Daniel ~ Atlas

Previously ~ Killer

To Heather's surprise, her sister Angela practically skipped into her office, glowing as she hadn't in years.  She plopped down into a big, cushy white chair in front of Heather's huge desk.

"What's gotten into you?" the older sister inquired, closing her laptop and leaning in.  "You look like you've fallen in love."

"Oh, sis!" Angela gushed, sighing blissfully, closing her eyes, hugging herself and swaying.  "He may not have a head for business, but he definitely has a gift for the classics."

Heather raised a dark eyebrow, slightly puzzled.  "Who?  Danny?"

"Oh, yes," Angela beamed, opening her eyes wide.  "His vocabulary is more than appropriate for his age.  His knowledge of poetry is ridiculous - and his Mandarin??? Sis!  It's flawless!  I mean, flawless!  He can read and write multiple dialects.  And when he recites his favorite poems, he sounds exactly how I've always imagined the old scholars would."

Heather smiled and chuckled to disguise her discomfort.  Being the wife - and now widow - of a billionaire had allowed her to always indulge her sister.  She'd paid off Angela's massive student loans, paid for her to move to Japan, paid for her wedding to Dr. Tetsuo Hama (another artistic type), paid for their very nasty divorce, paid for Angela's move back to New York...Heather was still paying for her sister's bohemian chic loft, and she'd paid Colleen's way through business school.  Seeing as how Colleen decided to become a cop, Heather wondered why she ever bothered.

These people have no idea what I've had to do to hang onto this empire.

It was always like this with them; Heather feeling silently trapped by her suits and endless business meetings, while Angela breezed through life with sundresses and soy lattes.  And now, the classics professor was singing her siren song to the future leader of Rand Enterprises.

"I guess that just leaves a mathematical assessment," Heather said calmly, carefully maintaining her smile.  "We need to get Danny familiar with finance, accounting, and business law as quickly as possible."

"Oh, Heather,," Angela groaned.  "He survived a plane crash.  He's endured fifteen years of trauma.  Let the man be whatever he wants to be.  Not everybody's cut out to be a corporate type."

Heather's smile threatened to crack her face.  "I'm getting that," she said tightly.  "It's just...we don't really have anyone left.  See, you're not a corporate type, and Colleen's not a corporate type, Wendell is dead...so it kinda falls to Danny now."

Angela sighed loudly.  "Sis, can't you just let it go?  Take your cut and Danny's cut, and just call it day.  Your net worth already has so many zeroes your nonexistent great-grandkids are set for life."

"Sis...," Heather began tentatively.  "It's not that simple.  In this business, it's never that simple.  I've said so many times."

Their eyes tensely met and held.  Angela was clearly annoyed, while Heather managed to remain less readable.  It was Angela who finally spoke.

"You'll be delighted to know Danny actually has a very deep and complex understanding of numbers," she said quietly, looking away as her fingers toyed with the faux fur of her chair.  "It's almost spiritual.  I agree with your theory that he's been in some sort of monastery.  He's profoundly disciplined."  She finally looked up at her sister.  "He has an aptitude for business.  He's Wendell's son after all.  You can remake in his father's image."  She rose to leave.  "You can make him into whatever you want."

Heather stared after her sister for a moment, feeling the familiar weight of reality bearing down on her shoulders.  But just when she didn't think she could feel any shittier, her assistant buzzed her from the front desk.

"Ma'am...Maude Meachum is here to see you."


With his assessment complete and his day empty, Daniel fled his family's company and headed straight for his dojo.  While he wasn't wholly comfortable returning to the luxurious life, he did appreciate the perks.  An eager sister arranged for a car to take from Rand Enterprises to the Black Dragon Temple, a very exclusive organization.  The temple allowed its members to practice in pairs, groups, or solo in spacious, sound-proofed rooms.  Daniel, of course, preferred to practice alone and had a standing reservation.  He had seen his fellow students practice and knew right away he couldn't learn anything from them.  And they, in turn, wouldn't understand him.

He practiced shirtless, in black pants, his bare feet pressing against the cold hardwood floor.  It required extra effort to tune out his surroundings; the lights were too bright, the walls were too white, the French windows opened to an arboretum filled with distracting fragrances from all the plants.

Daniel closed his mind to the distractions as he immersed himself in a basic taolu, first starting with a lian quan tao and then advancing to lian quan jiao. His sifu had always preferred to start working the extremities closest to the heart, then adding in the legs once the body was warmed and limber.

While the moves came easily, and his memory remained intact, he didn't feel as secure as he did back in K'un Lun, surrounded by teachers and fellow students.  He couldn't stop feeling as though something was missing.  In these moments, he regretted fleeing the city.

They're coming, he reminded himself.  It was the only thing left capable of steeling his resolve.  Like it or not, I am the Fist that guards the Gate.

It was best to say as little about this as possible.  It would sound like nonsense to these outsiders, including his mom and even his free-spirited aunt.  Better to let them think he underwent harsh training in some small monastery out in the middle of nowhere.

His warmup complete, and his blood coursing through him, Daniel began again, this time with a more difficult sequence, moving in a circular pattern around the room.

They're coming.  I have to be ready.

They're coming.