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Judgement Day

Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by Taxor_the_First, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Two years ago, on the first of the year 2019, the Ethereal forces attempting to subjugate Earth surrendered to X-COM forces, after their leader and Commander was killed. This Story of Defiance is one that will be told many times throughout the ages as the time humanity finally banded together to defeat a common foe, marking their entrance onto the galactic scene.

    But that story is better told elsewhere. During the events of what has come to be called the Ethereal Subjugation War, a man named Isaac Anderson came out of hiding to assist X-COM under the moniker of Overseer. What was he hiding from? A person who had been haunting his life for the past couple of decades. A person who had, in an effort to break him, killed his wife Helen and attempted to brainwash his daughter Penny. A person called Matthew Lester. And Isaac wants revenge.

    Now, after world events have calmed down, the time is ripe. The time has come to move to a war footing.

    Lester's own judgement day is nigh.
     
  2. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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  3. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    12:34 PM, January 2nd 2021
    New York, USA



    It always seemed to be rush hour here. Cars and people filled the streets, milling seemingly aimlessly about and enjoying the cold weather for what it was. Only a few years ago, you wouldn’t have seen this kind of appreciation for life. With the Ethereal invasion, that had all changed very suddenly.

    That wasn’t to say things hadn’t returned to normal. People were still assholes, when it came down to it. Someone always cut you off trying to merge, someone always pick-pocketed you. The trick was to anticipate it, and either avoid the situation entirely or reward their avarice with violence.

    Samantha frowned, her breath misting the air. Maybe her thoughts were slightly colored. She shivered and drew her coat tighter around her. People walked by, barely giving her a glance. She ignored them, focusing instead on the tall buildings around her, scanning for a familiar face, or a camera. There was little hope she’d actually find it, but why not try? It kept her sharp, and ready.

    As ready as she was, the Huntress still jumped a little when the phone in her pocket began buzzing with the ferocity of a trapped wasp. She brought it out and answered. “Hello?”

    A modified voice grunted. “Ms. Steele. I trust you were expecting this call.”

    Samantha scanned the buildings again. “Of course.”

    “The timing concern you?”

    “I was expecting it to be sooner.”

    “The Judge moves when he’s ready,” the voice replied.

    “Which is now?”

    “Correct. You know the spot?”

    “Yes,” she said, not stating the by-now memorized address. Doing so would defeat the purpose, after all.

    “Good,” the voice rumbled. “Then he will see you there.”

    “Wait, Maria…” Samantha hesitated, but ploughed on. “How is he? I assume you’ve talked to him.”

    The voice was quiet for a moment. “He’s fine,” it said at last. “And I’m not Maria.”

    The Huntress balked, drawing a few cursory glances. “What?”

    “Maria died of lung cancer a few years ago. I’m her successor.” That last was said with a touch of venom.

    “And I’m only being told this now?”

    “Since when has the identity of the Overseer been an open secret?” the Overseer countered. “But I tire of keeping this up. After this is done, you can expect me to be gone too. Between Isaac’s crusade and the war…”

    Samantha nodded, her face downcast. “Alright, I understand. If Isaac trusts you, I’ll trust you.”

    “Good. The address. Be there tonight at the agreed time.” The line cut, and she was left holding a dead piece of plastic.

    Samantha dropped the phone back into her pocket and began walking down the street, her head swimming with thoughts. It’d been years since the end of the war and since she’d last seen him, but Isaac now had a plan. And, hopefully, a target.

    Finally, they could put this beast to rest.



    *



    The warehouse had been abandoned for some time. Time enough for it to be ‘re-purposed’ by some creepy monolithic figure with an interest in providing a safehouse for their operatives. In reality, the Overseer already owned the building, but they’d simply had no use for it until now. The ownership showed, if one looked closely enough. There was only one visible method of entry, for starters. A few shipping crates littered the yard, but they were placed in such a manner that anyone using them as cover to enter would be completely visible from the warehouse, at which point they could be sniped at leisure.

    Samantha shook her head to remove the thoughts from her mind. Now wasn’t the time to be tactically analyzing the place. Still, she couldn’t help but notice the various subtle features that made this warehouse a good holding point should the inhabitants be, for whatever reason, laid siege to.

    She knocked on the old wooden door, and waved at the camera watching her from the corner of the building. There was a click, and the door unlocked, allowing her access to the lit area within. A woman laughed, and the Huntress smiled in recognition. She strode into the center of the warehouse, a large room where a table covered in various pieces of paper and blueprints sat under a hanging yellow light. There were two people already at the table, standing very close to each other. They both waved when they saw her.

    “You two finally get together?” Samantha asked as she took her place and leaned on the table.

    “Well, yeah,” Raider said, lightly punching an awkward Noxious. “I’m a sucker for men with scars.” Samantha noted the lines where the energy from a psi-lance had diffused over the operative’s face, and winced inwardly. She hadn’t realized how permanent the damage would be at the time.

    Noxious coughed. “We figured that… you know, what with the Tribe basically disbanded, and since there wasn’t really a risk of death anymore, we might try to… enjoy ourselves…”

    “And then Isaac comes in and ruins everything by asking us for help again.” The pink-haired operative shook her head and placed a hand on her hip. “As per usual.”

    “Cut him some slack. What if we hadn’t gone on the Temple Ship? Alpha squad would have been screwed,” Samantha responded.

    Raider shook her head. “I’m just joking,” she said. “He knows what he’s doing, and where we need to be. And I have faith in your tactical sense, Sammy.” She smiled. “Between the two of you, you’d make an impressive tactical duo.”

    “That doesn’t mean you two are just lackeys,” Samantha said. “Both of you are highly skilled operatives. And if you hadn’t taken down Minos like you did, I’d be a dead woman.”

    “Which is precisely why I’ve called you three here,” a voice thundered from the other end of the warehouse, echoing off the metal walls as the source strode towards them. “Each of you has a role, a specialty. And I’m going to need that.”

    Isaac planted his hands on the table, his face holding an expression of determination. “You all know our target, yes?”

    Samntha nodded – but the other two operatives shook their heads. “Must have missed that memo,” Noxious said.

    “Then allow me to provide enlightenment,” Isaac responded, drawing a sheet from the collection on the table. “I’ve done some digging, and I have our enemy. My enemy.” He turned the sheet around, showing the others a newspaper article describing the financial position of a company called ‘Trust Industries’. “The elusive CEO of this company – a man by the name of Matthew Lester.”

    The operatives exchanged a blank look. “Never heard of the company or the man,” Raider said, frowning. “Which concerns me.”

    “It should,” Isaac said, placing the paper back down. “This is one of those companies that owns another company that owns another company that owns a successful brand that buys from a company that they own. A sneaky monopoly on the market. The food and grocery one, if you must know, although they’re starting to move into tech.”

    Samantha made a noise. “Good luck with that. Cross and the Exalts have got that on lockdown.”

    The Judge waved a dismissive hand. “It’s unimportant regardless. This is the man we’re hunting. Problem is, he’s reclusive. No one knows his exact location. Which means we need to draw him out.” He brought a blueprint up to the top – a warehouse. “This is one of their warehouses, and the Overseer recently told me that there’s some shady business going on in there.”

    “So we go in, grab a few pictures, maybe some evidence, leak it to the authorities, and he has to come out to address the issue, right?” Raider asked.

    “No. There’s already been a similar scandal, they just no-commented their way through it. If we want to draw this guy out, we need to make him angry. And we need to find out where he operates.” Isaac paused. “I had the fortune to stumble across minutes from the Italian mafia’s meetings with him. The one grievance he had with me, his reason for killing my wife and brainwashing my daughter? I cost him money. His business.” He tapped a finger against the wood of the table. “So that’s what we’ll attack. His money, his business. We’ll draw him out by ruining him, and we’ll kill him.” He glanced at the faces around the table. “Assuming you want to help me, of course. I understand if you don’t.”

    Raider made a ‘pschtt’ sound. “Like I’m gonna let you take this asshole down all by yourself.”

    Noxious nodded. “You’re a colleague, and a friend. I’ll help.”

    Samantha shrugged when Isaac’s gaze swiveled to her. “Is there even a question?” she asked.

    A grin spread across the Judge’s face. “That’s what I like to hear,” he said. “You all have your gear somewhere nearby?” The others nodded. “Good. Bring it all here. This will be our HQ for the time being. Once you’ve all done that…” He looked down at the blueprint of the warehouse. “… we can get started.”
     
