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Dirty Deeds Don't Come Cheap (Part 1)

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Adventure

Dirty Deeds Don't Come Cheap

by

MaLAguA

 

Part One

 

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 - 3:29 pm
Office space in Boston

“… When the news came, some of us could hardly believe it.” A man told the crowd of gathered office workers through a microphone. Then, he turned towards the man of the hour, the one being praised for his short yet significant time of service. In his late forties, dressed in a proper office suit and a posture that exuded managerial professionalism, he stood there taking in the speech with a near unreadable expression that was just a couple of degrees away from his usual mug. “You’ve been here for less than half a decade and yet have already left your mark in all of us.”

“You whipped us into shape… Even when things appeared at their worst, we knew you were just looking out for everyone. You, telling us that the job we do here is just as important as the men on the field was a boost of motivation we once needed. That when you cracked the whip on us, pulling all-nighters, you did so out of love for the job… I mean, who can forget that sleepless week in 2013 when the files and database of all offices got corrupted. We were the first to act and get back up.” Some of the people in the crowd groaned at the memory, but still nodded along. “Some of us still remember it all too well. That was our first emergency with you as our manager and yet you managed to pull us through regardless.”

To that, some people reacted with shudders.

A woman in the front of the crowd tapped her watch as a signal. The man recovered from the fumble of the speech and cleared his throat. “What I mean to say… Mister Garland, is that we’re sad to see you leave our offices, but we know you’ll do right for the organization. Onward for the betterment of the world.”

And to that generic platitude, many of those present took it as a sign to start the complimentary applause.

The same stout woman stepped up to the front of the crowd, tacitly asking people to ease up on the clapping. “That was a nice speech, Arno. We certainly look forward to your time at the helm,” The woman said in a candid, almost stepfordian tone, before turning to Mr. Garland. “Do you have any words you’d like to share?”

Mr. Garland, the promoted administrator, half raised his hand, as if just a moment’s thought from declining the offer. But ultimately accepted, taking the microphone. “Thank you, Barb.”

He quickly gathered his thoughts before he opened his mouth. “And thank you all for this small celebration. The news of the promotion came in as suddenly as could be, I certainly didn’t expect for my name to be in the list of candidates.”

To that, someone mumbled a somewhat disingenuous… but still appreciated: “How modest.”

“And yet, ambition should never be stopped. One must keep on climbing higher and higher, doing what they can to stand out… or even survive… so that’s what I’ll do, never forgetting each of the grips in the climb that enabled me to make this possible. The MCO will be made great and that will always be thanks to you and those that came before. So, enjoy the night, rest well, and look onward to the next era.”

Handing back the microphone, it was the signal that the speech was over, prompting the crowd to respond with a halfhearted clap.

“Thank you for the words, Mr. Garland. I’m certain many of us will take it to heart. We know you’ll be staying with us for one more week to manage the transfer, but we’re already feeling like we miss you.” Barb, the HR representative said before changing her tune to a more upbeat one. “Now, this celebration was prepared both for the breaking of the news and early thanksgiving. You know what that means, right? That there’ll be plenty of catching up to do on Monday.” She looked at Mr. Garland, expecting his approval. It being something he would say. “But for now, celebrate to your heart's content. And may you have a good long weekend.”

“Here here!” Some of the men cheered up as a staffer began to pass around the drinks and, at Barb’s behest, soft music began to play, kicking of the early celebration for the holiday.

WA Break Small_Solid

Sometime later…

“So, enjoy the night, rest well, and look onward to the next era…” Someone mimicked shortly after the door to the quiet of the office opened, letting the tune and lyric of the latest pop song slip in before being snuffed. “Doesn’t sound like the usual sourpuss of a boss I’ve been serving under.”

Pollux Garland looked up from the screen on his desk, his expression being neutral, for the most part, trying not to let the corner of his lips betray a smile. He tapped onto the screen a couple more times before devoting his focus to the conversation with his assistant. “Watch it. I may still be leaving this office, but I’ll still be your boss. Besides… I get nothing from ruining the mood of the office. It’s better to let them have the occasion.”

The assistant shook his head as he placed a paper plate with the snacks that were being served downstairs on the table. “I just can’t believe it… This has all been so soon.”

“Well, Arno. When a vacancy is opened up in the higher strata of the organization. There is a good incentive to fill it as soon as possible. I just happened to be the best option available at this time.”

“Damn mutants. Performing a hit-job in the higher ups in the organization,” The assistant, Arno cursed.

Pollux silently nodded. The reports on the higher-up’s passing were yet to be disclosed to the rest of the organization, but it wasn’t an erred guess.

“Wish they would know their place… but they’ve grown bolder with each passing year, haven’t they? Many more appear to just pop up in a burst and quickly think it’s their time to cast us real humans down,” Arno said, picking up the advanced taser gun that rested on the table and feigning taking a shot on the wall. “Regardless, this seems to have worked out quite well for you.”

“We mustn’t relish on the passing of one of our men, Arno. Otherwise we’re as cruel and corrupt as the worst mutants we prosecute.” Pollux noted, holding out his hand.

“I hear you. It’s still always horrible when they’re bold enough to go after men, just because they can.” Arno said as his eyes were fixated on a photo of a building that belonged to the MCO, different from the one they were currently at, more like an advanced training and research complex. “But I forgot who I’m talking to. Pollux Garland, the organization's steel bureaucrat who survived the headquarter attack helmed by a telepath witch.”

Pollux had to pause just so he wouldn’t choke on the bread and chicken of the sandwich.

“I realize I never asked you about it… I mean. We don’t really get this much of a chance to talk, even though I’m your second in command but that was one of the things I figured I would eventually do.” Arno said. “What was the place like?”

“The offices in Maryland? They were a different affair. For starters, about eighty percent of the personnel were in the military division. And we actually shared the space with a private company.”

“Artemis Co., right?” Arno said. “That’s the medical think tank?”

“Next to them, the MCO looks like a rowdy fraternity.” Pollux shook his head. “They would arrive at the place via company shuttle, step into their section of the compound and leave on the clock. Most agents and officers were short of knowing half of the employees from the partner… but there was no real congealing.”

“So, they were more like techies in the labs and R&D sections.”

Pollux shrugged. “There, the men in the MCO carried about a lax culture under my boss. Given that the place was practically in the middle of nowhere in between the roads, there wasn’t much to be done but protect the structural partners and keep up with the paperwork that was sent from the city. Sometimes, we had to send aid and reinforcements to operations. But, for the most part, it was… peaceful.”

“That is until the mutant attack of 2012?” Arno said.

“Yes…” Pollux said dryly. “A night I never wish to relive.”

The last comment’s implication appeared to have slipped past the protege’s ears. “Still… you survived and managed to subdue the attackers. Something everyone talked about at that time,” Arno said as he took a bite from the tarts. “I still remember the news of it. In the camp, they had us do simulations of the attack. What to do if your mutant allies go rogue within the depths of the building. What to do when one of them is a high-level telepath.”

