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Dirty Deeds Don't Come Cheap (Part 3)

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Adventure

Dirty Deeds Don't Come Cheap

by

MaLAguA

 

Part Three

 

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 4:59 pm
Ignatius Sullivan’s apartment

“This should be it,” Vic thought to himself as he stopped at the end of the hallway before a numbered door. A quick checking of his phone confirmed that he’d made it to the right place. It happened to be on the second floor of a line of mini stores and cafes, just a couple of blocks from the mall.

Which somewhat surprised Vic considering the misadventures they last got themselves involved in, dealing with a gang that was doing some racketeering job on some of the businesses around. Still, he was glad that Iggy had stayed this close to the mall, making the trip short.

A couple of taps later, the door opened itself to reveal Iggy, bearing his usual friendly smile. “Vic! Come on in,” he invited.

“Thanks,” Vic said as he stepped in, taking in the sight of the apartment. “Is this really your place?” Were the words that slipped off his mouth. Not without a reason.

As far as apartments went, this one wasn’t half bad. A step away from the door was the entrance to a modest-sized kitchen that was pristinely organized, further from it was the entrance to the carpeted living room. One that looked like one of the funniest places on earth. A wide space with sofas and couches turned towards a large flat screen TV that had a myriad of game consoles plugged in and at the ready to play. Beyond that, at the back of the wall, where a balcony entrance could be glimpsed, was Iggy’s multi-screen arrangement for his computers. All the while decorations from popular animes, shows and comics filled the walls and the nearby shelves.

Of course, for someone like Hikaru or Tia, who lived in Melville, this place wasn’t anything special. But to Vic, this was probably the coolest and chillest apartment that he’d been in. All he could compare it was the abandoned factory in Massachusetts he took residence in for a couple of months this year… And before that it was the apartment he shared with his mom… and as the memory surfaced, he could imagine the light fading from his eyes.

Vic shook his head. The point was that he didn’t really imagine someone like Iggy, who used to work with a low resource gang, being able to afford this… But as he thought about it, Iggy was always cautious with money and a smart investor… When the crew needed some money for provisions, they would ask the consultant planner.

“Of course it’s my place,” Iggy laughed as he gestured in the surroundings. “Business has been good.”

“The pastry shop?” Vic asked as he followed Iggy’s invitation to sit down on the living room couch.

“Well, yes. My friend’s pastry shop is thriving with a little bit of my aid. I also do some jobs on the side for some of the local companies. Needless to say, my work on graphic design is spot on as always,” he said with a bit of a smirk from behind the kitchen. “Are you okay with some water and light chips? After last time’s adventure, I’ve been considering getting in shape. It’s a process…”

“Water works well for me,” Vic conceded.

“Good. Good,” Iggy said as he approached with the glasses of water and the bowl with light chips. “Do you want to play a game? I have plenty of co-op titles here.”

“Sure!” Vic accepted right away as he was passed a controller. Just like in the old times in Massachusetts, Iggy was the one who provided the entertainment for the two teenage boys, pretty much saving them from the boredom of having no entertainment -outside from the pile of locks Urresti gave Vic to water-pick.

“So, what brings you here?” Iggy asked as he booted up the console. “Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate the visits, but I just thought you’d be too busy with that weird school of yours, plus, it came out of nowhere.”

“Sorry,” Vic said, but Iggy was already dismissing it with a hand wave. “Well, I needed to get some distance, at least for an afternoon,” Vic answered, with his eyes fixated on the screen’s rules. “I just couldn’t be there today.”

“I suppose we all need a break,” Iggy concurred.

Certainly felt like the best distraction he could use. Outside of the odd school, all the mutant matters and all the troubles that were about. He just wished that he could forget about today as well.

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 5:32 pm
Construction offices in the fringe of Concord.

The doors to the rooftop opened with a loud creak that that gave away the stubbornness of the unkempt exposed hinges, and from it, Lifeward emerged, pulling the hood of her jacket off to let her dark hair be greeted by the wind that blew through the open sixth floor of the building. “People. I told you that we needed to leave the door open. Not only is the lock prone to jamming but the sound is no orchestra I wish to hear every time someone comes in.”

“I’m sorry, that was my fault,” A boy of early high-school age raised his hand while the other rested on a piece of crafted technology. Pieces of dark metal haphazardly welded together, with knobs and dials, as well as a radio antenna sticking out from the top. “I just needed to get out to plant a couple more jammers in the perimeter.”

“Very well,” Lifeward said, offering the techie apprentice a light sandwich and a latte from the bag under her arm, courtesy of the nearest cafe. “Are those Junkerer pieces? Did he calibrate it so that it wouldn’t interfere with the client’s presentation or our comms?”

“He did… Cole also had it tested just a couple of moments ago. The client’s presentation still worked…” He reported.

“Good job. For the time being, start considering leaving. Don’t want you remotely close when things start to go down.” Lifeward noted as she moved onward.

“Aright!” He answered. “I’ll write down the instructions for the jammer and be on my way to the nearest cafe.”

“Good, I’ll have word sent to Junkerer so you can be picked up,” Caroline said. He was too young to be taking part in this sort of mission, she thought to herself. However, in a year’s time, that might change.

The young boy, Fittogether, was a runaway, just like Vic. The two happened to be surviving together in Massachusetts earlier this year, doing small jobs and selling pieces of tech for the members of a small-time gang… However, unlike Vic, who thought going to a ‘proper’ school would give him a better chance in life, Fit decided to skip that part and instead jump into an apprenticeship in the syndicate, for some on-the-job learning. Of course, Lifeward wasn’t exactly approving of this measure, but she knew better than to force someone into a life when their heart wasn’t into it. A part of her wondered if she should bring up the topic of his friend but… she knew right now wasn’t the best of times.

A couple of steps away, the rest of the crew for this mission stood waiting in a small prepared corner, two were facing each other in a sparring warm-up, a woman with draconic wings leaned onto the edge of the building casting her gaze down to the place of operations while the other two were sitting by the sidelines, watching and waiting with quelled anxiety for the operation to begin.

“Well, at least they seem ready,” Caroline appreciated as she stepped up to the group reaching into the bag to reveal food she got from a nearby coffee shop… about four blocks away. Offering them around was enough to get them to stand up and gather… with the exception of the two fighters. “Cole, I think it’s about time we start the last debriefing and final preparations.” Caroline asked one of them

“We probably should,” The dark skinned man said in the sparring square. His opponent, a fresh youth that brandished a wooden sword in one hand and what could be described as a vambrace of thorns on the other, mistook Cole’s answer for a lowered guard and launched himself forth for the attack.

Cole, however, had a much better read and reaction, easily diving to the side before deftly locking onto the youth’s arm, forcing it to bend to the point he had to drop the sword. He tried to swing with the thorned vambrance, but he couldn’t find the angle of impact, and when he did, his opponent just gripped his fist on the uncovered side.

“I yield! I yield!” he called out. “You win! You win!”

“Good match, Root,” he said, tapping the youth’s shoulder after letting him go.

“Even with my powers I can’t beat you…” the youth grumbled as the wooden carapace around his arms began to crumble into nothing.

“You still have a lot to go Root…” Cole admonished. “You might have grit and want… but you seek to just challenge me thinking that would just be the winning difference. You need training and insight.”

“What’s your power? Are you an exemplar?” Root asked as he got up, dusting himself off.

“I don’t use my powers in combat…” Cole said as he reached for a towel that laid on the side before unwrapping the sandwich provided by his partner, Lifeward. “We really should start making preparations. The client just messaged to let us know he got in contact with the MCO officer and began to give them the walkaround.”

“Then we should prepare.” She said as she gestured at the members of her crew, getting them to line up.