  4. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Overseer’s Files: Operation “Shoutout”
    Trust Industries warehouse. Stormwater-controlled.
    January 3, 10:00 PM



    Operatives:

    Samantha “Iron Huntress” Steele (Squad Leader, Gunner/Heavy)
    Isaac “The Judge” Anderson (Mastermind, Sniper)
    “Noxious” (Chemical Specialist, Scout)
    “Raider” (Infiltrator, Assault)

    Background:

    This warehouse is owned and operated by Trust Industries, the livelihood of our target. It’s a shipping depot, accepting stock imported from all over the world to be shipped out all over the country. Mind you, for a grocery chain supply depot, it’s awfully well guarded. By Stormwater mercs, no less. Raises the suspicions almost immediately, doesn’t it?

    Those suspicions would be correct. While the warehouse does perform its primary function, it is also home to the more… unsavory elements of Trust Industries’ commerce. There’s a lot of material that passes through here: drugs, weapons, illegal immigrants, you name it. All of it hidden from the prying eyes of the public by trained mercenaries and giant steel doors.

    But we’re not going there to expose it. No, we’re going there to burn that building to the ground. Storage, goods, whatever’s in there that we can’t use for ourselves, we destroy it. Stormwater gets in our way, we kill them. A classic ‘this is why you need our protection’ job, without the sales pitch at the end. If we find computers, we take the hard drives. The data could be useful. We stay to copy their data using an external hard drive, and the cops’ll be there before we’re even 5% done. And we’re looking to avoid tangling with the law here. Certain people I associate with might find that… distasteful. Far simpler to just take the drives and analyze them later.

    The Plan:

    The facility is well guarded and well lit around the outside of the warehouse. Sadly, there’s no entry that doesn’t have a guard posted to it. And they’re all under strict orders not to leave that entry with the kind of incentive that means they wouldn’t have a job or any chance of getting one should they disobey. So a stealth element is out of the question here. Loud is the only option.

    So we go in hard and fast. Everyone will need to stick together at first for this one. Samantha will lead the pack, followed closely by the other three. There are two options for best entryway – the main entrance, which although heavily guarded will eliminate one of the biggest holes in the defenses, and a doorway on the warehouse’s right. Forcing entry that way will result in a breach in the area of the warehouse the computers are kept, but will leave the main entrance in control of Stormwater. Whichever is decided, the objective then will split between the group.

    Samantha and Raider will move to the computer area and commence removing the hard drives of any devices they see. The data could help us find Lester. Once that is done, they may then move to assist Isaac and Noxious, who will be locating the prime support beams and placing explosives on them. After sweeping the warehouse quickly for further items of value, detonate the explosives and escape, ideally in the same vehicle we arrived in.

    It shouldn’t need to be said that the warehouse should be vacated before blowing it up.

    This operation needs to be conducted with as great a speed as is possible. As stated before, dilly-dallying will result in the police arriving, who we wish to avoid an altercation with.

    Goals:

    1. Obtain all computer hard drives and other data storage devices from the warehouse.
    2. Blow out the main support beams of the warehouse and bring it down.
    3. (optional) Take any other items of value.

    Equipment:

    Samantha –

    · 1 customized EOD suit
    · 1 “Buzzsaw” LMG
    · 1 truncated Joceline O/U shotgun

    Isaac –

    · 1 Light Ballistic Vest
    · 1 Mosin Nagant sniper rifle
    · 5 units of C4
    · 1 remote detonator
    · 1 Desert Eagle handgun

    Noxious –

    · 1 Light Ballistic Vest
    · 1 P90 SMG
    · 1 smoke grenade
    · 1 modified smoke grenade
    · 1 Thin Man gas grenade
    · 5 units of C4
    · 1 STRYK auto-pistol

    Raider –

    · 1 Stealth Suit
    · 1 MAC-10 SMG (customized)
    · 1 stun gun
    · 1 Toolkit (contains screwdrivers, a head-mounted torch, lockpicks, etc.)
    · Multiple ‘old school’ weapons (such as bolas and knives) modified to carry a strong electrical current when activated.
    · 1 silenced Beretta 9mm pistol

    Expected Enemy Forces:

    · 15 Stormwater Mercenary guards are posted around the warehouse. They will attempt to engage once the team is discovered.

    · Another 20 Stormwater Mercenaries are housed in adjacent buildings, and will swarm out once the alarm is raised.

    · Should the mission take longer than twenty minutes to complete, expect Stormwater reinforcements, which will continue to arrive sporadically for the remainder of the mission.

    · Should the mission take longer than thirty minutes to complete, expect police forces to start arriving, with the first wave consisting entirely of street cops, with the waves reaching full force about ten minutes later. It is highly inadvisable to engage them at any point due to the political ramifications. Assault waves after the ten minutes have passed will consist of heavily armored SWAT units and a few FBI first responders. Riot Shield units will begin deploying at this point.
     
  5. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Operation “Shoutout”
    Trust Industries warehouse. Stormwater-controlled.
    2021, January 3, 10:00 PM



    The van arrived out on the road exactly on time, parking in a secluded and concealed spot. The four operatives got out, Raider swinging her arms around in an attempt to limber up. Isaac closed his door quietly and glanced at the concrete wall surrounding the warehouse compound. Behind those walls, a private army waited. Pushing the thought out of his mind, he turned to the others, who were checking their weapons. “Ready?”

    They all nodded, and Raider took the lead. Keeping to the shadows as best they could, they bypassed the main gate and went around the side to where the wall ended, and the warehouse itself was the closest structure to the water. Holding a finger up to her lips, Raider half-sprinted, half tiptoed forward, her boots making little noise as she went. Drawing her pistol, she aimed at the one guard smoking a cigarette near their entryway, and fired. With the silencer, the shot made little noise, and the Stormwater mercenary crumpled to the ground with decidedly less brain matter than before.

    They all jumped when the alarm started blaring, almost before the merc had even hit the ground. Raider twisted her head around to try and find who’d set it off, but there was no one nearby. “The fuck?”

    “Heart monitor maybe,” Isaac yelled, moving forward and kicking the door the guard had been watching in. “Doesn’t matter. We’re made, let’s get moving!”

    The others followed him in, and up the stairs they found themselves in the IT area. “Perfect,” Samantha said, tapping Raider on the back. “We’ll get to work here, you two go do your thing.”

    The Judge grinned behind his mask. “With pleasure,” he muttered, gesturing for Noxious to follow him as they moved back down the stairs. Three Stormwater guards, scanning the area, sighted them and started yelling before Isaac planted bullets in the heads of two of them, Noxious spraying down the third with his SMG. “Alright, we’re on a time limit here. Plant a C4 on…” he scanned the walls, eventually finding what he was looking for. “… That wall. It’s load-bearing, should cause a bit of damage when it comes down.”

    The chemical specialist frowned and he stuck the bomb to the wall, his gloves missing the primer code a few times before he got it. “I miss Pillar already,” he muttered, stepping back and hoisting his SMG again. “Next?”

    Isaac pointed with his free hand. “Out there. Bit more open, but with the amount of product they move through here there might be some crates we can hide behind while we do our planting.”

    “Got it.” The two ran out the door and entered the central storage area of the warehouse, where about a dozen Stormwater mercenaries were searching for them. The intruders dashed for one of the metal containers, followed by gunfire as they went. Noxious grinned as he leaned against the container. “Bringing back memories, eh?”

    Isaac brought out his Mosin, and shook his head. “Oh yes,” he said. “Lovely, non-stressful memories.”

    *

    Raider placed the hard drive in one of her suit’s pockets and moved over to the other computers. “Nearly done here,” she shouted.

    Samantha stood in the doorway, LMG at the ready, waiting for someone to come upstairs. “How long does it take to break one of those things?” she demanded.

    “Longer than you’d expect,” was the response. “Do you know how many components are in these things?”

    “No.”

    “Optical drive, cooling fan, motherboard, RAM –“

    “Alright, alright, I get it!” The Huntress shook her head. “Just get it done.”

    “Might be easier if I didn’t have to be careful not to break the hard drive,” Raider said, half to herself. “Damn things are really fragile, Gyro told me. Wipe a magnet near ‘em, data goes bye bye.” A burst of gunfire from downstairs made her curse. Grabbing her communicator, she shouted into it. “Could you two keep it down out there? I’m trying to concentrate here.”

    “Another placed,” Noxious yelled, before another burst of gunfire cause him to cry out in surprise. “Judge, you watching my butt or what?”

    “Not unless Raider gives me permission,” Isaac responded.

    “She doesn’t,” Raider said haughtily. “That’s my butt to watch.”

    “See? You’re on your own, buddy.” Noxious grumbled something, and Isaac only laughed. “How are you two going up there? Any trouble run into you?”