“I survived it, that was it,” Pollux said, trying to mix the snap with his usual sternness, a sour taste clung to his mouth. Not a trauma of what happened at that time, but more of a begrudging toll that came after, the leash that was tethered around his neck. “It’s a time that I prefer not to dwell on.”

“I understand,” Arno said with a disappointed sigh.

Pollux sighed. The topic was always unpleasant to him, and he assumed that much had been made clear to Arno… Of course, given the occasion, the young man probably assumed this would be the last chance he would have to ask for a while. “How’s the preparations? Are you ready to take over after me?”

Arno perked up, standing stiff as if suddenly given an order by a CO. “I’ve made the preparations to assume your role by the end of next week. Budgets for the next month have already been approved, the projects you left going are en route to be completed and the reports and files about the mutant incidents are only behind for just a couple of days.” He paused in consideration. “Is there anything else that I should know?”

“Hm… there’s a couple more details that should be dealt with, but I’ll send you the notes,” Pollux said as he brought himself a slight smile. “Now, I should start getting ready to head back with the family.”

And yet, the moment was cut short as his cellphone began to ring, breaking in the quiet mood. Pollux checked the caller ID only to see a string of numbers that wasn’t on his contact list. Not spam, nor a blocked number. Curiosity got the better of him, prompting him to answer the call after the second ring. “Hello? Who’s this?”

He realized that this was the mistake he’d been hoping would’ve been left forgotten, as the person in the other line greeted. “Congrats on the promotion, Pollux. Director of the east coast of the MCO isn’t a charge that can be easily dismissed, isn’t it?”

“I…” Pollux stammered only to realize that Arno was still in the office. And was staring his way with a hint of curious concern as if some of the dread had slipped off into his expression. To that, Pollux tried to dissimulate it. “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize the phone number. Is everything alright? Because I was just about to be on my way,” That was an avenue for him to gesture to his assistant to leave the room.

But things weren’t going to be so easy.

“Is there someone in the room? Answer.” The voice said, never really dropping the cordial facade, even as it became assertive.

“Yes…” Pollux muttered.

“Does it happen to be the person who will take your place? Answer truthfully.”

Pollux hesitated for a moment. “Yes.”

“Then he probably should know about this, don’t you think?”

The man gritted his teeth. Perhaps the only thing he’d hoped never happen, all this time, was to bring another person into this personal hell he’d gotten himself into. “Arno…” He called out, just as the man was halfway out of the room. “Stay for a moment.”

The soon-to-be second in command, still puzzled by the situation, heeded the request, slipping back into the room and closing the door behind him, locking it at Pollux’s gesture, just so as to prevent any other person from dropping by.

“No need to put me on speaker. Just tell him I’m the client he’ll come to know... That brings back memories, doesn’t it? It’s been… what? Two years since we stopped using that nickname.”

As the voice rambled, Pollux spoke to Arno. “It’s a ‘client’… you’ll come to know…” He said, emphasizing the word before carrying on relaying more words from the caller. “He’s someone who’s sent occasional work my way… leads and guidelines as he might say.”

“That’s enough parroting,” the voice said. “Now, back in private. Again, congratulations on the new job within the organization. You’ve certainly grown to make use of those connections that you’ve oh-so cultivated. I guess you could say that I am the same as well, don’t you think?”

“What do you want?” Pollux asked markedly.

“What do you think? A meeting. The first item on the agenda after the celebration is to meet my new friend. Arno, you called him? What can you tell me about him? Is smart like you? Or headstrong like a common foot soldier?”

Pollux looked up at Arno, who was sizing him back. Who in turn, had an expression that suspected something was afoul. “… the latter.”

“Ah… then I hope you’ll have a steady hand to keep him in check. From what I’ve gathered, you’ve been very skilled in covering your tracks, even as you’re getting swamped with jobs. After meeting him, I’ll put my request on the table. You probably will want help for this one. I want you and Arno in Concord, New Hampshire-”

“I’m not-” Pollux raised his voice, but ‘the client’ was anticipating that.

“You’re not what?” The voice cut in. “Did you really think being promoted to a higher position would erase our partnership? It just means that your distance to the ground has grown, and you aren’t just in this for yourself.”

Pollux gritted his teeth.

“As I was saying…” the voice cleared his throat and continued. “Four days from now, on Sunday. You and your replacement will be arriving in Concord, for a face-to-face meeting. I’ll send you the location of the start of the trail. From there, the instructions will be provided. Is that clear?”

“It…” Pollux grumbled. “It’s clear…”

“Cheer up. I could be worse… Like the other party. I wish you a happy thanksgiving.” And with that, the line went dead.

A frustrated sigh escaped Pollux’s lips as he leaned back against his chair. “How did he even know?” He muttered to himself as he rested his forehead on his fingers.

“What was that about?” Arno asked once the cellphone was laid on the table.

Pollux looked at his assistant, and the inheritor of his position here.

“Who’s this client?” Arno asked.

“It’s someone you’ll unfortunately have to meet,” Pollux muttered as he looked over at the calendar, just to let his mind wander over the situation.

It was always like this. The person from either faction would call him and ask for a favor over the same leverage. And he would have to find a way to make it happen, lest he wanted his life to crumble down. The MCO was his career… his life. And yet, if details got out, he would lose everything he’d accrued… or even worse.

There was always one devil with the hand around his throat, asking for him to betray his values for their own insidious agenda. They would ask Pollux for a side job, things that just happened to be within his limits… but far from meaningless. And if it wasn’t one, it was the other.

Both had the same claim to him, but one was more insidious in his requests and far stronger, as his memory could attest. While the other appeared much more reasonable and made use of the leverage in a sporadic yet still assertive way… he had little knowledge of their fighting strength… but he guessed it was shorter. In the ideal world… in the ideal world, he wouldn’t have to deal with either… but, in the semi-ideal world, he would pick the reasonable imp.

But in the real world, strength was what mattered. Picking the weaker one just because they were nicer would still ensure that he lost everything… The strong would always dictate where the tide went…

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Pollux muttered. He was tired of this. Tired of dealing with two people wanting to control him. “Arno… clear your schedule for Sunday. We’re traveling to Concord for a meeting with the client.”

“Um… alright, sir,” Arno answered, not asking a question but the inquiry never leaving his face. Still, he took his dismissal, promptly leaving the office.

“Hopefully, both sides will end up killing each other… as if,” Pollux muttered as he opened the lower drawer on his desk wherein, he produced a small burner phone. One that had been given to him in case of an emergency. A direct line to the devil.