“We do have time.”

For the blackmail renegotiation, the client had picked a point in the fringes of the city of Concord. An area that had been left in disuse and disheveled after a mutant attack some years ago. The whole block was subjected to a swarm of magical termites that did a number on each construction site, weathering the surface to the point that investigating the whole extent of the damage and correcting it would’ve been much more costly than to just demolish it and start over again, especially after the buyer gave up the rights to the land and any construction plans. Construction was set to be demolished in a couple of weeks, which was ideal for causing mayhem.

She applauded the foresight and concern for avoiding collateral damage.

From her vantage point, she could see the open plaza that was once meant to be the welcome carpet to anyone who was working at the multi-company building. Now, there was no water in the pond at the center and the greenery never got to be planted. Instead, she happened to catch cars, presumably belonging to the client’s ‘assistant’s’ circling around the ground and disappearing underneath the garage entrance on the side of the building. On the side, Lifeward could spy a group of men setting up ambush spots, and traps in the vicinity, ready to be the immediate line if anything happened. They happened to be using some of the tools provided by the Syndicate to do so, mainly Junkerer's collapsible barriers.

Lifeward didn’t really enjoy having civilians or third parties on the scene, but it was an extra precaution the client brought. As luck would have it, his brother was a gang leader from around the state, with a seemingly decent track record when it came to heist jobs and operations. She wasn’t sure how well those skills translated for the bodyguard business they’d signed up for but, so far, from the preparations made, they had a fairly decent idea.

The client gave the syndicate a heads up on the preparation. Three areas had been prepared here. The first one was the courtyard, where the lights would be turned on to greet the arrivals and act as the main line of defense. Everything had been cleared and prepared, with the pieces of gear and the collapsible cover nudged into an unseen side of the space.

Then, it would be the atrium or main entrance of the building, where the place had been prepared as a sort of lounge and waiting room for the gang members. From what Lifeward had seen, food, ammo, weapons and medical supplies at the ready in case something were to happen. There was also a small station meant for the control of the operations, like the lights in the field.

Lastly, was the set of corridors that would lead to the meeting room wherein the projectors had been prepared to display whatever juicy intel the client had procured on the MCO. The path had a couple reserves at the ready to defend the door, with most other entrances into this section having been preemptively sealed off. Lifeward made sure that the place had a couple more layers of protection before she left to buy snacks for the team.

She and her crew were supposed to be the insurance, setting up contingencies in the vicinity so as to make sure they wouldn’t be caught off guard: Cameras, sensors, jammers, protective covers and so on. They would also be willing to jump in if the problem became too much for the gang to handle.

For that, today’s team was going to be led by both Cole and Lifeward. Not exactly the kind of job she enjoyed undertaking, but then again, they were a multidisciplinary team, and, for every peaceful administrative and security inspection, there were always assignments like this one. The not so clean and downright illegal type.

She may not be up for it, but she was still going to put her all into this, regardless of what she thought. Cole, though, was in it for the sport of a good fight. The ‘team of war and peace’ her peers within the Syndicate called them… mostly as a tease towards Lifeward, the former heroine, but there was no denying there was flattery in there, especially when considering her performance in the job.

Today’s list of sorted operatives was composed of rookies with no more than five missions in total. And it showed as they were doing their best to hide the nerves, either by hyper focusing on something, like their phones or the view, or trying to keep themselves busy by fidgeting with their equipment or pieces of their suits, making sure the pieces fitted snugly.

“Alright.” Lifeward said as she moved onto the side of the small prep-space, where her bag rested. From it, she produced a notebook, a bunch of paper slips, a bottle of ink and a brush. “Everyone, line up.”

At her order, all the other members of the team, with the exception of Cole, stood up in a line for her.

One by one, Lifeward passed before each of the operatives, asking them to reveal the neck or arm. And as they did, she placed one of the drawn cards onto their skin before touching it with the ink-dipped brush. Then she poured bits of her special magic to activate the spell, creating an aura that swept through every inch of their body before thinning until it faded.

And then, she was onto the next.

In this case, the teammates she relied upon were four, not counting Fittogether, who had already left the premises.

The first one was Dragonite. A woman whose mutation granted her an amazonian build mixed in with attributes of a dragon: Wings, tail, scales, claws, horns and a muzzle with the ability to breath fire. Yet, despite the impressive figure, she had a tamer personality. According to her file, she joined the syndicate last year, when her glamour necklace stopped working in public within the college campus. Her true form got her shunned from the rest of the student body right away and eventually, several incidents later, few of which were her fault, she was expelled but her student loans weren’t canceled.

Lifeward shook her head. Sometimes, Whateley can make one forget that general acceptance to GSD isn’t a universal practice…

Still, Dragonite, is doing well enough thanks to the Syndicate sponsored housing and the in-house mages who give her better glamours and spells to hide with. So far, she‘s served in three missions for the organization. Unfortunately, those happened to be tailored for her abilities: Scout a mountain range, act as a provisional constructor for a cave and act as bodyguard for a VIP (a mission she was obviously picked because of her imposing form but also her feminine curves by the client). This one might end up being the first actual test for her skills.

Next up was Censer. A young man with good looks who wanted to make it into the freelance industry, drawn into the life of thrills in the gray side of the law for the wealth and popularity he might earn. Which was quite a contrast for what his codename and his fighting style might imply. He was a warper with the ability to increase, direct and even alter smoke or other gases, with a little of mage added to the mix. While, on paper, said skills might not be up to standard within the organization, he certainly had honed that specialty to the point he passed the entry exam with flying colors.

His weapon of choice was, somewhat predictably, a censer. A ball of hard silver that would exude smoke from the tiny orifices on its surface, connected to a long chain from which it would swing. Unsurprisingly, Censer’s version was fitted for combat, with a sturdier chain and reinforced iron around the surfaces. A slapdash job, but it was to be expected. This one would be Censer’s first real mission, so he still wouldn’t have access to the craftsmen benefits within the syndicate.

The young man next to him, Root, was also one making his official debut as an operative in this mission. His powerset revolved around using magic to control plants, capable of getting them to do his bidding. His preferred trick was to turn seeds into anything he might want to use, from a gauntlet to protect himself with, to a sturdy wooden sword.

Root’s story was quite a mystery and the bio told her less than she already knew. Both Cole and Lifeward met Root during an inspection assignment in Mexico weeks ago. They were there to inspect the facility’s protocols and infrastructure of an underground fighting ring but also, covertly, screening through the fighters, searching for potential candidates for the syndicate.

Usually the screening process is done covertly and subtle… but Root was determined to join the syndicate the moment they stepped into the field. To that end, he tried to impress them with his combat prowess, seemingly not expecting fighting to be Cole’s thing. Still, he tried over and over. Just enough to earn himself an invitation into the organization as a low level powered operative, as a trail run.

What was he after? He wasn’t sure. The easier explanation was that he was looking for money and a better life, being someone who has admitted to living on the streets since he was fifteen… which makes him being a self-trained mage all the more impressive while also explaining his lack of foundational knowledge and imagination the proper studies granted.

Still, the young man opts to be quite cagey about his circumstances. All she could tell was that, while Vic was motivated out of his situation by the want of something, in his case, a better life. Root’s motivation appeared to be to steer himself away from something or someone. Not the kind of thing Lifeward was going to pry into right now.

Last, but not least, in the list of operatives was Redgem. Returning for his second mission with the syndicate, he certainly stood out among the other members of the team in a more professional way, standing properly dressed in a bright red power armor that fitted nicely with the syndicate issued black suit underneath. At the center of his chest was a bright red gem from which everything appeared to draw power from… hence the name.

