November 23rd, 2:45AM
Yukie finished clipping the anti-theft chips off of the clothes, scanning the area for any police who might be responding to a report of a break-in. I slipped off the WCG coat and put on a hoodie, zipping up to cover the BE-D Vest from view. Yukie came back from around the corner, having replaced the WCG khaki coat with a simple leather coat and a matching skirt.
"How do you even know this much about those EPR assassins anyway? Even at my pay grade the EPR itself was still a foggy concept to me"
She loaded a Uni-Ammo clip into her CTE6 and holstered it below the coat.
"I know what Nash told me. Not much more"
I kept my eye on her. Something didn't seem right with how open she was. Knew too much maybe. She reached under her coat for a moment, causing me to nearly unholster my SMG thinking she was about to shoot me. She pulled out a comb and began to comb her hair using a checkout screen left vacant as the mirror. By the time we were ready to leave before a potential police response to us breaking and entering she looked like someone coming home from a late-night party at a local club. I wish I could look the same right now. I looked like I just mugged someone and ran.
"So... Uh, recovered from that limp already?"
"Yes. Not doing that stunt against two power-armored musclemen again. Not worth possibly snapping my leg in half when I hit the ground."
"You didn't seriously think doing some movie stunt was a good idea at the time to begin with? You could've accidentally shot me, or yourself, or hit the ground like glass and then get shot several time by those renegades."
She sighed as we walked out of the alleyway slowly slumping tired.
"I got a bad feeling about Nash right now... First he starts with his personal enemies, next anyone associated with the WCG, then he'll move onto people he simply doesn't like, people who look at him wrong, and those who just want to be left alone... He's crazy, you know. Believes in all the fairy tales he was told as a child, or atleast he seems that way. Bastard is practical the poster child for the drop of the average IQ in England after the third world war. I did a background check on him after he gave us some crazy orders to kill a few people for their cars yesterday. His parents were a bunch of war-mongering simpletons from Amer-"
I was starting to get tired of her constant digressions, I stepped in front of her getting her to stop in her tracks
"Will you shut up for a moment, Mary Sue? You keep going off like that someone's going to get suspicious, and two of us aren't going to hold off the TCTF, EPR bounty hunters, and the Raiders when someone cries us out."
She fainted instantly, falling onto my shoulder
"Oh for the love of god..."
"...Sorry, just got to keep my mind running so I don't collapse to sleep this late at night when I have to keep moving..."
"I'll see about getting a motel room around here or something..."
Col. Harper Memorial Airport, Jet R374-RD
"All prisoners accounted for. Shall I get General Schwarz on the comlink?"
"Indeed. Make sure the tranquilizer is functioning properly on Wollcroft, same for Hasegawa. If necessary give maximum dose to ensure our guests don't try to rebel mid-flight."
Fox took the helmet off of her powered armor, dusting it off with a compressed air can, pressing a button in the neckpiece to have the joints and other securing pieces on the powered armor to be pieced off with ease. Thirty seconds later she returned from the locker room in the jet wearing normal civilian attire and sat down on one of the seats next to me
"Well, Micky, why don't you get General Schwarz on the line so we can get our payment? The sooner we are paid the sooner we are out of here..."
She giggled for a moment, closing little little golden eyes as she kissed me for a moment. So much sweeter when her mind wasn't completely focused on the business of mercilessly ending other people's lives because someone was offering ten million Kroner for it. Whenever she had that powered armor on she lost all personality and got stuck in a tunnel vision focused only on the job.
"What about Nash though? We didn't get him yet..."
She stared at me for a moment as if she was about to laugh again
"We'll get him soon enough. Just follow the trail left by the looselips media in NWO-Land"
She smiled at me and closed her eyes as I selected General Schwarz on the jet's comlink system. Time to get our payment for this job, and then likely onto the next right away after.
November 23rd, 3:30AM
...Is there not a parallel here? Me, a person with no identity? Like her just over thirty years ago, I find myself in that same position. Betrayal. Regret. Finality. Did any of us ever want to make it this far? Did we have a choice? Was it our fate? Destiny? We did not choose, and we were not chosen for this. We simply are. The same could have been said for her, and her actions leading to now and what follows. All I know is that because of her, I never had an identity to call my own, it stripped away before it existed. Whether her actions were right or wrong, for better or worse, are not for me. Did she kill because she had to, because she wanted to, or was she forced to? Some may argue her to be a monster in a Human's body, others a victim forced to be so. Nay, I say, it was neither. She simply was. All that mattered was that she existed. I hold no qualms against her, no matter how much she may have wronged me in any way by what she did. She had no choice. I had no choice. We had no choice. All that matters, is that we exist. Some may be fanatical and worship our existence as gods. Some will scorn us not simply as as demons, but as devils. Was something inside of her beckoning her to do what she did? What I did? What we did? Was it for the same reason that the her brother had set upon that terrible path?
If my father was still alive today he would likely shun me for these thoughts, but I care not. I am only who I seek to be, not what others tell me to. There are only seven of us in existence, and, arguably this world may be better off with all of us dead, or not ever having existed. Nicole Wollcroft, Paige Wollcroft, Mae Hasegawa, Yukie Kojira, Arnold Schwarz, Conrad Dahl, and Falko Stahl. To the WCG, we are a loose experiment that needs to be exterminated. To the Syndicate, we are a weapon. To Phoenix, we are a leashed tactical asset. To the EPR... We are people. Four of us owe our lives to the EPR, not in the essence of being "alive", but to have being allowed to ever have a life of our own, and not on someone else's command. The only reason any of us fight is because we volunteered. That, or something in us is forcing us to want to fight something. But that begs the question, would it be better for everyone if we never existed? Maybe so. From the moment Wollcroft had unleashed her power against another Human she forced herself to ask that question, and why shouldn't I? What good have I done? Have I saved lives? No, all I have done for life is ended it. But, what is yet to come? The only proof I have of being what I am is that the other three have told me so. I've barely shown the signs that they have, no time-slowing reflexes, no lucid dreams every night, not even the telltale eye discoloration that develops early on. Could they be manipulating me into serving their goals? But if so, why me? Did fate command so?
"...This is Echo, signing off for this morning. I'm going to need some shuteye for tomorrow..."
And with that, I stopped recording, slipped the datacard into my pocket, entered the motel room with my recently met ally sleeping already, and prayed that they didn't pickpocket it and listen to it while I was sleeping. And ever we fight on to see the next day. Tomorrow's going to be a very busy day I can already tell. Nash and his Raiders are still looking for us, Wollcroft is missing, likely captured by Fox Eternal, and the WCG is out to silence us all. This fight has merely just begun for us.
November 23rd, 3:00PM
The sky was blackened in one of the most depressing tones I had ever seen. The drizzle from the clouds above dripped down on our heads like a Chinese water torture, especially to Yukie's dismay as it ruined her hair. Me? I did the smart thing and put my hood on.
"Looks like you learned the hard way that standing out isn't functional..."
I pushed myself over the guard rail down to the parallel alley below, scanning for any targets, be them WCG or Raider before I could even touch the ground, causing a rather embarrassing fall to the side when I landed unprepared. Yukie jumped over, landing perfect without even making a sound or having to cushion down to the ground, helping me up
"When you're done screwing around gaijin, may I suggest that we try for the northernmost airport, in Pyongyang? Border security there is extremely flimsy when it comes to airborne traffic."
"What the hell for? Nash and his goons are here!"
"That's the point. We don't stand a chance. Not if- Forget it. You want to die gaijin? That's your problem. Anyone with a brain is going to try for the EPR. Less questions asked, less enemies."
"How the hell do you even know what or where the EPR is? Nash tell-"
"Considering the fact I nearly died every single day while standing in it, I'd be damned sure I knew where it is."
"Don't be so damned hotheaded! The EPR is a hell of a corner to flee to!"
"You call it flee? I call it survive, gaijin. No room for us here."
"...The hell is a gaijin... Wait a moment."
My radio began to buzz with whatever was jamming it finally down. I accepted the transmission, from Danovik, and prayed that it wasn't Nash stealing his radio to try to track my position
*"Schwarz, you're not going to believe this!"*
*"Not going to say it over unsecure channels! Get over to the rendezvous point Wollcroft was going to have us go to yesterday."
"Why? What's so important?"
*"I figured out exactly what we're up against, and you won't fucking believe any of it until you're here with the proof I secured! Those poor schmucks at the regional records building didn't know what hit them! Whooo!"
"Danovik, I swear to god if you're randomly transmitting crap because you're high right now..."
*"High on life, beeeyotch!"*
The transmission immediately went silent. Yukie just stared off ahead, yawning in complete boredom
"Does the mikata always do that? Assuming that's not an after effect of him not getting his throat cut out or shot in the head at midnight."
"...The hell is a mikata... Anyway, if you're sane enough I'd recommend you postpone your EPR escapade and come with me, since I'm not abandoning Danovik out here while he's probably drunk."
November 23rd, 8:00AM
Consciousness began to fade in as whatever sedatives I was pumped with began to wear off as we were forcible sat down by a rather muscular man down into three seats. I tried as strong as I could with this tranquilizer in me, but nothing as weak as I was mustering was going to break hardlight cuffing anytime soon. To my sides of which I couldn't tell apart I could make out the blurry figures of Mae Hasegawa, and Nicole, both of them visibly wounded, but lightly patched up to look presentable. Another woman entered from behind us, the only feature I could make out of her was the distinct gold-orange eyes like mine which seemed to pierce through my drowsy vision and straight at me. She waved the others in the room off immediately, waiting a moment for directing all attention to us. She slapped Hasegawa so hard that she spat out all the drool from her mouth across the side.
"That... Was for me... And Humanity."
She moved on to Nicole, strangling her for a moment until she began shaking in panic, letting go to barely let her get air as she passed out from the quick torture
"That? That was also for me, but the people responsible are going to have it much, much worse than you just did. Don't cry for them when it happens, because you'll want to do the same to them soon enough when you know what they did..."
She paced around our chairs for a moment, grabbing something from an alcove behind us, slowly moving on towards me. I braced for a brutal impact. She grabbed me around the neck for a moment, feeling as if she was about to twist it off in an odd direction and kill me, suddenly stopping midway and letting go leaving something rather weighty around my neck
"...I'm sorry about that... Paige... Can't have you going berserk and killing us all, now could we?"
It was relieving, but unnerving to have someone I'd never met refer to me at name, especially someone with eyes like those.
"I will be pressuring the judge to simply sentence you to reeducation... God forbid if he has you sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or deportation to WCG territory... I couldn't let those happen..."
She violently right-hooked Hasegawa, causing her to cough violently in reaction
"You... On the other hand. We're going to be richer than ever once your body is hanging off that gallows. Your crimes were horrible beyond anyone's. Had you not pulled the trigger pointed at the head of Humanity that night, I'd never be like this. Echo wouldn't either, had your father not meddled in sciences that noone should have though of touching. But..."
She laughed for a moment as she uppercutted Hasegawa
"But, once you're dead we'll be well on the way to monopolizing it for ourselves. The WCG wants your and our kind exterminated, the Syndicate doesn't have the tech for it, and we have the only technology and information existing on this planet for it. Now, if we can find Paige's accomplice, we'll have complete control. I believe Echo is working on that as I speak. Ah, Echo... She's like you, sans the self-hatred of what she is, being enslaved by an oppressive government, and addicting herself to Sytropin. But of course, she isn't perfect. Tell you what, you help me find what the catalyst to bring on the Imago-stage is, and I'll have the judge delay your execution by a year. Sounds fair? From what I know, I'm sure an execution would be much better than having all your memories erased and replaced in reeducation... You'd atleast die as you..."
She backed off for a moment, looking at me and kneeling down. I wanted to kick her there, but I felt too weak to move
"...Don't worry, Paige... I'll make sure that they don't do that to you..."
She put her hand down on my shoulder and went back to Hasegawa
"The catalyst... The rest of my squad and me, except for Echo have reached Imago-stage through various ways, but we don't know what the Catalyst is. You tell me, then how about I have the execution indefinitely delayed? Everyone wins! Echo surpasses you and your brother in every possible way, and you live in some high-class resort home guarded by a hundred man security team away from society for the rest of your life like every other major political prisoner. What's so bad about that?"
She began reaching for another collar from the alcove behind, stopping to put it back down and shrug
"...Oh wait... I forgot, that Sytropin addiction of yours stunted you from ever reaching Imago-stage in any reasonable time, so no suppressor collar for you... Well in that case I might as well just keep you going on your regular dosage... Couldn't hurt."
She buzzed on an intercom for the others to come back in as she pulled out a remote. Hasegawa was immediately sedated and dragged away, along with Nicole into another cell. The woman pointed the remote at me and pushed god-knows-what button on it, causing the already stinging injection flow coming from the side of the collar to increase it's pumping rate into my neck to increase as I myself began to fall fast asleep from the high-volumes of sedative and other suppressants injecting into my veins...
November 23rd, 4:30PM
Ace7 Hotel, Seocho
The Holo-screen closed down as the classified helmet camera recording ceased. Danovik tapped out his cigarette on his ashtray and rolled his eyes in a cocky, unimpressed manner as he shrugged. I could feel my stomach turning as I started to keel over in pain from watching what he had just showed us. I quickly tried to force all the memories out of my head before it became a situation of cannot-unsee.
"Don't know what more than to tell you that-"
"I don't need or WANT to know more... I think I'm going to puke after seeing that recording."
"Classified for a reason, hombre. It would shatter morale in a million pieces if someone saw that."
"And you aren't disturbed by it one bit? Eugh..."
Yukie stared forward, her eyes quivering in shock of what we had witnessed
"No... No... No... Can't be real... That can't be happening..."
In a moment it looked like all the color had slipped from her eyes as they near instantly went grayscale as she collapsed to the floor in shock.
