Tuesday, 04 June 2024 00:00

Dirty Deeds Don't Come Cheap (Part 5)

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Adventure

Dirty Deeds Don't Come Cheap

by

MaLAguA

 

Part Five

 

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 9:50 pm
Operation site - West building, Rooftop - Voidgrip

The mission had already blown past what could be expected as ‘under control’ had now seemingly devolved into its own chaos. Now Voidgrip understood why Vince wasn’t as invested in the outcome of this operation as things had quickly broken down and they’d already walked into a trap… and by ‘them’, he meant the other members of the team.

But then again, it couldn’t be helped. The moment they stepped into the block, their comms got jammed and their communications were thrown into disarray. Sure, at first they seemed to have the advantage, but things quickly devolved into the dumbest ways.

The floor beneath him, he could see Efreet’s smoke slipping off from the windows accompanied by white trails that certainly didn’t belong to the middle east mercenary, making him wonder if this was the power of Root’s buddy or if it was someone else who’d joined the fray. Certainly, he couldn’t deny that whatever mutants or empowered individuals had been brought in were giving them quite a workout, all things considered.

For example, a while ago, in the building up north, he could see the indirect flashes of light that corresponded to Schrodinger’s copies getting eliminated, coming out one after another in such a quick matter, yet the smoke that ebbed from it just made it hard to see what was going on… Still, he could be sure that his multiplying body was getting their collective butts kicked.

Of course, the annoyance was that he couldn’t see either fight going on… So instead he focused on the main show in the courtyard. After the grenade’s explosion, men laid down scattered on the courtyard as a result of his own deed. Some were trying to get up and make their way towards the nearest safe cover, others were just laying low and under cover to regain their strength. But many appeared to be joining in Voidgrip’s entertainment as they watched the encounter going on about.

The light of his phosphorous grenade fizzled out but, to compensate that, the gang members in the surrounding had pulled out flashlights to give the combatant’s an arena out of the cross of lights. It certainly made for a rather unique sight for a lax Voidgrip, almost tempted to run in commentary.

On one side, it was the man Efreet brought, the panther beastman soldier and, on the other, was a woman dressed in a vigilante costume brandishing a pair of sticks. The fight appeared somewhat stacked against her, considering how the beastman moved with ferocity and killing intent, but the woman showed off some moves of her own. Despite taking damage at first, earning some harsh cuts, she began dodging about the slices of the knife and even smacking the clawed hand as it came close to getting a grip on her before, delivering a counterattack that, despite missing, slammed the ground with her weapons hard enough to crack the tiles in place.

“Not bad at all.” He knew he should’ve been rooting for his team, but everyone loves an underdog. Plus, she was quite a treat to the eyes.

He could do something. Easily. He could (metaphorically, or rather, telekinetically) step in and help, get rid of the nuisances innuances on the way and ensure the mission was done… but he’d done his job taking down the barricades and giving their evidence-wiping team the opening to walk into enemy territory and he wasn’t about to walk into an enclosed space.

His job was done and he was about to just enjoy the show.

Not long after, the amazonian dragon woman had finally pushed herself up and jumped into the fight. Still, despite her larger size, she was still the more incompetent fighter and could get sidelined or even punished by the panther man.

“Such a lack of manners,” Voidgrip chided as he pushed himself up and stretched. Even if she wasn’t as effective as the woman in the hero suit, the dragon woman was holding her own and eventually would beat the panther man. That just meant that he should try to take his leave or try to parley if Efreet was done with his fight…

He was about to turn around when a light was shone on the side of his face and he heard a man’s voice just a couple of meters away. “Turn and you’ll feel a bullet in you.”

Voidgrip froze, feeling his heart up against his throat in a moment of fear he wasn’t a stranger to… but also not entirely numb to. That of knowing that there was some threat he couldn’t see. That no matter how powerful he was, he couldn’t deal with everything. He hated that feeling because it made him cower completely.

“Oh, whoops. I think I got too distracted…” he said, trying to disguise the quivering words. He tried to play it off, just for the chance to casually turn around. “Good jo-”

“You turn around to look at me and I’ll pull the trigger on you,” The man warned. “You think you can just come here, try to kill my men and stay back in the comfort of the high seat? You’re lucky I haven’t seen any deaths yet or I would’ve made sure that you would never be able to see.”

“Heh… You’re only alive because I wasn’t trying…” Voidgrip answered, letting his emotion take hold of his mouth for the first answer and now, the want to avoid recanting had him doubling over. “Do you know how many people have tried to deal with me? Obviously not, otherwise, you would’ve shot me as soon as you came here. I’m the one who puts an end to the matter.”

“I’m a criminal. I lead a gang that used to do racketeering as a main activity… But I don’t kill if I can avoid it… But I have to say, it’s getting really tempting.”

Voidgrip tried to convince himself that this man wouldn’t pull the gun’s trigger… just yet. The voice took a step closer. “So, tell me. Who are you?”

“Me? I’m one of the better mercenaries in the bounty hunting industry. One who, as you can see, need only see you to kill you. So does that give you room to pause and get your finger off the trigger? My allies might come after you, considering they’re plenty and… close to as strong as me.” In the darkness, Voidgrip’s hand managed to slip into his coat pocket where his last safeguard rested.

“Hm… It doesn’t really get me to relent… My brother always tells me that I don’t think long term, and I’m fine with that.” And with that, the stranger pulled the trigger. The gunshot rang through the air, almost stopping Voidgrip’s heart.

No one had ever gotten this close to offing him. Sure, some have pointed guns his way, but it was always within his sight. For a second he thought this was it for him, even after he pressed a button on his generator and felt the energy coursing through his body. In the end, the bullet was met by the protective forcefield just in the nick of time, bouncing upwards, with Voidgrip just feeling like someone had kicked a football to his head.

The stranger didn’t stop. He fired again and again, but to no avail, every bullet just sent Voidgrip reeling back as if having just been struck by the dull tip of a stick. Still, he knew that with every shot would drain the device’s juice… so he acted, turning to face his attacker.

In his defense, he tried to shine the high power flashlight against Voidgrip’s eyes, but he specifically requested the Black Bulletin to make this forcefield generator with an opaque sheen, just in case. His foresight was rewarded as he got a telekinetic hold of the flashlight and sent it flying out off the man’s hand. Then, he got a hold of the other hand, grabbing both wrist and gun, quickly forcing it up against the side of his head.

He still tried to wrestle or force himself out ofoff into the situation, but Voidgrip only needed to adjust the angle just to put him ion a lock. Fortunately for him, the flashlight happened to stop tumbling, ending up with the light being shone at them.

“I commend you for that…” Voidgrip said, rubbing the side of his head where that first bullet landed. “Got me sweating for a moment, certainly would’ve been the end of me were it not by the shield. But it’s game over now.”

The man grunted, glaring defiantly as he tried to free his hand, making himself drop the gun, but Voidgrip’s control was encompassing and far stronger than anything below a fourth rate in the exemplar scale.

Appearance-wise, the man wasn’t that notable. He was wearing street clothes like the rest of the men down in the courtyard rather than the uniforms the woman on the field or the man that fought Efreet showcased. He just assumed he was the leader of whatever gang the blackmailer had hired. He had to give it to him, he was rather ballsy for street level trash.

