have that power and use it on anyone and everyone around them.” Adrianna said quietly. “Should I be worried?”

“Not if you don’t betray me first. Despite what it looks like, I am not a fan of turning ordinary people who have done no wrong into my slaves, especially not those close to me.”

That part was true from start to end. Some people might enjoy dealing with their subordinates all the time, but Athena only felt uncomfortable. She was fine with chatting with the likes of Doctor Vincent when she had to, but living around them constantly? It would be quite a chore.

“I see.” Adrianna nodded. “Here’s something I thought you should know. On my own, I am obviously no threat to you. The only way I can threaten you is by working with factions like the Imperium, and even then I am sure you have other tricks up your sleeves that you have not told me. Chances are any betrayal on my end will be caught and will likely end with my death or…whatever it is the infestor does. Even if I do take you by surprise, I will likely earn a bullet before I get anything that was promised to me. Most likely I will be terminated in the end by whoever I partner up with to keep me quiet.”

“Ok…” Athena said, wasn’t too sure where Adrianna was going with this.

“I just want to make it clear that I have no incentive of turning against you. It’s just not worth it from my end.” The redhead explained. “I am not an ambitious person. You of all people should know that, Athena. Give me enough booze to drink and a moderate pay to play with, and I will gladly keep my mouth shut and do whatever you want.”

“I know. I wouldn’t have told you this if I didn't trust you.” Athena reassured her friend. That was one of the things she liked about Adrianna. Adrianna was always very straightforward when it came to things like this.

“My Queen…how may I serve you?”

A voice interrupted their conversation. Adrianna and Athena turned to the side, where the man in the black jacket stood back up and faced Athena. There was a blank look on his scar-ridden face.

“Let’s start with you and your background.”

“As you command, my Queen.” The man began talking. “My name is Larry. I have been a member of the Lee family since I was 16. I am one of the muscles in the family. I answer to a lieutenant named Javis. I have been taking care of enemies of the family since I joined.”

“For an enforcer of a crime family, you are very careless.” Adrianna scoffed. “I thought it was going to be difficult, but it took me literally a few hours to find you, and we are from out of town. What type of enforcer brags about his kills in bars and goes to hotel rooms just because some random woman he knows nothing about is offering a one-night-stand?”

“The ones who have learned to enjoy life, no matter how short it may be.” The young man countered unapologetically. Even after the neural parasite, he still retained his personality, and he was hardly a polite individual. “This is just how I like to live. I know a lot of people in this line of work who pretend like they have normal jobs, but where’s the fun in torturing and killing people if you can’t tell anyone about it?”

“That’s an interesting attitude on life,” Athena commented. This man was a complete psychopath, something she knew before she unleashed the infestor on him. “The bodies on display all over the city. Are they the work of your family?”

“Yes my Queen. I hang a few of them up there myself.”

“We know. That’s how we spotted you in the first place.” Athena replied. “Who are they, exactly? The victims?”

“Enemies of the family.” Larry simply said, “Journalists. Police officers. People who borrowed money from us and can’t pay us back when the time came. Probably a few hookers who tried to run from us. Hostages whose families refused to pay up.”

“And I understand this is not usual?”

“No.” Larry shook his head. “We have killed a lot of people in the past, but we usually just dissolved the bodies in acid and made these people disappear. We also avoided targeting the police or other people that may attract too much attention. The police usually just turn a blind eye regarding our operations. Only recently did we begin receiving new orders and targets.”

“So why the sudden change? Your family should know this will only bring the wraith of the Kingdom of Decima down on you.”

“With all due respect, my Queen, I don’t ask questions about these decisions. I am told what to do, I do those things, and I get paid.”

He was ultimately just a foot soldier of the organization. The information he could provide was limited.

“How did you get into all this mess in the first place?” Adrianna asked curiously as Athena began thinking.

“I was an orphan. The Lees adopted me from my orphanage when I was very young and raised me as one of their own. I have been in the family ever since I could remember things.” Larry answered quietly. “I owe everything to my family, and I can only repay this debt by fighting for it.”

Adrianna shrugged but didn't say anything else. She of all people knew people in certain careers couldn’t just resign and leave.

“Tell me, Larry,” Athena said again, an idea forming in her head. “This Jarvis guy…can you get him to go somewhere, alone?”

In the next two weeks, Athena began working up the ranks of the Lee Family.

The infestor’s neural parasite had its weaknesses, and the long recharge rate was just one of them. It also required physical contact with the target. In most cases, any valuable target Athena would want to control would be heavily guarded, and controlling them would usually require her to destroy their entire army, somewhat defeating the purpose.

Luckily, she wasn’t dealing with Decimal or Imperial generals who would bring with them an army of bodyguards wherever they went. Instead, she was working with a crime family whose members have gotten way too arrogant for their own good.

She first had Larry ask his superior Jarvis out for a private meeting, which Jarvis happily obliged. The lieutenant had known Larry ever since they were both boys, and he trusted his subordinate. This trust was soon betrayed when the lieutenant stepped into a hotel room and found him staring at the stinger of a Zerg infestor.

After Jarvis was taken over by the neural parasite and became an asset of the Zerg Swarm, Athena produced two more infestors and began finding her way to the other lieutenants through Jarvis, starting with those closest to him.