    Samantha poked her head around the doorway once again. Still clear. “Not yet. What’s our timeframe looking like?”

    “Got another on the wall,” said the assassin. “Damned if I know.”

    “Is the Overseer handling us?”

    “What? No. Why?”

    “We don’t have a handler?”

    “No?”

    Samantha shook her head. “Why the hell not? Who’s going to be keeping track of us, of the enemy, of the time?”

    Isaac grunted noncommittally into his communicator, and sniped a merc to punctuate it. “We’re big boys and girls, we can handle ourselves.”

    “No we can’t. No one can. We need a handler.”

    There was a resigned sigh. “Fine. I’ll see who I can get a hold of next time.”

    Raider poked her head up above the table, and immediately ducked down again. “Huntress! Small army outside!”

    Samantha hefted her LMG and smiled. “Time to try out what I’ve been practicing,” she said, stepping out into the corridor and coming face-to-face with a room full of Stormwater. Taken by surprise, many of them did not respond in time and were gunned down. Those who survived took cover, taking a few pot shots, some of which buried themselves in her armor. Grimacing, she closed her eyes and focused, allowing her psionic energy to flow through her. Wispy cyan tendrils began sprouting from her form, and a blue shell, fitting the form of her EOD suit, enveloped her. When she opened her eyes again, they were glowing cyan. Smiling, she fired at a merc who’d popped up to take a shot. The imbued bullets tore straight through his ballistic armor, and by extension through him, sending him sprawling backwards. The rest of the mercs exchanged glances behind their boxes, and rose as one, firing even before most of them had aimed. A few bullets impacted Samantha’s shell, and it shattered. Scowling now, she eliminated the rest, though her psionic energy was already spent. “Gonna have to work on that a bit more,” she muttered, breathing a little heavier.

    “Alright, I’m done in here,” Raider shouted, collecting the last hard drive and pocketing it. “Nice trick there, boss.”

    Samantha shrugged, and reloaded her Buzzsaw. “Spend a few years on call for a mission with a few mind powers you don’t know what to do with, and experimentation starts looking like a good idea.” She indicated the now-clear stairway. “Shall we join the boys?”
     
  6. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    “We’ve definitely broken thirty-five,” Isaac shouted, clipping another merc on the shoulder and causing him to drop to the floor in pain. “Which means reinforcements are arriving, which means we’re past twenty minutes.”

    “Then we need to get a move on,” Noxious responded. “I’ve got two more we need to place.”

    Glancing at the door to the central room, Isaac noticed Raider and Samantha enter in a breaching manoeuvre. “Nice of you two to join us.” Raider gave him a dirty look, to which he grinned. “We’ve still got two we need to plant.”

    “Here!” Noxious skidded one of the explosives over the floor to Samantha, who secured it on her belt. “I’m gonna cover us, if you’re ready.” When everyone had nodded, he grabbed one of the cylinders at his waist and tossed it over cover towards the main door Stormwater was pushing through. It hissed, expelling a thick black cloud of gas that blocked the doorway, and the mercs inside the cloud started coughing uncontrollably. Not wasting the chance, both groups sped over to opposite walls, planting their explosive and running back out just as the smoke began to clear. The mercs who’d had the sense to stay out of the cloud pushed past the gagging forms of those who hadn’t, and attempted to shoot the retreating intruders in the back. Samantha, bringing up the rear, caught a few bullets in the back, but as always they simply imbedded themselves in her suit.

    Pushing out the same door they’d entered in, the group beat a hasty retreat to the spot they’d hidden the van in, with Isaac taking the driver’s seat. None of them relaxed until they’d gotten a few blocks away, and the approaching police sirens had gone past them.

    “Alright,” Isaac said, the adrenaline slowly draining from his veins. “Well done team. We got what we came for.” He brought out a small device and pressed the button, being rewarded almost instantly with a loud boom and the sound of a collapsing concrete building. “And now we’ve done what we came to do.”

    Samantha removed her helmet, and glared at him. “I nearly got ambushed. Would have, if Raider hadn’t looked up at the right moment. We need a handler.”

    Isaac glanced at her. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

    “No. And we don’t just need a handler. We need people to fill the roles we’ve lost. We need an explosives expert, tech guy –“

    “Alright alright. I’ll see who I can get a hold of.”

    She nodded in satisfaction and leaned back in the seat. “Good. We might need them one day.”

    Raider coughed lightly. “What about these?” she asked, procuring their spoils.

    “Same place as us,” Isaac answered. “I’ll send them to the Overseer when I get time.”

    Noxious removed his gas mask, and exhaled heavily. “You know,” he said, “I was kinda expecting that to be more difficult.”

    Isaac shook his head. “They weren’t expecting anything, certainly not on that scale. Response was slow. Now, though…” He smiled. “Now they know we’re here.”

    “You seem to be treating that as a good thing.”

    “I want Lester to know I’m after him. I want him to know I’m coming for him.”

    “Just so long as you don’t put us into shit as a result of that,” Samantha chided. “I know you’re angry, and you have every right to be. But I’m not about to just waltz into the middle of enough soldiers to win us the war again just because you want to prove a point.”

    He drove silently for a moment, but nodded grudgingly. “I know. Don’t worry, I intend to plan everything out thoroughly before we head in.”

    “You plan to plan? I sure hope so.”
     
  7. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Overseer’s Files: Operation “Scapegoat”
    Brooklyn Bridge, New York
    3rd January, 11:02



    Operatives:

    Samantha “Iron Huntress” Steele (Squad Leader, Gunner/Heavy)
    Isaac “The Judge” Anderson (Mastermind, Sniper)
    “Noxious” (Chemical Specialist, Scout)
    “Raider” (Infiltrator, Assault)


    Brief: This was unexpected. No data, no nothing. The route back from Shoutout went over the Brooklyn Bridge, and that’s where it happened. We went in expecting nothing, and came out with a lot more than we bargained for.


    The Plan:

    N/A

    Goals:

    1. Survive.
    2. Determine what provoked the attack, secure it if valuable.

    Equipment:

    Samantha –

    · 1 customised EOD suit (mildly damaged)
    · 1 “Buzzsaw” LMG
    · 1 truncated Joceline O/U shotgun

    Isaac –

    · 1 Light Ballistic Vest
    · 1 Mosin Nagant sniper rifle
    · 5 units of C4 (used)
    · 1 remote detonator (used)
    · 1 Desert Eagle handgun

    Noxious –

    · 1 Light Ballistic Vest
    · 1 P90 SMG
    · 1 smoke grenade
    · 1 modified smoke grenade (used)
    · 1 Thin Man gas grenade
    · 5 units of C4 (used)
    · 1 STRYK auto-pistol
    · 1 radio tuned to police comms

    Raider –

    · 1 Stealth Suit
    · 1 MAC-10 SMG (customized)
    · 1 stun gun
    · 1 Toolkit (contains screwdrivers, a head-mounted torch, lockpicks, etc.)
    · Multiple ‘old school’ weapons (such as bolas and knives) modified to carry a strong electrical current when activated.
    · 1 silenced Beretta 9mm pistol
    · 1 Shadow grenade
    · Bag of stolen hard drives



    Expected Enemy Forces:

    · Unknown Stormwater mercenaries, various roles.
    · Some civilians holding a grudge may become hostile.
    · Unknown police force, responding far quicker than normal. Initial wave will consist of street cops, rapidly increasing in intensity as time goes on. Anti-terrorism units will appear fairly early on, including special units usually reserved for ongoing terror attacks.


    Civilians: Many of the drivers on the bridge are civilians.
     
  8. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Operation “Scapegoat”
    Brooklyn Bridge, New York
    2021, 3rd January, 11:02 PM




    The four operatives drove in silence, Samantha allowing her eyes to close for the moment. Isaac bit his lip slightly as he turned onto the road that would take them over the Brooklyn Bridge as part of their escape route. He glanced at the rear-view mirror. Though it was harder to see due to the rain, he couldn’t make out any sirens or blue and red lights. Just to be sure, though…

    “Noxious,” he said, reaching into the glovebox and procuring a small handheld communicator. He tossed it back to the waiting operative. “That’s tuned to police communications. Anything regarding us?”

    Noxious turned it on and listened for a moment. Though he couldn’t work out the words directly, Isaac could tell they were relatively calm. “They’re not pursuing us, if that’s what you mean,” Noxious said at last. “Mostly their issue is why Stormwater was even there. They aren’t recorded as being given clearance for that particular security job.”