“I didn’t get to answer, they call me Voidgrip. Because I’m the strangling hand you can’t grasp as it chokes the air out of you,” he gloated. Not realizing that his own movements were starting to grow sluggish… suddenly feeling the weight of the long night in Dubai and the pitiful sleep, courtesy of the crying baby during the flight, came crashing into him. His steps suddenly turned unsteady and his body’s posture swayed him against the wall. All the while keeping a focused eye on his opponent.

Voidgrip might’ve trained to be able to maintain line of sight against someone for long… but that was just a losing battle if he fought exhaustion. His eyelids grew heavy and his vision grew blurry and unfocused… and as that happened, his powers waned. With some effort, his opponent broke free from the telekinetic grip.

His mind and focus were addled, but the realization that a gun was about to be pointed his way sent just about the shot of adrenaline he needed to kick his powers into desperation. With the way he was in, he couldn’t do precision control like he boasted, but he could imagine a huge invisible hand coming crashing against the threat.

The gang leader was suddenly flown off into the air up against the wall. It wasn’t a killing blow, although, judging by the light barrier that covered the man, that pesky enchantment that many of the men had, it appeared to have been really close to being serious. It took the air out of him and forced him to drop the gun.

There, the two men laid on the ground, trying to recover. The man, who Voidgrip had just happened to realize was a mutant, was trying to regain his footing, crawling towards the gun away… while the hitman was just starting to feel his sight start to clear and the exhaustion start to wear off… or at least offset by the adrenaline.

Because of that. Voidgrip recovered first. Quickly extending out his hand to aid with the projection of his power, he quickly pushed the man up against the wall, just as he was a couple of inches away from grasping the gun.

“Okay… Okay…” Voidgrip stammered as he kept the man pinned, probably within the limits of a person’s resistance given how he struggled. “It’s been fun… but I’m sick of you. You got really… really close… but it’s time for you to face the consequences of what happens next…”

The man tried to say something, but needed to keep as much focus as he could to keep the air in.

“Well, goodb-” Voidgrip muttered when the door leading down to the floor underneath swung open.

“You do something to him and you’ll regret it!” Said the voice of the man that interrupted their meeting before, the one that accompanied Root and fell down the floor to fight Efreet. He made an appearance flashing a light into the scene. If he was here, that just meant he’d survived his teammate and as such, proved himself much more dangerous than he expected. Voidgrip immediately released his grip off the man and prepared to target Cole, as he recalled Root calling him, but he was in the dark and as such, couldn't be focused on.

Still, Voidgrip didn’t exactly feel fear, confident that his personal forcefield still had plenty of juice to withstand whatever attack the man had planned. “You’re telling me to spare him? Who do you think you are?”

“Someone who got rid of most of the copies your buddy had.”

“Big whoop.” Voidgrip said confidently before pointing down at the gangleader as he tried to push himself up but was too battered to do anything. “Do you want to get what he has?”

“I’m afraid I won’t let you.” Said another voice, coming from the courtyard. It was the dragon lady, with the woman that had been facing off Efreet’s mercenary hanging by one hand.

Curiosity briefly got the better of Voidgrip, something that he usually tried to avoid and he stole a glance down to the courtyard to, effectively, see the beastman pinned on the ground by chains and ropes prepared by the gang members. It was taking about all hands on deck to keep him bound.

“Huh… I missed the big finale,” Voidgrip muttered, turning to look as the woman touched the ground a couple of steps away. He was prepared for her coming in for the attack but instead, her priority was the injured man. Her hands flared up with a soft gentle glow that he could guess was healing magic and pressed them against the torso that might’ve been crushed.

“You’re going to be alright,” The woman told her patient. Which Voidgrip couldn’t help but feel insulted by. And he acted on it, with the invisible hand grasping her wrist and pulling her up into a standing position.

“Lifeward!” Cole blurted out, but the woman was hardly concerned, instead giving him the gesture to stand down.

“Ah, valiant, aren’t you?” Voidgrip muttered inwardly thankful the other man wasn’t going to step in. Needless to say, he would be at a disadvantage if he had to worry about two people simultaneously. “You’re not afraid?”

“Shouldn’t you be? Most of your men have been defeated and you haven’t accomplished what you came here for.” The woman, Lifeward, explained tapping her ear with the other hand. “I’m hearing from our client and so far their conversation has gone uninterrupted.”

That means the trio has most likely failed to reach the room… shame. Voidgrip thought, hoping the darkness in the environment was enough to obfuscate his expression. “So?”

Lifeward smirked. “Well, your men have fallen or been captured, the objective has failed and the leader’s men are coming here to check on their boss. And given how they love him, they won’t like it if he’s left injured. So, stand down and let me treat him.”

“Stand down?” Voidgrip repeated. He knew that his operation was a bust, like Vince suspected, but he didn’t take it well to be ordered back. He was Voidgrip… the unseen hand that had a body count overon athe hundred. A high member of the Black Bulletin and a member of the criminal mercenary conclave, Carnwennan. To be told to stand down by someone whose lives were, in some form, literally in his hands felt insulting. “And what If I don’t? I can massacre any crowd with no problem.”

And, as if to prove that point, or just by sheer coincidence, the power was restored and the floor was suddenly illuminated, once again, thanks to the shaded sheen of his forcefield, he wasn’t affected by the glare of anything. But, in a way it aided to prove the point, as everyone could see the protective gloss that hovered just a couple of millimeters over his form. “As you can see, I’m protected by high tech. No bullet can touch me. I’m untouchable.”

“I don’t really care. Are you going to let me go so I can tend to him?” Lifeward said, pointing to the knocked down man.

“Who do you think you are?” Voidgrip muttered.

“Do you want me to show you?” Lifeward asked, there appeared to be some smugness slipping into her face. She lifted her hand and Cole pressed into the touchscreen hidden underneath the gauntlet.

Voidgrip was left speechless as he felt the constant energetic buzzing from his pocket cease and the forcefield around him immediately started to retract and fade off into the thin air. He didn’t think. All he knew was that his only defense had suddenly malfunctioned and he could get attacked, so he needed to take a hostage. So he turned his head, dragging Lifeward over the roof’s edge, holding her dangling her over the air.

“Anyone tries anything! Say goodbye to your team healer!” Voidgrip threatened. But he couldn’t help but notice that the woman appeared to be calmer than anyone has ever been when he pulled off this same stunt. Usually, they would be struggling to grasp at the invisible limb, kicking about to get closer to the edge and, more memorable, pleading for their lives. She was just looking at him with the glare of a stern mother, telling him to actually dare.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Cole warned.

“What did you do to my forcefield!?” Voidgrip asked.

“I deactivated it. Just to prove a point,” Cole simply said. And before he could ask ‘what point’ Lifeward took over the conversation.

“You’re Voidgrip. High grade member of the Black Bulletin, responsible for a hundred and forty nine high profile hitjobs, With two of the more recent ones been in Dubai this week.”

“How…” Voidgrip muttered as the realization of it began to dawn onto him.