In some cases, these lieutenants would meet Jarvis with a few bodyguards, and these bodyguards would be nowhere to be seen by the time the lieutenants returned to their crew from the meeting, now under the permanent control of the Swarm. They would then serve as further vectors of infiltration.

This whole process was a cakewalk for Athena, not that it surprised her. The more she got to know them, the more she realized how incompetent this so-called Lee Family was. They were brutal, sure. Vicious, absolutely. But they were amateurs at handling real threats.

Using the alien horror that was the Zerg on a bunch of criminals was complete overkill.

By the end of the two weeks, Athena had taken over most of the lieutenants in the Lee Family. The family indeed had a lot of influence in the city. Individuals who worked for the family in some form or another were numbered in the tens of thousands. Out of these people, a few hundred were dedicated enforcers, many of whom had military training. Athena would never be able to control all of them directly, not that she needed to. All she had to do was put the family’s leadership under her influence, and the rest of the organization would work for her without knowing it themselves.

“What…who are you? Whatever it is you want from us, we will give them to you! Just…get that thing away from me!”

In the office of a heavily fortified mansion, Hadrian Lee, the young head of the infamous Lee Family, slowly backed away into a corner, his hands and legs trembling in fear. In front of him, slowly marching toward him, was a monster large enough to fit several men inside.

How the hell did that thing suddenly appear out of nowhere? Hadrian didn't know, but he did know it had something to do with the two women brought into his office by two of his most trusted lieutenants.

When he received no response from the two women, the desperate Hadrian turned to his lieutenants, his face red with fury.

“Jarvis! Hank! What have you done? I have treated you well! Why are you doing this?”

On the side of the room, two men in black suits stood there and observed in silence. They had their sidearms, not that they would need to use them.

“Sorry, boss.” Jarvis shrugged. “This is not my intention. I’m afraid you will understand soon.”

Not your intention? Bullshit! Hadrian silently cursed before suddenly turning and reaching for a panic button next to his desk. There were no cameras in his office, and with the soundproof walls, his only chance to call for help was by making a run for that button. If he could get his bodyguards to enter the office…

“Do it.” Athena gave the infestor a silent order. If it wasn’t for the fact that there wasn’t enough space behind Hadrian for an infestor, the man would never see the infestor in the first place.

A stringer extended out of the infestor’s back and darted across the office, aiming for the man’s spine. It made contact with Hadrian’s body before his hands even came close to the panic button.

As the man began convulsing, Athena turned to Adrianna.

“There are 13 lieutenants in the Lee Family. We’ve got 9 of them and their head of the family. Taking care of the other 4 should be a piece of cake if that becomes necessary. Effectively, we have taken control over the Lee Family, for whatever that is worth.”

Adrianna nodded. “And now we are going to make a move on that shipyard?”

“That was the plan, but we may need to make some changes.” Athena sighed. “I just received a message from Doctor Vincent.”

“The doctor from Prison 09? Project Guardian?”

“Yep. She has got news from the frontline. It seems like the Imperium has just doubled its army and naval assets in this warzone. More likely than not, that’s at least partially my fault.” Athena admitted. “Project Guardian was completely destroyed. I know it, but the Imperials don’t. They likely still think the Kingdom of Decima is hiding more alien artifacts, and they want to secure these artifacts before the Kingdom can move them.”

“So they’re about to take this planet?”

“Sooner than we thought,” Athena explained. “Doctor Vincent was just summoned and then taken prisoner by General Lucius, one of the main leaders of the Decima Defense Command and a key member of the Royal Court. Apparently, the general admitted to Doctor Vincent, after imprisoning her, that he had struck a deal with the Imperial Navy to surrender his Legions, any researchers he could get his hands on, and the positions his forces are currently holding. In exchange, he will be promised an office in the new Decima government under Decimus I. The surrender is about to go down in a few days at most. At that point, the entire Decima defense line will collapse and the planet will likely fall to the Imperium.”

“You’re right. If a member of the Royal Court is surrendering, then one can only imagine how many low-ranking officers and soldiers are doing the same thing.” Adrianna frowned. “What does that mean for us?”

“I can’t challenge the full might of the Imperium. Not yet. Even if we simply hide here, the Imperials will get the data the Kingdom has on us. We can hide, but on the off chance that we are discovered, we will have no way of escaping when the Imperium has full control over this planet and no distractions to worry about.”

Hadrian was still struggling on the ground, but Athena simply watched his suffering in silence. She had learned enough about what the man did to have no sympathy for him no matter what pain he was going through.

“The Lee Family can try to continue with their original plans of infiltrating the shipyard, but we need to leave this world as soon as possible. We can’t afford to wait for my methods of transport.”

“Then how are we leaving? With the war going on, all the commercial interstellar travel has been halted.”

“I have a few ideas, one of which is smuggling ourselves off this world.” Athena watched as Hadrian slowly got back onto his feet. “You can help with that, can’t you, Hadrian?”

The young leader of the Lee Family slowly nodded. Now he finally understood what Jarvis meant not long ago.

“Indeed, my Queen. I am happy to serve.”