    “Political shitstorm. Nice.” Isaac grinned as he leaned back in his seat. “I think Shoutout did what we wanted it to.” Noxious nodded and settled back into his seat, though he kept the radio close to his ear out of curiosity. Raider brushed a vivid pink strand of hair from her eyes. Samantha made a soft noise and sunk a little deeper in her seat, clearly not willing to be awake much longer. Up ahead, a horn honked. The rain pattered on the windscreen as the van entered the bridge.

    And then the center of the bridge exploded.

    Isaac slammed on the brakes, along with pretty much everyone else on the roadway. “What the shit?!” Behind him, he heard the police radio splutter out a garbled mess of panic, followed by more orderly codes and directions. Samantha started and sat up, suddenly alert. “Noxious, what-“

    “Shut up, I’m listening!” The operative held up a hand and sat stock still, focused on the chattering box next to his ear. “Anti-terrorism’s already involved. Uh… armored convoy, there was one ahead of us.”

    Briefly, Isaac remembered seeing a group of three trucks turn onto the lane before he did. At the speed they were going, they’d probably be about the middle of the bridge. “What were they carrying? Money?”

    Noxious shook his head. “They keep referring to an ‘Azazel’. I doubt that’s money.”

    Isaac stared at Noxious directly in the eye. “Please tell me you didn’t just say what I think you said.”

    “What?”

    “Azazel.”

    Noxious frowned. “Yeah. Why?”

    “Mother-” Isaac brought his mask up and fastened it to his face. “Everyone, get your gear back out. We’re not done tonight.”


    A few minutes earlier.


    The truck jostled on the road, but not enough to destabilize the occupant. Floating above the ground had its benefits, after all. In front of him, the human not driving glanced back nervously.

    “You comfortable in there, Azazel?”

    Moderately.

    “Would’ve given you a chair, but…”

    I know. Regulations. The Ethereal turned his gaze to the window, tinted so as anyone looking in wouldn’t see what the truck contained easily. Whether that was to keep the alien “tourist” safe or whether it was to keep his shame concealed, he wasn’t sure. Nor was he sure which answer he preferred. At least I can be thankful your superiors deemed bars unnecessary.

    The human scoffed. “Like that would have done much good. That thing on your wrist is all we need to ensure your cooperation.” She blinked, aware of how that sounded. “Not that you were being uncooperative, you understand. It’s just…”

    I know. Regulations. Azazel turned his gaze back to the human. May I ask why there are three trucks this time instead of just the one, like the past few trips? Seems like overkill.

    She shifted uncomfortably. “There was a bit of a tussle over on the docks. We’re just… being safe, you know?”

    The Ethereal did not deign to reply.

    “Hey, it’s for your own security,” the driver said gruffly. “You want to complain about the waste of economy sending two empty trucks, do it to the XSDF.”

    I was merely curious. I am not going to complain about extra security.

    The driver grunted, and lightly pushed his companion on the shoulder. “Call us in,” he said.

    She glared at him, but complied, bringing up a device attached to the dashboard. “This is Fallen Three, we’re going over the Brooklyn Bridge now.”

    The radio crackled slightly. “Roger that Fallen Three, standing by for all-clear.”

    The truck began to move slightly faster as they approached the center of the bridge, and it started to catch up to the truck behind. Behind his mask, Azazel narrowed his eyes. Normally, he would have just probed the man’s mind, but the inhibitor made that impossible. In a hurry? He asked instead.

    The radio operator agreed. “Slow down,” she said. “We need to keep in formation.”

    The driver didn’t respond, nor did he show any sign of having heard them. A car next to them honked as the truck cut them off, now moving noticeably faster than the rest of the traffic. An expression of alarm growing on her face, the human passenger grabbed the driver’s shoulder. “What the hell are you doi-“

    The explosion consumed the first truck, enveloping it in fire. The second and third trucks were luckier, the second being thrown onto its side and the third pushed into the central walkway. Most of the cars around them were also thrown about, the panicking occupants not having any idea what was going on. Given the weather, the walkway itself was thankfully clear of innocent bystanders. The rest of the roadway was strewn with cars and debris.

    Azazel remained still for a moment, allowing the pain of the shock from the inhibitor to wear off before he attempted to rise. Having used the same weak telekinesis he used to float to prevent injury, he had escaped relatively unscathed. The same could not be said for the two humans, however. The driver was dead – the impact of the truck appearing to have removed his spinal cord from his skull – and the radio operator was whimpering as she struggled to unlatch herself. When she succeeded, she grabbed the hanging radio and began speaking into it. “We’ve got a twelve-eighty, explosions on the Brooklyn Bridge!”

    Are you injured?

    The woman turned her head. “Bruises. I’ll… live. You?”

    … unharmed.

    “Alright, good.” She ran a hand through her hair, wincing as she touched an open wound. “We need to… shit, I don’t know. I don’t know what to do here.”

    Azazel noticed the panic in her voice, and attempted to soothe her. We are inside an armored vehicle. We stay here, and wait for help. He tilted his head. What is your name?

    The woman drew in a haggard breath. “Hannah.”

    Now then, Hannah. I will require your trust. Can you give me that?

    She glanced at him, trying to ignore the corpse sitting next to her. “You could be behind this. An escape attempt.”

    The Ethereal bristled. From what I saw, the first truck in the convoy was destroyed by the blast. That leaves several possibilities. Either I hired incompetents to break me out, they knew which truck I was in, or…

    Hannah nodded. “Or this is an assassination attempt.”


    Exactly.


    “I…” She glanced at the driver, then away again just as quickly. She swallowed. “Alright. Shit. What do you need me to do?”

    Wordlessly, Azazel held out the hand his inhibitor was attached to, and Hannah obediently removed it. Rubbing his wrist, the Ethereal turned around and placed two hands on his temples, closing his eyes. I will keep watch, he said, unmoving. If we are approached, I will know.
     
  9. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Isaac was the first to exit the vehicle, followed by Samantha and Noxious. Raider poked her head out the back. “What about the hard drives?”

    “Leave them in the van,” Isaac yelled over the rain. “They’ll be damaged in this weather.”

    Noxious fiddled with the radio and hung it on his belt, though he kept the earpiece on. “First police units will be here in a couple of minutes.”

    “Then we need to get moving,” was the reply. Isaac hefted his rifle up, and turned to check on everyone. “Point of no return. We all ready?” They all gave the affirmative, and Isaac pointed forwards. “Then let’s find our scapegoat.”

    They moved up the bridge, slowly moving in between the multiple stopped cars. One of the drivers brought up their phone to make a call, but a direct stare from Noxious convinced him that now was not the time, and he lowered it.

    Peering above the hood of a car whose owner had abandoned it, Isaac spotted a small group of heavily armored men moving towards the foremost truck. “There,” he said, indicating the group to the others.

    Samantha frowned. “Is that Stormwater?”

    “Looks like it.”

    “They’re everywhere tonight, aren’t they?”

    Isaac didn’t bother answering, instead focused on the mercenaries in front of him. He watched as they set an explosive to the back of the overturned truck and detonated it. The group sprayed their weapons into the compartment, then seemed disappointed when it turned out to be empty.

    “Alright, one left people,” said the one leading them. “The bastard has to be in here.”

    Isaac swore quietly, and aimed down the sights of his rifle, pointed directly at the leader’s head. When he fired, the other three swarmed out from behind the car, taking the mercs by surprise and forcing those who weren’t killed in the initial push to take cover. Raider and Noxious took cover themselves, with the latter using the one remaining truck. Samantha simply stood out in the open, using the intimidation value of a heavily armored enemy with an LMG to full effect and neatly suppressing nearly the entire enemy squad. Those few who weren’t attempted to shoot her down, but found their efforts frustrated by her ballistic armor. With the element of surprise now well and truly used, the two groups settled into positions and attempted to flush the other out.

    With Raider on their side, Isaac’s team were in a far better position to do so.

    Keeping low, she moved from car to car, thankful for the balaclava covering her otherwise easily visible hair. She drew a knife, holding it in her left hand, and skirted around the side of the firefight. One of the mercenaries spotted her, but was quickly silenced by a pistol shot to the neck, with another to the head to follow up. Seeing an opportunity, Raider hid behind the car the merc had been using for cover, and waited. Sure enough, one of the others came over to see why their friend had gone silent, and she sprang over the car, slitting his throat with the blade in one swift movement.

    With the silencing of another of their squad, the mercenaries seemed to realize their flank was compromised, and tried to shuffle positions to compensate. That only left the ones who shuffled open to Isaac’s sniper fire, and he managed to pick three off before they realized their mistake. Using this as cover, Noxious moved from the truck and ran up the side of the bridge, managing to get himself beside the enemy. He unloaded his SMG on the remaining mercenaries, trapped between several different fronts at once. They crumpled, and were eliminated.