"Oh you'd got to be kidding me... Why'd you bring this girl along anyway Arnold? How do we know she's not spying for Nash?"
"What? She seems too damned innocent for me to trust her. Too scared of anything"
"Now, now, you don't know any of it Jason!"
Yukie climbed back up again and began checking her hair, giving an angered look towards Danovik's comments as all the color came back to her eyes
"...We need to get to the EPR. That video proves it."
Danovik jumped up and shoved his way towards Yukie, unbelievably pissed at her over the past hour spent around her, getting ready to smash her skull open with his 'roid-pumped fists
"Proves what! What in god's name does the WCG hiding some dirty secret in some forsaken Eey-One-Kay mine, have to do with the goddamned EPR? Huh!"
Yukie's hand almost flashed onto Danovik's face as she tightly gripped it whole with her one hand covering it as she slowly twisted his head back
"...Try that one more time, tough guy, and your brain stem will be crushed in an instant."
I removed my CTE6 from it's holster and pointed it around between the quarreling two
"Stand the fuck down, both of you! For god's sake, we've got at the very damned least three groups of people trying to kill us, and you two are worried about where to run? Danovik, you are a complete jackass for wanting to go to that E1K mine after seeing that video which is going to get us all killed! Yukie, your obsession with fleeing to the EPR is raising red flags all around, like you're desperately trying to run us into a trap! Why would someone like you be so obsessed with rescuing a Phoenix officer of all possible people? Is it because Nash sent you to kill her? Is that why?"
Yukie let go of Danovik, hurling him downwards towards the couch behind him
"As of a matter of fact..."
I turned on the laser sight and aimed it at her head, ready to shoot if she confessed to working with Nash any more than previously
She slapped the CTE6 from my hands and backed up, ready to break Danovik's neck if he tried to ambush her
"If I was so obsessed with assassinating Ms. Wollcroft I would have simply stayed with Nash as he fled to the EPR to do exactly so as he is as I speak. You want her to die? Fine, stay here. Unlike you two I have morals when it comes to Nash's extremist viewpoints, which include murdering people when they're down and killing anyone innocent who is in his way... I bet Ms. Wollcroft is regretting not tearing him to shreds when she had the chance."
The color flushed from her eyes again with her stress as she began to breath down heavily at us
"Fine then. I'm leaving. I'll go alone to stop Eternal, and Nash. You two can sit here and die when the WCG, EPR assassins, and or Phoenix operatives who are pissed they didn't get their delivery find you. I'll be off saving the damned day. By myself, as usual."
She slammed out the door, taking everything she could with her. I shrugged for a moment before forcing myself up
"Where the fuck do you think you're going, Schwarz?"
"To finish what I started. Nash is going to be there, and I'm going to kill him before he gets his hands on Paige..."
"I'm not game. Fine, get yourself killed. I'll be busy singlehandedly raiding all of the WCG's E1K mines to figure out more of what they're hiding."
"And you can keep that damned video of yours! I don't want any goddamned nightmares from that... Those... Things. Goodbye!.. Jackass..."
"I heard that!"
I forced my way out the door and ran to catch up with Yukie who was still storming off...
One week later... November 30th, 11:30PM
I sat down back in the booth straight across from Yukie, putting another bottle of beer down next to five other bottles of beer, all empty, and cracked open the cap on it. The alcohol here was... Surprisingly tame.
"...Sooo, Yukie, care for a drink? This stuff really is guaranteed to carry your burdens..."
She gazed at me the same way she had gazed at Danovik last time we saw him
"Don't even think of trying that trick on me like you do your western whores. Or I will kill you."
"Calm dooown sweetheart... Was just being pohlight..."
"Shove it, westerner... I told you not to come out here to begin with when I left, and you ignored me. I should have broken your neck the moment I saw you following me."
"And do youwh have a bett-et-eter idea than I did?"
"Fox Eternal could kill you in an instant, westerner. She is anything but Human, moreso than your friend, Wollcroft. I've heard stories of her slowly tearing someone's throat from their neck with her claws, running them down his neck slow enough that he survives for longer than he should in complete agony as the skin is stripped and sliced from his throat, before she places her hand upon his chest and stabs into his heart with her claws right through his sternum. She sometimes drugs the victims so they don't naturally give out under pain. I've heard that her torture strategies would make Der Fuhrer horrified... You wouldn't want this to happen to you, would you, westerner?"
"You saaaay that like it's an insult, cutie, you'ruh on western land anyway, say, why down't we-"
She grabbed my neck firmly and gave me a death stare
"Say one more thing trying to flatter me so you can try to bed me, and I will crush your neck slower than Fox Eternal cuts at people's skin. And then I will gouge your eyes out once you are paralyzed and screaming. And if that doesn't kill you yet, I will rip out your manhood and forcefeed it to you before I throw you in a trash grinder on it's lowest setting... Is that clear?"
I stopped, trying to breath as I nodded in fear.
"Good. My father would have killed you the first time you laid your hand on my bare shoulder last week if he was still alive, you drunkard little westerner. You should be glad I'm more lenient than him."
Her face went to a smile as her eyes filled again with color
"...Argh, damned vision's be so blurry- Son of a..."
She removed blue colored contacts from her eyes, revealing them to be green instead of the sharp blue of before
"Don't ask. Or I will kill you as described."
She stuffed the contacts into a cleaning solution container for a few awkward minutes as I drank to myself, staying completely silent for fear of her killing me... As described. She shrugged a bit and then took out her Uni-Tool, laying it on the table to check GPS data, grabbing the holographic globe in her hands, holding it off to the side for a moment and giving a menacing smile towards the hologram.
"Just checking up on some friends, they'll be around the neighborhood to provide me some extra help in springing Wollcroft... And of course dealing with Nash."
A few minutes later she put the contacts back in her eyes bringing them back to the icy blue they were before. I decided it would be best to just get another beer and lay low out of her attention until she cooled down. A couple of beers later I came back, finding her typing her login information into a local chat service... Username, Echo... Password... Legacy... Quite cryptic. I pretended I didn't see any of it and began to drink away at my latest bottle of beer, looking over at the partygoers dancing, eating, and getting drunk around the nightclub here. I overheard Yukie talking to someone else over the Uni-Tool's comms.
"...Oh of course, Stahl. And tell Dahl we are ready. I want the target bagged before he realizes it... Our house guests have talked already? Good, the catalyst is the most important thing in my life at the moment, as per my directive, and dedication to our squad. You mean you already have your hands on the catalyst? That's great... And no, don't try and flatter me like this Syndie over here is trying to, because I will make your death twice as painful as his if he keeps it up. Our relationship is purely professional, Stahl... Why don't you try on Wollcroft? Oh wait, she'll kill you if you so much as look below her eye level. I'm sure she'd do just the same to both of us if she found out anyone in her squad was even remotely going beyond simply a professional relationship with one another. Goodbye, Stahl."
Wait? Wollcroft? What? How? This was all amiss. Yukie looked around as I walked to her, pretending to be distracted.
"Heads up Loverboy, I'll be ready to meet up with these friends in a few hours after we get some rest. Let's head back to the hotel for some shuteye, you're welcome to come with at your own risk since what we'll be doing will be dangerous, and I can't guarantee a drunkard westerner like you can survive what we're planning. Also...
She stood up closer for a moment, placing her hand between my neck and shoulder as she whispered into my ear
"...If you so much as reach your hand out for me now, I will kill you as promised... If you so much as fantasize about me when you sleep, I will make it even more painful... Do you think this is some sort of joke I'm putting upon you to surprise you if and when I kiss you? Well surprise, because I'm not joking about how I will kill you... My relationships are strictly professional. Don't you forget that, Mr. Schwarz, regardless of your grandfather being the top general of the EPLF... His authority doesn't ring down on SentinelCorp or any other company in the EPR. Just a warning for you, Mr. Schwarz..."
She backed up and smiled as she put her leather coat on and checked her purse to make sure she wasn't robbed. I meanwhile was busy trying to flush out all my fantasies of her out of my mind...
I'm enjoying the story.
November 31st, 9:00AM
Sentinel-Security Corporation base, Sublevel 3, Office 4
Commandant Evig, codename Eternal
Stahl emptied his ashtray from yesterday and began to light a new cigarette, kicking his legs up on the table and leaning back on the chair as his cigarette landed between is lips.
"And what about this, Jager asshat?"
Lieutenant Stahl nearly swallowed his cigarette after being caught off guard. Unprofessional, but I wasn't in the mood to tell him to quit smoking at the meetings after letting him do so for the past seven years.
"Eh, whatever, this Schwarz asshat, who is he really? The profile we have of him doesn't add up."
Sergeant Dahl had never been one for complications. A complicated job was too risky a job in his eyes. I was inclined to agree. But why agree with that when the more complicated jobs paid more?
"Well, the thing is that everything we know about him contradicts. Part of his profile says that he was enhanced when he was 21, but another part of it says that his father was part of a Syndicate assassin squad, all of them happened to be enhanced..."
"So? That's like saying that snakes have no legs because an ancient snake got them cut off."
I interjected before this discussion turned itself into an argument akin to two children fighting over nil.
"A snake getting it's leg cut off is physical, not genetic you fool. One part of his profile is a lie. Likely the part about his father. Medical records seldom lie."
"Yes mam, I'll have that part of his file erased."
"Of course. Onto the next subject."
The suitcase slid out from it's container as I opened it up, unveiling the Black Sample. I took up and held it in the palm of my hands
"Acquired from our guest, Ms. Paige Wollcroft, when she attempted to illegally trade it to Phoenix operatives."
Stahl tapped his cigarette in the ashtray next to him
"This is the same bitch who fucked up my operation in Prague?"
"Yes, as you are aware she was sentenced to reeducation for aiding the Verstosenen terrorists and illegal trade of pure E1K to a terrorist organization."
I closed my eyes as I felt the energy of the Black Sample
"Ultimately the terms of her execution were up to me. Be it an execution of her personality and not her body..."
"But she is of more value to us with her mind intact. You are aware of the situation in Egypt?"
Stahl relaxed himself
"Ah yes, the... Incident... At the E1K mine there."
Dahl looked up in fear
"What? We aren't going there, we can't go there! We'll-"
"Why do you think I want Ms. Paige Wollcroft intact?"
Hoover walked in, fully clad in powered armor as he always was when on duty and interrupted Dahl.
"I sent in a sample to the lab five days ago. The analysis shows that the viral response was... Negative."
Dahl remained in shock, unwilling to calm
"What, what about it?"
"I did crosschecks on the rest of the squad-"
I lightly pushed on the foot of Echo's chair to push it out
"Please, Hoover, take a seat."
He obliged and continued on
"The crosschecks, of course... The rest of the squad's samples had a positive response to the contagion. Exposure would likely mean death, or... Worse..."
Dahl's teeth chattered
"See? That's what I meant!"
"We are digressing. Back to the subject of the catalyst."
"Oh yes, Mam. The catalyst substantially effects the rate of Daodan takeover of cells..."
"Unknown, Mam. The lab is still working on figuring out what causes it. The response is near identical to the response to injection of E1K based medigel found in WCG hyposprays"
"It is already well known that Daoden cells have a hyper-evolutionary response to E1K exposure, Hoover. Have the lab team mark it as that and move on to other matters."
"Yes Mam. Any more else?"
I opened my eyes and looked into the eye-holes on Hoover's gas-mask. The orange glow reflected on the glass in front of his eyes as he saluted and began to leave. Stahl tapped his cigarette out and left it on the ashtray.
"And what will we do with the catalyst?"
"Echo will possess the catalyst until her time comes as did mine and Wollcroft's. After all, she was the most interested in catalyst to begin with... And besides, it's what here father would have wanted..."
Dahl shrugged, dismissive of Echo
"She doesn't know what she's getting herself into then... Are you sure she would be able to handle it? How do we know she wont respond like Hasegawa did and reject it in fear?"
"She wont. Dismissed. Ping me the moment Echo is back and Schwarz is captured."
Yesterday, November 30th, 2063. 11:30PM
Sentinel-Security Corporation base
Sublevel 2, Detention cell 5
I'd lost track of how long I had been here, the weight of the collar on my neck clouding all my thoughts, purging clarity of other's faces, and making the entire place seem like a single shade of gray on a flat canvas. I wanted to tear my way out of this prison, but every time I tried I just couldn't muster it up, and whenever I could the collar delivered a painful shock, stopping me. My Uni-Tool lie on the table, most of it's features locked down on me by my captors, who seemed obsessed with keeping my alive as they drove me insane. I must have seen hallucinations during the past countless days. In my very soul I felt like some sort of dog chained up in a fenced in lawn with nowhere to go and me always being pulled back whenever I tried to go. Sense of direction was worthless down here, the only detail of this room was the bed and the door. I had no idea who the Orange Eyed Woman was, or why she wanted me, all I knew is that now I was none more than a pet to her now. Or a torture doll.
A tall, muscular figure stepped into the corridor on the other side of the door and entered the room, stirring me to alert
"There are two men who would wish to speak to you. I will put their chats up on the Uni-Tool now."
And then he left on me, in despair yet again as I stay in this box waiting to die or worse. A blue hologram appeared, and began to chastise me immediately.
"So, how's it going you bitch? Had fun pretending to be dead after your friends showed up to stop me from ending your worthless, inhuman life?"
"...I don't know who you are... Or why you are after me... But stop..."
The blue hologram laughed at me in insult
"You're sounding awfully weak there Misses Wollcroft... Went too long without devouring an innocent person like my old buddies that you murdered?"
I tried to lash out at the hologram but I couldn't. He wasn't making any sense. Just insults. When I finally did impact the hologram after the collar drugged me several times I realized it was just all hollow
"What... Are you going on about... I don't understand you at all..."
The drugs began to relax as I got used to them, that, or the collar had stopped injecting them. Clarity slowly came back with a perfect timing.