Taking a couple of breaths, he prepared himself before dialing the only embedded contact on the list. “Vincent… I despise you and your men… but I need a favor…”

WA Break Small_Solid

Friday, November 25th, 2016 - 11:56 am
Manchester, New Hampshire

Black Friday. The day across the country where people decided to go on a spending spree as once-a-year deals are being offered on pretty much everything. It’s what got many out of their home after a feast of turkey… that and a couple of shots of coffee.

In the city of Manchester, many happened to flock to a nearby mall that just happened to be near a bank. Perhaps what felt like the ideal mixture of a business in these days as both of them were completely filled with customers. Men and women wandering about, with bags of purchases that were close to knocking each other out of the way just so they could make it to another store before they would run out of stock.

Moods were high and screams were easily picked up in between the chaos. Some even getting very close to exploding into one of those infamous brawls that would live on the Internet as a mark for the day. The people at the mall didn’t wish for that to happen and just happened to increase the number of guards for the day. Hoping that nothing would happen.

But as they would come to find out soon, that wouldn’t be enough.

In the commotion, no one really noticed how, at 11:40 am, two dark vans with dulled plaques parked themselves at the entrance of the bank.

By 11:50, seven men stepped out of the cars and began to mix themselves with the crowd, splitting themselves into the different businesses in the surroundings, with three making their way to the bank and one lingering at the street. At first glance, no one would think much about their coats in the changing weather… However, it was with a second glance that one could pick up something unsettling about their presence and the way they approached the businesses and, in particular, the bank.

Security should’ve been onto them the moment their outlines were seen through the bank’s transparent doors… However, that wasn’t the case. In fact, out of nowhere, the mood of the environment turned lethargic as the hustle and bustle of the horde of customers inexplicably began to die down. Especially for the guards and tellers as they began yawning as their eyelids began to turn heavy, one by one, they sought the nearest walls and desks lean on.

Such behavior didn’t go unnoticed, especially when one of the guards almost tipped over in his drowsy stand. Questions began to pop up in the form of mutters from the clients. They sensed the pattern and then also noticed the strangers that had just stepped into the building. Gasps and screams of panic followed when they drew SMGs from under their coats, but none dared to stand and act.

The two guards by the door, already falling asleep on the job, didn’t stand a chance as the men greeted them by pistol whipping them to the ground. Such an entrance was enough to get everyone’s attention and prompt screams.

One lone member of security at the back of the room realized what this was: a robbery. He was already trying to reach for his holstered gun, but his fingers appeared suddenly too clumsy to undo the clasp, whereas one of the strangers broke into an energetic sprint that crossed the room to meet him.

Even as the gun was drawn, the member of the crew easily disarmed the weapon and delivered a precise strike to the gut that had the guard slump over, down for the count.

“Alright, sleepyheads,” the man said, his voice sounding with the energy that was missing in the room, with his tongue making the effort to keep the words apart. “Let’s try to make this fun and fast because we’re in a rush. This is a robbery! We’ll take a small donation, so have your wallets at the ready.” With a gesture of his hand, his two partners quickly sprinted over to the back cashier counters, deftly vaulting over or ducking under the division. The poor overworked cashiers had already succumbed and had fallen asleep with their heads on the keyboards, leaving lines of repeated letters as they drooled about.

Well, there was one exception: one lone cashier that appeared to be fresh on the job. Just enough to fumble and panic, not realizing that there was a silent alarm button right under the desk. He was the first person the two robbers reached and, immediately, tied down.

From there, the men worked efficiently. The two behind the counter were quick to hack into the systems to perform a discrete transfer and open the moneybox, while the one who addressed the crowd went from person to person, half cleaning their wallets from hundred dollar bills. Some might struggle and try to fight… but it was for naught as they couldn’t do much.

Anyone who thought of trying to escape would find a fourth man standing by the entrance in between people having a bad case of lethargy dragging their feet, ready to lock the door should it be needed.

All in all, the criminals acted quite affable. Smiling and laughing while finding the time to joke with each other as they did their tasks at surprising speed and efficiency. “That’s the ugliest wig I’ve seen.” “Oh, we have a drooler here. Shame she’s cute.” “Guys! This dude is dressed like Waldo!”

They weren’t taking this seriously. Almost in the same spirit as a group of frat boys throwing a party. Overflowing with confidence, they even took the time to joke with some of the kids, getting most of them to stop crying.

By 12:04 pm, they had accomplished what they sought after and were already on their way out carrying a couple of small bags stuffed with the money. “Easy, as always.” One of them said with a small grin.

“Should we give them a treat for the holidays?” One of them asked.

“Why not?” One of them, the one that had spoken to the half-asleep crowd, smirked as he reached into the bag and tossed a bunch of a hundred-dollar bills into the air. The sight of the green got the eyes of some to widen, however they waited for the muggers to leave before moving.

“Report?” the head of the team called out as the other four men joined them in the walk away from the building. Each of them carrying a bag of ‘discounted’ purchases with them.

“Got what we needed, some really nice tech devices and accessories for our hideout.” One man said, holding up his haul from the computer store. A bunch of hard drives, CPUs and processor chips. “I just grabbed the ones with the higher numbers.”

“Good, we’ll have someone sort it out, later.” The leader noted as he began to pick up the pace. “What matters is that this just appears as the work of a clumsy band of looters who got their lucky break.”

“Sir…” One of the men muttered as the sound of sirens began to ring in from the end of the street.

“I know. We have to leave now!” the leader called out with a laugh, signaling the cars to start their engines. “Load things, fast!”

The men heeded the words and were quick to open the doors and climbing, with only the leader standing back, in the middle of the street facing the two patrol cars that emerged from around the corner and sped up in their direction.

The leader half closed his eyes, his gaze fixated on one of them. Strong focus and high concentration, even seemingly ignoring the danger… but suddenly, one of the cars was swerving. Movements that were far from the loss of control, but enough to not go unnoticed by the other vehicle. Its driver became hyper attentive for some reason and made a snap reaction of someone that was sure he would’ve been in a crash… as a result, he threw his car over to the sidewalk, nearly crashing against a building.

“Got them,” the leader said with an inward grin as he approached the revving van.

“Halt!” Came from the first car. Now that the vehicle had fully stopped, the driver had succumbed to the effect, slumping over the wheel. While his partner, a young-faced rookie, just by the way his voice quivered and the panic in his movements, took the initiative and got out of the vehicle.

If it’d been a quick draw competition, he would’ve ranked up among the top ones as, in the pass of a second, before a step could be taken, he’d already unholstered his gun and pulled the trigger before the arm was straightened. A reckless stance for a cop. It certainly would’ve spelled some damage for the leader of the gang if he hadn’t been hyper reactive.

The moment the trigger was pulled, he’d already sidestepped, letting the bullet fly long. Three more steps and two bullets he ducked under, and he’d already climbed onto the van as it began to drive off. From under his coat, he pulled out the small automatic handgun and opened fire, mostly pointing at the hood of the car and the trunk. Getting casualties in this operation would be a huge nuisance.