“The Black Bulletin is a side branch of the Syndicate. As such every bit of information and function of it is within our reach,” Lifeward said with a subdued smile, accompanied with a wave of the fingers from the held up hand.

Cole stepped up closer and Voidgrip could see him, but didn’t exactly dare to take his eyes away from Lifeward’s wrist while she was suspended in the air, already starting to dread where this conversation was about to go. “In your powers, you’re holding Lifeward, a member of the Recruiting, Operational Support, and Evaluation department of the organization… She’s also a high profile operative, as you could see tonight. Both of which are valued much higher than the activities of the Black Bulletin.”

Voidgrip felt himself starting to sweat, despite the cold of the air as he realized the problem he might get into.

“We can forgive you for not knowing when the operation began…” Lifeward spoke up, calmly despite being hanging five stories above the ground.

“But now…” Cole continued. “You have no excuse now as you’re being formally warned.”

Lifeward agreed. “Adversely intruding in Syndicate affairs and harming one of their valued operatives will render the benefits accrued from the Black Bulletin null and void, which extends to the protection and tech provided. Additionally, a bounty will be placed on your head by the organization itself that you’ll have to pay off or wait for someone to collect… With that, are you still daring enough to drop me?”

"You can crush, break and twist anything you see... but can you always see what's behind your back?" Cole added.

“I…” Was all Voidgrip could say. He’d killed many people, powerful people, and it was his status within the Black Bulletin that kept him protected from most backlash that could be had. It was also their services that provided him with most of the gear he used. And they also provided him with a decent discount in most airlines.

“Will you stand down and yield?” Lifeward asked again.

Voidgrip didn’t say anything, in the back of his mind all he could do was curse himself for the way the mission had gone. Taking hits and then being forced to surrender in such a pathetic manner… He would’ve felt angry… but instead he felt fear, knowing that if he were to get on the Syndicate’s bad side, he would really need to learn to sleep with an eye open. Vince was right in his pessimism, this mission was a bust.

Slowly, he moved Lifeward back onto the rooftop and released his grip on her. “Listen. I…” Though the woman didn’t hear what he had to say, she was quickly back at work using her healing magic on the gang leader.

To that, Cole stepped up. He made a show of producing an odd shoddy controller that resembled a detonator, and pressed it. “I have just turned off the comms jammer. Call your team and tell them to stand down, now.”

“Fine…” Voidgrip said, feeling a bit more insolent now that he wasn’t about to be about to have his privileges revoked. Reaching for a communicator in his coat, he spoke up. “Listen everyone… The mission is over. We’ve reached a ceasefire with the other group… stand down and don’t harm anyone.” With that, he turned off the comm device. “I don’t know if they all heard it…”

“Don’t worry. If they didn’t hear, it’ll be up to them to face the consequences,” Cole said as he stepped forth, just a couple of steps away from Voidgrip. “Would you care telling us what are you doing here?”

“Our job… We were to interrupt the meeting, as you could surmise. Our client, the MCO man, wished to get rid of the blackmailer.”

“So, the MCO administrative hired you for the job?” Lifeward said, still focused on treating the gang leader, who now appeared to be in much better condition, just enough to try to get up.

“Secrecy and all that. He didn’t want the rest of the organization to find out, I presume. Or maybe he just suspected we would do a much better job…”

“I should’ve known… or at least I should’ve remembered you…” The gangleader spat as he leaned up against the wall. “You and your buddies were there that night, soon to be, five years ago. It’s been a while since I saw the blackmail but I can clearly remember your crew. The man who controlled black smoke… the one that multiplied himself… and you, the one who sadistically spun the poor man’s head around. It was such a fortune that you were taken out of the fight back then so early…”

“That bitch…” Voidgrip growled before shaking his head. “She really scared me that night… She left me seeing black, even though my eyes were fine. I’m glad she didn’t make it.”

“I pity her… Considering what happened to her name…” The man shook his head, scoffing. “I may be a criminal, but I don’t relish in taking lives.”

“Then you’re barely a half measure,” Voidgrip snapped back.

“Watch it. I could’ve ended you-” The man tried to take a step forth to pick up a fight only to stop and clutch his torso where a rib still appeared to be broken. Lifeward had to step in and use her powers to ease up the pain.

“You got the jump on me by sheer luck…” Voidgrip said smugly.

“Easy… easy…” Lifeward whispered as the magic on her hands changed colors as she drew a sigil in the air. And, with just a touch, the gang leader was able to stand upright as the pained expression on his face disappeared. “This will keep your wounds from getting worse while the healing enchantment does its work… But you need to rest rather than pick a fight.”

“Better listen to your doctor,” Voidgrip taunted.

Despite his anger and pride, the man did just that, moving towards the stair’s annex, though not without throwing a glare at Voidgrip and warning. “I’ll come for you if any of my men are dead.”

“Sure… Not the first time I’ve heard it,” Voidgrip said, just to those left.

“So…” Lifeward said as she waved the dregs of healing magic off her hand. “You were really there in the infamous Maryland incident. The exact same incident that’s in the blackmail.”

“Maryland?” Cole raised his head.

“Of course,” Voidgrip said. By now, he’d recovered most of his usual smugness and confidence. Mostly. “You haven’t seen it, huh?”

“We haven’t. We have details regarding its acquisition and the circumstances of it, but we don’t know the what.” Lifeward admitted. “Unless you’re willing to explain it.”

“So, you were there, at someone’s behest. Who was there? Your allies and victims!?” Cole inquired… There was just a bit of a fire in his voice when he asked the question. As if he’d found curiosity then. “What happened that night?”

“I’m sorry. But you know I can’t tell you that. I would hope the Syndicate would respect that sort of secrecy-”

Cole immediately stepped forward, coming across with an aggressiveness Lifeward didn’t think she had seen before. “Answer the question or…”

He was starting to raise the voice, so Lifeward had to step in. “Cole… that’s enough. We have to respect the truce.”

Voidgrip didn’t notice, but the man’s hand was only half a move away from drawing out a weapon before he relented. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry. It’s… nothing.”

Lifeward’s eyes lingered on her partner for a moment before moving back to Voidgrip. “We’ll respect your silence on the matter… Now, vacate the premises. ThereIt’s been enough fighting for the night and rain is about to start…” By now they’dve begun to hearfeel the occasional droplets falling oin the surroundings.

“Fine…” Voidgrip adjusted his coat. “But first, I’d like to air the concerns my boss has over the current blackmailing agreement.”

“He has complaints?” Lifeward asked. Cole had taken a step back from them, to distance himself.

“For the past four years, your client has been making use of the MCO man behind our boss’s back. Making sure to get some favors out of them.”

“While you were also blackmailing him… With blackmail you’re featured in.”

“You could argue that your client has the more damning evidence, yes. The point is… both your client and my boss want for the asset to remain in position and the concern was that the results of this meeting might end up with him losing all value.”

“You mean found out and fired.” Lifeward ran her hand across her face. “You’re arguing about blackmailing the same way two roommates try to share the wi-fi.”

“For the record, don’t hold high stakes on the matter. So I still had to ask.”