"Don't play dumb with me, you beast. I know your kind as the Good Book said, and I intend fully to take you down for ruining everything of my life. I may never see home again because of your crimes, and I will never see quite a few of my long time friends that you torn apart like the monster you are..."
"But, you are so pitiful, I feel as if killing you would be merciful, but merciful is what the Good Book has told me, and I shall do as told. How does it feel to have that collar put around on your neck? To show that you are not who you want to be, and that someone owns you? That you are someone else's bitch?"
"I've gotten used to it... Und du?"
The man, who's face was slowly clarifying scoffed at me again
"Kinda disappointed the whole silver shardshot thing didn't work, maybe Hasegawa was ever-so-slightly right about you..."
I facepalmed for a moment at this man's insanity, and gave off a sarcastic "Ahroooo" in response
"Whoever you are, for the goddamned twentieth time, you are insane. What is it? Schizophrenia? You must have read too much of your 'Good Book' because it seems to have made you delusional... Goodbye"
"I will kill you and your-"
I tapped him off and then immediately a new chat opened up
"Hello, Misses Wollcroft."
That was a face I hadn't seen in a while. The Man, contacting me in the usual way
"You know the consequences of failure. You failed to bring me the Black Sample, and soon you will realize what happens to traitors."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"...Right after I finish wiping that puny little 'European People's Republic' off the map with this army of angry, overtaxed farmers you all know as the Verstosenen now that the WCG's orbital strike system is down, thanks to you."
"However, no amount of victories can make up for your failure. Goodbye, Misses Wollcroft."
The Man immediately took his hat off in a respectable manner and ended the chat as the guard came into the cell to disable it's chat function again
Before I could act I felt the drugs injecting into me again as I faded from consciousness...
November 31st, 1:00PM
Looks like Yukie had split off, probably to go get her friends. A noise rang around the corner.
"Yukie? Hello? Don't leave me here..."
More noises. Seemed to be voices. I looked around the corner for a moment, and then back to see a rather large figure in powered armor standing behind me
The armor clad soldier began to walk to me as I fired off single shots from my CTE6 towards the head. No matter how hard I tried nothing hit as a shielding surrounding the armor sent all my shots flying off in all directions, sometimes towards me. I heard the warning noise on the ammo indicator beep as I began to run out of bullets in my magazine. Should have brought a shardshot rifle now that I think about it, instead of a flimsy ammo-guzzler pistol. Damn Campbell Technologies for refusing to move beyond conventional bullets in their products. Eventually they were right up against me, and gave a single slap pushing me down to the ground several meters away. I could barely reach my pistol now, with it just a finger's reach away in the most anti-climatic matter. I grabbed my WCG-standard issue plasma pistol and unloaded it onto the shield as I backed up far enough to reach for my CTE6 and get up.
With the shield finally down I aimed my pistol at the face of the powered-armor junkie only to be greeted by a warning of no shots remaining as the glove flew off of the powered armor, unveiling a delicate hand that now seemed to be unleashing claws towards my throat to maul either my face or neck. And I knew who it was instantly from Yukie's oh-so-vivid description. Fox Eternal, here to kill me. I should have guessed this trap, it was more than just obvious. As the claw nearly reached my throat I was pulled back and spun around. Yukie had apparently just saved me, along with two rather bulky Scandinavian men armed with rifles even I could not identify, both of them pointing behind me.
"Don't mention it."
As I began to sigh and get ready to run she grabbed my by the neck and strangled me before I could realize it
"...Sorry, Schwarz. I had to do it..."
And then it was all black...
I opened my eyes, apparently still alive from what felt like an old-school hanging, stood up in a white room with hardlight cuffs around my hands, and something else restraining me from moving. A woman, dressed in formal attire walked in. If that was anyone's face that was Kowalski's... Or Nicole... Whatever her name really is. The face atleast matched. Unless of course Kowalski had a hell of a week, getting a tan and an eye color change. She began to speak in Norwegian, which I thankfully understood from my years of military training
"So, we meet at last. You don't even look anything like the General. I'm disappointed."
After quickly refreshing my memory on Norwegian grammar I replied, right in her face as her eyes filled with hate
"What do you mean, 'met at last'? We last saw eachother last week!"
She got pissed and slapped me, causing my entire face to go numb from the pain. Nope. Certainly not the same Kowalski I remembered before. Considering the fact that last time I saw Kowalski she was deathly pale, had blue eyes, and red dyed hair. This... Bitch, looked like she spent the better half of her life in the Arabian Peninsula, had orange eyes, and most certainly looked like the type to outright despise non-formal hairstyles.
"Speak when commanded to. Not ever else."
She waved towards one of the Scandinavian men I saw from before, Yukie standing next to him un-amused, and certainly not surprised, by what she was seeing
"Fetch me Misses Paige Wollcroft, Sergeant Dahl"
He saluted and left the room as Yukie checked the uniform she was wearing for any defects. She sighed as Kowalski walked closer to me, grabbing my face and exerting some sort of energy, causing some sort of headache and a delusion of the three of us being trapped in a black void of nothing, akin to the dream I had had about a week ago after first finding the black crystal. As it got stronger her eyes began to glow more and more, the orange glow bringing me to some of the worst fear I ever felt I could have in my wildest dreams, nevermind the fact that this bitch seemed to have claws for god knows what reason. All I knew for sure is that she had to be some sort of monster.
Sublevel 4, Interrogation room 3
The guard, referring to himself as "Dahl" pushed my into the room as I saw who seemed to be Nicole grasping onto Schwarz's neck, both of their eyes glowing in some way. Her's orange, his purple. It didn't matter. It looked like one of them was staring into the other's very soul. She quickly disposed of him to the ground as he went limp from the torture. The Oriental Woman in the back of the room chuckled from watching it, retrieving the Black Sample from the hand of the woman who looked to be Nicole, but I couldn't tell... She looked... Different, compared to when I last saw Nicole not long ago.
"Thank you, Mam. It shall be safe in my possession. Not even the worst of Syndicate goons like him shall remove it from my hand with their life intact."
"Nicole" looked around towards the Oriental Woman and replied as she began to laugh for a moment.
"Oh how your father would be anything but proud..."
Schwarz got up from the torture and looked back at "Nicole", who then cut him off before he could speak
"...So... You really are one of us... One of the last seven of your kind. Our kind. All of which are in this building at this moment."
She laughed and closed her eyes
"Oh how it feels great to hold all the cards in this world..."
The hardlight cuffs behind my back suddenly released as she produced a M1911 pistol, the same one that I had used until a few weeks ago when Nicole had snatched it from me at the arms factory. I was beyond grateful to see this heirloom in my hands again as she put it right on my right hand, and raised it for me. Pointing it straight at Schwarz.
"Now, Paige. Pull the trigger on him. As I command."
One of the men looked towards "Nicole"
"You sure this is a good idea? We could use him!"
"Nicole" was immediately annoyed, but not yet flustered, by the man speaking
"Of course it is. Just you watch."
The Oriental Woman in the corner smiled, staring into Schwarz eyes. I focused myself on the gun as "Nicole" held onto my arm. The grip was too strong for me to fight back against her. I had no choice, did I? I could always just drop the gun... But... Schwarz's eyes gave a look of panic towards me as I was forced to point a gun at him and shoot. Tears rolled down him in fear, and I could feel them slowly coming for me too.
"I said, Shoot him. Now. Paige, pull the trigger, and let the world do the rest."
<Shoot him> "I'm sorry, Arnold... This was the best I could do for you..."
<Drop the gun> "...Goddamnit... I can't do this. Not to you, or any other person like this..."
November 31st, 2:35PM
Sublevel 4, Interrogation room 3
I felt like I was going to collapse. My hands shook, freezing from the cold of this dreaded, steel basement. The Oriental Woman grasped the Black Sample in her hand, tight enough that all I could see was her hand. I could have sworn I saw a faint, red glow around the hand containing the Black Sample. Maybe I was just seeing things, but it reminded me of when I had first encountered Hasegawa several months ago in a humiliating failure before Cooper disappeared... And things started happening to me...
"Paige. Shoot him. Shoot the Syndicate bastard... Or are you too much of a coward to redeem yourself?"
"For your betrayal, of me, and of... Hmm."
I couldn't resist. Schwarz was small-time for all I cared. Couldn't let attachments get in the way of me, not in the way of my survival. I sealed my eyes before I could begin to cry and squeezed the trigger on my M1911 pistol that had finally been returned to me. I just wish it wasn't returned to me on these circumstances...
"I'm sorry, Arnold... This was the best I could do... For you..."
The shot rang out, and I forced my eyes open a moment later. I wasn't sure whether to give a sigh of relief or have a heart attack. There he was, a bullet wound going by below his shoulder as he breathed heavily in shock, Nicole pulling me to the side of the room and smiling. A light powered-armor clad man in another corner with a tablet computer looked around, seeming as nervous as he could through his full-face gas mask.
"Commandant, Daodan latency is rising rapidly from reaction to the wound... Recommend we tranquilize-"
Schwarz quickly forced himself out of the hardlight cuffs on his hands as his eyes went from blue to a purple glow, rushing across the room towards the Oriental Female, still with her eyes closed holding the Black Sample, throwing a punch that looked like it could break through people's skulls.
"BITCH! BITCH! BIIIIITCH-"
She slipped the Black Sample into her uniform's pocket, and put her hand in front of Schwarz's fist, blocking his punch abruptly and nearly breaking his hand as she completely gripped it. The same moment she opened her eyes, now completely in a crimson red shade like the glow around her hand was. Not good.
"Like the rest of your family. Weak and incompetent."
With that, she twisted at Schwarz's hand and hoisted him over, throwing him all the way to the other side of the room and knocking him out cold instantly. Her eyes cooled down back to green as she collapsed down into the chair conveniently behind her. The gas-mask man with the tablet put it down on the table and went to her aid.
"Are you alright, Captain?"
"Yes, yes I am Lieutenant... But that was... Awesome..."
Dahl dragged Schwarz's unconscious body out of the room with the gas mask man, probably back to another cell like the one I was thrown to rot in, leaving just me and the Oriental Woman in the room. Nicole gave a quick laugh under her breath and smirked.
"Well done, sister, I never thought you would be able to do that this soon already"
I expected her to be talking about me for a moment, but she turned around towards me a few seconds later
"As for you, shooting an unarmed man, I'm pleased, not impressed."
"It's... Complicated, Paige. Your half-sister... I can better explain in due time..."
A redheaded man in his twenties entered the room and immediately saluted
"Mam, we've secured the Schwarz in his cell. What about... Hasegawa..."
He began shaking when he said her name
"...Casey... I'm well aware of the fact that the two of you had... An... intimate relationship, before the WCG had you and your brother arrested and thrown in Cryo-sec... But..."
She slapped Casey straight across his face in an instant, him grasping his jaw in pain
"But that must not get in the way of our mission. You should be grateful I had her execution indefinitely delayed. Dismissed."
He left immediately, as Nicole stared him off
"Well, Yukie, our mother... And of course your father..."
That name, Yukie... I remembered some of the locals back in my hometown when I was younger mention that name, but it was always being referred to me since it was in my Syndicate codename. But the correlation was too blatant to ignore
"...Would be proud of the progress we have made... Soon, we may very well be like..."
Yukie opened her eyes again after having them closed for the past minute or so, revealing her eyes to be the same crimson shade as before, interrupting Nicole to finish her sentence
"Very well. I will present our findings to the corporate board... If all goes well the assault on the Verstosenen fortress at Berghof Estate will be approved... The fools in the other divisions have all suggested that we beat them back one by one from the frontlines... Why not just..."
"...Cut off the head instantly. Killing the body."
"I like the way you... We think."
Nicole smirked as she finished her sentence, motioning the gas-masked man entering the room to take me to the med-bay as I fainted after the past several minutes of standing still in shock after shooting Schwarz.
Last edited by Valkyrur (1/11/12 21:08)
I was going to say "shoot him"
December 1st, 2063. 7:30AM
Detainment block 5, Cell 2
The fading in of white from in front of my face only made the headache I already had even worse, the occasional rotation of a fan in front of the light above giving but a moment of relief from the pain. What the hell had I just gone up against? In but an instant those not-so-innocent green eyes flashed blood-red as the last thing I remembered before blacking out. Was this the shit Nash was talking about? At this rate I couldn't care. This was all bullshit. Should never have taken that crystal. I should have fled when I had the chance. But who am I kidding? It's obvious that... Devil, Yukie would have tracked me down anyway. Now that I think about it, the nametag patch on that WCG uniform she was wearing had been ripped off... Whoever was in this cell with me tapped on me.
"You're actually awake? Thought they broke your neck or something for a few hours there..."
Kolo. The real Kolo, that is. The blue eyes, the bright red dye in her hair, the same small figure (Unlike Fox Eternal), and the deathly albino skin that I recognized her immediately from. Now that I had seen Kolo and Fox Eternal in the same short period it was plenty obvious the two didn't look exactly the same... I'd be blind not to see it though... Now I was just confusing myself. Which one of them was the real Nicole Wollcroft? Kolo, or Fox Eternal?
"...No, just some chink bitch..."
"Kicked your ass. Welcome to the club! That's nothing compared to getting shot twice from behind with a railgun!"
"Kolo... I nearly got shot in the chest at point blank by someone I thought I trusted, and that was after getting strangled by another person who looked to be an ally."
"Congrats, you've discovered what it's like to be shot at!"
I trembled backwards as I felt the effects of a concussion setting in on me, barely stopping myself from crushing my Uni-Tool which now was locked down. Child's play to unlock it, to be honest.
"Shot at doesn't equal getting shot... Now, before we break eachother's necks before they do..."
"Escape, yes. I don't know if they've sentenced me to an execution or 're-education'. Either way, I need to get out of here."
"Suddenly you are the escape priority? If I stay here they'll probably kill me too!"