His armor wasn’t crafted or assembled but was instead a construct created by the power source instead. How did it do that? Lifeward had no idea (She was certain that the research department was still investigating it). Redgem’s story was that he is a common baseline who dreamed of gaining superpowers to flaunt them and get back at his peers… then one day, on a hike, he found the eponymous gem in a crater. The thing bonded with him, granting the powers he held today. Whether it came from the stars or was the result of a lab explosion, it was unknown.

Eventually, through fault of his own, the gem fell into the hands of the Syndicate. Unable to give up his powers, the owner stubbornly sought to get it back. Now, the syndicate could’ve just opted to get rid of the annoyance and pretend the matter was settled, but they decided to give him the chance to work and buy the gem off… Plus the thing had already bonded with him so that was one less headache to deal with.

Not exactly a team of specialists but still a decent bundle of picks so as to make the whole situation work.

“Now then…” Lifeward said, going back to the front as she finished applying the protective ward around the teammates. “As you’ve seen and heard, the other part of this meeting has already landed in the city, so the time of preparations is about to come to an end.”

That got some of them to talk… but there was no hint of cowardice among them. “To recapitulate the briefing, the situation that’ll follow is a strong armed negotiation. The MCO director and his assistant will be invited into the building we see there. Any expected entourage that comes with them in their car will be asked to stay in the foyer.” She pointed at the wide open entrance, past the thick decorative pillars from which they could glimpse a couple of couches laid in the amusingly small spot within the emptied space.

Once they were done admiring the setup, Lifeward continued. “Our mission, as it can be surmised, is to make sure the negotiations go uninterrupted. Our client must survive, and the leverage must remain untouched. For this mission, we’re working with the client’s own group of henchmen, belonging to one of the biggest street-level crime crews of the state. They will be the front and first support in the operation, handling all the steps within.”

“So it’s just a stakeout?” Dragonite asked, sounding somewhat relieved. The girl’s somewhat demure tone stood in contrast to the other members of the team who were a head shorter than her.

“In theory, yes,” Caroline said. “However, we’d be wrong to assume they won’t try anything.”

“Don’t think the MCO would treat lightly having one of their own blackmailed,” Censer noted as he played with his weapon, swinging it back and forth. “They have to be bringing an army, right?”

“Actually… ” Cole chimed in as he fastened his boots. “According to the spotters that have been following the target, they’re coming in a single car, with two armed agents in tow. Given the sensitive matter being dealt with, the MCO will probably be kept off the loop for this situation.“

“Which leads us to the actual risks we might be undertaking,” Caroline carried on. “The client assumes that, if the MCO is out of the question, then the other group blackmailing the mark will be involved, as a way of potentially keeping the monopoly on their asset. We know little of these intruders and the force they carry, so we’re going to be trying to cover all of our bases. Considering the matter revolves around an attack on the MCO headquarters, we should assume that whoever this third party is, they include great firepower or special abilities within their midst.”

The combat inclined crew looked quite eager at the prospect of a fight. Well, all except Dragonite.

“We’re to stay put until anything happens. The lights here will be turned off, so rely on the provided night vision binoculars. Junkerer has also provided us with signal jammers that will ensure that no outside interference can hack into the meeting,” To that purpose, Lifeward produced a small controller and flicked the switch on it. To that, almost every one of the members was reaching for their phone only to frown at the sudden lack of connectivity. “As of now we’re in a zero communications zone, with the only exception being our comms.”

“In case opposing forces show up, the henchmen down there will engage first, from there we’ll jump in and end the threat as fast as we can. Let’s try to keep the casualties on our and the client’s side as low as possible.” Caroline noted. “The spell I provided you will step in and save your lives if you were to face … lethal consequences… However, as a result, it’ll burn up and won’t be there to protect you the next time. Report to me as soon as that is the case.”

All the team members nodded in agreement, with their eyes drawn towards their own markings. ”Alright, get into position. Cole and Root, you two will take the rooftops on the north side of the courtyard. Dragonite, Censer and I will stay up here in the south side building.”

“What about me?” The man in the red armor asked.

“You, Redgem, get to be stationed within the building. The client has prepared a small spot within the corridors for one of our men to hide and has chosen you to be the one to take it.” Lifeward argued but… in reality, there was no other option. Both Cole and her needed to be on the field to give out the orders; Dragonite would feel herself cramped in those corridors; and both Root and Censer’s combat styles were ill suited for close quarters, and woefully inexperienced… but that last part could also apply to Redgem.

“Really? I’m getting sidelined?” he answered, though with the helmet covering everything but his mouth, it was quite a guess if it was frustration or relief.

“No. You get to be the last line of defense.” Cole weighed in, putting a hand on Redgem’s shoulder. “If we fail, or one gets the better of us and slips through… there can be a hundred men fighting the battle outside… but the whole success of the mission will depend solely on you. No less of a job than anything we do.”

Cole’s words and candid attitude got a smile to appear in Redgem's mouth. “I think I can be fine with it.”

“Good,” Cole said as he stepped back, letting Caroline take the word one last time.

“Final notes and advice for each. First of all, remain in contact at all times. If you hear the beeping of the sensors, that means someone has stepped onto the rooftop near you. Report it immediately and wait for instructions. Only if you can’t hear an answer the discretion of whether to engage or not is up to you. If an all-out assault breaks out, Cole will be the vanguard. Root, support him as best as you can… he’ll probably tell you to avoid fighting in the open.”

To that Cole nodded in approval.

“Take Cole’s instructions while I’ll be providing support on the battlefield. I should stay around the south and center side of the courtyard if I’m needed. Censer, you’ll provide the smokescreen, so start preparing for it. And Dragonite. You’ll also have to take on the role of support. Anyone’s protection breaks, you try to get them to me. Everyone has their role clear?”

To that, everyone gave their own affirmation before being dismissed, returning to their own personal preparations… awaiting for the signal to be given that things were about to go down.

Lifeward also took it as her cue to also get to work on her own preparations, moving over to her side of the area and already starting to sort out her personal book of spells, thinking of the backups and second alternatives for what was to happen. So many unknowns, she wanted… no, she had to make sure everyone would get home safely.

“What’s the situation?” Cole inquired as he stepped up to her side. In his full combat gear, the man could play the role of a modern ninja in a videogame. A black uniform with blue and white highlights, bolstered by a special compressed Kevlar mesh. Armor plates of carbon fiber slickly wrapped around the key sections, even for the pants, which were meant to be loose-fitting for that urban style he was going for. His gear was stashed in the pouches around his belt and the two unfolding weapons that hung on his back, although rarely used.

“About the negotiation?” Lifeward said as she took off the bulky jacket, revealing her own combat suit. Not that different from Cole’s in terms of pattern and style (minus the loose urban pants), except she wore red rather than blue, and the white parts were more prominent. “I did what I could, but Preston was much savvier than expected. He’s aware both the Syndicate and the school are interested in that leverage, especially on what he’s going to ask them tonight, even more so than he himself is. I had no leverage to work with.”

“So, we aren’t getting our hands on it?” Cole asked.

Lifeward sighed. “It’s… very unlikely. He said he would be open to a negotiation after the meeting… but that just means he’ll use it as another bargaining chip for the meeting tonight.”

“Dang…” Cole shook his head. “Gotta say… I don’t care much about this whole art of the deal but… I’m just curious about what sort of dirt he has on the MCO.”

“All I know is that it involves the attack on a facility five years ago, in Maryland, at the fringes of D.C.” Lifeward frowned. “Let’s just focus on the job for now. Then we can shunt off the negotiation to the higher ups.”

Lifeward expected a snarky comment from her partner… but instead, he appeared pensive on the matter. “Did you say that right? Maryland, five years ago?”

“Think he said it would be five soon…” Caroline noted.