    Isaac rose from his cover and wiped the rain from his mask’s eyes. “Good push people. Very good.” He turned his gaze to the one remaining truck. “I guess our friend is in there.”

    “Our friend?” Samantha shook her head. “So this “Azazel” is a who, not a what?” The Judge answered something, but she didn’t hear it, instead focusing on the slight tugging sensation on her mind. What the hell? As soon as she thought this, the tugging disappeared, leaving her only mildly disoriented.

    “So what do we do?” Noxious asked, breaking her from her reverie. “Do we knock, or blow it open?”

    “Neither,” came a female voice as the passenger of the truck exited the vehicle, pointing a pistol directly at Noxious’ head. “You back off.”

    Noxious turned, and saw the threat. “Ah shit,” he muttered, raising his hands in surrender.

    Isaac raised his left hand, though he kept his rifle steady with the other. “This isn’t what you think it is.”

    “Isn’t it?” The woman tilted her head. “Bridge explodes, I hear gunfire, then you people show up. You don’t look like cops to me, so I’m going to assume you are the aggressors.”

    “That’s a false assumption,” he responded gently, but forcefully. “We’re not cops, no, but we’re here for the same reason they would be. To protect Azazel.”

    “Speak for yourself,” Noxious mumbled. “I don’t even know who the hell this guy is, and I’m being held hostage over it.”

    The standoff didn’t change. Isaac sighed. “Look. I’m willing to lower my weapons if you lower yours. Alright?”

    The woman flicked her gun. “You first.”

    With a nod, Isaac holstered his rifle, holding his hands up so she could clearly see he wasn’t playing any tricks. Raider and Samantha, though both hesitant, followed suite, until the woman was the only one with a weapon out. “Better?” he asked.

    Better. The back of the truck opened, and an Ethereal floated to the ground, paying no heed to the rain dampening it’s robes. Nor did it seem too worried when Samantha, Noxious and Raider immediately drew their weapons again and pointed them at it.

    “An Ethereal?” Samantha demanded, turning her gaze angrily towards Isaac. “We’re rescuing a goddamn Ethereal?!”

    He sighed. “Is that a problem, Huntress?”

    “Do you have Alzheimer’s? Do you not remember Minos?” She turned her eyes back to the Ethereal. “Forgive me for holding a grudge.”

    Isaac closed his eyes. “Back off.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “I said back off!” he snapped, annoyed now. “This Ethereal is one of the first aliens really allowed on Earth. The diplomatic implications if he dies tonight would be catastrophic.” He glared at her. “Don’t start another war here, Huntress, we may not win it.”

    Angrily, she lowered her LMG again. The other two agents hesitated, then did the same, as did the woman. The Ethereal turned it’s head to look at the ruins ahead of them. I am assuming you have some method of ensuring my safety.

    “Escort you to the end of the bridge, let the police take you off our hands, bug out before they detain us. Easy.”

    Noxious shook his head. “That might be difficult.”

    “How so?”

    “Police chatter’s still going. Orders are shoot-on-sight for him. Apparently they think he orchestrated this.”
     
  10. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Azazel lowered his head in acceptance. It is to be expected, he mused. My people have not done much to engender trust. Your people are merely attempting to minimize the risk of a potentially very poor situation.

    “I can convince them otherwise,” the woman said. “I mean, I was part of the convoy.”

    No, Hannah, the Ethereal said. They see you assisting me, they will assume you are an accomplice.

    “Then what do we do?”

    Isaac cleared his throat, throwing a nervous glance at the end of the bridge from which they’d come. “We have a safehouse. Provided you have no objections, we could take you there until we can sort everything out.”

    That would likely be best.

    “What about me?” Hannah asked, suddenly realizing her own options were limited.

    “We can fit another in the van,” Isaac said. “Unless you want to risk being locked up for aiding and abetting.”

    “Well… when you put it like that.” She shook her head. “Shit. Tonight hasn’t gone to plan.”

    “You’re telling me.” The Judge pointed down the still-intact part of the road. “Van’s down there. We’re going to try to avoid any unnecessary conflict, but driving out’s going to be… interesting.”

    The six began making their way back down the bridge, rain unrelenting in their faces as they went. Though they kept to the side, a civilian still seated in his vehicle spotted them – or, more importantly, spotted Azazel – and an expression of rage twisted his face, and he grabbed a civilian-issue handgun from his glovebox, exiting the car and aiming at the alien. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” he shouted. The reaction of the five escorting him was instant, each pulling a weapon or sidearm and brandishing it in the civilian’s general direction. The civilian didn’t seem to notice, keeping the pistol trained on the alien. “Do you know what you did to us?”

    The child sitting in the passenger seat tugged at his pants leg. “Daddy,” they whined, glancing at the Ethereal’s entourage. “Leave the tall alien alone.”

    “I would, if they had,” the man shouted, clearly being wound up by some internal source of grief.

    Isaac raised a hand to the group and stepped forward, his Deagle aimed at the man’s skull. “Don’t make me do this in front of your child,” he warned, though his voice held a pleading quality to it. “Lower the weapon and let us through.”

    The man spat in his direction, and fired, easily missing the immobile Azazel. Isaac himself fired in reaction, though he had shifted his sights. The civilian cried out as the bullet tore into his wrist, causing him to drop the gun and fall to the ground in pain. The child in the car started screaming in tandem with the wind, desperately trying to get out and help their fallen parent.

    Slowly, Isaac lowered the handgun, unintentionally mimicking the Azazel’s head. This is why I requested the name ‘Azazel’, the Ethereal murmured. I anticipated scenes like this. That I would become a scapegoat for the wrongs of the War.

    “Doesn’t mean you deserve it,” the assassin said, before turning away from the car. “Come on.”

    They didn’t get much further before they spotted police and SWAT units creeping up the bridge, checking cars for civilians and using them as cover to move up. “There’s a wall of them,” Samantha said, frowning. “Short of barging straight through, I’m not sure how you intend to get us past.”

    “We’re not starting a fight with the law,” Isaac said. “Raider, you still have that Shadow grenade?”

    A few minutes later the six piled into the van, their invisibility fading at last, but far too late for them to be spotted. After checking everyone was secure, Isaac started the vehicle, reversing into the gap behind him almost immediately and maneuvering over to the crossover between the two lanes. Several police officers, spotting the van, began waving frantically for them to pull over, but Isaac ignored them, moving into the other lane and speeding off, much to the chagrin of the cops.

    Azazel, ignoring the radiating hostility of the other three operatives, peered through the glass windows at the back of the van. He gazed through the rain at the piled up traffic, most of which was abandoned, and at the rubble up at the now ruined section of the bridge. He sighed, and leaned back.


    Just be thankful I’m not writing for a tourist journal,
    he said sardonically.
     
  11. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Warehouse HQ
    12:40 AM



    Once they were alone, Isaac allowed the full force of his frustration out, sweeping most of the plans and equipment off the planning table with an angry roar. Samantha looked at him quizzically. “What’s got into you?”

    “We should never have gotten involved,” he muttered darkly. “Now we’re linked to two incidents in one night, one of which is a high-caliber terrorist attack!” He sighed and placed his head in his hands. “Now the police are going to be on our asses everywhere we go. And then there’s the political shitstorm the Overseer’s going to have to deal with…”

    “Well, your intention was to draw attention.”

    “Not this kind of attention.” Isaac said, massaging his brow. He sighed, and stood up. “At least we stopped a major diplomatic incident.” He frowned. “Kinda.”

    “I still don’t think this is a good idea,” Samantha huffed. “We’re letting an Ethereal and a cop walk unrestricted into our warehouse.”

    “He’s on the run for his life, and she’s not a cop,” he responded patiently. “I’ll get the Overseer to house them somewhere until this blows over.”

    “You sound like a child begging their parents to let them keep a stray pet.”

    “Yes, I’ve always wanted a pet Ethereal,” the assassin said sarcastically. “They’re staying until I find somewhere for them to go, alright?” Samantha merely waved a hand and walked out without responding. With a sigh, Isaac moved into the room the newcomers were seated at a table, awaiting news of their fate with Noxious watching over them nervously. “You two are here for tonight,” he said, joining them. “For as long as it takes to organize a safehouse for you until the law finally works out neither of you are terrorists.”

    “Thank you,” Hannah said, clearly relieved. “So why were you on that bridge in the first place?”

    Isaac massaged his brow again. “We were on our way back from the docks.”

    The security guard’s brows shot up. “That was you?!”

    “It’s a long story.”

    We have time, Azazel said, staring at him intently. I too wish to know why four heavily armed individuals such as yourselves happened to be in exactly the right place to save me when you claim not to have had knowledge of the attack.