Lifeward nodded. “You can tell your boss that our client hasn’t been cashing in favors with the MCO as frequently, large or severely as they might. He only has a request that is in the best interest of the Syndicate and a third party. From there he has no interest in other favors… as far as we know.”

“What about the footage? Will it leak out into those third parties?”

“Negotiations are ongoing… ” Lifeward said, turning around. “Additionally, you can relay to your boss that our client, Preston Crossby, his family and surrounding organizations will now be given a Ghosting agreement by the Syndicate. Neither you, nor your boss or any adjacent faction may coerce, threaten, hurt or kill any member of his circle. Breaking it will allow my partner and I to come and squeeze every bit of information we can get about your group and enact fitting revenge… Is that clear?”

“It’s fine… My boss has no interest in butting heads with the Syndicate.”

“Who does?” Lifeward shrugged as she moved towards the stairs to meet with her partner and the gang leader.

Under the starting rain, Voidgrip cursed whileas he pulled the hood over his head as the rain began. “Well… I guess Vince can get over this outcome. But what a waste…” he muttered as he used his powers to grab a chunk of concrete, sending it flying onto a nearby wall. There was nothing left upon impact.

“Whatever, things will keep on being smooth and easy sailing after thisit. I think I’ll take a half a month off before I take on another contract…”

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 10:12 pm
Operation site - South Building, Fourth floor - Efreet

In the south buildings, what was once meant to serve as a restaurant cafeteria for the more profitable businesses, now bore witness to a quite literal dark battle in its tableless space. Black smoke had swept through the hallway entrance. Under the light faint lights that streaeemed from the outside and those brought by the combatants, it could even be confused forby a beast resting, as it digested its meal.

Amongstnd, the movements of the roil, the sight of white incense smoke could be seen slipping through the darkness, wanting to slip out and pierce through, only to be swallowed in by the dark current that trapped its source.

Peering through the veil, in the meager pocket of air within, two figures could be made out. One of a man that had seen his fair share of battles standing tall over the younger upstart who was now on his knees, with the chain of his own weapon wrapped around his neck.

“You tried… Nice effort… but it wasn’t good enough.” Efreet said as he pulled the chain to get his opponent, who called himself Censer, to gasp for breath.

“I… I won’t let you win…” Censer struggled to say, his face red as his fingers were trying to force the chain to relent. But Efreet could imagine the irony of the situation, the poor man must’ve been as strong as he could afford just to keep it from breaking, now he must desperately be wanting to win.

“Win? Do you think you can win?” Efreet laughed as he looked at the silver hammer at the end of the chain that hung from his hand. The censer, the man’s main weapon of choice, was heavy at work, trying to produce more of the white smoke the boy could control, but each of those tendrils was immediately consumed by Efreet’s own.

“You thought that you could beat me just because you have a better control of the smoke? Unfortunately for you, that was the only area you excelled at and not by a wide margin. Should’ve listened to the man.” Efreet muttered, finding himself stifling a smoked cough.

“I can’t show weakness. I can’t break down now…” Efreet thought to himself. His voice and breath were starting to sound raspy and he was just a couple of moments away from being affected by the shortness of breath. He was nearing the limit of his powers.

“Sadly, it’s the end for you. Nothing, personal,” he said, tossing the hammer onto the side, where it was engulfed by the black smoke, and instead produced a simple handgun from his belt, trailing it onto the Censer’s head.

It was then that his earpiece, which had been practically dead since all this began, suddenly sprung to life as static filtered through. The finger on the trigger relented, as he awaited for anyone to come through. Maybe Panther had managed to somehow disable the jammers… as unlikely as it could be. Or maybe the team of rookies had managed to reach the room and taken the blackmailer hostage.

In the end, it was Voidgrip’s voice that came through with a message that disappointing message… “Listen everyone… The mission is over. We’ve reached a ceasefire with the other group… stand down.”

Efreet scoffed. Truth be told, he was of a like-mind that this mission wasn’t a guaranteed victory, but that did little to washwatch the bitter taste of defeat away.

“I’ll just not count it in my books.” He told himself. “He’s reached an agreement with the other group… I do hope that this isn’t a case where people managed to get the jump on him and his first reaction was to surrender… because that was just as likely. But regardless…”

He released the chain around Censer’s neck, letting the young man fall down to his hands and knees, trying to heave and breathe as the black smoke began to dissipate around them, much to Efreet’s relief. “You’re lucky, the mission was just called and I lost. Fortunately I’m still getting paid.”

“W… What?” Censer blurted out as he rasped for a breath.

“You heard me. The fight is over.” Efreet said as he breathed out the black smoke that had been building in his body, letting it fade off into the darkness where it couldn’t be seen. “You fought well… But you’re still green in experience. That can be easily solved.” He reached into his pocket and produced a business card he tossed onto the floor. “Come and find me if you feel like spending some time honing your skills and making money.”

And with that, Efreet marched off away from the room, disappearing into the darkness, leaving a wounded Censer, rubbing his neck and trying to regain his strength to stand up. Just as he was starting to receive a report from everyone present.

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 10:22 pm
Operation site - Inside the corridor - Redgem and Root

The corridor within the building, just like the courtyard and the buildings in the surroundings hadn’t been spared of the chaos and destruction that came from the fight of both sides. In this case, most of the destruction: the scorched lines that crossed the walls, the fires on the plaster that struggled to keep themselves alive and the craters left on the floor; was a result of the encounter between the two powered individuals from both factions.

Diskette might’ve looked like an unassuming young woman. But the metallic arm she had and her bag of explosives and tricks spelled some grave risks and dangers for anyone who tried to underestimate her. Things that Redgem, the fellow empowered by a strange gemstone of unknown origin could attest… but in the end, she couldn’t accomplish much.

The laser concealed in her arm was deflected by the almost crystal-like surface of Redgem’s armor. She tried to use explosives, but the walls held off thanks to whatever treatment had been applied to them. And then, she tried to reach out and use her contact hacking to take over her opponent’s armor only to discover that she couldn’t understand the language it worked on… In the end, that just put her in reach for a hard knockout punch from the Syndicate rookie.

In the meantime, on the other end. A similarly lopsided but not as destructive encounter was taking place between Root and the other man, identified as Slipper. With the walls coated with the phase-proof lacquer and the fight going on behind him, there was no escape for him but to fight like a cornered animal… but even that didn’t award him the extra strength needed to win the fight. He tried to use his powers to phase through Root's weapons… but his power couldn’t work on living material… and as he just happened to realize, as long as Root’s weapons were being sustained by magic, they were still technically alive. So the attempt of a ghost punch ended up colliding with the solid surface of the shield, breaking a couple of bones in his hand.

In fights as such, Root, who’d undergone some combats in the Gallera Underground Arena was able to easily knock Slipper down out of the fight.

And that just left one of the invading forces. The younger girl that appeared clearly too terrified to join the fight. With both sides of the hallway occupied, all she could do was curl up against the wall whimpering, especially as both Slipper and Diskette were knocked over.

“What do we do with her?” Redgem asked as he used one of the functions of his armor to bind a knocked down Diskette. Meanwhile, Root had reached into his pocket for a handful of seeds, and through the infusion of magic, they quickly hatched and grew long, wrapping themselves around Slipper’s wrist, maturing into very sturdy vines.