"Not you, Schwarz, you have something they want. They won't kill you. They'll put you on a leash for the rest of your life. You're better a hostage and a bargaining chip than a corpse to them. From what I gather it's the same with Paige Wollcroft, but I'm not exactly sure why they need her... If anything the Pure would be more useful to them..."
"Point taken, I'd rather be out of here than their tool. But what's this about a 'Pure'? How the hell-"
Kolo finished looking around the corridor for any guards in earshot as she began talking
"I can explain later... For now just get that Uni-Tool functioning and construct something that can cut through these bars..."
"Kolo? Uni-Tools can't construct laser cutters out of nothing..."
SSCSO Capt. Kojira, Codename: Echo
Major Wollcroft stood at the front of the room, last-minute checking over plans for the operation to assassinate the Verstosenen leader, Jan Radec, along with all the high-ranking officers of his army all in one place. Maybe even arrest or take down any of his possible successors in the process. To the right stood Lieutenant Hoover in the same gas mask we always saw him wearing, preparing the plans for Charlie-Squad along with Sergeant Dahl. Lieutenant Stahl was busy revising Delta-Squad's plans while I looked over the intel on the Royal Guard unit that would be guarding Radec. The other Officers in the room did similar as Major Wollcroft called to attention
"We move out in forty-eight. Have everything ready by then. I want all squads in the War-Games sim deck during downtime. No leave-requests will be granted until after this operation is bagged. Understood, Seventh Battalion?"
All of the officers in the room saluted in synchronization, putting down their dossiers on their tables. Major Wollcroft briskly walked out of the room as Lieutenant Hoover followed immediately, as he always did. Stahl packed the TacNet tablet into his bag and prepared to leave.
"Stahl, catch the squad up on the current plans, then get them prepped for the War-Games deck. I want everyone there in ten, just like the rest of the squads involved in the operation"
"See you on the War-Games deck in ten."
Detainment Block 5, Cell 2
The Uni-Tool finished constructing a saw to cut through the cell bars from the bed's scrap metal as per Kolo's instruction.
"It looks like the guards have all reported to the holo-deck. Now is our chance... Do you happen to know where they are holding Hasegawa?"
"No, let's focus on getting out of here first..."
"I'm not leaving with out her."
I began cutting away at the cell's bars with ease, no guard in sight to stop us
"Are you still loyal to the Syndicate?"
"Not sure, considering they're out to kill Paige... What's it mean to you? Didn't you betray-"
"It's complicated. Perhaps it would be better if I didn't tell you. Make things easier? But no, before you ask, no I am not Wollcroft's sister, and no, I never betrayed anyone. Are you sure you really want to know what my objective here is?"
"Damnit, why can't anything be simple anywhere I go?.."
"Do you really want to know? You'd better be damned well loyal to the Syndicate if you plan on hearing me out, or you'll be just as bad as Wollcroft in Phoenix's eyes."
<Syndicate loyalty> "Yeah, besides, considering the Syndicate seems to be the only group that isn't out to kill or enslave me... Fine, I'm in. What is your plan?"
<Renegade> "Last time I listened to anyone I got suffocated, shot, and then god-knows-what by some bitch who looked like she was possessed by something. Once we're out of here we split."
Last edited by Valkyrur (8/11/12 21:45)
Oni fan since 2001.
December 1st, 2063. 8:02AM
SSC Base, Festningen Tordenvær
Detainment Block 5, Cell 2
"Last time I listened to anyone I got suffocated, shot, and then god-knows-what by some bitch who looked like she was possessed by something. Once we're out of here we split."
Kolo was unpleasantly surprised by what I was saying as she stole a CS66 Plasma Rifle off of one of the weapon racks by the unmanned guardpost
"...You might want to reconsider if you want any chance of surviving once we are out of here. The Sentinels don't take kindly to runaway slaves, and the government around here has been known to turn a blind eye to them whenever they go after their enemies..."
She tapped on her Uni-Tool, reactivating all of her sub-dermal augmentations before continuing on. Anyone who saw her could tell she felt naked without them activated. It was painfully obvious she had became dependent on them over the years like an addiction to E1K medigel.
"I already told you. I won't be following anyone's lead after all this. Not unless I plan on dying young like all the other poor saps I've met.
"You sure about that, Schwarz? The Sentinels have a pure-blooded Kh'Voz among their ranks, just when you thought Paige Wollcroft was dangerous. You go alone, and they will sure as hell send their oh-so-innocent and blissfully unaware Kh'Voz after you to kill you. It will tear you apart... Like it tore you apart yesterday, but worse."
I checked the motion trackers on my Uni-Tool, nothing moving, at least in earshot range
"Kolo, did you ever care to tell us what the hell a Kh'Voz is? I think it says something if someone as insane as Nash was calling you insane for saying that."
We began to proceed down the corridor towards the directions pointing to the elevators, scanning corners as we moved for any guards still left around. Nothing in sight for us. Felt like a trap by all means.
"Why should I tell you? It'd only confuse you."
"...I'd rather be confused than in the dark..."
"...All you need to know is that one unaware of it's true power is much more dangerous than one that's learned to control it over the years."
"I don't recall Kh'Voz being an alternate word for 'North Korea and a nuke', Kolo."
"Too soon, Schwarz. Too soon."
I checked one of the announcement boards on the side of the hall. All combat personnel to report to the War-Games deck in preparation for the next offensive. All support personnel have the day off unless told otherwise by their supervisor. Just as long as we avoided the VR-training deck we should be in the clear. If only I knew where that was in the place.
"Look, Schwarz, I can't tell you. I don't want to tell you. If you really want to know, you'd be better off looking for some book or documents on that one cult, the 'Servants of the Ascendancy', or was it 'Church of the Ascended'? I don't know. Don't care."
I couldn't help but think of that near-insane guard back at the WCG R&D lab at Griffin AFB. One moment he's normal, the next he is damn near on the verge of bowing down after seeing Paige. Probably just a local superstition. Still, seemed worth looking into to figure out what was what with Kolo...
Regret. Regret. Regret. That was all that was left. I was given a gun and told to kill a bunch of overtaxed low-class civilians, and so I did. I'd find a surrendering combatant, and kill them as I had been trained to do so without mercy. I'd finish getting the last useful bit of information out of someone being interrogated, and then I'd kill them. Even after all I had gone through I still went back to the WCG like a fool. I still went through the same routine as with Griffin, just with a completely faceless boss instead of a complete asshole. Even without that I alone was responsible for the deaths of uncountable many. I could have simply offed myself after all of that, thinking I was the last bit of cancer left over from all that tragedy, with anyone else involved dead already. But I didn't.
I knew in the back of my mind that I had forgotten a single person, left unaccounted for by me and the TCTF. And noone suspected it before I did. There was still one more link in the chain to be broken before me. But when I had the opportunity to rid us of that one final person, I couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger on her. I stood dormant on that rooftop, shrugging as I refused to pull the trigger of a gun pointed at the head of that one last Syndicate lieutenant. That was the only time I had ever truly lost my nerve trying to kill someone. Oh, Naomi Kojira, how you were so lucky that day. Had anyone else been holding that rifle, you would have been dead... But would that have changed a thing? Even without three of the current seven of us ever existing, the research data still existed for more to be made like I was. Even if I and Naomi were dead, it would have only been a matter of time before the Sentinels would steal everything related to it and monopolize it for their own gain, with or without us being pawns on the table. As much as I wanted to deny it, the second great World War would be more preventable by time travelling assassins than this would.
I can't believe in all of that we forgot to figure out where the hell Dubois-- Argh... Hasegawa, was being held. Forget it. She hated anyone or anything related to the Syndicate. Kolo probably wanted to kill her anyways. Not worth it. Kolo at least had the decency to tell me where a good place to hole up would be for the time being. An old Syndicate safehouse on the outskirts of town. She said they'd let me in as long as I didn't have the Law following too closely. But what about this "Servants of the Ascendancy"? I needed to figure out who the hell they were. For all I knew figuring this out might save my life... Or put me into more trouble than before... Who knows. Not an option. I had to know. Someone at the safehouse had to know, either that, or there had to be some sort of library or repository of records around here with at least some information on this "Servants of the Ascendancy" cult.
<Go to the safehouse> I needed someone I could trust. It was never too late to try to ask around the old network for someone who knew about a bunch of crazies who worshipped people with irregular eye colors.
<Go to an EPR info repository> At some point someone had to have written about whoever these crazies were. And if someone had written about them, it was likely cataloged somewhere for research.
A safehouse is never safe Go to EPR
December 1st, 2063. 9:55AM (GMT+2)
Thirty kilometers south of Alexandria, Egypt (WCG District 01LW-4R5)
Traxus E1K digsite 7
"All clear, haven't seen any guards or WCG troops in the vicinity. It's all ours for the taking."
"Someone bag some of that E1K if they can. It's getting hard to smuggle E1K for the dropships now that the WCG has been cracking down"
"Why the hell did we bring this Verstosenen idiots along? I swear half of them don't even know a word of English."
"Halt den Mund, westerner!"
"...Aus ihm lag, Hans... Kein Punkt in ein Arsch zu ihm..."
It was painfully obvious the WCG cowards left in a hurry. Corpses from the gas attack here were still left over with noone caring for them, just skeletons and corpses with blood-stains all over their skin from massive internal bleeding. Being in the thick of it made me truly realize why Schwarz and that one Asian had been on the verge of puking. Guess I just never had that perspective when it came to video. Christ, I could still see a corpse straight up on it's knees, stuck in rigor mortis, and I didn't dare to venture a second look at the half rotted face from the corpse that was staring straight ahead. The worst part is that the gas used here was of WCG make, not some crude terrorist weapon. Last time I heard of this gas being used was eleven years ago against a rebel advance in England that had costed too many lives, which raised the question of why the hell the WCG used this against their own people. It couldn't have been for the E1K. They would have sent in a team to reclaim it all. They would have had this place locked down, but it was all left to rot and abandonment. After linking back up with the Syndicate, it was immediately my job to find out what happened here, and why, along with 24 others. Someone must have expected a battle, which we obviously didn't get.
"Holy shit... Someone take a look at this..."
"So, this is what they found?"
"This cave is not a natural formation... Someone built it, so it must lead somewhere... Right?"
I approached on what one of the grunts had found, looking to be a fortification of sorts. Nice and locked down too. Someone didn't want people getting in this place. The good news was, it looked like it was meant to keep people out, not keep something in it, judging by the outward facing defenses. From my best guess the place must have been built when the Roman empire was still around. No matter. Our objective at this point was to get inside it and find what lies inside. Whatever is in there must have been worthwhile for the WCG to silence any witnesses.
"Scans suggest we should be able to blow right through this wall with a few good breaching charges."
"Negative. Command says that we can't bring any risk to what's inside. We need to open it the proper way."
"And how would you suggest that? I can't figure out this lock for the life of me. Don't even recognize the type on it either. Whoever made this lock was way ahead of their time.
"That, or it was never meant to be opened by someone not akin to it's creators..."
I couldn't read the script myself, but if the old "Servants of the Ascendancy" propaganda was correct that was...
"Check out this writing? Anyone know what the hell that is?"
"Looks like Hebrew to me."
"Nope, barely a resemblance to Hebrew script. It isn't Arabic either. Anyone got an idea? I don't want to piss off command by telling them we couldn't open a primitive lock on our own."
It couldn't be... But it had to be... I interjected immediately before they got into a fight over what kind of writing it was.
"That right there has to be Kh' script. No doubt about it. The lock must have been designed to only be solvable by one of the Kh'Voz..."
The others around me started laughing hysterically
"Serious, Danovik? The Kh'Voz? Of all things you could bring up? Quit reading that Ascendancy crap, they only confuse you."
"Well, Kh' script or not, we need this door open. Someone hand me a month and two starship-grade AI assistants."
After waiting for them to calm down I came back in
"All we need is a Kh'Voz and we can open this door in a snap... If I'm thinking correctly they should be able to read and decode it..."
"Danovik... The Kh'Voz have been dead, buried, and extinct for at least a hundred and twenty years. And that's implying they ever existed."
Maybe... Maybe... I intended to prove that wrong.
"...What a shame, because I know exactly where to find one!"
EPR Public Access record repository
I swore one of the Sentinels had been following me. That escape was beyond simply too easy. But here I was. But I had to keep moving. Couldn't take any risks if the Sentinels really had trailed me. I would be better off finding what I needed and then scooting once I had it copied to my Uni-Tool. That raised the question of what my priorities were. Couldn't be here copying down everything I could if any Sentinels, or worse, the Raiders, showed up looking for me here. Ah hell. Simple. Find what I need, and get out before they get here. I could always come back to look for more info once I knew I was in the clear...
<Look for info on the Kh'Voz first> "It bugged me what Kolo had been meaning whenever she said that. Couldn't hurt (Or could) to figure out what the hell she was talking about."
<Look for info on the "Servants of the Ascendancy" first> "First thing first in threat-assessment was knowing what faction I was up against. A borderline-insane cult was one hell of a threat that needed to be assessed.
December 1st, 2063. 10:40AM (GMT+2)
Thirty kilometers south of Alexandria, Egypt (WCG District 01LW-4R5)
Traxus E1K digsite 7
"Oh do you? You better have a damned miracle! They. Are. Goddamned. Extinct, Danovik."
The red glow coming from his helmet's visor just made him seem even more ridiculous as he walked right on my space. As usual, intimidation failure.
"How would you know that? You don't seem to know enough to keep your armor clean, especially that visor."
I swiped my grimed up hand right over his visor, halting him instantly in his tracks
One of the technicians working on the door's combination lock called to attention
"Danovik? There are signs of tampering on this lock, from before we got here, but after the gas attack."
"Either someone tried to get in, or someone got in before us. Impossible to tell. It must have been whoever gassed this place who wanted to- Or did, get inside."
"Any idea what could be so worth murdering a bunch of poor Guido E1K miners?"