Fortunately, the leader didn’t need to worry about suppressive fire. The cop lost valor, realizing that he was outgunned, and immediately hid behind cover. By the time the people from the second car got their bearings together after the enervated stop, the two vans were already passing by, with the rapidly firing gun managing to rip holes through the two back wheels of their car. All the while the leader, still hanging from the side, let out a victorious laugh before slipping in.

“Perfect… we made good time!” He said as he climbed into the car and took over a seat in one of the windows. “Did you install the bug?”

“I did…” one of the men said, passing over a hard drive. “This thing installed fast.”

“Well, of course. I paid well for the program… Now we’ll get a good idea of what transfers are being carried out. Maybe get some money if we’re in a pinch.” He laughed.

Yet, they were still a ways from safety as, the moment they crossed the street, the sound of sirens began to ring. The backup had arrived.

“Well now. Not every plan can have a perfect execution. But we’re pretty close to it,” The leader said as both vans reacted by speeding up, weaving themselves through the streets, with the shotgun seat screaming out directions using a satellite app.

“Do I open fire?” said a voice from the dashboard radio, it belonged to the driver of the second van behind them.

“How far are they from your bumper?”

“About… three cars length… they’re getting closer.”

The leader sighed as he reloaded his automatic gun and began to attach a silencer onto the gun’s muzzle, just for a little bit of discretion… and because he loved the sound. “Alright… we’re doing the Daytona Slip. It’ll be much easier if we switch places. Rob, can you handle the navigation?”

“I-I I think so? Maybe?” said the voice through the radio.

“You don’t sound sure, buddy. I need to trust you can do it.”

“I can do it, boss.”

“Good… take us around points three and four on the map Then, loop us around to the switch-up.”

“Got it,” this time, it was the other car’s driver that answered. Fortunately, confident of having memorized the route.

“We switch in three… Two… One!”

And at the order, every person held on to their seat as the driver hit the brakes. The wheels screeched as the van fell behind, all the while the other team caught up and surpassed them. Judging by the tire screeches that came from behind them, the pursuing patrols also hit the brakes, fearing they would crash onto the sturdy vehicle.

With practiced skill, the driver didn’t lose much time once the maneuver was done, getting their transport to speed up and follow the new lead of the caravan. “Good job,” the leader praised as he looked over the window to get a brief good look at the pursuers, unconcerned by the idea that his face would appear in the dashcams. “Three cars… more added themselves to the chase… and just cluttered enough…”

“Do we open fire?”

“Only if they get too close. Aim for the wheels,” the leader noted as he reached under the seat for a duralumin briefcase. Their special bag of tricks. With them -brrrzz- With them they would be -brrrzz- With them they would be able to lose the police -brrrzz-

“Why now of all times…” The leader grumbled. Unable to ignore the buzzing, he produced his personal phone from the inner pocket of his jacket.

Usually, he would’ve dismissed the call… or answered just to scream that he was busy (such a good way to relieve some of the stress of the moment), if it’d been a random number or a telemarketer… But in this case, it was family.

“Hey bro… how’s it going?” the leader said as the car swerved for a hard turn, one that almost had the phone slip off his shoulder. “Sorry I couldn’t make it to thanksgiving. I happened to be outside of the city-”

“Am I interrupting something?” His brother had grown to develop a tone of disappointment similar to dear-old-dad.

“No… of course not. Just run off the mill business,” Declan muttered only for one of his men to open fire. He flinched, but not because of the surprise, but because the sound was a dead giveaway.

“Declan…” His brother said, the disappointed exasperation in his voice was almost impossible to miss. “You’re in the middle of a ‘job’, aren’t you?”

“We can talk. We can talk,” Declan said as he opened the duralumin stash and at once picked out what he was looking for. A piece of tech that certainly appeared like a grenade out of a sci fi game or movie. A couple of twists and he was getting the device armed. “It’s not like I’m in the middle of the heist. I just need to shake off the tail.”

“Ugh…” the other voice grumbled. “Just be careful. Don’t want you to get caught.”

“Don’t worry, bro, I have my identity scrambler active and my bag of tricks…” Declan muttered as he saw his crewmate, driving shotgun, quickly making the number three, point behind them and then make the throat-slitting gesture.

The translation was clear, they were about to leave point three and they still hadn’t lost their tails.

“One second, Pres,” Declan said as he passed his phone over to his minion to hold it.

With gun and devise at hand, Declan poked his head out of the nearby window just as they made a turn into a long stretch of street. Indeed, his men did see an understandable reason to panic as the police cruiser was just a meter or two away from the van.

“These blues… they don’t really want to give up. Really going for that holiday bonus.” Declan thought. But then, he realized the urgency of the matter as the car was slowly getting closer to the bumper… Well, to him it was ‘slow’ but in reality, the mixture of adrenaline and his boosting powers made the world appear far slower than it really was.

To the outside world, Declan didn’t seem to have hesitated, he just raised his gun as soon as he got out of the car and pulled the trigger releasing a barrage of calculated shots into the underside of the police car until wheels popped, giving his van the chance to increase the space in between, and also acting as a distraction as he swung the grenade down low to the ground where it bounced upon hitting the vehicle.

Declan had already pulled himself back in as the gadget went off in a sequence of calculated explosions.

First, came out a huge splatter of a strong fast acting adhesive that would surely get the axles of their wheels uncooperative. Just enough to give the vehicle a jolt that would help it stop. Then would be the chaff explosions to cause interference on camera and on their radios, making sure that the update will come about two minutes later, just enough to put up some distance. And last, but not least, a flashbang that will get their eyes to see lights for the next couple of minutes. All the while the device self-immolates, erasing most, if not all, presence of its tech.

The getaway special, the gadgeteer that sold them called them.

“Next point on the route!” Declan ordered, striking the backside of the driver’s seat before snatching back his phone from the guy that held it. Judging by the way his men were celebrating as they turned the corner, it appeared that they’d managed to shake off their trail.

“Alright, I’m in the clear… Talk to me, brother.”

As the residue from the chaff cleared from the line, his brother’s sigh could be heard. “Are you certain you lost them?”

“I’m in the process of that,” Declan sighed as he closed the duralumin case and leaned back on his seat, already acting as if this was a leisure trip around town. “We’ll make a stop by the parking garage to switch cars and, then, we’ll leave the city.”

“Good. Certainly wouldn’t want you to get captured.”

Declan rolled his eyes. “You think that, after the sweet clean slate you gave me, I’ll waste it by being dumb? Never again.” He paused for a moment, producing a small mirror he used to spy behind the car, just to confirm that the police weren’t following them. So far so good. “Don’t you miss it?”

His brother sighed. “Sometimes. But we both know my abilities aren’t well suited for your brand of activity.”

“You can say ‘crime’, brother,” Declan laughed. “You were always the charming idea guy. The smooth criminal to my warring style.”