Cole didn’t answer. Instead, he looked onto the side to distract his thought, and he reached down into Caroline’s bulky coat to produce a couple of spray cans. A couple of shakes made it ring hollow. “This thing is quite expensive…”

“I did tell Preston about it, and he agreed to pay extra for the lacquering service.” Caroline noted.

“Better safe than sorry.” Cole mused as he stashed the spray cans back. “But then again… one doesn’t blackmail the MCO for four years just because they feel daring.”

“I agree,” Caroline was about to change subjects to something more pedestrian, like whether he knew any good places for ‘first mission complete’ party for Censer and Root, but her thoughts were interrupted as the doors to the back swung open and in came a couple of the gang members hired for the night to serve as henchmen. And leading them was their boss, Declan Crossby, the client’s brother, who entered with a grand gesture, just enough to make some of the team members jump startled.

“So these are the men of the black organization. The one that holds control of the criminal underworld and provides their services.” Declan said as he approached Lifeward and Cole. “My brother has quite some respect for you, so I must share that appreciation. Declan Crossby. Former codename, Decaf, at your service,” he said offering a gentlemanly salute.

“Former codename. Not something you hear often.” Lifeward noted. “I take it that’s related to our incoming guest of the night.”

“Correct. My brother made sure to erase the name Decaf from the database, giving me a clean slate. At least in the eyes of the MCO,” Declan said with a slight smirk. “But I’m afraid that’s all you’re going to get from me for now…”

“That’s alright,” Lifeward stifled a laugh, a moment of levity felt like the kind of thing that was needed her. “Then can you tell me about your gang? D, they call it, right? I’m afraid that searches for it are quite slim.”

“D, or D-gang or D’s gang.”

“No concrete name?” Cole inquired looking through a side-glance how some of the men appeared curious about the Syndicate team members, especially Dragonite.

“I find that it’s better for secrecy, especially when your name gets leaked to the local authorities.”

“How wide does it run? Think your brother mentioned state-wide.”

“We do. I have safehouses in the major cities and operations are led by my most trustworthy lieutenants.” He must’ve known what Lifeward was about to ask as he immediately noted. “We do all sorts of ‘operations’ Mostly we accrue wealth and reinvest a part of it in projects that we see the advantage to, but we’ve also been hired to disrupt organizations, intimidate businesses and the occasional bank heist.”

“Hm… quite tame.” Cole said, though his voice lacked the disdain his words might have.

Declan shrugged. “I’m not one hunting for world domination or with a vendetta. Wealth and good living are what my gang is all about.”

“I can respect that…” Caroline noted. “You know, the syndicate does have a good couple of mafia-slash-gang support programs for local criminals. Discounts, training programs, support systems, insurance, and all that. I’m sure a crew so expertly run would qualify for it.”

“Flattery, but that must be costly.”

“Not really. Depends on how they perform.” Cole chimed in. “That is provided they can survive the night.”

“We’ll see about it,” Declan said, if he was concerned or fearful, he hid it well behind a facade of confidence. “Originally, my brother debated to keep me and my crew out of this negotiation. He only reached out to me to help iron the final details of this setup… plus to get someone to help with the tailing of the mark.”

“He just wanted to keep you and your men from harm’s way. We’re a hired service to him, disposable at best,” Lifeward noted diplomatically.

“Even so, I’ll re-demonstrate to him the potential in my line of work…” Declan allowed his facade of confidence to slip, enough for him to be serious. “Miss Lifeward… you have healing and protective abilities, right? My brother told me about your powers and this little mark you gave him… He called it a protection spell, is it?”

“It is. Will spare you from most causes of death once. I prepare these spells in my free time, so I can apply them fast and easy,” Lifeward noted.

“So… Do you think you can do the same and protect my men? How much would it cost?”

“It’s not a syndicate service. It’s something I do so I don’t have to deal with death in the field.” Lifeward said as she glanced down at her clock. “Alright. We still have time. Just have your men line up in the foyer so I can work on them fast and easy.”

“You heard her, run down and spread the word. Chop chop,” Declan told one of his men who, unquestioningly, sprinted his way down the stairs to relay the order.

Giving Cole a final set of steps that needed to be taken care of, she departed following Declan on their way through the half constructed building.

“So you’ve been with your brother all this time?” Lifeward asked, making small talk on the rather casual walk down the flights of stairs.

“Not exactly. About five years ago, my brother and I were a perfect duo. Causing trouble in Maryland of both high and small sizes… One time, we actually snuck into the congressional building hoping to get some inside trading information about a new law that was coming out. We walked out with a ton of black mailing without actually trying.”

“Amusing,” Lifeward said with an agreeing giggle.

“Yeah… but that was my brother’s plan. He was always the planner.”

“So what got you two to drift apart?” Caroline asked.

“I guess life got in the way? My brother had married and started a family a while ago but that hardly slowed us down. It only did when he realized things were started to get hot. I can’t really fault him for that, though.” The empty space carried out the echo of his sigh. “Saving money and starting a family was always the end goal, I just had so much fun with it… maybe a little too much as I was caught when being careless.”

“How did they do that?”

“My brother noticed that the MCO and police began to get close to catching us, once they became aware of the way our powers worked, we fell easily.”

“Which is?” Lifeward inquired.

“Trying to get the information out of me?”

“I’m just wondering… It would be good enough to know the capabilities of every person in my team.”

“Well, let’s just say it’s a sort of hereditary power that works on fluids and chemicals within people’s bodies. It’s this power that lets me know you had an expresso not long ago.”

Caroline blinked. She did buy one when getting the small sandwiches for the crew “So… you can tell when people had coffee?”

“A little more than that,” Declan laughed. “But let’s leave the mystery of it until it becomes necessary.”

“And your brother? Does he have the same ability as you?”

“Yes and now. He does have it… but they work on something other than coffee.” Declan noted.

“Must’ve been a relief when your data was erased from the MCO files and the notes about your powers got lost.”

“That leverage must be really something.” Lifeward said once they reached the ground floor, guided by their flashlights.

“You won’t get much out of me on that point.” Declan answered with a hint of smugness.

“Not even going to give me the salesman pitch? Like a small hint or how many people it affects?”

“Well… it affects the poor MCO administrative and involves a lot of bad people… I guess you could say it also involves the lives of those left behind… as any tragedy does,” Declan adopted a slightly more solemn tone. “I have little respect for cowards and backstabbers, so I lost sympathy for the man. If it’d been up to me, I’d probably thrown the information to the public… however, my brother opted for a more involved, painful approach.”

“I see,” Lifeward nodded. “And, well, could you at least tell me how the two of you came about the blackmail?”

“Oh, that I can do. I love telling this story. Though I might not have the time to finish it…” Declan mused. “See, I suppose you could say it began five years ago when one of the rats of my old crew sold me out…

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 6:40 pm
Ignatius Sullivan’s apartment

“I got it! I got it!” Vic said, mashing the buttons to beat the quick time event that had his character locked in place.

“Hurry up! There's more bogies falling onto us!” Iggy called out as he opened fire against the incoming hostile aliens.

“There! I’m free!” Vic exclaimed as he rushed over to the extraction zone, though not without turning around and throwing a grenade to shake off their pursuers and the extra stash of points!”

“Alright. And away we go!” Iggy said as he hit what was basically the win button. From there the cutscene played out and they were treated to the score pages.

“Wow, you had that many more kills,” Vic noted.

“I did? Oh yeah, I did,” Iggy laughed with a bit of false humility.

“I’d forgotten how fun co-op games could be,” Vic laughed as he leaned back on cushions.

“You should come around more often… although you’re in school, so be mindful of that.”