    Isaac leaned back in his chair. “I said it’s a long story.”

    The Ethereal was quiet for a moment. If you will not explain yourself to us, I will.

    “What?” Before he could say anything else, Isaac felt a tugging at his mind, starting small, then insistent, then becoming more of a yank than a tug. “What are you doing?”

    Inquiring, Azazel said, before releasing the full force of his will on the helpless human. Noxious reached for a sidearm, but the process was finished before his hand had even reached his belt.

    “What the fuck was that?” Isaac demanded, clutching his head.

    The Ethereal did not answer, instead raising his head slightly as if appealing to the gods. After a moment, he turned his gaze back down to the mortals before him. I see, he said. You speak the truth. Your arrival on the bridge was indeed purely chance.

    Hannah looked at her charge curiously. “So we can trust them?”

    Yes. Azazel turned to look at her. And I doubt you would be as upset about the docks incident if you knew exactly what that warehouse held.

    “Holding illicit substances is no excuse to blow up a building,” Isaac said. “We have another reason.”

    The Ethereal was unmoving. I see, he said finally. I think I may know where you are going with this.

    Noxious made a noise. “I highly doubt that.”

    You’d be surprised, Azazel said, almost coyly. There is an individual. This individual has hurt you in some way. They own the warehouse, or the product moving through it. You wish to revenge yourself on them. How am I doing?

    Isaac narrowed his eyes. “How much did you take from my head?”

    Only the relevant details. He glanced at the other two humans in the room. If you two could please vacate the room. I sense this discussion is one that should be had in private.

    “Piss off,” Noxious said. “I’m not leaving you in a room with anyone, let alone-“

    “You imply he’d pose a danger to me,” Isaac said. “He wouldn’t be that stupid… would you, Azazel?”

    The Ethereal continued to sit rigid, unflinching under Isaac’s gaze. Of course not.

    “You heard him,” the assassin said, waving as hand. “Out you go.” Grudgingly, Noxious followed Hannah out of the room, glancing back one last time before disappearing outside. “Alright then.” Isaac spread his hands. “We’re in private. What did you want?”

    One of your people mentioned Minos on the bridge, the Ethereal said. He hesitated. Given their hostility, I thought it might be best to keep what I’m about to tell you from them, at least until they come to trust me more.

    “I think I can see where this is going,” the human muttered. “You had something to do with him?”

    I was an Inquisitor, Azazel explained. I worked under his guidance for a number of your centuries. And I remember a case that bears similarities to yours. There is the potential for me to help you.

    Isaac raised an eyebrow. “You want to help me.”

    A shrug. What else can I do? There is no place for one who weeds out dissent in my people’s reformed society. I have no purpose anywhere… but here, I see an opportunity.

    The human leaned back, a thoughtful expression crossing his face. “What color are you?” he asked.

    The Ethereal tiled his head. Is race going to play a part in this? he inquired.

    Isaac shook his head. “No, no. Psionics.”

    Oh. Of course. Raising a hand from beneath his robes, Azazel created a soft glow which shifted between various colors and intensity. At blue and red, it was the brightest, with the glow fading slightly when it was purple and green. Major Blue and Red, with Minor Green and Purple.

    “So you’ve got ESP.”

    Correct.

    Isaac started nodding slowly, a few possibilities clicking into his mind. “Yeah. I think I can find something for you to do.” He frowned. “But you don’t even know who our target is. And yet, you’re eager to join us?”

    The Ethereal shrugged. If this were an anti-alien operation, you would have killed me. If you were really against the XSDF, you wouldn’t have first suggested handing myself and Hannah over to them. Your motives are irrelevant, for your actions speak for your ideals. That is all I require.

    “Well, I’m not about to turn you down lightly. Having an Ethereal on board would really open up a few options…” After a moment’s pondering, the assassin nodded. “Alright, you’re in. Got some space here I was saving for a few extra operatives, I suppose you could move in there.”

    What about Hannah? Azazel asked, surprisingly genuine concern present in his ‘voice’.

    Isaac frowned and thought for a moment. “If she’s willing, I could find something for her. If not, I’ll find that safehouse. In the meantime…” He held out a hand, causing the Ethereal to glance at it. “Welcome to the team. Do you have a proper name?” Somewhat awkwardly, Azazel reached out and reciprocated.


    Coatl’Promethoth,
    the Ethereal responded. And thank you.
     
  12. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    ???
    January 4th, 10:04 AM



    The room was dark at the best of times, usually relying on a rather weak desk lamp to light up the spacious study. That lamp was off, and now the only source of light was a large TV screen set in the center of the wall behind the desk. It was unlikely that this did any favors for the eyes, but the occupant was rich enough that such concerns were largely irrelevant, especially now that the cloning of replacement organs was a possibility.

    The TV was showing a news report on what was being described as one of the most confusing terrorist attacks in history. Police and Stormwater units had been present to attempt to stop the terrorists, but had been unsuccessful. An Ethereal visitor had gone missing, prompting many groups to protest allowing such beings on the planet to begin with. The terrorists had gotten away, but not before a helicopter had captured (admittedly low quality) images of them engaging Stormwater.

    The occupant of the chair reached out and pressed ‘pause’, the prerecorded footage ceasing all movement and leaving an image of a human male with an Ethereal mask on screen. The occupant frowned, and tapped the side of his chair. “Lucifer,” he said at last, “did you change me to the horror channel without my noticing?”

    A yawn emanated from the speakers. “No sir,” a sleepy, synthetic voice replied. “I’m been on hibernate for the past three hours as you requested.”

    The man leaned forward, shifting in his chair to be comfortable. “Then why is there a ghost on my screen?”

    The AI was silent for a moment. “That individual was supposed to be dead,” it said slowly. “All reports corroborated, all intelligence confirmed, he was killed during the war.”

    “I told you,” the man said tiredly, “I warned you that he’d done this before. Now he’s back, again. And he’s directly targeted my holdings. Do you know what that means?”

    “Mr. Lester, I don’t think-“

    “He knows,” Lester snapped, interrupting the AI. “He knows it was me. And he’s stepped up to a war footing. Very well.” He glanced to the side, as if turning to someone behind him. “Contact Stormwater,” he ordered. “I want more forces. And tell their leader I wish to speak with them personally.”

    “Very good sir,” Lucifer responded, lapsing into silence. Lester turned back and gazed at the screen again, the accusing image still and unwavering.

    “My very own grim reaper,” he muttered, rubbing his chin. “Coming to claim me at last.”
     
  13. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Chapter 2: The Sun and Shield
     
  14. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    ???
    January 4th, 11:12 AM



    “What in the name of all that is even remotely holy were you thinking?!” Lester demanded.

    At the other end of the line, a bored voice responded “Failsafe plan, lots of money… You know. The usual.”

    “You had no idea who you were dealing with?”

    “No, and we still don’t. The fanatics jacked off into the night, as it were. Haven’t heard from them since.”

    The multi-billionaire placed his head in his hands. “Hackett…”

    “Pschtt. You worry too much,” the head of Stormwater replied dismissively. “Whoever they are, they won’t go to the cops. They’re the ones that planted that bomb to begin with – we were only ever just cleanup. They won’t risk getting caught.”

    “Forgive me for not wanting to be associated with a group of xenophobic terrorists,” Lester snapped.

    “Ah, come on. The cops don’t care. Hell, they think we’re heroes.”

    “That’s because the higher-ups are on my payroll. They send the message down that you’re fine. It’s the individual police, the little people, that you need to watch out for.” He coughed. “Though your little exercise has had the unintended side-effect of exposing the ones who attacked our warehouse on the docks.”

    “You mean the mercs who showed up out of nowhere?” Hackett made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a growl. “How do you know it’s the same people?”

    “I…” He hesitated. “… have a hunch. Trust me.”

    There was silence on the other end, followed closely by a sigh. “Very well, I’ll trust your judgement. I assume you want us to find ‘em and wipe ‘em?”

    “Not quite,” Lester said. “I know who their leader is. We’re going to want to be on a defensive footing from now on.”

    Hackett began laughing, causing his boss to frown. “Is it your little friend?” he asked when he’d finished. “The one you’ve been telling us to be ready for for… what, years now?”

    “That’s him,” Lester affirmed. “And I’d appreciate it if you were a little less glib about this. This Judge is a threat to my life. Hardly a laughing matter, considering I’m your biggest source of income.”

    The Stormwater leader ceased laughing immediately. “Fair enough,” he said. “Any special requests then? We’ve still got a few of your ‘countermeasures’ lying around.”