"Kh' artifacts maybe?"
"Shut it. I want facts. Not theories."
The Striker began to wipe the sludge off of his visor lens as the technician began to look through his lockpicking tools
"Sir? Assuming the previous party here had opened this door, I may be able to exploit it and unlock this door before the hour's out..."
"Fine then, I'll do my best"
"...And to the idiot cleaning his helmet, get your bullshit stowed before we have more friendly-fire incidents than we have hostile contact."
My UniTool beeped, showing a notification of Arnold Schwarz online again. I slipped it back in my pocket and began my hike back up to the top of the quarry to check on the perimeter for any WCG patrols
EPR Public Access record repository
There was only one record I could find referencing the term "Kh'Voz". Simply titled "The Kh' Threat". No copyright date on it. No author, no publisher. The book was practically a ghost in it's own right. Whatever, it was the best I could find. I copied the record's contents onto my UniTool, eyeing around for anyone stalking me. Noone. Good. Time for some skimming before I got moving again.
A good fifteen minutes or so of eyeing quickly through the pages gave a few simple facts. Some sort of connection to E1K, eye colors being either orange-gold or red, which seemed quite relevant... For the worse. No known region of origin, and presumed extinct since the second great World War. Considered to have predatory nature and an inclination towards violence. Often lack basic Human emotion in hand with that. Schizophrenia considered a common trait, and if not, constant lucid dreams at every rest in it's place.
Ah, what the hell. I could read in more depth once I knew I was secure... And speak of the devil... A pair of athletic looking men in their twenties showed up, VDG pistols holstered under their shirts asking around. Thankfully their description they were asking for was general enough that I had enough time to slip out the back. Looking for a bearded man wearing a red scarf and blue shirt in the EPR? Open up the phonebook, entire pages of them there.
I slipped the UniTool into my shirt after considering to contact Danovik. Ah crap, chainlink fence padlocked at the end of this alley going to the opposite street. I reached into my pocket to look for an Equalizer to quickly shoot out the lock with a quick suppressed shot. Gone. And pointed right on my back by someone who wanted me more dead than captured
"So I see you have been reading up on the Kh' recently?"
Couldn't be a local or one of those two men from the repository. Sounded like he was from the west Atlantic, like Nash. What the hell was he doing here? Did the Raiders actually bother coming here?
"Problem with that? Interesting subject and all..."
"You. You and your existence is an insult to the Kh', and thus, an insult to the Ascendancy. Burn like the rest of your heathe-"
A pained cackle came from his throat as he tried to finish his sentence, dropping the Equalizer to the ground and causing it to nearly misfire into my foot. What the hell happened. I checked the corpse. One clean shot right through his throat from the side. A damn near impossible shot. Whoever did it was a hell of a trick shot. And a hell of a guardian angel, twice now.
"What the hell..."
Under his Khaki shirt the first visible item was WCG dogtags. Nothing conclusive on him other than his name being Gordon F. Miller and being a type O. The hell was up with this. No uniform, just tags, and a connection with the Ascendancy. Had to keep moving. Next stop, the first hotel I can find.
Last edited by Valkyrur (18/11/12 2:33)
December 1st, 2063. 11:29AM (GMT+2)
Thirty kilometers south of Alexandria, Egypt (WCG District 01LW-4R5)
Traxus E1K digsite 7
The Strikers here were beyond anxious. Word of this all being a WCG trap was rampant among them, and I couldn't blame anyone with how quiet it was here. I could have sworn I saw one of the corpses shudder. In a few moments it looked like the technician was about to work his way through one of the most complex locks any of us had ever seen, and we'd figure out what was worth the mass-murder of all the low class miners here.
"You all know that it's safe to take your helmets off, right? The gas dissipated at least five days ago."
"Not taking that risk. I'd probably puke and die of dehydration from the air left by all these rotted bodies on the ground... Eugh..."
"...Big Brother is always silencing... With all this, there must be something good in there. First dibs."
The Technician called out from the distance, yelling that he finally got the lock open for us. We all gathered up on the door to what looked to be a Kh' vault. With whatever is in there, we'd be set for life. A few of the men loaded new magazines into their rifles, scanning the distance in the open area of the quarry for any WCG ambush coming, some others aiming at the door prepared for awaiting hostiles or some sort of monster on par or worse than Barabas The Crusher. The Technician did a final check on his UniTool and began to slide the door open, now liberated of the lock sealing it.
After an exhausting minute of the door being slid open, we finally got into the tunnel behind the door, having the other 20 men stay on guard outside while the five of us, all Hussar-Class investigated what was inside. Our HUD's automatically night-visioned the tunnel before us, precluding any need to use flashlights or other revealing lights beyond the glow in our visors from the HUD rendering. The wall on our left hand side was filled with Kh' script, detailing some sort of folk-lore that none of us could read. My HUD continually scanned the Kh' script, and kept spewing out the same "No translation available" text in the bottom-center of my HUD until I turned off the auto-translation function to get it to stop cluttering my vision. One of the Hussar's ID pictures popped on the corner of my HUD as he bitched into his radio
*"This is a job for the Skull-Team or something. We have better things to do then raiding some old tomb with nothing in it other than text that no living Humans can read... Kinda makes me wish that the Kh' didn't all get killed off..."*
"Cut the chatter, I want you all one-hundred percent ready if this turns out to be a WCG ambush"
"Sir... That might not be necessary"
I got around through the door at the end of the hallway only to find a near-empty storage room with one of the Hussars already there who had gone on ahead
"Someone beat us to it, sir."
My HUD quickly scanned the room, showing patterns in the floor where dust had not yet settled in from something having been there. Whoever was here before us had taken everything out, leaving the clean spots around the floor as the only evidence of something being there.
"Scans show that the amount of dust in those spots indicates that whatever was here got moved five days ago, same timing as when the gas cleared up..."
As I was about to order them to pull out and radio Command I noticed that whoever was here left in a hurry after grabbing what they were here for. Most of the lifting gear that was down here was gone, but that was only because they had to when they were moving things out. A WCG comlink terminal lie dormant at the edge of the room with no active connections, infact outright having it's wireless transceiver gutted out before they left. The Technician checked around the terminal, making sure it wasn't booby-trapped by the previous guests down here.
"...It's clean... I'll run a check through it's archives and see what I can find out about whoever got here before us..."
"Roger that. While you're at that, why don't you try to figure out HOW they got down here before us? It's obvious they didn't lockpick that door like you did."
"Of course, I'll be on it"
SSC Base, Festningen Tordenvær
Interrogation Room 7
Mick "Mstislav" Hoover
Mai Hasegawa sat across the table from me, handcuffed, while Sergeant Dahl and Lieutenant Stahl stood on both her flanks ready to taze and tranquilize if necessary. Her graying hair stood only as a reminder of her current state, and that she certainly should have dropped off the radar when she had the chance.
"Tell me, Hasegawa, the Kh'... What do you know about the Kh'? How do you know about the Kh'?"
"You already know all of this. Why do you want me to regurgitate it for you?"
"This isn't up for bargaining. That information can save lives, you know. Their legacy is a looming threat to many, and if someone-"
"Are you using reverse psychology? Because, if so, it isn't working. You are the one working for the Kh', so why should you be so concerned with the danger?"
"We have no time for your games, Hasegawa. Answer the question."
"You're looking to find and deal with loose ends, aren't you? Is it a threat for your masters if someone knows that the Kh' still exist, or ever existed at all?"
I signaled Dahl to give Hasegawa a quick punch in the face to get her into a more... Respecting mood. He obliged.
"Is that all you have, Sentinel? I've been shot, stabbed, cut. Much worse than anything you..."
She coughed and began to have a nosebleed from the punch
"I suppose your... Uncooperative temperament would be in line with your thoughts on your former CO, Griffin?"
"What does a long since dead old man have to do with this?"
"As I said before, give me an account of how you learned of the Kh'Voz, and who else knows of them. We can start slow, as far back as you need to. Trust me, these two musclemen behind you can do much worse than what they've done already if you refuse to cooperate, Hasegawa."
"Best I could get. I got playback on what seems relevant, and it should tell us where we should go next"
"Set it on play, let's hear what this little birdy has to say."
The screen on the comlink when fullbright from it's dimmed state, playing back a recording of communications sent and recieved using it. Everyone went silent and channeled the sound into their radios to listen better, as did I:
Comlink recording DEIem2mnbx
Last modified: November 27th, 7:43PM, 2063
"We have the package. Get equipment down here to load it into Dropship Romeo-Seven's cargo bay, and have them lift it to the destination uploaded on their GPS systems"
"Yes sir, Commander, on it now."
"Good, then we'll see you out on the other side... Don't make any mistakes this time like before, keep your eyes out for an ambush"
"Five by five, sir... Sir, we have intel from Miller on the next package, requesting we switch over to a secure channel"
"Switching now sir."
*<Romeo//Comms> CHANNEL SWITCHED FROM <Alpha> to <Alpha//S>*
*<Romeo//Actual> CHANNEL SWITCHED FROM <Alpha> to <Alpha//S>*
The recording went dead as there was nothing coming over the log anymore. Nothing of value could be found. No records could be found for when they switched com channels, as was standard with WCG comlink terminals. Things could not be going worse. We were beat to this place, and left without a lead. I tore out the hard-drive from the terminal, handing it to one of the Hussars to hand over to Command when we had the chance. Making it all worse, the tone of their conversation made it seem like whoever was here had been casually waltzing into the place like it was no problem to get the door open.
"Get us a communication with Command and prepare to pull out."
"We're done here."
I downed the shot in a second flat, intent on drowning out all my worries. Just wasn't working like last time. I wanted to cry, knowing how screwed I was. Somewhere, out there, there had to be at least one living Kh'Voz, and whoever they were, they wanted me dead. At least there was someone else who wanted me alive just as bad. There were a mere six other people here, the scene here being dead with us being a whole thirteen hours from the night-life actually starting around this neighborhood. I never thought of myself as a heavy drinker, then again, I also meant to shave two weeks ago. But damn, that Ascendancy bastard had WCG military tags on him. Not good. Now I felt like General Sorin himself was going to waltz in here and kill me on his own. I wanted to kill him. Break him. Torture him for hours. He got us into this mess. He betrayed us all. But now I found myself running from him, along with insane cultists worshiping some technicolor eyed freaks trying to kill me for me being "An insult" to their gods or something. I fixed my red scarf and tried to think of how I was going to get through this. Going back to England wasn't an option, not with the WCG still existing. I was in deep, and I'd more than likely die in deep. Could I trust anyone or anything anymore? I couldn't do any of this alone, not unless I was intent on offing myself or going on a suicide mission solo. No. Couldn't. I had to live through this if I could. Tears began rolling down as I downed another shot of liquor and pulled out my Uni-Tool to get ready to call someone.
<Call Nash> Last I knew he still had people on his side, and either way, was an enemy of Sorin. And a great tactician at that. He'd know what to do to get us through this. I hope. This was war. Our enemy? Sorin, Phoenix, and every bastard in our way.
<Call Danovik> Smooth asshole as he was, we were like bros to eachother. Every step of the way. This was all personal, for both of us. I needed someone I knew if I wanted any chance of getting through this. Atleast I'd die with friends by my side if I failed.
December 3rd, 2063. 6:43PM
Obersalzberg, EPR (Under occupation of Verstosenen rebels)
1st Platoon, 1st Company, 7th Battalion of Sentinel Security Corporation's Special Operations brigade
SSCSO Capt. Kojira, Codename: Echo. XO of Operation Valkyrie
"-Which is weird, right? Look at him. He doesn't look like no Syndie or rebel"
"That's a WCG troop. Get his tags. Report it in with Eternal as soon as we're sure that there's no risk of our comms being intercepted."
"Yes Mam, will do."
We hadn't expected the WCG to be here. Last I checked they pulled out of the EPR two weeks ago, and at that retreated with uncountable casualties and even more unaccounted for. Whoever we just got into a firefight with must have been a straggler, and a straggler who nearly broke our cover and made us the perfect light-up opportunity for the Verstosenen guards just waiting to blow something up. Chances are, there'd be another one around here. My radio began ringing incessantly until I accepted the transmission, coming from Eternal.
*"So, I hear you ran into some Imperialists?"*
"Indeed. High chance of more in the area. He was kitted up recently from the look of his gear, and his Powered Armor's readings showed his armor at near full charge. Any chance they may be working with the rebels?"
*"Unlikely. Your directives are still the same. Eliminate the target, from this point referred to as 'Führer', and then secure the Kh' vault at Berghof Estate"*
"Yes Mam. Understood"
The transmission cut off immediately, leaving no time for questions, as was Eternal's style. No questions asked. Do it. Dahl interjected just as quickly.
"So, why are we here, really? Are we really here to kill Ra- Ahem, Führer, or is he just an added bonus as we secure some dusty crypt for some egghead archaeologists?"
Really? I had to cut him off before his chatter attracted hostile attention.
"You're forgetting who signs your paychecks. Clear comms."
Before my eyes stood another hulking locked door, adorned with the same Kh' script and fancy combination lock (Also in Kh' script) as the one we saw in Egypt. Whoever the Kh' were, they certainly didn't stay in one place. A comms hologram of The Man stood a few meters behind me, where he was visibly smoking a cigar and inspecting the door himself as he began to speak.
"The Kh' were- Or rather, if someone had opened that last door- Are quite meticulous with their security, aren't they?"
Jan Radec, the leader of the Verstosenen, paced around the room chewing on another package worth of chewing tobacco
"Diese glorreiche Arschlöcher... How convenient that they'd write in a way that only they could read. I can only imagine Der Führer's frustration with this door... But he was wise not to use demolitions on this door."
"Don't be so naive, old friend. Demolitions would damage what lies inside, in addition to the beautiful house that was here, and the beautiful residence you built in it's place, Radec. Besides, the door is a masterpiece in it's own right."