School… Vic sighed inwardly. The escape from reality had been exactly what he’d needed, but now that the time for it was over, he knew he was about to get back to the world he was sort of dreading. To the school where nothing was normal, where a girl’s mind was just gone as he tried to save her and where they would probably document his condition until he was no longer human. The temptation of looking down onto his arm was still there.

“Is everything alright?” Iggy asked, sensing the shift in mood.

“Eh… not really,” Vic said, trying to be as discreet as could be. “Just too many troubles.”

“Well… is it something you feel you can overcome?”

“I don’t know…”

“Hm… the boy who got out of the streets doubts he can overcome a challenge?” Iggy said, trying to be flattering.

“It’s not the same problem… Plus, I had Urresti and his gang backing me. When some other group tried to get me evicted from my place, Josh and I knew we could rely on him… Heck, I had Josh back then…”

“And you don’t have friends in that school?”

“I do but… it’s different.”

“Maybe so but I’m sure their help would come better than Urresti’s, if he were here,” Iggy noted.

“I know. I know he was using me because I was the best lockpicker he had. Were it not for my manifestation, he probably would’ve kicked me out from the first day.”

“He was the same with me and my forgery skills. I could see it coming from a mile away… so I was looking for a way out for a while. Well, I guess I made it out in the luckiest of times while that last job got the better of him. I suspect it was the Syndicate. They had to have done something.”

“It was…”

“No shit,” Iggy noted, more mildly surprised than shocked.

“Yeah. Caroline, I mean, Lifeward, told me about it a couple of days after the incident. Truth be told, they never had an agreement with Urresti but with several others. There was one party that wanted some containers of the tanker and several other street gangs in the city that just wanted Urresti out of the way.”

“And she told you that?”

“I guess she didn’t want to bother with the secret if she was going to be my legal guardian.”

“Well, she seemed like a nice lady… ‘betrayal’ aside. But if she does the same thing to you. I’ll get revenge.”

“And what will you do?” Vic couldn’t help but chuckle.

“I don’t know yet,” Iggy laughed for a moment, admitting to the joke, before resuming the serious tone. “The point I hoped to go for was… You have the grit to survive whatever happens to you. You may think that you can’t, but I trust that you can land on your feet.”

“Thanks Iggy,” Vic admitted, just in the moment when he felt his pants buzz as he received a message.

It was from Josephine. “Done with the day’s lesson. I’ll be heading over to pick you up at the mall in about twelve to fifteen minutes.”

“My chaperon will be coming to pick me up at the mall…” Vic finally said. “Thanks Iggy, it was fun…”

“No problem, Vic. If you ever want to come on over, you have my number…” Iggy answered as he turned off the console. “Let me accompany you…”

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 7:50 pm
Construction offices in the fringe of Concord.

The sun had set, and everything appeared in still quietness. Those present in the area awaited impassively for trouble to happen. The only lights in the space were those that spilled from the foyer of the building and a couple of lamp posts that were given enough juice to illuminate a pathway.

A couple of lone figures could be seen standing waiting under the light, with their arms crossed at the ready for the arrival, which came in the form of a pair of headlights shining the dark away down the street in a block lost to darkness.

The car drove slowly into the courtyard, clearly distrusting the setup and how it all felt like a trap but, in the end, there was nothing the drivers could do but play along with the host’s game. They parked under a light in a corner of the square and exited the vehicle. From the front seats came out two agents of the MCO who, despite dressing in suits, made little effort to conceal the guns they carried. Of course, that didn’t intimidate members of D as they approached to meet up with them carrying weapons of their own.

Declan stepped up, getting his men to step aside as the agents opened the passenger doors.

From one, out came a man dressed in an office suit. He was thin and bore a certain degree of maturity and stern professionalism in the way he moved, along with the scowl of disapproval that he threw towards everything and every person, especially the man that came over to meet them.

From the other door, out came another man, this one, though dressed in a more sporting casual attire, as if expecting for there to be trouble in the meeting, but also to show he had a much better physique than the other man in the meeting.

“Pollux Garland,” Declan greeted.

“Is this the one?” The younger of the pair asked as he gestured at the MCO agents to stay behind them.

“No but …” Pollux muttered as he leaned in closer until the flash of recognition hit him. “I remember you. You’re the brother…”

“I’m flattered you did.” Declan then turned to the other man. “You must be Arno, the one who’ll be taking this crow’s nest, won’t you?”

“Just get to the point.” Arno answered cuttingly. “I want to know what this is about.”

“Oh, don’t worry. The organizer of the night will explain everything. Now, if you would please follow me?” Declan invited them as cordially as he could be, but there was little effort in hiding the disdain he had for the two.

As they walked, one could hear in the silence how Pollux whispered to the two agents, ordering them to forget anything that was going to happen tonight. Although it was easier said than done. They could see how, at Declan’s gesture, the men around rolled out some metal covers into the courtyard. Steel boxes that appeared to bear some sort of mechanism or tech. Still, the man refused to explain it.

The two MCO agents that acted as bodyguards were uneasy. They felt they were walking into a trap and Pollux had to remind them of whatever extra payment he gave them.

They stepped into the foyer, where the small lounge had been prepared to accommodate a variable number of guests, along with snacks and drinks on the side, bringing the feel of the situation up to a more professional setting.

And standing just in between the seats, was the blackmailer: Preston. He dressed up for a proper meeting, acting with a lack of concern for just the crime they were committing by badgering a member of an organization as large as the MCO. Inwardly, Declan smirked, proud to see his brother back in action without having missed a step.

“Ah… Pollux. It’s been a while,” Preston greeted amicably which he did to spite the two malcontent MCO directors before him. He held out for a handshake which was left unanswered at first… still he did so with enough confidence and assertiveness (with a bit of an implied threat) that Pollux eventually caved in and returned the gesture. “How long has it been? Two years since the last meeting? We should do this more often… and you must be Arno. I’m sure we’ll work well when the time comes.”

“Get to the point,” Arno snapped. “What’s this about the blackmail? You dare to try that kind of lie onto the MCO?”

Preston appeared unfazed, clearly expecting that sort of reaction. “Oh, it’s not some lie or something that’s to be taken lightly. But I understand your concern. Afterall, you’ve been right after your boss every step of the way since he began working with you.”

“What do you mean? I want answers!”

“Arno!” Pollux hissed. “Control yourself.”

“No need to get hostile. I’ll be able to provide the explanation tonight, and by the end there won’t be anything in this situation you’ll question… although you might walk away from this meeting feeling somewhat angry at your boss… if you aren’t already.”

The look Arno gave Pollux was just a couple of degrees from turning into a glare.

Preston glanced at the two agents that followed them into the foyer. “Is this your full entourage?”

“Yes, it is,” Pollux asserted.

“Quite a meager protection… but understandable,” Preston said, turning to the agents and gesturing at the seat. “This matter is between your director, his successor and me. So, please, feel free to rest. Negotiation might take a while, so make yourself comfortable. Don’t worry about your boss… there’s no merit in harming someone who is coming to be blackmailed.”

The two agents hesitated for a moment before Pollux nodded at them. While still distrustful of the situation and the couple of gang members in the surroundings, they took a seat.

“I’d recommend enjoying the snacks and drinking some coffee just so you can make the ride back.” Preston said as he snapped his fingers at one of the gang members who, without saying a word, moved over to stand behind him, in a bodyguard-like attitude. “Shall we get going? Follow me, Pollux, Arno…”

With that, the two MCO administrators followed their host past the foyer down into the hallways. There, pathways had been blocked off and broken open just to remove the uniformity and predictability of the layout.

Eventually, they reached a pair of doors that, when opened, revealed a space that might once have been meant to be a conference room. A high potency laptop rested on the clean table along with a hard drive and a couple of hi-def projectors that were pointed to the white walls.