“Well, sometimes, one has to leave this for the sake of the family,” the brother muttered. “It’s best not to create more trouble now that it’s not just me. When do you think you’ll settle down with that girl of yours.”

“Someday,” Declan answered halfheartedly. “Is this why you called?”

A chuckle escaped the brother’s lips as he’d gotten under Declan’s skin. “No, I actually have a job for you.”

“A job for me? Are we talking of a normal job-job? Or is it a more…”

“Suitable for you and your crew…” the brother said.

At the words, Declan could only smirk and stamp his feet against the floor of the van, shaking his fist in a small celebration. “My brother is asking my crew and I for a job. We’re a team again!”

“It’s just this once,” the brother said, but even as he tried to be stern, Declan wanted to believe that his brother was grinning on the other end of the line.

“Whatever you need, you know you can always count on me. Decaf and Prohibition, back to no good.”

“Don’t make me regret it,” his brother’s chuckle was the confirmation he needed that he was also somewhat thrilled about this.

“When is it going down?” Declan asked.

“It’ll be on Sunday evening. Come to my place and I’ll fill you in on the details.”

“I’ll be there as soon as possible. Should be dropping at your place in the mid-evening,” Declan chuckled as the van stepped into the shadows of the parking building. “Well, it’s time to change cars. It was great talking to you, bro.”

“I’ll leave you to it.” The brother seemed to hesitate for a moment. “Be careful, remember to always keep an eye on the rear-view mirror, for at least half an hour after leaving the city.”

“Will do,” Declan agreed. He hung up the phone and addressed his men, just as the car slowed down, having caught up with the other van near the switch cars. “Boys! We have a job from my brother. Let’s make our trip to Berlin on the double!”

WA Break Small_Solid

Friday, November 25th, 2016 - 9:23 pm
Skylounge restaurant, Dubai

“Was your meal to your liking?” The waitress asked politely.

“It was excellent,” the man sitting in a booth just by the side of the window answered, leaning back so the waiters could come and pick up his plates. Fine dining and ethnic foods were a combination that he didn’t really tend to indulge, but considering he was on a stakeout and his client had offered him a hefty sum to cover his stay, transportation and food, he couldn’t resist to try out the food within the so called ‘oasis of the middle east’.

“Is there anything else you’d like?” The waitress said once the platters were cleared. “Maybe a dessert while you wait for your friend.”

“My friend?” the man thought to himself. Almost forgetting the lie he’d used to justify his lone presence occupying a table next to the window. “I’m sure he’ll be here any second… What do you offer?”

The woman nodded as she recited the dessert menu. “Skylounge’s specialty is the baklava with ice cream, but we also serve Om Ali or crepe souchard for something made by the caring hands of our chefs. Alternatively, I can also bring the dessert cart so you could take your pick,” The waitress said, gesturing over to the other end of the elegant restaurant where a family appeared to be taking their time choosing from among the desserts within the glass display.

“I’ll take the crepe.”

To that, the waitress nodded as she bowed to excuse herself.

“Now, as I was,” the man said as he turned to his left, towards the open window to his side. Not exactly a sight everyone would enjoy as it really emphasized how high up they were from the ground… but at the same time, it was certainly a sight to behold. The city was an oasis in the desert and a beacon for the seas.

From the prodigious seat in the restaurant, one could see everything. There was the inland that gave him a clear view of the streets and highways. From the top of the buildings down to the plaza and market bazaar just by turning his head. While gazing northwest, one could get a glimpse of the ocean and artificial island that had been built as an extension of the land, where another mall and plaza rested. The Skylounge restaurant was in the perfect position to tempt its tourist clientele to their next destination.

The man smirked as he leaned back, taking in the cold night wind that blew close by. “Certainly it’s always a vacation for me. A relaxing vacation,” he muttered as he reached into his briefcase and produced a pair of black binoculars. Conspicuous little things, but far from weak as, the moment his eyes were lined up with them, he could see everything that was within the next six hundred meters as if it was just in front. Numbers in the HUD told him the elevation and, more importantly the distance, with a built in computer that would identify faces.

His gaze was directed onto the bridge that connected the artificial island to the mainland. People came back and forth, in crowds that were looking forward for taking advantage of the weekend… However, it was only one face that mattered tonight: Aahil Alaoui.

That was Lloyd’s job. A man that was said to be in charge of the smuggling of gemstones and diamonds, as well as the secret trafficking of drugs that were said to be concealed within the sales of his products. Whether it was true or just rumors, he had no idea and cared little for those details. All that mattered was that someone put a bounty on that man’s head and hired him to fulfill it.

According to the intel provided by the client, the target was supposed to be making a stop around here to complete a sale. The buyer’s preferred type of transactions was meant to be brief and made in open spaces with plenty of his men in the surroundings, just in case there was an assassin about… Of course, that was useless tonight. It didn’t matter if there was an army or few. As long as Lloyd could see him, it would be enough.

Revising the provided files on his phone, with a bit of an exasperated sigh at the simple act of reading, he went back to spying down on the ocean level. Under the bridge, piers had been built to make use of the extra space, allowing for the boats to be docked for a provisional stop. A sort of parking lot for tourist ferries circling around the Arabic Sea, or rich upper strata men that wanted to flaunt their personal yachts.

And fortunately, that was, most likely, the case with Aahil. Just within the limit of Lloyd’s view, just obstructed by the pillar of the bridge, there appeared to be a ship with the lights turned on. Could it be him? Was that their getaway vehicle? Or was he just assuming?

According to his phone, it was just a couple of minutes past 9:30 pm. Meaning that the exchange would be taking place in any second…

No sooner he slipped back into the binoculars, he got the clue that he’d been expecting: At the center of the bridge was a group of men standing by the railing, overlooking the dark of the ocean, or waiting by a nearby lamp post or talking to one another. Normally, that wouldn’t raise many eyebrows… However, Lloyd could easily recognize someone who was just pretending to make time until something happened. It also didn’t help that all of them were dressed in a similar pattern: Hefty shirts and coats to conceal bulletproof vests, odd bags hanging across shoulders that probably carried guns, and they were rich, clearly looking in their surroundings for a particular person.

None of them were the target… that could only mean they were the buyers.

“Alright. Alright. The bait is there…” Lloyd waited for what felt like a whole minute before a grin appeared on his face. “And there is our target.”

Another group just happened to emerge at the other side of the bridge. As was to be expected, their presence barely raised an eyebrow from any of the bystanders, but it got the buyer group’s attention. They raised their heads and slowly began to converge to come to the encounter. Seemingly things appeared lax, but as Lloyd zoomed in, he could easily pick up on their uneasiness in their movements.

The binoculars reached its maximum distance wherein the built-in CPU tagged the face of the seller. Aahil might’ve let his hair grow, but the beard was perfectly trimmed, matching the image of the files.