Before an answer could be given. Their earpieces came to life as a message from Lifeward came through.

“We’ve reached an agreement with the attacking force. They’ve effectively surrendered and spread the word that they’re to pull back and abandon the premises. Any subdued attacker should be brought into the courtyard. Any casualty or grievous injury on our side, should be reported for the settling of the scores.”

“We won… We won! It’s over!” Root uttered, in celebration. “Fight is over…”

That gave the young girl by the wall some reassurance as she found herself calmed… but still incredibly upset about her situation.

“Redgem, are you in there?” Lifeward asked.

“I’m here,” Redgem reported.

“Status?”

“A little battered, but my shields held on perfectly.”

“Did you fight?”

“Three of them slipped past into the corridor maze, but I managed to intercept them. With Root’s help, all three have been knocked out or subdued.” Redgem said, offering Root a fist bump.

“Good. I’ll send someone to help him ferry them back into the courtyard… Redgem, stay in the corridors, close to the meeting room in case anything happens. And don’t leave the post until the client opens the door, is that clear?”

Redgem nodded, more positive than at the start of the night, now that he’s had his personal duel. “Understood… I’ll be here until the men arrive.”

After that, the conversation went silent, as Lifeward moved over to switch the focus onto other parts of the defense force. Redgem didn’t wait to pump his fist and make a celebratory gesture as he paced back and forth.

In the meantime, Root approached the girl that sat by the wall, looking up his way somewhat scared. “It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you. We’ll just escort you out.”

“No… I need to. I needed to get into the room and erase their memories of the blackmail.” The girl said, with a couple of tears streaking down her face. By now, Root was certain that her powers were to erase the memories of people about a certain something or someone… an ability that he could see very useful under the hands of someone as cunning as Vince. Still, by now he was quite sure that she couldn’t be forgotten if someone was watching her. “If I don’t he’ll… he’ll…”

“I knew it…” Root whispered. “You’re under Vince’s control… aren't you?

The girl looked up at Root with wide eyes. He wasn’t if it was hope, fear, or relief, but it was something that alleviated her sorrow. “Are you also…”

“I’m also in his employ… but as an occasional contact. He’ll call me if he ever needs me to.”

“I…” the girl stammered. “Where do you have the mark?”

Root’s heart sank. “The mark? You have it?” He asked, avoiding answering.

The girl nodded, sullenly as she rolled her sleeve back to reveal a marking on her skin. Two bending lines of triangles were wrapped around her wrist, parting ways to make room for a circle… It evoked the imagery of a mouth of sharp teeth about to bite down on something. An idea that unsettled Root.

It was different… but still felt the same to the one he’d seen on the feasting man. Was Vince experimenting with variations?

Root reached down to touch it, feeling the magic ebbing of his fingers come into contact with it only to get a snarling answer that sent his hand reeling and the girl giving out a short scream.

“What was that?” Redgem asked.

“It’s fine. It’s fine,” Root dismissed. “I was just checking something.”

“He said he would take it off after I do some jobs for him… I want this thing off!” The girl whispered, her fingers trying to scratch the skin as if it could be peeled off, the red around the marking told him this was something she did very often.

“I hope he spoke true about that promise…” Root muttered. “I suppose I’m lucky enough to have met Vince a while ago… Though I can’t believe he’s using it on new people… but that’s his trap…” Still, he couldn’t abide the idea that he was using the enchanting mark like that. He felt an echo with the girl, like he would be in that same situation, and in a sense, could be closer to it than he expected, if he didn’t play his cards right with the Syndicate.

“I want to get help but… but this is magic. I don’t know magic.”

“Hopefully, something will happen. Maybe I can ask the Syndicate about it…” Root muttered as he reached down into his pocket for his phone. An old version but still serviceable enough and had a camera he could use to snap a picture of the wrist.

“What’s your name?”

“Janet.”

“Hey Janet… My name is Travis. Try not to worry… Vince isn’t the kind that exploits and punishes. Hopefully, if he cares, he’ll take this out on Voidgrip or Efreet. Just endure as much as you can, wait for him to decide to set you free… or for someone to take him down.. It’s about the only thing I imagine.” Root didn’t want to tell the girl that he had no idea if rescue would even come, considering how things were going… but despair wasn’t the solution.

“I… I’ll try,” Janet said, just as the sound of men approaching came from down the hallway.

“Now, back to as we were…” Root said, pushing himself up and offering the girl a hand to help her up.

Before long, the gang members came in at Lifeward’s behest. They picked up the unconscious Diskette and bound Slipper and escorted the girl over to the courtyard, with Root tagging along.

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 10:25 pm
Presentation office

“…And thus… the recounting has reached the end,” Preston declared. At his gesture, the gang member's bodyguard turned the lights back on. “Thank you for your patience. I know it must’ve taken a lot to continue watching, I trust that the edits had made the experience as clear as possible. You should be now caught up to speed as to what’s at stake.”

The two men sitting weren’t as amused. Pollux looked sour, exhausted even. His was the expression of a man that just had to relive a debt that had incurred, one that could sink his career or world.

While on the side, Arno’s expression was more impassive. He was clearly upset, furious even, constantly clenching his fist… every now and then stealing glares to his superior as if trying to process and reconcile everything that had taken place.

“How… How real is everything?” Arno finally asked.

Preston tried not to roll his eyes. This wasn’t the first time in the past hour and a half the upstart replacement had tried to question the validity of the source, and yet he did so hoping to have misheard the truth. “As you saw, the video was taken straight from the facility’s security rooms. If you have any doubts about it, I’m sure that you can pay a visit to the facility in Maryland and compare the facilities and what’s not there.”

“This can’t be…” Arno growled as he turned towards Pollux. “And this… this is all your fault! “

“Enough, Arno.” Pollux began but his former assistant wasn’t having it.

“Don’t shut me down. Don’t you dare to tell me twhat after you dragged me into this.” Arno’s eyes widened as he had a realization. “I… I participatedook in some of those works. I requested the transfers when you ordered… I gave you the access codes I was working on for that building that was attacked three months ago!… I was chosen by you as the next successor in line. I’m too implicated.”

“I’m glad you realize.” Preston noted, but Arno missed it, still embittered towards Pollux.

“You made a deal with the mutant group that attacked your offices. A group of criminals with powers along the higher tiers of the danger scale. You became their pet and servant within the MCO. When they asked you something, you torched our database for that! For both him and that group of monsters!”

Preston shook his head. “I must point out that, despite what he wants to tell you, I just took advantage of what the other group was asking. Most of the time, I just traded information and left him alone. Others I piggybacked on some of the jobs he was undertaking… Well, that is until now. Turns out I have interested parties in having the MCO decentralized from the state.”

“And you, quiet. You’re also a blackmailer!” Arno scoffed.

A smirk appeared on Preston. “I was in the building to pick up my brother. If his men hadn’t happened to arrest him, I wouldn’t be a player in this blackmailing charade… But now that I am… I might as well make use of you.”