“Please, have a seat,” Preston pointed over to the two chairs that rested behind the table, far enough from the projected wall to feel like they were in a movie theater.

“What’s this about? I thought you were going to be doing some negotiation.” Arno called out as he took a step closer to Preston. Of course, the bodyguard that had stepped into the room with them would’ve raised his own gun but as per the instruction of the overprotective brother, a raised hand got him to relent.

“I had thought you would want to watch the presentation to get a better idea of what you’re standing in…” Preston mused as he moved to a cooler at the back of the room. From it, he produced a couple of cans of beer. “But I suppose we can skip the pleasantries and move on to the negotiation. About the things you’re going to be doing for me and associates.”

“Associates?” Pollux asked.

“Oh, come on. Did you really think I had no one on my side? No other party interested in the outcome in this negotiation? It’s a big one.”

“Preston, what do you want? Because I’m getting tired of you holding that leverage over my head.” Pollux said, frustrated. “What can I offer to you to get rid of that data and keep on with your life. Because whatever happens next won’t be so lenient.”

“You’re growing a spine now? After four years of being under my pinkie while the other thugs have their fist shoved up so deep in you that you’re basically their puppet. I was the one that broke you?” Preston answered with a challenging mock. “You know it’s not going away, Pollux. Forgiveness comes from atonement, not by casting aside. You being here is proof that you just want to sweep this under the rug.”

“Wait… What does he mean with other thugs?” Arno asked out loud.

“You haven’t told him?” Preston laughed as he moved over to offer them the drinks. Pollux put his down. Arno though, rather than reach for the can he gripped the host’s wrist in an aggressive manner.

Neither party said anything, but the bodyguard was ready to pull out his gun and take the shot. Arno casted an accusing glare at the man but Preston was barely phased. “I’m not the bad guy in this story. Just a man that was in the right place, at the right time, to catch your boss in the act. If you have any reservation, take it up with him. Now have a beer, you’ll need it.”

Arno relented as he let go of the limb and instead snatched the can, popping it open. In the corner of his eye he could see Pollux subtly shake his head, but Arno either didn’t see it or found himself too disappointed by his boss to listen to him, instead took a swig of the drink.

“Alright. Then… let’s begin with the request then.” Preston said, sitting down by the side of the laptop, kicking his feet on the table. “And don’t worry, unlike the other blackmailer, I do appreciate subtlety, so the result doesn’t have to be immediate. I won’t ask you to say, unleash a virus into the MCO servers to force the destruction of files.”

“Wait! What-” Arno blurted out but was immediately quieted by Pollux.

“I’ll tell you about it later,” his superior said, grinding his teeth. “What are you asking for, Preston?”

“My request is simple. Now, with the new powers of your office, I want you to decentralize the MCO forces within the state of New Hampshire.”

“What?” Arno blurted out. “That’s insane. You want to see the state burned down by mutants?!”

“Burned down? I think we have plenty of examples of mutant run cities to know that’s not the case.” Preston laughed. “This might be a tough pill to swallow but having the hyper paranoiac MCO forces breathing down on mutant’s necks isn’t helping anyone.”

“Why do you want that?”

“Does it matter?” Preston said though quickly raised a finger to pretend he was reconsidering his answer. “I could just tell you that I got some friends who would appreciate it if things would get a little less hostile.”

“That’s insane. You can’t force us to do that!” Arno snapped.

“Mind you, we’re not telling you to pull out completely. After all, you have to keep the H1 deplorables from thinking a state needs their brand of help,” Preston shrugged.

“How do we go about that?” Pollux scoffed, almost frustrated, and yet that didn’t earn him back any respect from Arno. “Issuing an order like that would be absolute folly,”

“I hoped you and your underling would provide a suggestion but… if you’re both going to be confrontational, I’ll just spell it out. Within the first month in the new job, you’re to start moving the budget and personnel. Make sure that the state is a tad clearer from the main forces, move specialized units to different states or increase the office life you’ve grown so used to. Whatever it is, that’s the collective request, MCO will grow thin in New Hampshire.”

“That’s idiotic.” Arno scoffed back. “The state will collapse.”

“Oh don’t worry. You, as members of the MCO of your status, should have a certain knowledge of a particular school within the state. Both heroes, villains and regular law enforcement can easily come together if a danger were to move into the state.”

“No! That can’t be done. We shouldn’t put up with that and we shouldn’t buckle to what are obviously terrorists!” Arno blurted out as he jumped up on his feet, swiftly pulling out a gun from under his coat. He opened fire towards the gang member bodyguard before aiming it at Preston. “You will cease this and follow us in your arrest. Blackmailing a superior of the officer within the MCO organization will not be toler…tolerated. We’ll take you… in and shee… who or what you have… ag… against…”

At first, Arno’s moves had been definitive and sober, hitting the bodyguard… but since the start of his spiel that quickly went downhill as his head began to wobble, leading the body to do the same, losing his firmness. The aim of the gun started to drift off at first as the addling effects claimed him. His hand began to slip away. His mind picked up on what he was doing, only to overcorrect it and have it swing onto the other side.

Fortunately, his training made sure that his finger would slip off the trigger if he felt himself impaired. Preston saw this as his chance, immediately getting up to grasp the swaying gun to keep it from aiming back. Despite Arno’s combat training, he was acting seconds slower than he should. He only realized that his leg was kicked when this hand was slammed against the table and his gun was taken.

The next thing he knew, he was lying splayed against the office chair watching as Preston removed the clip from his gun and tossed it aside. And then that was it for his odd spontaneous drunkenness, now giving way to the mother of all spontaneous headaches.

“Are you alright?” Preston asked his bodyguard as he picked himself up. He answered with a nod as he adjusted his coat, opening enough so they could see that he was wearing a bulletproof vest. “Glad my brother takes such good care of you.” He then turned to Pollux. “I hope this is the first and only time he tries this.”

“But he’s right. You can’t hold this over me forever. You should know when to stop.”

“That’s interesting,” Preston laughed. “Are you going to tell that to your other friends?”

Pollux had no retort then, instead just sitting down.

“And you, Arno. I hope you don’t think I’m as stupid so as to come to this meeting with a deadman’s switch? You do something like that again and the MCO will take a blow and your boss will be thrown out to the wolves, with you along with him.”

“What leverage do you even have to get Mr. Garland to do that?” Arnos grumbled as he held his forehead as if to quell the flash migraine.

“I’m glad you asked,” Preston said and, with a signal from him, the bodyguard pushed himself up and to the side of the room to lower the lights. With a couple of taps on the computer, the projectors came to life, showing off the paused screen of a video. “I took the liberty of prepping a video that paints a good picture of the events in question… You can think of it as my foray into movies.”

“Must we?” Pollux asked.

“I know you don’t enjoy watching this, but it’s not something you can run from. Don’t worry, it’s the abridged version,” Preston said as he hit enter and the video began playing. “Now… this happened in January of 2012… it was an early evening as an independent investigator’s group was making haste for a safe haven, the MCO building in Maryland…

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 8:33 pm
Construction offices in the fringe of Concord.

A good time has passed since their client stepped in the building, and everything appeared serene and quiet in the surrounding areas by the courtyard.

In the foyer, the two MCO agents that came in as bodyguards were still alive and kicking… In fact, the tension in the air settled down almost instantly as they were now having a fun chat with Declan and his men, all the while sampling cups of coffee and prepared mini sandwiches.

Outside, though, the members of the D-gang were ever vigilant, spying on the surroundings from around the couple of barricades provided by the Syndicate mechanic, the Junkerer. Things that were compact enough to be moved, but when deployed they spread out into large shields that could hide about five people. The men stood around there making time as they waited for anything to happen.