“As good a confirmation as I might want. Of course, there was always the chance that this was the case of a body double, but even if that were the case a rephrasing of his objective was to ‘take out the one selling the gems.’

Speaking of which, ‘Aahil’ had met up with the buyer, each with a briefcase at hand, ready to get the matter settled after exchanging some words first. It would have to be now or never.

The man in the penthouse restaurant pressed a button on the side of his binoculars and a small red recording dot appeared in the corner of the binoculars as every other sign of the HUD faded off almost completely to not disrupt his ability.

Usually, this would be something really hard for him with any other telescopic device… but this one was calibrated for him. Even if the target was about six hundred meters away, as it was now, they read and traced his pupils, compensating just enough to extend his range.

And to that, Lloyd grinned as he activated his powers. His eyes changed subtly as a couple of lines began to appear in the four directions within the iris softly spinning around the pupil back, in such a way that it would evoke similarities to the lens of a camera before the picture was snapped.

The built-in recording within the binoculars was paying attention. At first, they wouldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Just two men talking on the side of a somewhat transited bridge. Keen eyed observers might be quick to spot how something appeared to tug out at Aahil’s sleeve up against the direction of the wind. The testing grasps. The target thought nothing of it at the time, his gaze (and that of the men) appeared suddenly focused landward. So then, that subtle tug on the side that was comparable to a kitty begging for attention, suddenly became a gorilla’s arm around the man’s neck.

The target’s eyes widened as he began to feel the pressure around his head and neck. He immediately tried to reach out, trying to pry the telekinetic construct around him but to no avail. All that was needed was a little bit of pressure at a certain length of the spine and suddenly, the man’s strength was no more as his neck was twisted far more than it should’ve been possible.

The men that surrounded him definitely heard the sickening crunch and saw the body collapse onto the ground before them. Dreading that they might be next to whatever poltergeist just did away with their boss and business partner, they each screamed and fled, with the buyer seeing his chance in grabbing the briefcase he was going to buy, now for free.

Lloyd grinned as he could only imagine the sort of sound that should’ve made and the shock of those around it as his body slumped down onto the ground. And it was such an easy thing to do for him. To just be able to perform a kill with just a look.

But, as someone would say, if you’re good at doing something, don’t do it for free. Being a hitman was just the perfect job for his ocular telekinesis.

And yet, there was something off on this matter. He could spy people running, making their way past the corpse, stopping only for a brief panicked look before making haste towards the artificial island.

“Something is going on?” Lloyd muttered curiously as his gaze followed the route down the street just to confirm the cause.

It was a dead body… another dead body, which had been laid down on the street. It was passed by a couple that were clearly outliers into the region. There was a blond woman that was marking a point, making barely an effort to conceal the high tech handgun in her hand and the flash of seeming magic that swirled the other. The man that followed her was a gadgeteer or devisor by the looks of it, wearing a light vest made of plated metal and carrying a special rifle that appeared to light up in a green color as if prepared to release a blast.

“I know these guys,” Lloyd muttered with a confident smirk. He didn’t know their names, but he was certain he’d noticed the blonde woman’s face and the man’s gear style within the Black Bulletin’s catalog of users. Though he had to guess they were C or D listers, judging by their methods.

The man tapped the buttons on his wristband and, from the back of his exosuit, a minigun emerged, immediately opening fire at what was ahead of them. With the chaos that was going on, the streets had been cleared out, and Lloyd watched enraptured at the scene.

And just a little bit ahead, a translucent wall was erected from the ground to block the attack, with its surface rippling like jello every time a bullet struck. It certainly gave the illusion that, in any second, it would fizzle out. But, the one that created it, a man in a suit, was holding it quite well, given his allies, men armed with guns, the chance to peek out of cover and fire back.

To that, the woman had her own brand of tricks, using what was clearly magic to erect their own forcefield that flashed back whenever it received a shot. It’s surface became brighter and more solid looking on each shot. It brimmed and vibrated with power…

By the time the running crew realized what was happening, the order to cease fire came in too late. The woman waved her arms before thrusting them forth and the barrier responded, sending itself barreling down the street with the speed and seeming impact of a bus.

Lloyd was willing to bet that the quivering barrier wouldn’t survive the impact, but in the last second, a hand was placed on the defender’s shoulder, releasing a bright light. The quivering protection suddenly became sturdy and imposing, growing taller and thicker just to meet the energy truck.

The collision of the two forces came in the form of a huge shockwave that rippled through the air, shattered the windows and left the entire section of the street in darkness. Even if the two forces were equally matched to cancel each other, it was the running crew that was closer to the explosion, sending everyone tumbling down the street, either knocked out, or just dead while the bounty hunting couple was still standing, and approaching to finish the job.

As they stepped closer, the man raised up his rifle, with the gun’s laser pointer singling up a lone individual. In this case, it happened to be a lone man dressed in a lighter suit. Something that Lloyd should’ve deduced given that the other men, or rather, bodyguards, were all dressed in black. The target was still alive and conscious, trying to get back on his feet.

A mischievous idea popped into Lloyd’s head as he turned back on the HUD in his binoculars and blindly fished a tablet from his bag. The gadget’s facial recognition system quickly identified the man, producing a clean mugshot he could use as reference and a name from the regional database: Francis Ibn Azis. A name that probably would have quite some value.

The tech hitman stopped on his steps and took aim. The gun began to light up as it was about to release what Lloyd could guess was a laser, and with the pointer fixated on Francis, it was about to be a sure hit… It would’ve, if an invisible force hadn’t grasped onto Francis’ arm and yanked him onto the side of the street.

It was certainly painful, and Lloyd guessed he broke the poor man’s arm, but it was better than the alternative as a bright flash of light struck the concrete where the target had rested, leaving a searing hole in its wake. He had to thank the flare protection on the binoculars

Of course, the bounty hunter was particularly puzzled by the way his seemingly stunned prey had managed to dodge his attack. Yet before he could aim again, moving lights were beamed down onto him as a couple of restraining cables descended upon, seeking to latch onto his wrists. As a reflex, he raised his minigun, opening fire upward until the line went slack from a lucky bullet.

Still, that got him to realize the predicament he’d gotten himself into. In a matter of seconds, the darkened street was bathed in a myriad of lights as a mechanical flock had arrived at the scene. Creatures inspired off raptor birds flew in circles over the two, preparing, warding, containing, and shooting more of the restraining cables in an effort to capture them alive. At least that was their intention for now.

Dubai was considered one of the safer cities in the world thanks to, in no small part, their coalition of heroes that provided their security. In particular, gadgeteers and devisors were highly sought after as the city’s wealth gave them access to any piece of material equipment they might wish for. The result was the metallic flock that descended upon the two hitmen: just about the first line of defense… just before the actual heroes would show up.