"To deface that door would be to deface the Mona Lisa, although I'm sure you already know that, Radec."
"Indeed I do"
Watching these two go back and forth over this door was possibly the most pointless thing I had ever listened to. Let's just lockpick the damn thing and get it over with so we can go home. Before I could light a cigarette of my own Radec up and left to go back to his office upstairs.
"Sir? With all due respect, we know how to lockpick this kind of door if given enough time-"
"And a good few AI assistants, Danovik!"
"...Given enough time to figure out this one's patterns."
The Man tapped out his cigar for a moment
"You will not. Your objective here is not in opening that door. You are to fall back at the first sign of hostile attack and identify who is opening these Kh' relics. Then, if possible, capture the Kh'Voz responsible."
"And how are we supposed to identify a Kh'Voz? I'm sure it would make headlines from here to Mars if there was evidence of a Kh'Voz being alive today."
"Are you sure? It would be bad news for the WCG if the general public ever knew of the Kh'Voz or their treachery, even moreso if anyone knew that they were still alive after their supposed elimination from Humanity. But..."
"The Kh'Voz are not as subtle as one would think."
"What do you mean, sir?"
The Man's hologram smirked, and showed motions of manipulating a UniTool which was not visible on the hologram's projection.
"It would appear I know of three of them, along with a possible fourth..."
"You said you saw WCG equipment at the previous relic?"
"Yes, I did sir."
"Two of the known Kh'Voz work for the EPR as part of the Sentinel PMC, embedded in the Sentinel's Daodan-enhanced Spec-Ops in the Seventh Battalion, obviously pretending to fit in with the rest. The third used to be an operative of the Syndicate before being declared rogue just about a week ago..."
"What's to say-"
"Two days is too short of a time to jump ship for the WCG and unlock a Kh' vault. The fourth Kh'Voz is more than likely working for the WCG's forces, which if your reports are correct, means that they opened the Kh' relic in Egypt over a week ago, for the WCG."
"How do we know that they'll come here?"
"If they knew what they were doing, which the WCG always does, they will go to the next Kh' relic they know of, which if they knew of the one in Egypt, the would have known of this one first."
"Acknowledged. Anything else I should know of?"
The Man coughed for but a moment, looking with woe as if he saw a plan crumbling before him as he put his cigar back in his mouth and gave a few solemn moments
"...If the Kh'Voz in question opened the previous vault, along with acquiring it's contents..."
"Sir, I need to know everything I can if I'm going to be fighting a Kh'Voz..."
"The Kh'Voz used to be avid collectors of pure E1K samples. Such samples greatly boosted their abilities in combat, visible effects often being a shift of eye color from what their normal eye color was to either an Amber or Crimson hue, reflexes beyond normal capability, and a great increase in muscular activity."
"Guns still work, right?"
"Do not underestimate the Kh'Voz. This is no Barabas The Crusher, Konoko, or dare I say it, Muro we are talking about. We are talking about something much worse. Be prepared for the fight of your life should you come into contact with this Kh'Voz, since they have likely gotten their hands on a pure E1K sample from the previous vault."
The Man's hologram flickered off just as Radec began to walk down into the room here with me and the other Hussars, getting ready to pack up so we could get into a spectating position for when the WCG came. One of our Comguy's came down the same moment in a panic, getting ready to give us a message
"Spit it out, Comms."
"Sir? One of our scouts spotted WCG forces closing in, fast. Several dropships in addition to at least fifteen tanks spotted. Infantry is at least Company-strength."
"Then that's bad news. Prepare to pull out, we don't have the men to fight that firepower. You all know our orders from Command."
Radec gave a disgusted look towards my group, and then towards the door, same with his two Verstosenen bodyguards by his side, all of which I was atleast a half-meter taller than. Growing up in E1K irradiated land that the WCG quarantined for a reason certainly did wonders when it came to stunting people's growth. Napoleon would be jealous.
"Either you are getting this door open for us, or we're getting it open on our own, with or without the Syndicate or Phoenix's aid."
"In a rush to get out of here, Mein Fuhrer?"
Radec turned his disgusted look towards me again, more pissed than ever, pretending not to be phased by the glowing-red lens on my helmet's visor.
"I gave you an order... To open... That DAMNED DOOR!"
"Or what? Last I checked I worked for Phoenix, not the Verstosenen."
"Open. The. Door!"
<Follow The Man's orders> "Not a chance. Unlike you, I'm not interested in getting blown up by imperialists over some childish fantasy involving some Mary Sue-grade Humans. We're leaving, whether you like it or not, and I'd advise you leave too before the WCG slits your throat slowly on camera and puts it as an example of what happens to people who work with the Syndicate."
<Stay to open the door> "Fine, you really want some dumb E1K crystal that some extinct portion of the Human race buried away? I'd be more than happy to oblige. Techie? Start lockpicking the door. Be careful about what you wish for, Radec, because you're about to get nothing more than a half-kilo of E1K that's absolutely useless as fuel in it's state."
Obersalzberg, EPR (Under occupation of Verstosenen rebels)
"Not a chance. Unlike you, I'm not interested in getting blown up by imperialists over some childish fantasy involving some Mary Sue-grade Humans. We're leaving, whether you like it or not, and I'd advise you leave too before the WCG slits your throat slowly on camera and puts it as an example of what happens to people who work with the Syndicate."
Radec's face began to grow red with anger, although anyone else in that room could see right through it. He was shivering. Sweating. He knew he didn't stand a chance if he stayed here. He was cornered by an enemy worse than what the EPLF had ever thrown at him. I could outright hear him hyperventilating right through my gas-mask as he pointed towards me and looked at his guards.
"What are you waiting for?! Arrest this imbecile!"
Neither of the guards moved, trembling at the thought of going up against someone two heads taller than either of them, let alone with this gas-mask on.
Me and the other Hussars shoved past Radec and his midget guards, unfazed by his display, towards the exit to get to an observation position to figure out who was going to open the vault down there. I gave Radec one last glance and gave him some damned wise words before I left.
"It's your funeral, Radec. I'd highly recommend that you get running while you can. Chop chop, unless you want the WCG's little Kh'Voz to chop you up first."
Arnold Schwarz/Aaron Jager
This was overkill. We weren't assaulting a fortress, we were attacking a crazed dictator's summer-home which he forgot to put proper defenses on in his arrogance. It's not like the tanks here would be making it up the mountain, unless of course our intent was a good old siege on the estate. From the looks of it from my scope it appeared some of the hostiles were already pulling out, running in fear of our attack. No movement was coming from our flanks on the motion trackers, with no evidence of a possible trap or pincer-attack. I stepped into the tent Nash had erected, to find Kowalski and Nash arguing with eachother
"Damnit Nash, you can't use the Kh'Voz! Not here!"
"And why not? We have them on the run."
The Kh'Voz? I had a bad feeling about this, especially after that Ascendancy bastard who tried to kill me. I stayed back outside and gave a listen in.
"The Kh'Voz are unpredictable, Nash. Just because you have one doesn't mean you should-"
"We need every advantage we can get, Kowalski, even if that means going against your morals."
"Sir, you've seen what a single Kh'Voz can do. Do you really want to exploit that kind of power? What if he goes against you?"
"And you don't know how such power is going to win us this fight."
"Fine then. Dig your own grave. You may think you are the manipulator, but be warned, Nash. The Kh'Voz are manipulators. Not the manipulated."
Kowalski stormed out past the tent flap and me, likely determined to put a stop to whatever Nash was planning with whatever Kh'Voz he had. I pulled myself into the tent to talk to Nash, trying to keep myself from yawning as I walked in. Nash looked over a map of his, holding a UniTool in another hand, leaving a radio on the table on top of the map, ignoring my presence
"Come right on in, Jager."
"Sir, what was-"
"It was nothing, Jager. Kowalski seems to disagree with my use of Kraut-Gas on the enemy to minimize our casualties, after the incident in Egypt."
This wasn't right. He was hiding something from me. He obviously didn't want anyone knowing what weapon he had up his sleeve. But I'd be damned if he really did plan on using Kraut-Gas, the corpses left over from using that would be beyond nasty. Just when you thought white-phosphor was bad there was Kraut-Gas and the blood-stained corpses in it's wake. Never knew why someone would want a gas that triggers such massive internal bleeding, but we had it, and we sure as hell used it when not in civilian areas.
"You look like hell, Jager. Something on your mind? Also, incase your brain hasn't told you yet, quit pointing the aiming-lasers in your eyes. Sure, it might make your eyes look more Aryan as an after-effect, but I don't need my sharpshooters going blind from pointing lasers in their eyes."
Oh hell, the eyes. Time to stop hanging around the E1K containers by the dropships. As if hanging around them all the time wasn't eyeing for suspicion in it's own right, I didn't need someone going off because my eye-color didn't match what my profile said.
"Sir, you sure it isn't just the lighting in this tent?"
"Whatever, I don't care anymore. We're hitting the enemy in fifteen minutes, so make sure everything is ready"
Well he was in a particularly fine mood for rushing in unprepared. I quickly regrouped with my squad, Charlie, where everyone else was already ready to go. Kowalski, clear. Hoff, clear. Cashlin, clear. Me? Not so clear yet. Well, time to get my powered-armor on before the show started.
I gave the cocktail a sip, looking outward from the booth towards all the people dancing on the floor in-between this booth and the bar. I gave another sip, looking to the other side of the booth at Nicole, who was starting to look more irritated than drunk from the people who kept calling her phone.
"...For god's sake, Echo, use your own judgement on this... If you see imperialists, you shoot. Same for rebels. I don't care if it doesn't add up, just do it. Just make sure Radec dies and that we have the vault... Alright then. On the blood of our ancestors, I hope to hear good news... Good luck, and godspeed..."
Nicole hung up the phone, her head slouching down to the table before she gave a yawn and had another sip of her wine.
"Nicole... Why... Why did you decide to go and get involved in this war... Stuff anyway? I'd think you'd be scared... After the incident eleven years ago..."
She gave a laugh under her breath towards my sentence
"Because I felt like it. Is that a good enough answer for you?"
"...Lucky you... I fought because I was forced to..."
"Oh, what a shaaame... You're the one who signed on to fight, you should have thought on that..."
"I'm serious. I never had a choice in whether or not I worked for Phoenix these past eleven years. They used me, and I quietly obeyed them. And now that I've failed them, they want me dead."
"...And I fight because... I feel I must... As does our sister..."
I kept silent, no thoughts coming through, as I looked down at the table and had another sip of my cocktail, beginning to think on everything I had done, and what Nicole had just said. When I came to my realization I nearly had tears rolling down my face that I could barely contain
"...Nicole... When we begin to be people who just... Kill out of instinct... Death... Becomes our only salvation... I hope you understand this..."
Nicole closed her eyes and laughed again
"So, forward-unto-death she says? Paige, that alcohol isn't going to do good things for you, I hope you understand that."
"Nicole... You don't understand..."
"What is there not to understand? Look around you, at all those simple pedestrians, blissfully unaware that at the end of the day, all that matters is who survived. Look at them, Paige. Know that you- That we are, by default, superior to them by blood and steel."
Nicole's golden eyes began to look like they were about to flare up in rage until she decided to close them and smile as she drank more of the wine in front of her.
"Paige. We are Kh'Voz. And they around us? Subservient vermin, as I'm sure you understand."
"Nicole, at the end of the day... At the end of the day we're... We're still Human. Like them. You need to see that."
"No, Paige, I'm sure you have already seen you are above them. As I believe, you singlehandedly destroyed a twenty-man squad of highly trained assassins sent after you by the WCG..."
"That's twenty more souls on my conscience, Nicole..."
I drank a gulp of the cocktail to keep my mind off of that killing-spree before I could burst into tears
"Paige. Face it. You kill. Or you die. The WCG will never let you live a normal life. They hate you for existing, and they'll kill you for it. We are by nature a threat to their doctrine. You need to see that."
A redheaded man walked by our booth with a few more drinks and sat down in the booth next to Nicole. Was it Casey? No, this man had a different demeanor to him than Casey did.
"Well, good to see you finally joined up with me here for the night, Mick."
"Indeed. Sorry for being so late, I had to revoke my brother's security clearance, especially after the escape two days ago. Didn't need him springing Hasegawa while I was out getting some drinks."
"Casey's always been a trouble-maker hasn't he? You Hoovers certainly don't get along often, do you?"
Assuming this man was the gas-mask wearing man from before, he certainly was in a much more sociable form when he wasn't wearing that powered armor and gas mask he always wore every time before. To be honest it was shocking to hear his voice in his thick Australian accent instead of the muffled, vocoded, and distorted voice I heard when he was wearing that gas-mask. But what was a man like him doing in the EPR?
"So, um... Paige? It's good to see you..."
I looked down at my new drink, ready to have some of it before my mind thought on what we had been conversing about earlier again.
I have some catching up to do... Keep up the posts man!
Just outside Berghof Estate
SSCSO Capt. Kojira, Codename: Echo
"...Dahl, take the mook on the left... Stahl, snipe the AT up on that tower overlooking them. I'll handle the one on the right."
Me and Dahl swiftly moved up on the two Verstosenen guards, whom were distracted by the deafening sound of a HEAP shell hitting one of their lower camps. The whisper of a silenced L-IAR shardshot flying through the air was met with the quick thud of a dead guard hitting the floor of his watchtower as me and Dahl stabbed our knives into the back of the guards' necks, pulling them down into the ditch behind them. The sounds of screams and gunfire died down as the WCG attackers finished cleaning up the latest outpost. We had to keep moving, lest we end up in front of the oncoming WCG steamroll. After a few good minutes of running up the mountain road here the gunfire came to life again as the WCG came down on the next Verstosenen outpost on the road. The three of us dived into the tallgrass as reinforcements rode down the road down to the battle... If you could call it that, instead of a meat-grinder, which sounded like a much more fair name.