Even with their preparations, they appeared lax. They had no idea who was coming to take them down. Confidence ebbed through the marauder’s lips as they stalked their way through the roof. Repeated men brandishing protective gear and guns and rifles, ready to be put at work for the night.

They treaded carefully, only guided by the indirect light that slipped from the couple of lamps in the courtyard. At the time, each of the copies were starting to regret not splurging extra for the NVGs, but still felt like they could go on without them.

Still, the four men cautiously moved to the edge of the rooftop, using the elevated ground for cover as they prepared, watched and waited.

“This’ll be easy.”

“You don’t say? Look at them. A group of street thugs.”

“Barely a good gun between them,” Another man said, cocking his rifle.

“So, the client is in the building, right? We just have to rush them.”

“Just about the job for us. Zerg rush all the way.”

“I’m still good enough for a couple more clones. What say you? Do we go on with it?”

“Shout your mouth holes.” One of them said, emphasizing pressing his hand against his ear, not that the others could see in the dark. “VG is talking.”

The group remained silent as each of the pieces at play was given instructions for what felt like a good couple of minutes of nothing for someone viewing from the outside. And in the end, they conceded, all of them standing up and leaning over the ledge, each of them picking their preferred loitering target. Them being the same person, they probably picked the same poor soul, but none spoke.

Nor would be able to act on it as the relative silence of the rooftop was broken by a couple of hastened steps and the sudden rattling of a chain that was stirred into action. When their eyes focused, and one of them happened to turn around, flashing a light that way, they caught a glimpse of a young man stepping out from cover, dressed in a super, either hero or villain, suit coming towards them with a labored spin swing. At his hands was a bright chain that swept through down the length of its motion until revealing a large orb of silver the size of a small football, enveloped by an odd pale smoke that gave the appearance of an arching meteor.

“What the-” was as far as one of the men went as the wrecking ball came crashing against them. As much as they thought they could endure it, they were suddenly surprised as the aromatic smoke that came out of it felt near solid to touch. Most of the men were knocked to the side, but one, hit squarely, was sent flying over the edge of the rooftop, plummeting and screaming down to the ground.

The time of subtlety was over.

The men that recovered from the crash were quick to get up on their feet and raise their guns to retaliate, blindly opening fire. But the vigilante was already retreating, swinging the ball and chain in a reverse swing. Just flashy enough to get the Schrodingers to relent and back away, buying him enough time to hide behind a wall of concrete that caught the bullets.

“Damn it!” One of the men muttered. “What was that? There’s other people here!”

“Shut up and go after them,” Another answered, keeping both lights and gun trained that way.

“Attention, everyone. Attention. They’re on the rooftops!” They heard the intruder calling, presumably being screamed into a transmitter. “We have intruders here. Light up the defenses!”

“Fuck me…” the three remaining copies said in unison.

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 8:44 pm
Operation site - Foyer - Declan

A couple of minutes before the alarm was rang, things were peaceful within the middle line of defense. The men in the courtyard were idly hanging around, killing time near the covers, hoping that tonight I wouldn’t be rainy while inside, the bustling of laughter could draw the envy of those that were near boredom.

“…And then I told her: Honey, I love you, but I want to make it home in the next hour… not the next six,” Declan said in such a spirited and close manner, that just the tone alone was enough to elicit some laughter from the men surrounding. “Yeah. I slept on the couch that night.”

“Women, huh?” One of the men from his gang conceded, as if compensating for something.

“Dang. She got you whipped, boss,” Another one added.

“I’m letting that comment slip just because I’m in a good mood,” Declan’s threat slipped between the bouts of laughter. “But… you’re half wrong. I’m not whipped. I love my gal.”

“That reminds me, I need to buy something nice for my girlfriend.” One of the MCO agents noted looking down at the time on his phone.

“Gems are the common gift. It has to be something that aligns with her needs. Tell us about her. But… if you want, I know this import trader that’ll give you a decent rate at jewelry,” Declan said in a brotherly tone, offering his hand for a fist bump, which the MCO agent reciprocated without much of a thought.

“Well…” The man about to start but the casual ambiance of the room was cut short by the sound of a scream filling the air

From Declan’s point of view, he caught a good glimpse of the tail end of it, watching the clear outline of a body hit the ground before exploding in a meager flash of light and not leaving a trace at all.

And as the shock and surprise of the spectacle wore off, the sound of a rifle gunfire got everyone alert and moving.

“What the…”

“What’s going on?”

The two MCO agents uttered, reaching for their gun holsters as they tried to rise up, but felt already all the energy the shock gave them was already being offset by a growing feeling of drowsiness that suddenly invaded them.

“You two have been on alert for quite some time, huh? Enduring a flight and a long drive around the city. Probably keeping yourself awake via a coffee drip, huh?” Declan said, nudging one of the men back against the cushions of the sofa. Every bit of caffeine seemed to multiply and increase only for an imaginary UNO reverse card to be played on them.

The end result was a sudden lethargy that didn’t allow the two men to utter but a single word as they immediately fell back in place with their eyes closed and a loud snoring. They would sleep throughout the entire chaos going on.

“Sorry, this is a personal matter. We don’t need any more parties involved.” Declan uttered just as the communicator their Syndicate allies gave him sprang to life.

“Attention, everyone. Attention,” said a voice “They’re on the rooftops! We have intruders here. Light up the defenses!”

“You heard them, boys. Everyone to their position. You hear guns! Take cover behind the defenses and be at the ready for the extra energy!” Declan demanded stepping up to the foyer where two of his men were pulling the steel sheet over the entrance to narrow the access. “You! Light up the roof! Now!”

The man he pointed at scampered behind the counter that was meant to be the reception of the office building and pulled up a hard lever with a thunderous clank. The buzzing of electricity powering up was heard and, not a moment too soon, the other lights of the courtyard and the hidden ones in the surrounding rooftops were turned on, banishing the shadow and revealing the assailants.

Declan, hiding behind the steel sheet, spied around. His faster brain made a quick scan of the surrounding area. On the rooftops, he could spy three groups. At the right, center and left were the outlines of armed men (with the ones to his left-south being distracted dealing with the Syndicate operative that rang the alarm). While at the ground floor, he spotted more armed men peeking out from the lower floors of the buildings, with guns at the ready.

And they made their presence known, opening fire at Declan’s gang. Fortunately, at the sign of trouble and mayhem, they knew better than to stand their ground, having already dived behind the covers, picking the right timing to fire back, just as the stream of fire ceased.

“I trained them well for this moment,” Declan mused to himself as he took a deep breath and left the cover of the building to join his men behind the Syndicate-issued covers. The expendable shields did a pretty good job in stopping the bullet barrages despite appearing relatively thin, compared to the block of concrete the invading force was using. From what he understood, there was an advanced devisor forcefield component attached to it. Plus, the small installed window with bulletproof glass was so incredibly convenient in surveying how his men were doing.

Declan had been in plenty of shootouts before and… he hated them. Like being in the trenches during the old world war, peeking in and out just to try to land a shot in the distance, waiting only for something to turn the tide of the fight… Unfortunately, things might appear to be up against them as the enemy not only appeared to have the high ground, but also greater firepower, using assault rifles as opposed to their own submachine pistols.

Fortunately, the equalizers, in this case, were the members of the syndicate. He could see the outline of the large dragon lady cruising the sky and causing a ruckus while on the other building, the gunmen were distracted fending off the other pocket of soldiers.

“Come on, men! Don’t let our guests do all the heavy lifting!” Declan mused as he pushed some of his power towards his men. Rather than canceling and reversing the effects of the caffeine, he instead artificially bolstered them. Each of his men could see the world grow slower, albeit momentarily and that was the signal they needed to peek out. That was all that was needed to dodge bullets, take aim and open fire with serious marksmanship.