Whatever ‘luck’ the couple had been relying on to delay the, normally fast, responding team appeared to have ran out. Still, they weren’t about to give up without a fight. And, by the looks of it, they were doing a fairly decent job, opening fire up and slinging spells up into the sky just enough to knock some of those mechs off the sky. But fortunately, not giving them the chance to get any closer to Francis.

“But that works for me… keep them busy just for a moment,” Lloyd muttered, taking his eyes off the binoculars to see how the people had gathered on the side of the restaurant, hoping to get a view of the spectacle there. Fortunately, none paid attention to him.

Thanks to his data plan and the signal boosting modifications added to his tablet, opening the app and logging in took a mere couple of seconds.

“Welcome to the Black Bulletin *Voidgrip.” The app greeted in stylish gold letters over a black velvet background. From there, a myriad of tabs could be spotted running from over the top down to the side of the screen, with the center loading the most recent news within the ‘community’.

Still, Lloyd, or rather, Voidgrip, as was his unofficial name, didn’t let the news load up and was already opening the system search. Typing in the name “Francis Ibn Azis,” and the region of the Middle East, quickly yielded the entry he was looking for: The man’s contract.

Voidgrip cared little for the details of the contract, just skimming the details he found relevant.

ID picture? Checks out.

Location? Already there.

Proof of the deed: required? That was never a problem to him.

Bounty: 780,000? Good enough considering how the bounty practically fell onto him.

Upon hitting the ‘Accept’ button, a confirmation was issued and Voidgrip was already putting the tablet aside and lifting his binoculars to survey at the chaos that was going on down the stairs.

Things didn’t seem to have changed much in that interim. The pair of bounty hunters was still at work, knocking down the mechanical eagles from the sky either through beam, bullet or bolt of magic. But the things, being the machines they were, were just throwing themselves against them in reckless abandon, releasing capture cables, firing lasers and even getting up close to slash with. It was all to keep them in place until the heroes of the city arrived.

While on the other end of the street, the target, Francis, was being helped back up his feet by one of the bodyguards now that they were given time to recover from the shockwave. Smiles could be seen about their faces as they waved down the street where a couple of advanced vehicles were approaching their position, certainly with the intention of protecting the victims of the attack.

They thought they won. That they survived the attack. They looked over at the two bounty hunters as they tried to fend off the mechanical menace, trying to make one last try against their quarry. The witch’s magic moved the winds the flock used to navigate and the power armor wearing hunter fired a laser through the gap created.

Useless as the barrier manifestor within the bodyguard service was ready for another go, raising his hands to create the construct that diverted the beam.

The cars had stopped and people were coming over in the aid of Francis and yet, they quickly realized something was off as the rich boy was standing still, with a face that was in shades of red and blue, on the tip of his toes grasping for something solid that was hooked around his neck. In the fraction of a second, their survival became bitter horror as Francis was suddenly lifted up into the air and, with what one could imagine was a horribly sickening snap, his neck was suddenly twisted almost 180 degrees.

The first responders screamed at the sight of the hanging corpse while the bodyguards just stared in shock at what was their undeniable failure. Even the two bounty hunters had a brief ceasefire moment as they saw the body of Francis Ibn Azis fall down to the ground like a ragdoll, a gruesome real life ragdoll that just had its head released by an invisible giant.

Of course, no one understood what had happened. No one knew what was going on and the whole situation had been thrown into full chaos as heads turned towards the unlucky couple that had been hounding the crew. There was going to be a reckoning… and it wouldn’t be after the culprit.

“Ahem…” A voice came from Voidgrip’s side, reminding him of where he was. With the lines on his eyes disappearing, the binoculars were put down just to reveal the waitress standing by the side of the table with a fancy dessert in her hand. “Excuse me, but your crepe is ready.”

“Oh, Sorry,” Lloyd said with the grin of a man that just happened to stumble upon a hundred dollars. “I was just watching what was happening.”

“Yes, I know.” The waitress said politely as she turned to look at the crowd that was still gathered on the corner of the restaurant, watching the events unfold. Some were still bearing the shock at the murder that just happened on their faces “I’m sorry for the delay, our chef got… a little distracted by the events outside.”

“It’s alright,” Lloyd said as he unwrapped the cutlery and began to dig into the ice cream stuffed pastry. “I just got a call from the man I was waiting for. He ran into a friend on the way here and he won’t be able to make it. Can I get the check please?”

Once the waitress was on her way back to the counter, Lloyd picked up his tablet and tapped again into the Black Bulletin, claiming the two bounties by uploading his binocular’s recording as the proof of his deed.

“There we go…” he said with a small laugh as he finally put his tablet down and dug into the dessert before him, savoring the soft yet flavorful warm fudge and crepe against the cold ice cream it wrapped. He called it a well-deserved reward for just having made a fortune in the span of minutes.

“Easy job… Easy life,” he said to no one in particular, watching in the corner of his eyes how the group of metallic eagles began to mobilize out of sight.

WA Break Small_Solid

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 - 1:12 am
A couple of blocks away from the airport, Dubai

“YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” the words came in like an obnoxious water hose, all in caps, which was a bit of an eyesore for Voidgrip. But he knew what he was signing onto when he accepted a message notification from the users “FullmetalJacket” and “WindHag”. What was, admittedly, his mistake was not ticking the ‘Anonymous’ option box when he claimed the bounty.

“YOU FUKING ASSHOLE. CARRION CREEP. VULTURE!”

“You took our kill!” The other person in the conversation posted. Presumably the devisor with the mounted minigun and the plasma rifle, in between the all caps posts that came from his colleague. “That guy was ours! We were just about to kill him!”

“Oh, is that so? You called dibs on it or something?” Lloyd texted back mockingly. He was participating in the conversation just for kicks. “We’re assassins. There is no such thing as exclusivity, especially when the contract is open on the Black Bulletin. You were just unlucky I happened to be around.”

“We’ll appeal for this! You can’t take our bounty!” Jacket said, sidelined by his partner still throwing insults.

“I just did. ‘Your’ client has already paid me.” Lloyd laughed as he carried on down the street. Occasionally flinching as a reflex whenever he caught sight of a passing bird-drone, only to be reminded that he had no reason to fear as its lights passed over him. They weren't after him.

“How?! You weren’t even there! You need confirmation of the kill!” Jacket objected. There was no doubt they were trying to make an argument for a report within the rules of conduct in the club.

“And I have it. You know a recording is worth enough as a proof as per Bulletin rules. My gear was created and sanctioned by the organization. Plus, the clients certainly believed it was fair enough evidence to pay me. You have a problem? Deal with it. You want to report me? You’ve probably seen what ranking I hold within the Black Bulletin. You two are a pair of C-rankers while I’m in the upper strata.”

“You’re a lazy mother-” Jacket texted but Lloyd had already lost interest, checking his phone to confirm the time.