“Fuck you,” Arno snapped, almost about to jump on the offensive but quickly remembering his previous attempts.

“Is that any way you talk to the one holding the leash? Pollux. I thought you would warn him about being hot headed.”

“You didn’t have to bring him here,” Pollux snorted.

“You might say that, but then what happens when you spontaneously decide to fall off the face of the planet? Who would be my second choice.” Preston mused as he glanced over his shoulder, where a camera rested on the side of the corner. Once again, this was insurance.

“This is horrible. They’re mutants. They’re monsters… I would’ve gone down fighting, not sell myself off like you did. Even if they actually had an osprey attack helicopter outside, the MCO are supposed to be soldiers! Lines of defense.”

“Don’t try to lecture me. I did what I had to do and I don’t regret making it out alive that night!” Pollux snapped. Though he stole a glance in Preston’s direction. “Well. I could’ve tried… I could’ve tried better to get rid of you.”

Preston smirked. “I wonder why you’re willing to serve the other master? Could it be because, as you’ve seen in the video, he appears baseline and has several strong mutants pledged to his service? Is that what the MCO wishes for?”

“The MCO is needed to control your kind,” Arno declared, a statement that rang hollowecho as the gang member behind chuckled. “Otherwise, murder and rampant crime are the consequences! Your demand is folly.”

“And you’re still going to follow it through lest you want this blackmail to be released to the media and public.”

“Go ahead and do it… See if I care,” Arno tried to bluff, but it was Pollux who fell for it.

“We’ll do it as you asked… It won’t be immediate but…”

“What the fu-” Arno snapped.

“We can’t afford to let this come out into the open… yet …” Pollux muttered, almost certain. Making Preston wonder if he had a plan for it in the long run or not… either way, that wouldn’t be his concern. He then turned towards the organizer of all this. “We’ll do it, and keep you updated… But this has to be the last of this.”

“You don’t get to decide that,” Preston said. “But, this is probably all I want to ask for, for now. And you know how, unlike the other blackmailer, I seldom bother you…”

“And… you can’t share that material with your Syndicate associates and whoever else you asked here tonight. I’d ask you to burn it but…”

“… I’d be a fool to do it.” Preston shook his head, making a thinking expression for a moment before finally saying. “Very well. I won’t share the data with anyone… for a year or so, then you have to give me a good reason not to…” He said looking at Arno, making no secret that this was a test to see how the two could keep the situation under control “… However, if you try to double cross me… The Syndicate will get their hands on all the evidence.”

“Why are you so afraid of it? All they have you is killing mutants as you try to fight for your life? As callous as it is, it’s survival.” Arno said, but Preston could tell that he was being willfully obtuse. “You can survive getting fired, isn’t that right? I believe I can.”

“You might…” Preston said as he began to direct the video back to a couple of scenes. “But I believe that in the video’s narrative, I think some of the small points are lost. Let me explain.”

“First… is the partnership with Artemis company. A medical think tank that has somehow managed to keep its hands clean… even if it keeps shaking them with the MCO. What was uncovered in the moment, and from scenes during the day, is that Artemis planned to perform experiments on mutants, either to harvest the result of their powers or trying to dissect them in and re-purpose them for their power. Of course, this is mere speculation, given that the recordings of the twenty four hours prior to the incident don’t show them doing that… However, it does seem pretty convenient that the Maryland division had a third party company lab attached. Almost as if that were the plan.”

“Of course, I’ve been keeping an eye on the company’s divisions within this region of the country, and so far they appear clean. But you never know, so far it’s an odd partnership that I could’ve pulled your boss’ strings to delve deeper… but I’m not a slave driver.”

Pollux scoffed. “It’s only a supposition.”

“Which is why I’m not using this one as a real weapon… That being said, rumors such as that could deal a harsh blow to the company.” Preston then moved the video onto a scene, showing the reception where a group of people entered the place, each of them with a tag from the system’s interface identifying each and every outsider in the shot. “The one I really feel would do the most damage is… this one. In January of 2012, your boss, Jeffrey Fontanella, authorized shelter for a group composed by a crew of private investigators, two heroes in training from Columbia Heroics, and a police officer, escorting a criminal whose hand was suspected to be behind a high profile murder.”

The video was then moved to the final scene in the lobby, only now, everything was almost dark and a group of MCO agents, with Pollux identifiable at the front, with a gun in hand. He stood before the body of an older man, pointing his weapons, not at the man that had been brought there earlier, but at a young man and a woman that had brought him in. Preston winced as he advanced the scene five seconds at the time to relive the scene. “By the end of the evening, the building was attacked, and all the members of the visiting teams were dead. The investigators stuck around to help you in your time of need… the two heroes tried to rise to the occasion and the police officers made a valiant sacrifice… But in the end. What did you decide, Pollux?”

Pollux’s mouth curdled. “I… I killed Jeffrey… I shot my boss.”

“You shot your boss in the head, while his head was turned. Your men were too scared to actually try to fight.” Preston said, finding the outrage on the matter. “Seeing the tapes, I can tell that the agents that died that night were the good ones, while only the cowardly chaff was the one that stayed behind. Then you proceeded to make the deal with the men that attacked you to let you live”

“Imagine what would happen if the information got leaked. The scandal that it’ll bring. Would the MCO let you go, or hold you for some atonement. Heck, now that I have the Syndicate behind my back, I can send this information to the MCO and see how they react. I’m sure that this Vince guy you serve wouldn’t appreciate having you as a loose end. Because you know how these masterminds detest their secrets being leaked out.”

“I… will do as you ask…” Pollux said scared, and even Arno nodded.

But Preston continued. “And you then proceeded to turn against your ally, someone who’s been by your side when it all went down, a woman telepath. One of the very rare cases sanctioned and approved by the MCO to operate in a legitimate capacity. An investigator that has a good number of cases under her belt.”

“The telepath woman…” Arno muttered. “Psychopath Esme…”

“Yes!” Preston snapped his fingers. “That’s what I mean. You bought the silence of the men that pulled the trigger that night and had them spread the story. Make it so that the attack was orchestrated by this woman, either brainwashing people or just being the head of some rebels. She became the boogeyman of every office, to the point that, I think you have simulations of what to do if a high level telepath happens to set their sights on your offices. You dragged this poor woman’s reputation through the mud in such a public manner.”

“She was a woman with a terrifying power. She shouldn’t have been allowed, as telepaths should!” Arno snorted. “No one should’ve wielded that sort of power over others.”

Preston’s eyes twitched as he felt a tear wanting to build up, after investigating the incident in depth, it was hard not to get attached to the character as he’d seen them die over and over again. But he was good enough of an actor to dissimulate it.

“My brother and I… we loved our mother when she was alive, probably the only pure thing of our childhood. So when I hear the story of this woman and your thoughts… all I can say is that…” He leaned forward, placing his hands on both Pollux and Arno’s shoulders. “I feel nothing but contempt for you… but I’m supposed to be the logical one. The one that looks forward in time rather than what my gut tells me.”