Whenever one of the assailants was lethally struck, they died just in the same way as the man thrown off the roof, their body suddenly becoming into light and then disintegrating, leaving no trace behind. One could even see the weapons follow the pattern.

There was no doubt about it, these were mutants they were up against.

That became all the clearer when, upon looking up to the rooftop opposite from their position, black smoke spilled down, lingering about like a curtain that aggressively tried to block the lights.

“This’ll be tricky… but don’t fear! We can do this!” Declan said, bolstering his men’s confidence as he peeked from around the corner and took a couple of shots, turning one of the assailants into light. The timing there couldn’t have worked much better.

Maybe a bit too well as one of his men felt daring enough to pull half of his body out of cover and fire bullets in an arc along the side of the concrete wall. It was a spray and pray approach that resulted in two flashes in its pass and the rest of the men cowering in fear.

But, at the end of the day, he was over exposed and paid for it. Suddenly, an invisible force pulled the man out and up into the air, like something out of a horror movie. He tried to fight or wrestle, but always missing whatever was gripping him. Declan tried to join in and help, opening fire into the air around, but to no avail. He was either missing it or there wasn’t anything there to hit.

“Cody!” Declan called out as the situation turned for the worse. Suddenly, the man’s arms were forced to the sides of his body, as if coiled by an invisible snake and his body began to slowly start to twist itself.

“Hey! Hey!” he called out to the communicator. “I need help! One of my men is about to die.”

At that moment came a crunch, soon after followed by a crystal-like crack. His man, Cody, lingered into the air, his body wanting to be twisted like a wet rag being dried but suddenly, being unable to be stretched past a mild torso stretch. Instead, the mark on his arm flared out and his body was coated by a sheen of light… one that began to crack as strain appeared to be upped.

The magical protection broke, shattering like glass and releasing a shockwave out into the air that seemingly stunned whatever held it, letting Cody down to the ground.

Declan didn’t wait. No sooner his henchman touched the ground, he’d already rushed out of cover and to enact the rescue.

In a warzone, which felt like folly. But with the way his reflexes were enhanced, he picked up whenever the muzzle of a gun was aimed his way, and his steps were light enough to sidestep every shot. With his men providing cover and the syndicate members laying in the distraction in the surrounding areas, Declan managed to reach Cody and pick him up over his shoulder.

As he did, a figure caught his eye. Within the side of the abandoned building, a group was trying to make their way towards the main building. More importantly, they were quite different from the rest of the men, which, by now Declan had realized all looked about the same. In this case, two of the individuals were women.

Still, one of them, a woman raised up her arm, revealing it to be entirely covered in metal as if to open fire. Declan didn’t give it a second thought and raised his gun first, firing a barrage of bullets that got them to immediately seek cover. One of them even let out a high pitched panicked scream.

Now, it wasn’t the time for second guessing. Especially as he heard a couple of bullets land just a step away from him. Focusing on priorities, he made a quick run back around cover.

“Thanks boss…” Cody muttered, fortunately confirming he was still alive, albeit somewhat pained as he was placed down behind the cover. “I think… I think I got hit in my arm.”

“That’ll be a badge of honor,” Declan muttered as he turned to his men. “I need a replacement here. Two people from the foyer tag out with Cody and whoever is taking him.”

His men were somewhat uncertain, but after having seen the way the spells would spare them from a couple of shots, they felt brave enough to follow the order, moving about to prepare for the transport. All the while the occasional burst of suppressing fire kept coming, trying to keep them in place.

“Damn…” Declan muttered as he reached in for the borrowed Syndicate communicator. “How many of these rats do I have to shoot?”

“It’s someone who can multiply themselves,” Lifeward’s voice came through. “We’re doing what we can to thin the numbers.”

“Well, hurry up a little bit,” Declan muttered just as the sound of glass came about nearby. Another one of his men was thrown back, with the glow of the protective spell shining bright in the place where two bullet marks could be clearly spied. Once again spared from a lethal blow. “Some of my men lost protection.”

“I’ll try to be there. Just hang on”

“You’re very soft spoken for a Syndicate member.”

“I get that a lot,” Lifeward said, the sound of guns fired on her end of the line was clear.

“It’s alright. Let us know what you need, and we’ll try to help.” Declan muttered as he reloaded his gun and turned around to peek out of cover to keep on firing.

WA Break Small_Solid

Sunday, November 26th, 2016 - 9:00 pm
Presentation office

The conference room had remained isolated from the chaos that was going on. Screams and bullets didn’t register through the insulated walls, with everyone’s eyes focused on the prepared movie of the blackmailing. Pollux was gritting his teeth, trying to look away only to be called out for it by Preston… whereas Arno was a mystified audience member watching the compilation of camera and audio views. Knowing that the chaos would devolve into what he knew as the Maryland offices incident.

And yet, the video was suddenly stopped by Preston.

“I’m sorry to put an intermission in the movie, but I think there’s something you should watch.” He said as he tapped into the computer and changed the display on one of the projected views to reflect the perspective of a hidden camera just outside. In came the view of the group of the gang-members holding up behind the steel covers as the sound of gunfire and the flashes of bullets striking the ground could be seen, even though the low resolution.

“What… “Arno blurted out, just piecing together what they were watching. “We’re under attack?”

“No. I am… isn’t that right, Pollux?” Preston mused.

The new MCO directive scoffed, his usually frustrated mug reflected annoyance, but also a tinge of arrogance… However, after expecting an answer, he did crack a smirk, which happened to coincide when they got sight of one of Declan’s men taking a shot. “You forced my hand.”

“I forced your hand?” Preston scoffed and dismissed the answer. “Is that how you see it? I’ve nothing if not cordial and reasonable with you and you bring in the death squad onto my men?”

“Wait… who’s attacking? It’s not MCO, right?” Arno muttered as he squinted to try to see more of the recording.

“It’s not. Your boss wouldn’t want to risk getting more people involved. At least people he can’t silence or buy, like the two agents he brought along.”

“Syndicate?”

Preston laughed before asserting. “It’s not them. It can only be the other people who hold his leash.”

“The other people?” Arno muttered looking over at Pollux. “So he’s telling the truth. You’ve been under the thumbs of someone worse?”

“We were just about to get to that part of the movie… But I’ll spoil it to you… that’s them.”

“They’re just here to get rid of one more obstacle.” Pollux stated.

“I’d be hard pressed to believe that’s the case,” Preston shook his head. Yet as much as he tried, he couldn’t keep his hand away from his earpiece, taking up the updates from the battlefield provided by Lifeward.

“You’ve allied yourself with mutants? High criminals?” Arno sought to ask.

“What other choice did I have? Die or let them deal a blow to the organization.” Pollux snapped back.

“Oh, the fate was sealed when that building was made for a collaboration with Artemis Co.” Preston interrupted as he sat down to manage the computer, switching the feed back to the second view of the video they were watching. “So, how about we carry on and find out what really happened that night?”

“What?” Arno blurted out. “Aren’t we getting attacked? Shouldn’t we be reinforcing the door?”

“They’re coming after me to help you. If anything I should be the one concerned…” Preston mused. He might be pretending to be nonchalantly but, covertly, he was giving the gang member bodyguard an off-handed signal, telling him to pay close attention to the door and prepare. “But I know it won’t come to that…. It certainly paints you in a more negative light, though Pollux. Digging yourself deeper in their favor rather than just conducting this conversation civilly… But it’s not like I expected anything different.”

 

To Be Continued
Read 1781 times Last modified on Monday, 08 April 2024 19:18

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