    “Prepare them,” Lester ordered. “But don’t activate any of our projects yet.” He leaned over his desk, gazing at the map of New York that was spread out over it. “First I want to see what he does… and where he is. I want your Elite squad scouring America for him. There are a number of people I want watched – if he approaches any of them, send people in to deal with both of them.”

    A female voice startled him. “What about me?” she asked, standing in the doorway behind him.

    Lester was silent for a moment. “I’ll call you back,” he mumbled, pressing a button on his desk and ending the phone call with Hackett. “I said… no projects.”

    Silence. Then “I see,” and she was gone.



    Warehouse HQ
    January 4th, 8:29 AM



    Isaac frowned as his phone started vibrating all over the table, disturbing his planning. He ignored it, his mind working out logistics and plans for the future. Who they’d need, what they’d need, and so on. His frustration mounted when, after falling silent, the phone began vibrating once again. Someone was clearly intent on getting his attention. With a resigned sigh, he picked it up, not looking at the screen identifying the number, and answered. “Hello?”

    The volume of the voice made him wince. “Dad!” a familiar voice screamed, “What the hell have you done?!”

    “Who?” he asked innocently. “Me?”

    “You say you’re taking a trip to America, then all of a sudden there’s bombs on bridges and aliens being abducted?” his daughter cried. “What are you doing?”

    “Oi. I had nothing to do with that bomb-“

    “Then why was there someone matching your build and wearing your mask there?”

    “- until after it had blown up.”

    That stopped her. “Oh,” she said, with far less volume. “Then what were you doing there anyway? You looked pretty geared.”

    Isaac rubbed his face. “It’s a long story.”

    “I’m home from work, I’ve got time.”

    “It’s to do with my project.”

    Silence.

    “Now you understand?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Good,” he said. He smiled. “How’s your boyfriend?”

    “He’s not my-“

    “Now now, Penny, I can tell when you’re lying to me. I am your father.” Isaac cracked a smile. “And I can tell when you’re blushing too.”

    “Fuck you, dad,” Penny retorted.

    “Love you too sweetie,” he said smugly, laughing when she harrumphed.

    “Since when did you start calling me sweetie?”

    “Just tried it once, didn’t like how it sounded. Never going to do it again, I swear.”

    “Good. It doesn’t fit your image.”

    “When did you become my PR agent?”

    Penny laughed, a reassuring sound for her father. She bit down on it though, her tone turning grave. “So… you’re getting close to this guy, then?”

    Isaac sighed. “Yeah.”

    “Can I help in any way?”

    “No.”

    His daughter coughed awkwardly. “Oh. Well. Ok then. I mean, if you’re sure-“

    “I’m sure.”

    “Alright alright. Just remember, you’ve got a daughter who reverse-engineered plasma weaponry. I could probably tinker with some guns for you, if you wanted.”

    “I doubt I’ll need you to do anything like that for me.”

    “We’ve both got a stake in this,” she said quietly. “This prick might have killed your wife, but he also murdered my mother. I want him gone just as much as you do.”

    “I know,” Isaac responded. He sighed. “Listen, I’m really busy right now. I’ll call you back another time, alright?” He hung up without waiting for a response and placed his hands on the table, allowing them to support his weight. He remained like that for a moment before asking “Need something?”

    The Ethereal waiting in the doorway hesitated, surprised he’d been detected when Isaac had been facing the other way entirely. Family?

    The Judge scoffed. “Yeah. What little of it I have left, thanks to Lester.”

    Azazel floated forward until he had reached the table, positioning himself to the side. He killed someone close to you.

    “My wife. And he messed with the head of my daughter.”


    I see. And you wish to repay his kindness.


    “Yeah.”

    The alien gestured with one hand to the various blueprints and newspaper cuttings dotting the table. But you are unsure how to proceed, he murmured.

    Isaac shook his head. “There’s too many places he could be,” he said, frustrated. “We won’t get the data from the hard drives for another couple of days while we have some people analyze them, but even then it might narrow it down to a country at best. I can’t work out what we need until we know where the bastard is, but we can’t know where he is unless we go looking. I just don’t know where to start.”

    Azazel was silent for a moment. Why not start with the basics, then? he asked. Gather resources while you await the data.

    Isaac glanced at him. “What kind of resources?”

    Human resources, the Ethereal said with a shrug. You require more operatives. So hire them.

    “An Ethereal telling me to get human resources. Once, that would have been something to worry about,” the Judge mused. “Well, most of the operatives I’m considering are largely situational. Whether I want them or not will depend on where Lester is hiding. However…” He reached over and grabbed a folder sitting solitary on one corner of the table, opening it and displaying multiple files with mugshots and biographical data. “There are some people we could really use regardless. Like this guy,” he said, whipping one of the files out and placing it so Azazel could see it.

    The alien waited for a moment before clarifying. I cannot read your language, he said patiently.

    “Oh. Right.” Isaac rubbed his neck awkwardly. “The man on that file is called Samson. African-American, poor socioeconomic background, excels in enforcer tactics. Lives to fight. Classic zero-to-badass story.”

    And you wish to recruit him to assist you in firefights.

    “Exactly.”

    Azazel shrugged. Then find him and hire him, he said. Use the time waiting for the data to be sifted through usefully, rather than waiting around here.

    The Judge nodded. “Sounds like a good plan.”

    Then why did you not enact it yourself?

    That was a good question. Why? Why the sudden drive to move forward when previously he’d been worrying about Lester discovering his movements? It was then Isaac noticed Azazel was holding one arm outside his cloak, a faint blue glow surrounding it. He frowned. “Were you inspiring me?”

    The Ethereal nodded, withdrawing his arm. Subtly, but I was. This is something you will need to recognize if you wish to succeed.

    “What, that the enemy probably has psions to?”

    Azazel tilted his head. Aside from that. When Isaac didn’t respond, he elaborated. Morale. Already, you’re faltering. Once you’ve started along this path, your team may falter too. It is your responsibility as their leader to keep them motivated.

    Isaac folded his arms. “You know an awful lot about this kind of thing for someone who used to prosecute people,” he said.

    The Ethereal met his gaze, but remained silent. Was that a query? he asked finally.

    The Judge opened his mouth to respond, before someone else spoke for him. “If you two are going to stare each other down like this, I may as well put a bullet in his skull and be done with it,” Samantha said, walking in. Keeping some distance from Azazel, she positioned herself at the table. “You got a plan yet, Isaac?”

    Isaac nodded, handing her Samson’s file. “Yeah. We’re going on a recruitment drive.”
     
  15. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Nightclub “Tasteless”, Washington DC
    January 10th, 11:23 PM



    Raider pulled her dress down slightly, huffing at the way it kept hitching up her legs. “You should feel lucky,” she said with a grin at her ‘partner’ for the night. “Only two other men have seen me wearing clothes like this. And one of them died immediately afterward.”

    “Excellent,” Isaac muttered, checking his cuffs. “I feel so very lucky. Azazel, you comfortable?”

    Moderately, the Ethereal replied from the safety of the back seat of the car. The windows were heavily tinted so that passers-by wouldn’t look in and panic. I do wish your species was taller. I need more leg space in here.

    “ESP working fine?”

    I see all you two see, he affirmed.

    “Good, good. Huntress, Noxious, both of you ready to come in if something goes wrong?”

    In the front seats of a different car, the two operatives glanced at each other. Samantha had opted not to wear her EOD suit this time, refusing to remain stuck in a car wearing a ‘ballistic oven’. “We’re ready,” she replied, though she frowned at how light her rifle was.

    Isaac nodded. “Perfect. Hopefully, I won’t need you, but it’s always best to be prepared. Hannah, you ready to leave when I give the word?”

    The woman sitting in front of Azazel shook her head. “I have no idea how you talked me into this.”

    “Me neither. Are you good to go?”

    “Yeah, yeah.”

    “Wonderful.” He turned to Raider and put on a winning smile. “Shall we?”

    With an amused expression on her face, the operative looped her arm through his, and they walked towards the entrance of the club, where a bouncer stood waiting for someone to test his patience. He stopped them at the door, his expression one of suspicion.

    “Name?” he demanded.

    “Nicholas Chains,” Isaac replied. He motioned to Raider. “This is my girlfriend Sandra. Don’t ask me how I got her,” he added with a wink.

    The bouncer folded his arms. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you are. I can’t let you in here.”

    “Ah, come on. Do I look like I’ll cause trouble?” Isaac pulled Raider close by the hip, and she gave a mindless giggle. Over the commpiece in his ear, he thought he heard Samantha withhold a jealous gasp. “We’re just here to have a good night.”