"Echo, the other squads report no casualties so far. They'll be ready to disable the Estate's power and security on our mark. Alpha has reported that Radec's car, along with all vehicles in the compound have been sabotaged with car bombs in case he attempts to flee by vehicle."
"Good, we'll be ready to take down Radec. Don't get cocky. Operation Valkyrie isn't complete until Führer is neutralized."
Dahl snagged one of the guards as they passed, bringing him down into the grass and slitting his throat with noone noticing. I wanted to clap... But... Stahl disagreed.
"Quit stepping on our dicks, Dahl. You nearly got us spotted."
"Lock it down, both of you. Just one more outpost to sneak around and then we're in the Estate."
"And then we take down this bastard for good."
"...Yeah, unless the WCG gets there first..."
A Verstosenen grenade slid right over my cover, detonating just as I rolled right into the next bit of cover that hadn't been obliterated yet by the fire raining down on us.
"Jager, get some medi-gel on that wound!"
Hoff hit his hand on my shoulder a few times as he barreled past me, signally for cover as he moved to the next. Shit, he was right, I didn't even notice getting cut by the shrapnel. Worse, I didn't have any medigel on me. I fired off a few rounds at one of the guards as Hoff ducked behind one of the landscaped boulders at the outpost. A few more guards jumped off an arriving truck filled with reinforcements before it's engine exploded, getting right up on our cover as we let our overheating rifles radiate off their heat. It didn't matter, this shardshot shell was out of mass to fire off anyway now. I loaded a new shell in, locking it in and giving it a moment to get processed for the rifle. A moment later a high pitched ding noise went off, signalling I was ready to fire again.
"When do these bastards stop coming? By the time we're up there the objective will be compromised!"
I threw Hoff a new shell as his rifle began to click from being out of shardshot mass. He loaded it as I did before, nearly getting shot in the back of the head by a Striker had it not been for me having my rifle pointed towards Hoff when I was throwing the shell.
"Thanks for the assist, Jager!"
One of our tanks, the Undying Resolve rolled up the road, firing off a White-Phosphor loaded HEAP shell at more of the oncoming Syndicate and Verstosenen reinforcements. I fell backwards, trying to avoid getting burnt as everything in front of me ignited, firing off a few rounds into a burning Striker before he could get a stones-throw from me and burn me with him. Cashlin shoved a few of them off the cliff face, safe from the fire in his full-covering powered-armor, save for the armor itself getting burnt, ruining it's paintjob. I fastened my helmet, it nearly launching off my head from a sniper's round grazing it.
"Jager, got a sniper on your six!"
Before I could turn around Cashlin had already put a few shots into him. I gave him a thumbs up and vaulted over the cover I was behind, quickly mopping up the surviving Verstosenen guards who didn't get hit by the HEAP shell a minute ago, and making way for the Undying Resolve as it mowed down an AT about to fire on it. Kowalski unloaded a shotgun shell into a cowering guard who was preparing a suicide-belt to try and take us all down, disarming it and throwing it down the cliff to the forest below, and then smashing the skull of another guard who was about to ambush her on the wall of one of the old phone-booths used by the guards here. Well, that was all of them. For now. We had ourselves a good few minutes of rest before Nash would order us to make a suicide run on the next post again. These bastards were too easy, but bullets were still as lethal, even in the hands of the poorly trained midgets that made up the Verstosenen. Not that training them would do any good, the E1K (Among other things) pollution in this part of the world probably killed their brain-cells faster than they could learn how to fight. I was surprised that they didn't keel over and die of painful infections the moment they got hit.
"...That's all of them. Charlie squad, regroup on me"
Cashlin, Hoff, and Kowalski walked on over, checking their gear, their shardshot mass left, and how overheated their guns were. Cashlin replaced an energy cell in his powered armor, putting a new one in and putting the old, half-expended one into his MA7G plasma-rifle. Not advised by any user-manual, but Cashlin was Cashlin. Behind him was Hoff, cleaning out his L-IAR and replacing the worn suppressor on it. He threw me a hypospray of medigel which I applied on the cut I had received earlier from the grenade, healing the wound and numbing any pain from it and the medigel application. Kowalski stood out by our side, looking out in the distance, ignoring me as I walked up to her.
"...Well, Nash hasn't pulled his Kh'Voz out from under his tophat yet. Maybe he doesn't consider it worth since it's obvious this isn't an even fight to begin with. Let's hope he doesn't change his mind anytime soon..."
"Kolo... You look awfully down right now..."
"Wouldn't you? We're fighting this people for all the wrong reasons. They just want to have a home to call their own, without being stomped on by EPR's growing empire or the soon-to-be expanding WCG."
"Kolo, you're forgetting-"
"Forgetting what? That we've all been labeled as war criminals, and that what we're doing here is just going to make it worse?"
"Fine, you got me there. But I've noticed you have had an unhealthy obsession with the Kh'Voz recently. What's gotten into you that you're so obsessed-"
"Screw off, Jager."
"Ok, ok, maybe it was a rough subject, I understand!"
Hoff and Cashlin walked over, interested by what we were saying. Cashlin took his helmet off and cleaned the visor on both sides with his bandanna he kept on his head under that helmet, beginning to speak while trying to keep his vision balanced between us and the helmet
"The hell's a Kh'Voz? You get darted with a drug from a hostile sniper?"
"Yeah, fill us in on what this whole Kh'Voz thing is? Sounds like a Valk-"
"You really want to know, Hoff? Fine. I'll give you the short version since we're going to be moving again in a few minutes."
Hoff laughed a bit, ignoring Kolo as she began to speak, Cashlin began to do the same, as I turned around and facepalmed. Nice job, Kolo.
"Fine. The Kh'Voz are things that need to die. They must die."
"Kolo, you mind telling them what they are, or atleast, why they need to die?"
"Fine, since Jager here really wants you to know. They're monsters. They're monsters who-"
The faint sound of a Mercury Bow R7 firing off silenced Kowalski, who dropped her UniTool as she went stiff in front of us. Her eyes went wide open in shock, the blue in her eyes being a barely visible ring around her enlarged pupils as she stood in place, staring towards me, an acute wound lie right through her stomach from a poison-tipped sniper round going right through her at the speed of sound. I rushed up to her and stopped her fall as she collapsed forward after a few awkward moments of both of us standing there on the spot. I checked on her, still warm, not dead yet. It's not like her skin could get any more pale than it always was anyway.
Cashlin and Hoff sprung into action, scanning for snipers out in the distance, to no avail.
"We need a corpsman here, fast!"
Hoff knelt down, getting ready to apply some medigel through the hole left in Kowalski's bright white uniform that made her stand out for whoever had sniped her.
"Corpsman's already here, Jager!"
"Shit. Shit. Shit. They have a fucking Mercury Bow up there. Get some better cover before another one of us gets picked off! Come on, stay with us Kowalski!"
Just in front of Berghof Estate
SSCSO Capt. Kojira, Codename: Echo
I swung back around and handed Stahl his Mercury Bow back, his face in great shock from what had transpired
"What the hell was that for?"
"The only good imperialist is a dead imperialist."
Dahl reloaded his HRAR and nearly screamed at me
"You nearly blew our cover there, crimson-eyes!"
"Says the person who nearly blew our cover five times in the past hour."
"Killing a few extra rebels is a hell of a lot different than firing on a WCG company without even giving us a cue!"
"Then so be it."
Damn it. I couldn't stop myself there, not with what I was hearing coming from that WCG force. Maybe it was for the better. At least my squad wasn't presently a bunch of head-lit deer after that. And worse, I forgot to wear those contacts to mask the eye-color change. I hadn't even used that damned E1K yet, but I still... Argh, couldn't think about using it. Let's pray I didn't have to use it.
"Check your damned latency, Echo. I don't want to be standing next to you next time you go loose-cannon on us like that."
Me and Stahl got on both sides of the front door to the house, Dahl setting a breaching charge on the door. A few moments later it exploded, killing anyone on the other side of the door as we rushed in, gunning down any survivors. It was a quick and painful one-sided fight through the rooms of the home. We spotted Radec and gave chase through his dining hall as he made a break for the garage. Big mistake there, fascist. Me and Stahl mowed down the next group of guards who got in our way, spraying bullets without giving a moment of thought or hesitation in these close-quarters. At this point it would be impossible to catch Radec. By the time we would see him again he would be in an armored car and on the move. Or at least, that's what he thought. Thank Alpha for solving that problem in advance.
A minute of shooting later we came up on the garage, hearing a deafening explosion as we entered to find Radec on the ground, paralyzed. The explosion from the car that one of his henchmen had started up unaware of the bomb rigged to the car had sent him back to the wall behind him, shattering his spine. Dahl redundantly kicked away an Equalizer from Radec's hand on reflex, despite knowing that Radec wasn't going to ever be in condition to pull any triggers for the short rest of his life. Alpha squad walked in through the smoke, smiles on their faces, rifles in hand as their squad leader, Nazim, called in the news to Eternal. Dahl shrugged and began to check Radec.
"Hate to admit it, but it looks like a brown person saved this op!"
I kicked Dahl on the back of his leg
"Shut it. Stahl, look around for that vault in the house."
"On it... Echo, I don't think we have enough time for that, looks like the WCG is already here!"
"Damnit. We can secure the vault later, when they're gone. Everyone, we move now!"
Nazim wasn't so anxious to go, outright walking towards the building, his latency rapidly decreasing if my HUD was telling the truth
"What about this bastard we just busted our asses to take down? We just going to leave him here for the WCG to recover?"
Stahl barged out of the house, covering his mouth with a rag
"Echo, they're gassing the place, Kraut-Gas. Recommend we move now before we are engulfed in it. Not a way I'd want to die."
Damnit. They really wanted this place, bad. I didn't want to stick around myself. Truth be told crimson eyes didn't go very well with blood-stained skin and dying painfully. I gave another look at Radec as we prepared to move out to the secondary rally point before we got gassed ourselves or shot by an overwhelming WCG force.
<Leave Radec to die in the gas> "Leave him here, he deserves it for his crimes. Besides, they likely came here for him, that should keep the WCG from trailing us while we regroup at the secondary rally point."
<Take Radec with to rally point for summary execution> "I wouldn't leave anyone in that gas, let alone my enemies. Not that I'd let him live either... Get a Firing-Squad prepared at the rally point."
SSCSO Capt. Kojira, Codename: Echo
"Leave him here, he deserves it for his crimes. Besides, they likely came here for him, that should keep the WCG from trailing us while we regroup at the secondary rally point."
Radec lied on the ground, still inert, visibly struggling as he smelled the Kraut-Gas coming towards him
"Oh god... Please! You can't leave me here! What is it you want from me? Please! I have a family to feed back home!"
I looked back at him, flipping my visor on my helmet from it's upward position back to covering my eyes, the opaque gold pattern blocking his sight of my eyes as I smiled at him.
"A little chlorine never hurt anyone, Radec!"
"You sick imperialist bitch! My people will have your head! You will all burn in-"
I shot off a round from Stahl's MBR7 above Radec's head to get him to shut up, and then handed it back to him as his face was in shock yet again. We poured into Alpha's APC hidden behind one of the hills on the road and set out for the rally point, just as WCG troops stormed into the house behind us.
Ah hell, someone had to have been here first. The door had already been kicked in. Bodies littered the ground, too long-since dead for it to have been the gas to have been what killed them. A few of the survivors crawled around on the ground, gas masks on their faces protecting themselves from the gas, at least for a few extra minutes at that. Hoff slowly walked past them, firing his pistol at their heads one by one, not a care in his eyes.
"Hoff, no need to waste bullets..."
"That's for Kowalski, you bastards!"
"For god's sake Hoff!"
Nash came in behind us, in a hurry to look for the vault or whatever it was hidden away down here. His gold visor seemed as cold as his mentality as he moved his gaze around the rooms in Radec's elaborate home. Hoff gunned down another survivor, who by luck hadn't been caught in the gas and wasn't killed by whoever attacked first.
"Hoff, check your ammo supplies, I don't need you reloading or running dry if we encounter whoever got here first."
"Hoff, you alright? Your eyes look awfully bloodshot. You haven't been drinking again, have you?"
"I'm fine... Just... Can't believe that sniper got Kowalski when we thought we were in the clear..."
"Hoff, you did your best..."
Nash kicked down a pair of double-doors, revealing a staircase going down into a bright, widened room with an expensive indigo carpet and a decadent chandelier at the top of the room. Hoff and Cashlin quickly rushed on in, scanning for hostiles until they stopped at the elaborate door at the end of the room. Damn, I'd never seen a door like that before.
"Jesus christ, never seen a door like this before..."
"Welcome back, Jager."
"...Cashlin, never change..."
I stood back at the top of the stairs, overwhelmed by what stood before me. Hoff took his helmet off, safe from the gas in the rooms above, and lit a cigarette in his mouth. Cashlin opted to keep his helmet on, always ready for a fight. Nash scanned the room, looking at the walls himself.
Nash and Hoff pointed their pistols up at me suddenly, I stood confused as to why as I felt and arm go around my neck and the point of a pistol press against my head. Damnit!
"What do you want, damn Kraut?"
He began to speak out at Nash and the others below in German, to their confusion in his arrogance. Damnit, atleast speak English when you make demands like this!
"By decree of Lord Radec, step yourselves away from the relic, or your comrade dies."
"Anyone know what he's saying?"
"Negative. Someone shoot him."
"Can't get a clean shot from my angle."
"Just do it..."
Hoff aimed his rifle straight at me, hesitating to pull his trigger as the pistol pressed harder on my temple, I looked over as well as I could at the man holding me.
"Step away from the relic, imperialist dogs!"
"Hoff, pull the trigger."