“You claim that mutants are monsters… But to me, you are the bigger ones. I may be a former criminal, but I don’t relish or try to justify death. A woman died on the fourteenth’ of January along with her friends allies. Her son’s birthday was the fifteenth, the next day. Fortunately, it appears that he left the city shortly before the events of that night were made public. Just imagine what would happen if he… or any of the people affected by the killings that night were to inherit powers. I wouldn’t fault them for whatever they decided to do.”

“You have two months to update me on the work in progress of the request. It has to be completed in four.” Preston closed the laptop and took a deep breath, changing his tone to the more approachable he’d been using originally. “Now… the meeting has reached its conclusion and I’ve been told that the men you hired to intrude have surrendered. But don’t worry, it’s not like I didn’t expect it..”

“You got them? People from that Vince guy? The same kind that attacked the Maryland offices?”

“Who else? Would you ha’ve had the agents from the academy?”

“You’ve fallen… so high…” Was all Arno said as he pushed himself back up, practically shoving the chair down to the ground. “Now I’m stuck with you… don’t believe I will stay under this.”

“Then I recommend you quit… Because I’m not leaving this job.” Despite everything that has taken place. Pollux always found the courage in self preservation, once after the dirty blackmail matter was pushed aside.

“Follow me to the exit,” Preston, sidelined by his bodyguard, said as he led them out of the room. “Your men should still be still in the foyer where you left them, albeit fast asleep. Don’t fault them for it, few people can’t stand my brother’s ability. Oh, don’t mind the laser burns on the walls… some of them got quite close…”

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 10:49 pm
Twain Room 217

“Dang it! I didn’t see that play,” Vic sighed as the word ‘defeat’ popped up in the middle of his tablet’s touch screen.

“Well, you left yourself open after you tried to go after my sister. You were asking for it,” Danny answered between laughs that were too infections for Vic not to join in.

“That’s fair. I did deserve that.” Vic muttered as he closed the game application and returned back to the chat window. “To be fair, I thought I could pull off the strategy.”

“Keep dreaming,” Lizzy snickered.

“Next time. I’ll practice… just you wait. Next game I’ll win.” Vic smiled.

In the background, he heard a brief conversation going about and soon after, Danny explained. “Mom says it's time to go to bed. We have school tomorrow…”

“Oh, Can I give Maria my regards? It’s been a while.”

There was a bit of an awkward silence between Lizzy and Danny, only for the latter to be uncertain. “Sure… we will. I’m sure she’d wish you well.”

“Alright… time to get back to tomorrow,” Vic sighed.

“Very well…” Danny said before pausing. “Oh, Lizzy, I think the shower is leaking. Did you close it well?”

“Oh… I’ll check on it,” Lizzy squeaked as, judging by the sounds, she appeared to get up. “Vic… it was nice to hear from you. We should do this more often.”

“You bet. It’s a fun distraction,” he laughed.

“Good night!” Lizzy chirped as she logged off the conversation.

Vic was about to do the same when Danny spoke up. “Hey Vic… is everything alright?”

“Yeah… yeah. Why do you ask?” Was Vic’s prepared answer.

“Well. I don’t know. It just feels like something is bothering you. I mean, I love when you talk with us, but this time, it just felt like that. Like, you usually tell us about the craziness that happens in that school… but well, you were quite awkward when we asked and changed the subject.”

“I don’t know… Things haven’t been going as well recently. I mean, it’s just been a hectic couple of days. Think Friday marked the shift there but I’ll tell you about it later. It’s a long story.” Vic muttered, figuring that a retelling of the turkey day tragedy would keep them here past midnight. “From there, things haven’t gotten that much better.”

“Alright… So… is there anything you can tell me I can help you with?”

“I don’t know.” Vic thought for a moment. “They think I’m changing into something… they just don’t know.”

“Oh…” Danny made a pause that felt endless… but the clock on the tablet only marked the passing of a minute. “Well, you have good help there…. Isn’t there something they can do?”

“I don’t think so.” Vic sighed.

“You’ll still be you… right?” Danny asked.

“I hope so… I fear that I might end up looking very different… what exactly? I’m not sure.”

“Well… whatever happens. And I’m sure the friends you have there will feel the same… heck they’re probably more used to it, right?”

Vic thought of cases like Laura and Bianca… and then thought of that cat girl that was mostly cat that helped them during the ring incident. They certainly had it rough… Even if he tried to argue that the situation is different and that he’s changing post manifestation, it wouldn’t change that they experienced it.

“Just don’t worry. Everything will be alright. Lizzy and I will always be your friends.” Danny said, Vic could almost picture her smiling. Of course, the silence was broken up by the sound of a yawn that slipped through, getting Vic to chuckle. “No wait, that wasn’t fair.”

“Sounded not as sincere,” Vic teased.

“Fine… I’m tired. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.” Danny mused. “You know. You should come to Maryland, for a visit. We haven’t seen you in… what? Four years?”

“Man, I really wish to… I really do… But it would take some preparations, and money…” Was all Vic could say. He did want to. He really would love to see Danny and Lizzy after all these years. Go back to the city he grew in, visit his friends from school and the places he loved… But then, those thoughts always drove him back. He remembered his old apartment oin Honolulu street, the stinging memory of his mother never coming back, the park where he used to go with her and the friends from her work. The zoo and aquarium he was a frequent visitor of… Memories that grew bitter, ones that he rarely thought of.

“Maybe someday… if I can still pass off as human.” Vic managed to actually say the words. While not entirely devoid of anguish, he felt it far less than before. Maybe because something else was trying to claim ache in his heart… or maybe because the voice of a friend lifted that ache.

“Talk to you later, Vic,”

“Later, Danny.” Vic answered as the conversation was over. He spun around on the bed, letting his head rest on the pillow and his eyes staring up atnearer emptily into the top of the ceiling. Maybe he really should at least try to tell his friends about his situation…

He turned around, thinking. “Maybe when they know more about it…”

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 11:30 pm
Nakaoka sushi restaurant, private booth

“Excuse me. I brought another batch of ebi furae and dragon maki,” The waitress said, in a practiced manner, yet her composure and the platter of servings barely survived the surprise. Opening the door to the group they were taking in for the evening, the first thing that would snatch her attention was the woman that stood over two meters tall, with orange-reddish scales and large folded wings sitting at the back of the table.

“Dragon maki here,” the man sitting next to the dragon woman said, just to get the poor girl to stop staring at their guest.

“Oh, sorry,” The girl apologized, reminding herself of her manners as she accommodated the platters.

“Miss… Could we get another bottle of Japanese whiskey? Think we’re already running a little dry on this one,” Lifeward, now in her civilian name, Caroline, said as she gestured at the empty bottle.

“I’ll tell the kitchen. And have it added to the tab.”

“Thank you,” Caroline said as she took a bite off one of the platters that were shared.

“Is it okay? That wasn’t the first girl that served us.” The dragon woman asked once the waitress left.

“Oh… I asked the waitress to send another friend to deliver the platter. She agreed happily.” The man next to her said with a drunken laughter, earning an elbow nudge from the dragon woman that almost had him knock over his drink.

“But… is it alright?” The dragon lady asked Caroline.

“This is a regular business partner for the Syndicate whenever they’re in the city. Discretion and confidentiality are their secret motto,” she said, offering them the platter of food. “So, feel free to order anything you want from the menu. The syndicate providesinvites.”