A quarter past one, just short of two hours before his flight would take off. While Dubai was such an advanced city with plenty to see, the heat of the day was something Lloyd was looking forward to leaving behind, mainly for the season when he usually expected the weather to get colder. Plus, the scalding heat of the day reflected on the surfaces, stinging and drying up his enhanced eyesight.

Taking a couple of minutes to apply hydrating drops on them, he looked back onto the screen just to see that the two had kept on ranting, making several accusations and criticisms in Lloyd’s way. Nothing he hadn’t seen before, nothing he actually cared to address.

“They’re all just jealous,” thought Lloyd self-assuredly. He thought of letting them ramble on and just drop out of the conversation, but that might make him seem weak within the Black Bulletin. Then he spotted a line of text within the stream of vitriol that got a laugh out of him. “You’ll put a bounty on me? Someone doesn’t know how being a member of the Black Bulletin works. I can’t have a bounty on my head; the operators of the system will make sure of it and will punish you. Heck, you can’t even try anything against me thanks to this little log we now have.”

The two didn’t appear to have a comeback for him.

“I want to see you try. Now, better hurry and get out of Dubai because… well, you wouldn’t want someone to tip off the authorities of your involvement.” Lloyd typed in. Either that got them to shut up definitively or their hiding place got found out because both Jacket and Hag disconnected from the conversation shortly after.

Lloyd grinned as he grabbed the luggage’s handle and began to drag it back in the airport’s direction. Usually, he would’ve taken a cab, but with the manhunt going on, he figured it would be a rather tranquil and safe night to make the walk -with most local known criminals knowing better than to peek out from their hiding places when the steel flock was about. Plus it would be somewhat more expedient to just stick to the alleyways and avoiding the checkpoints. Whoever he killed must’ve been someone important to stir the city’s ire… Not that he had anything to worry about. His old MID hadn’t seen use since his expunging from the MCO database. To anyone concerned, he was just a normal baseline.

Still, five minutes hadn’t elapsed since he continued with his walk when an ominous ringtone filled in the quiet of the night. For a moment, he wondered who would call him at this time of the night, only to remind himself that most of his contacts were in the American time zone.

The caller ID was just who he expected it to be.

“Hey Vince. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call.”

“There’s a job I need you to do.” The voice on the other side said straight away.

“Always straight to the point,” Lloyd was just as close to saying… but then again, the leader of his little mercenary side group wasn’t one to waste time with pleasantries or idle chatter. Always quick to exert his authority and boss them around.

Lloyd wasn’t sure what was the reason the other members of the inner circle had to follow the man but to him, it was the promise of an easy life, quick money and benefits it all carried. Having his MID data erased had made his life so much easier and his endeavors so profitable. Not that he felt obligated towards the man, but he wondered what his plans would bring.

“What’s the job?” Lloyd asked.

“Concord, New Hampshire. Our piece in the MCO reached out to ask for our help.”

“That’s so unlike him.” Lloyd chuckled. While he didn’t know the full extent of works Vince had the poor MCO pawn do for the wellbeing of Carnwennan, he knew it was quite a number of tasks that had been thrown his way. Most of which would’ve resulted in the man being fired, so the group’s invisible hand had to weigh in, nudging the poor sop upwards the organizational ladder.

“Pollux is finding himself pressed by a third party that also has blackmail over his head.”

“More blackmailing? How crooked is that man…”

“It’s the same blackmailing we have on him… of course, considering we had a bigger role to play, theirs is much more damning for everyone else involved. Apparently, said third party happened to be present in the building when we secured Pollux’s allegiance. At the time, Screen mentioned that he had trouble reaching into the security room to copy and delete the footage.”

“If I recall correctly, you sent Schrodinger’s copies to personally delete the files.” Lloyd muttered.

“I already talked to him on the matter. He confessed that his copies were repelled from the security room by a group of gunmen. Somehow, those two put up enough of a fight to carve themselves an escape after they vacated the room. At the time, he told me it was just a couple of MCO officers that panicked and escaped the facilities, but when pressed, he became less sure.”

“Evidently, that wasn’t the case…” Lloyd muttered. “So, they’ve been covertly blackmailing Pollux ever since.”

“According to him, they’ve been leeching off every one of our advances for the past four years. Pollux didn’t have the spine to do anything or the brain to realize that having one blackmailer is better than having two.” Vincent sighed like someone upset by the general IQ of those surrounding him. “But his hand was forced. In the advent of his promotion, they’ve ordered us to meet up with our assets for a renegotiation of terms. That’s our privilege.”

“I see… So you called me to kill the other blackmailers?”

“Get them to stop messing with our MCO pawn by whatever means you feel works best.” Vince said. “Screen has already rerouted your ticket to take you to New Hampshire.”

“Thanks,” Lloyd sighed, glad that he didn’t have to deal with the change of flight.

“There, you’ll meet up with Schrodinger and Efreet, as well as some new crewmates for the mission.”

“No big guy nor shaman serial killer?”

“This is going to be a city operation, and those two have a high profile… and, while at it, I’d appreciate it if the kill count is kept at a minimum.”

“But you bring the fire manipulating mercenary soldier into the mission?”

Vince didn’t seem amused by it. “The state of New Hampshire is a particularly touchy location for the mutant community.”

“Because of that school…”

“A high profile battle or murder in the state capital might rouse unwanted attention. Especially if the blackmailer turns out to be someone of high notoriety. Discretion would be best.”

“I’m an assassin, Vince. You’re really tying my hands here.” Lloyd sighed as he resumed his walk, now glimpsing the lights of the airport in the distance. “But fine, I’ll be on my way then and meet up with the crew you’ve assembled.”

“Good. I’ll fill you in on the details once you’re gathered.”

“Sounds well enough but I need to know… how invested are we in this operation’s success?” Lloyd muttered. “Because I doubt these daring professional blackmailers won’t come to the negotiation table without a couple of aces up their sleeves or the usual ‘if anything were to happen to me release the kraken’ kind of deal. With such a rush, I doubt we have the intel… heck, we don’t even have the blackmailer’s name, do we? There is obviously no guarantee of success, especially if we’re hamstrung.”

“And you think I haven’t thought of that?” Vincent scoffed before sighing. “You’re right. Despite giving you a team that might be able to sort out this situation, I don’t hold this mission’s success past forty percent. Still, an attempt has to be made, but don’t sacrifice anything. Twist the blackmailer’s arm or strike a deal with them. In the end, the only thing I seek is for Pollux to remain at our beck and call.”

“Fine enough, Vince.” Lloyd smirked. “I’m always up for Carnwennan’s idea of fun. As long as you keep it easy.”

“For someone with your talents, everything must look easy enough.” And with that, the conversation was over.

“Oh well.” Lloyd shook his head as he resumed his walk, stepping into the terminal. “New Hampshire… Hope you’re ready for me.”

 

To Be Continued
Read 2309 times Last modified on Tuesday, 05 March 2024 01:12

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