I saw the trigger on the pistol begin to be depressed by the Verstosenen guard. Goddamnit, why did I have to stay at the top of the stairs like that. Not this... The sound of a gunshot rang out in my ears as the guard dropped to the ground. Hoff stood, still hesitating as he relaxed his arms from his firing position. I heard a voice behind me as the guard coughed up blood from getting shot to little avail as it got stuck in his gas mask.
"Challenge is good... That's what you rebels forgot a long time ago..."
Kolo stood in front of me, gripping tightly onto her wound as she limped towards me, pistol still tight in her hand with smoke flowing out of it
"Kowalski! What the hell are you doing here, why aren't you back at the camp..."
Kolo stopped limping for a moment, whispering towards me before she collapsed from the obvious mercury poisoning.
"...To find the Kh'Voz among us, and stop them..."
"...Kolo, this isn't worth your life..."
Kolo forced herself up, reloading her pistol and injecting another hypospray of medigel into her wound as she hung onto the railings
"Well damn, she isn't dead afterall"
"...Cashlin, at the rate she's moving around and not resting, she'll be dead soon enough..."
"Stop being so negative, both of you."
I did a quick check behind me and walked down the stairs following Kowalski, who began shivering from the medigel that seeped into her bloodstream from sealing the wound. Hoff shrugged and tapped his cigarette out, looking up at the odd writing chiseled on the walls. I could have sworn I saw a page on this in that one book I read... Ah yes, Kh' Script... No idea how to translate it though... Hoff began talking to us again, resparking the conversation from when Kowalski got sniped.
"So, what the hell's a Kh'Voz anyway? Sounds like some dumb myth made up by-"
Nash interrupted him before he could finish his sentence, in an impatient rush to get the door here open
"Hoff, get this door open. The less time we're here, the better."
"Yes sir, I'll get right on it... Just give me a moment to figure out this pattern."
Kowalski's face went into shock as she dropped an expended can of medigel to the floor and began reaching into her holster, until I stayed her hand to her frustration
"...Kolo... It's not worth your life... What's gotten into you? Please don't tell me that the poisoning's screwing with your mind already..."
Tears rolled down Kowalski's pained face as Hoff began to unlock the door
"...Damnit, Jager... You'll never understand..."
I removed Kowalski's pistol and put it in my own holster, out of her reach
"...Goddamnit... Why did of all people... Hoff..."
"...Relax yourself, Kowalski..."
"...And here I was thinking it was Nash..."
"...Kolo... Why do you-"
"Screw you, Jager!"
Nash turned around, unphased, getting ready to facepalm as Kowalski stormed off in rage, ignoring the pain from her wounds.
"She won't make it far ahead of us... She'll come to her senses soon enough..."
Hoff backed off from the door, pointing his rifle downrange in case we were beaten to the vault by whoever got here first
"It's open... Man, I really need to do a cheat-sheet of these glyphs..."
"Yeah, how the hell did you even figure out those damned things? I just can't figure them out for my life..."
"Eh, I don't know, Cashlin. Then again, you can't do crosseyed 3D either."
"Shove it, Hoff."
"That's an awful lot of security for a little bit of E1K, don't you think?"
"Judging by the age of this vault, I don't think E1K was exactly something you just found lying around back then... Considering it wasn't scientifically discovered until about fifty or so years ago..."
"Maybe you're right... Whatever..."
Nash finished writing down his notes on his UniTool, taking the E1K crystal from Hoff's hands, who's eyes looked awfully bloodshot after everything that had gone down
"...Nice job, everyone. We've confirmed Radec was killed in the gassing, in addition to his right-hand man. They won't be seeking organized revenge for this after this attack, not with their leader dead. We'll be setting up an encampment here and use this place as a base until we get moving again."
"Sir, are we going to be taking that Iron Demon the guards were taking out before they got gassed?"
"Negative, where your squad is going you're going to need to be discreet... Team seven has the Iron Demon, which they'll... Irrelevant. Your squad is headed to Oslo on a mission to rescue Lieutenant Commander Hasegawa from the mercenaries known as the 'Sentinels'."
"Any specifics, sir?"
"Your contact will be the owner of 'Club Voss' in Oslo... Named Mr. Big. Long rapsheet too... Arms dealing... Murder... Pimping... You name it."
"You'll be getting your guns and equipment from him since you can't openly carry weapons into the city. The codephrase is 'We're here for that statue of the golden-eyed fox you put up for auction'."
Oh great... Reeeal discreet. Forgetting the fact that one of the commanding officers of the Sentinels had "Fox" in her name, and had golden eyes. For all we knew they knew everything that went on around them, if those threatening words from that crimson-eyed bitch had any weight to them.
"Oh, and Jager, I'd recommend you go and get Kowalski before she falls of a cliff, and fill her in."
"Your squad moves out in twelve hours. Get yourselves some rest. Also, no uniforms on this op. Hope you packed some everday clothes."
We all saluted Nash, walking out the front door of the house, tearing off our gas masks the moment we were out of the gas cloud. Hoff began to talk with Cashlin about various uninteresting things as we walked down to one of the encampments we set up in. Kowalski lie sedated on one of the stretchers in the medical tent, especially after that incident earlier. A good few cans of medigel lie in the trashcan in the corner, likely most of them spent to keep her wound stable until a medic could properly detox her and fix the bullet wound... I don't think Hoff exactly helped...
<Stay silent> I didn't need to create any drama between the squad, and Hoff seemed blissfully unaware of what he was. Better to keep it that way. Besides, it might just calm Kowalski down if he stayed unaware.
<Confront Hoff> Hoff was about to compromise the integrity of this squad, and I couldn't let that happen. He'd better know damn well not to get on Kowalski's nerves if any of us planned on surviving this next op.
December 3rd, 2063, 8:30PM
I stared over at Kowalski's unconscious body on the stretcher, asking myself if... Ah, forget it, she was able to pull herself together to be able to get to the top of the hill at least. She'd be fine. At least I hoped so. The other squads were having an end of the day meal with food pillaged from the surrounding homes here to the dismay of the civilian population. I hesitated to leave Kowalski's side to join the men who were enjoying themselves with their ill-gotten pleasures, and hell, we already accomplished Pillage and Burn, what's to say that one of the squads wasn't busy enjoying the involuntary hospitality of... Ah, forget that too... Hoff sat down on one of the treestumps by the side of the road here and took out a sandwich from one of his boxes he had with him. I gave Kowalski one last look and sat down next to Hoff, with Cashlin soon doing the same.
"So uh, Jager, you have any family back home? You never told us about anyone, did you?"
I sighed at Cashlin, trying not to sound offensive, although I couldn't blame him right now.
"Nope... Noone, grew up as an orphan. Joined up with the military when I was eighteen, and my exceptional talents fast-tracked me into STARRT, along with Kowalski over there. The rest, my friends, is history."
"Ah, good old Special Tactics and Rapid Response Team... Had a good friend in there, until he got killed in a Syndicate bombing seven years back. I'm pretty sure Kowalski was there..."
"So, Jager, ever had someone you loved in your life?"
Hoff smiled and lit another cigarette to relieve his stress. I would complain, but Cashlin was the only one who would really have the right to, considering in secret the smoke wasn't actually harmful to Hoff or me, not that Hoff knew that though..."
"Yeah, I did. Love at first sight too. Until she kinda had glowing red eyes and tried to kill me, and that was after she ordered another hostage to try and kill me first... Or was that someone else..."
Hoff and Cashlin both laughed, nearly spitting out their food on the ground
"Ya lost me at the red eyes part. You get brained and not even notice it? Like you didn't notice that gaping shrapnel wound?"
"...Lay off him Cashlin, maybe he just is joking around or... Whatever. Come on though, Jager, you and me both know you didn't date no demonic- Eh, what was her name anyway? Leah?"
Cashlin punched Hoff on the shoulder and laughed
"Come on, Hoff, don't remind me of the bane of my childhood... Goddamn that book had some of the worst writing I'd ever read..."
He shuddered and looked behind his shoulder for a moment, not noticing the parcel I took out from behind my pocket as I got ready to talk to Hoff
"...So, Hoff, what about you? Any family at home waiting for you?"
Hoff smiled faintly and looked up at the sky
"Yeah, both my parents who relocated out to England after... The war... Two sisters, and a beautiful woman who I'm engaged to. Had to delay the marriage when the army started mobilizing the reserves a few weeks back in response to that terrorist attack that happened in France... But uh, we'll get there in due time, as long as I make it out of this."
Cashlin shrugged, patting Hoff on the shoulder
"Me? I got two brothers, both cops, like my father. But hell, that wasn't the life for me, I decided. Got the greatest wife any man could wish for back at home in York, along with two sons."
I stared down at the dirt, straying my eyes from the POW beating going on that the other squads were busy participating it on the captured Verstosenen troops... War truly did consume the souls of men, turning them from once respectable members of society into monstrous sadists who beat prisoners to death and slit their throats if they survived the beating, even worse when there was nothing to say them for war criminals when it came to fighting a people that technically didn't exist according to the WCG.
"So, Hoff... About those sisters... I did you a favor yesterday, just been waiting for the time to give it to you."
I handed the parcel to Hoff, slowly to gather his attention
"It's a letter, from your sister. I was able to get into contact with her through some old friends still in WCG territory. They've been worried, with you gone and all these past few weeks."
"...Thanks... I'll have to get around to reading it sometime..."
"Maybe you can read it in a bunk, we have some sleep to get to, Nash is having us sent up north into... More civil EPR territory, tomorrow."
I sipped some more of the martini in front of me, avoiding a look at Nicole's gold eyes as Mick began to pass out from all the alcohol he had consumed the past few hours. Every time I looked up at those eyes I saw fear, regret, and a shattered innocence hidden behind a thin veil of wolf-like prowess. Eventually Mick's began to snore, outright falling asleep now.
"...Nicole... I can't help but ask... You haven't seemed yourself, not the kind of person I knew when I was younger... What changed?"
"I saw myself as what I was in truth, and not for the lie our father set up for us..."
"But how? You couldn't have figured this out on your own..."
"Because... A good friend showed me my true way... Of my past, and of my future..."
I turned my eyes towards Mick. I'd be surprised if it wasn't him, the two clung to eachother almost every second of the day..."
"...He knew of you being... Kh'... Didn't he..."
"He was an... Associate, of our mother. That is, before the WCG locked him up and froze him. It was beyond coincidence that fate would lead us to eachother..."
"I freed him from his shackles in a Syndicate raid on the prison he was in... It was to both our fortune that... Well, he had his ways of figuring things out..."
"He showed me my true ways, who I truly was... And how to unlock that power..."
I swore I saw her eyes shimmer for a moment as she said power... None of this would have happened if I was around to keep an eye on her instead of off 007'ing around on account of Phoenix in London the past eleven years... Would it? Either way, the Syndicate was a hell of a lot less creepy than Phoenix was.
"The true power of the Kh'Voz lies dormant, unable to manifest in an energetic, strong, and willed person..."
Oh no, I could see where this was going now...
"The only way it could ever come to be was if... The person I was, would cease to exist as is..."
Tears began to form below Nicole's eyes. I knew it, those eyes were a mere hiding of her weakness. I doubt she'd be able to say any of this if Mick was awake, and I was having doubts she could even say it to me.
"As you know, Syndicate forces are on policy to never surrender to the WCG forces... That provided my means."
Oh god, no. I'd remembered seeing times where the people I was with would get ambushed, and anyone who didn't make it quickly chewed down cyanide pills before they could be drugged and interrogated by the WCG. That was the Striker motto, "Victory or death, no matter the cost". She couldn't have...
"...We have had a remarkable... Resilience... to things that would normally kill most... An adaptability that would bring the envy of men who meddled in sciences they never understood, and would unleash monsters like Muro... Barabas The Crusher... Konoko..."
Never heard of them. Maybe Mick knew and told her, but I didn't care anymore. I sipped more of the martini to try and pass out like him so I wouldn't have to hear Nicole's story of how she went from pure innocence to being the horrific person she had became.
"But do not be mistaken. We, the Kh'Voz, existed long before the disgraceful knockoff known as the Daodans ever did... They thought us extinct... They were wrong..."
She smiled, possibly more bright than her gilded eyes had already
"...As I was saying... The policy of victory or death provided my means, if my Friend's instruction had been genuine... On that day, nine years ago during that depressing winter when we thought all hopeless, I traveled with my Friend out to a quiet corner of region where we would have no interference, at an old farmhouse not disturbed by the rebellion. I was scared of what may happen, that day..."
Her eyes closed shut, her skin filling with goosebumps as she began to shiver, remembering what she was telling
"Me and my Friend had ourselves but an hour of preparation and time to ourselves in that farmhouse when I swallowed those dreaded cyanide pills... When I came to, I found it to be a week later... My Friend stood by my side, helping me into the world I came back to anew... Nicole Wollcroft was dead... And in her place..."
Her face came to a smile once more, with a light laugh under her breath as her sharp golden eyes flashed open, staring ahead at me, almost piercing through me.
<Acceptance> I had noone to blame but myself for this. She was left without anyone, no family, no friends, and nothing but fear from the war against the WCG. I had left her, completely irresponsibly, for a greedy offer of wealth and fortune in London under Phoenix's banner. It was only a matter of time before she would be exploited... Unless of course she was the exploiter... I was the one who let her become this... By leaving Mick as the only person she could go to. If only I had seen through Phoenix's riches...
<Denial> None of this could be her will. She was scared of who she was, and she knew it. Mick was nothing more than a bastard who used her for her power. He exploited her and turned her into someone who might as well be a monster... She had said it herself. Noone would ever let either of us just live a normal life. We were used, exploited, manipulated. Both of us were. Me by Phoenix, and her by Mick Hoover. She had became a monster because of Mick, no matter how she tried to word it. But it couldn't be too late to pull her back.
Also, a question on this, should I consider placing these up on DeviantArt sometime? I'm a bit hesitant since I've heard plenty of bad to awful things about the site. I'd rather not place them up on some obscure fanfic directory where they're bound to never be seen.