After the MCO agent and company left, Caroline took care of the injured ones in the fight, while the rest of the able team moved about searching for survivors and gathering Junkerer’s gadgets to send them back to HQ. With the mission over at a little past eleven, a celebration was in order. Fortunately, the state of New Hampshire had itsa fair share of Syndicate respecting restaurants they could choose while waiting for the portal transport system to pick them up.

“Alright.” The man next to the dragon woman laughed, seemingly high from the victory. That one was Redgem, and the opaque crystal sphere that spun around his fingers was his power armor. A mysterious object from potential alien origin that had bonded to him. Still, the Syndicate had ownership of the object which was something he wasn’t willing to give up. A successful mission not only gave him extra money but also got him one step closer to buying the artifact… if that were the terms of his deal. That plus coming out on top inof his encounter, he had all the reason to be merry tonight.

His mood was infectious and even Dragonite, who was quite self-conscious of her form found herself quickly easing enough to relax.

Root sat next to Cole, seemingly partaking of the food and enjoying it while at it. But, toin Caroline’s eyesappreciation, he appeared somewhat distant, joining the conversation, but taking some time letting his mind zone off as if thinking about something.

Perhaps his first serious encounter turned out to be more impactful than expected, Caroline reasoned. Her gaze then strayed to the side, where her patient of the night rested, Censer. Poor guy took a beating in the operation, seemingly squaring off against one of the bigger threats inbound. The chain imprint around his neck and the bruises she detected when healing him told quite a bit about the encounter he had.

It also didn’t help to find out how his fellow operatives came out on top of their respective fights. But, as Cole would point out, it was that determination that followed the defeat that would drive him.

And, speaking of which, Caroline turned towards her left to her mission partner, who was quietly sampling one or two rolls at athe time while his hand was idly tossingrubbing onto one of the throwing stars that had been picked up on the field, flipping it around in a pensive mood.

Something was bothering him. She knew him well enough to tell. In the back of her mind, she tried to piece together what could’ve caused it. It happened back in the conversation he had in Maryland with the man, Voidgrip. From there, he stayed on the side, using his phone (as she could spy) to try to collect evidence on more experienced members of the opposing force from the Black Bulletin and the database. Cole was usually the kind of person who would forget the mission as soon as it was deemed ‘accomplished’.

And then, he raised up his gaze to meet her eyes, clearly aware that she’d been staring for a second too long.

“Caroline, a moment,” Cole asked as he got up from his seat, moving onto the side, and she humored him. Fortunately, by then, conversation had lightened amongsparked into the group as they began to touch on more common topics, just enough levity so they wouldn’t think much of the departure of the two.

Once in the empty hallway, Cole sighed. “I know what this is about… You’ve been thinking about…”

“You snapping at that Voidgrip guy like that? I gotta say, I don’t think I’ve seen you be so liberal with the threats… What’s bothering you?”

“It’s something…” Cole hesitated. “ Something I didn’t pay that much attention to before… All this time, I didn’t really pay that much attention to the circumstances outside the parameters of the mission. We had a client who was going to conduct a blackmail meeting and we were meant to protect him… that was all I needed.”

“Yeah… you usually leave those details to me.” Caroline noted.

“I heard about the operation, in a tangential manner… But the more I did, the more I picked up on details, the more I suspected.” Cole trailed off. “I’m not exactly a detective.”

“I know… “Caroline said. Inwardly, she wondered. “So, what is it that bothered you?”

“Well… I’ve told you about my friend, right?”

“Your soldier days friend? The person who was evenly matched against you in combat… The one who went missing?” Caroline muttered, already having a sense of where this was going. “You think it’s connected?”

“The last time I talked to him was in December 2011, wishing him merry Christmas and talking about our next encounter… I was making plans to visit Maryland then, meet his godson, have a fun time with our usual rivalry… But, suddenly, he went quiet.” He sighed as he spun the throwing star withon his hand, throwing and catching it with two fingers to keep his hand busy. “I didn’t hear much, about him or his investigative team until the authorities and, eventually, the news reported about their death under mysterious circumstances. Naturally, I tried to investigate what happened but… found that most of the details of the case were focused around an MCO facility. Accounts were… tight-lipped.”

“Almost five years ago… Maryland…. MCO involvement.” Caroline repeated. “You think…”

“That it might be connected? I did.“

“Damn… I wish I’d known before the negotiations.”

Cole shook his head. “It’s my fault. I didn’t pick up on it until too late in the negotiation. So, now I have to ask if there is an option for renegotiation?”

“Sorry, Cole, even if I’d known, the syndicate’s golden goal was to obtain the blackmail… yet no matter what, I couldn’t even get as close so as to obtain any detail. Deals and negotiations are more your thing.”

“You’re not going to…”

“Steal it? Break into the client’s offices to obtain it?” Cole asserted. “I’m not that desperate for what feels like a maybe… I guess I’ll have to go with the supposition that it’s not connected.”

Caroline paused for a moment and shook her head. “There’s something. As part of the agreement and condition for our support. I did bring up the possibility that pieces of the intel can be shared with the syndicate after a year. If you remind me to bring it up in a month or so when the water’s have settled, I will reach out to Mr. Crossby. Saving his brother ought to give us some gratitude points.”

“I guess I can wait…” Cole sighed. “Thanks Caroline.”

“Hey. Anything for a friend,” Caroline smiled as her partner put an arm around her, now returning to a more positive demeanor. “Now, let’s get back and enjoy ourselves. The warp gates should be opening in an hour or so…”

“Alright.” Cole said as they moved back to their private room where the mood remained merryfull. “Now I feel like ordering some more rolls…”

WA Break Small_Solid

Monday, November 27th, 2016 - 12:01 am

“Report, Voidgrip…” The words came in as soon as the phone was picked up.

“Well, as I suspected, the mission was a bust. The syndicate got involved in the assignment… we had no other choice but to pull out.”

“We weren’t ready… I should’ve expected as much.” Vince sighed on his end. “So, was the intel leaked? Do I need to plan for a bigger threat?”

“Fortunately, no. I managed to strike a deal with the Syndicate. According to Pollux, he has, at least, secured the guarantee that the recordings will be kept secret. Apparently, the blackmailer, the syndicate and a certain school only needed him to pull back MCO forces from around the state of New Hampshire… No further plans, at least that much he suspected.”

“Loosen the MCO restrictions around the state? Hm… I suppose things could’ve been worse… Good job, Voidgrip.” Vince wasn’t one to express himself often, but even Voidgrip could tell apart the subtle changes in the voice. “Next time you stop by the offices or labs in Artemis Co, I’m sure they’d be willing to enhance your sight.”

“I think I’ll pass on that… but thanks for the offer.” Voidgrip answered. “There is one note though. The other blackmailer is under the protection of the syndicate now.”

“It’s fine… as long as he doesn’t overstep, we can share the MCO asset.”

“Alright. So I guess the matter of the dealings in the city of Concord are settled… What’s next?”

“Next? Hm… I'm going to Massachussets... with all that's happening, there's something I've needed to track down.”

 

The End
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