    The bouncer moved his eyes from one to the other, his gaze lingering on Raider’s form. He opened his mouth as if to refuse them again, but frowned and stopped. His eyes took on a purple hue briefly, before returning to normal. “Well… alright. You two look like class acts.” He stood aside, and motioned for them to go in. “Come right in.”

    “Thank you Azazel,” Isaac whispered when they were inside.

    You should be thankful he was weak-willed, the Ethereal muttered. I am only a Minor in Purple, after all. On most people, such suggestion would not have worked.

    “Whatever, I’ll take it. Bouncer was supposed to be briefed we were coming. Clearly he wasn’t.”

    Inside the club, people were everywhere. On the dancefloor, the patrons allowed the music beating from the speakers to flow through them, the mass of humanity moving in time. Around the sides, people sat at tables, some with alcohol, others with food, others still with both. Lights flickered everywhere, dancing off the walls and ceiling. One could tell another’s purpose for being there purely by their clothing – some were there to escape from reality. Others were there for a friendly catch-up. Some, even for business.

    Isaac swallowed. Now he remembered why he didn’t frequent such places. “Round the back,” he murmured. “That’s where we’re meeting him.”

    “Alright,” Raider said cheerfully, beginning a stride towards the dancefloor. He yanked her back by the arm. “What?” she asked.

    “We’re just going to walk through all of that?” he hissed.

    “It’d look far less suspicious if we joined the rabble,” she insisted. “Just dance your way through.”

    “I’m not doing it.”

    You will not convince him, Azazel said to Raider privately. Judging from his thought patterns, he is adamant.

    This from the guy who insists on staying in character at all times. “Alright, fine. We’ll just walk over then.”

    Relieved, Isaac began to make his way around the crowd bouncing in the center with Raider, weaving past the occasional person carrying drinks. Eventually, they reached the bar, where Isaac attracted the attention of one of the security members standing in the doorway of the ‘employees only’ area. “Excuse me,” he said, “my girlfriend -“ Again, the strange noise from Samantha. “- needs to use the bathroom, and the main ones are full of people. We’re in a bit of a rush, so could we use the one back here?”

    The indoor bouncer looked down at him, being rather taller. “You ‘Nicholas’?” he asked, clearly aware that this was a fake name.

    “That’d be me.”

    He stepped aside. “Sure, go ahead. Don’t be too long, though.”

    In the back, the two bee-lined for a nondescript room behind the kitchen, the door of which opened and a man in a suit was thrown out, much to the laughter of the room’s occupant. “Get this fuckwit outta here,” a voice yelled from within, and the guard responsible for the throwing grabbed the unfortunate man by the neck, carrying him out like he was holding a bag of garbage.

    Isaac resisted the urge to knock. “Samson?” he asked, peering in.

    The beefy black man seated at the table within grinned. “Ain’t using names dangerous?” he queried.

    “Only if there’s someone to listen,” Isaac responded.

    “There’s always someone to listen,” Samson retorted. He indicated the chairs across from him. “Your colleague here, or they still on their way?”

    “I’m here,” Raider said, following Isaac in and sitting down with him.

    Samson raised an eyebrow. “Hey, I, uh… I ain’t complainin’, but… ah… Where she gonna hide the stuff? That outfit doesn’t exactly have much room to hide anything.”

    Isaac coughed. Now the risky part. “We… may have called you here on false pretenses. We aren’t here to do a drug deal.”

    “Then what are you here for?”

    The Judge frowned. “You’re not worried about that at all?”

    Samson scoffed. “No. You wanted pop me, you woulda done so already. You undercover cops, you woulda gone along with it till I procured the merchandise. Clearly, you got my best interests at heart.” He cracked a knuckle, still smiling. “Or, at least, you don’t feel like fillin’ me fulla lead. Tonight, anyway. That just leaves the questions of who you are, and what my sorry ass can do for you.”

    “Well, glad that’s out of the way,” Isaac muttered. “You might have heard of me. I go by the name of ‘Judge’, and my associate here is Raider. We were hoping to interest you in a job proposition.”

    “Now, you hold on there,” Samson interrupted. “You ain’t the Judge. That’s bullshit, Judge always goes around with that Yokolov bastard, amiright? Maybe my eyes need testing, but that sure as hell ain’t Yokolov sitting right there. If it is, I might need to re-evaluate my sexuality.”

    The Judge scowled. “Yokolov died several years ago. During the war. If he were still alive, I wouldn’t be here hiring you.”

    The African-American considered that for a moment. “True enough,” he said finally, an odd trace of somberness to his voice. “I’m sorry to hear he’s dead. Truly. Crazy asshole was an inspiration to all us enforcer types. Only wish I coulda seen him in action. I hear he was something to watch.”

    Isaac waved a hand dismissively. “Only if you were on his side,” he replied dryly. “Anyway, as I was saying. I have a job offer for you.”

    “That so?” Samson asked. “Alright. You got my interest. But first, a little test.” With that, he pulled one hand above the table, ironically clutching a ‘Judge’ shotgun-pistol in it, pointed directly at the two operatives. Isaac breathed in sharply, resisting the urge to whip his handgun out. From Raider’s emotionless expression, clearly she was having similar urges.
     
  16. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    “First off, you people outside, y’all hear me? Stand your asses down. I’m gonna need you to be out there in a few moments.” He indicated Raider with the gun hand, causing her to straighten slightly. “I know his name. What’s yours?”

    “Raider,” she responded.

    “Your normal name.”

    “Sandra.”

    Samson cocked his head. “Your real normal name.”

    Raider hesitated. Seeing no way out, she relented. “Evelyn,” she said quietly.

    The enforcer smiled. “Now then, Evelyn…” he said. “I want you to take the knife hidden in your heels, go out to the bar, and stab the bartender in the back, alright?”

    “What? Why?”

    “You have half a minute,” Samson continued. “or I ice this motherfucker right here. Your time starts now.”

    Without waiting, Raider stood and strode out, bringing one leg up higher than usual in her stride and slipping the switchblade out of its hiding place. Through the ‘employees only’ area, she came out behind the bar counter, where the bartender had just handed some customers their doses of alcohol. With a resigned expression on her face, she approached him confidently, reasoning that she’d only be stopped if it looked like she didn’t belong there. I am so sorry, she whispered in her head, before grabbing the man’s shoulder and plunging the knife towards his back.

    To her surprise, the bartender twisted, clearly not taken as off-guard as she’d anticipated. He dodged the knife, causing Raider’s swing to miss entirely, and allowing him to wrest himself out of her grasp. As he did, she thought she felt a buckle cross his shoulder, correctly deducing her was wearing a ballistic vest of some description. The dancing went on, oblivious, as the now grinning bartender went for the automatic pistol hanging in a discrete pouch from his hip. His expression faltered when he failed to locate it. With a smile, Raider procured the missing gun, having swiped it from him in the initial tussle, and aimed it directly at his head.

    Everyone in the building froze when the gunshot rang out. The DJ stopped mixing, the dancers ceased dancing, the partygoers stopped partying. For a moment, about the time it took for the bartender to fall to the ground, nobody moved. Then, as a group, everyone processed the sound, recognized it as a gunshot. As fear overtook the mob and they rushed for the exits, Raider simply swiveled around and walked back to the back room. She no longer felt remorse, and now thought she understood why Samson had wanted the bartender dead.

    Indeed, upon re-entering, the two men were already preparing for a firefight. “I knew it,” Samson said when she returned, a grin on his face. “That asshole started work here only a few days ago after he was, uh… ‘referred’ by an exterior source. He was pretty good. Stayed in his cover, kept his weaponry hidden well. But…” He hefted an AA-12 shotgun onto the table, his grin wider. “I know a paid thug when I see one. Takes one to know one, amiright?”



    Lester’s Files: Operation ‘Shieldbreaker’
    Washington DC, ‘Tasteless’ Club
    January 10th, 11:37 PM



    Deployed Units:

    One volunteer to act as bartender, lightly equipped
    Two ‘Tempest’ formation squads
    One ‘Flash Flood’ formation squad, including Ghost Operative ‘Spectre’


    Background:

    This operation is only to be enacted should the individual known as Isaac ‘The Judge’ Anderson attempt to make contact with the individual known as ‘Samson’, either in person or via communications otherwise. Preferably the former. Should these conditions be met, the operation should commence.

    The AO is a ‘fancy’ club sitting in downtown Washington, one of those places that presents an elegant exterior while hiding one of corruption beneath. This is one of Samson’s favorite haunts, as he is currently involved in the drug trade, usually as a reliable go-between. The lighting in the club is unlikely to be forgiving, be cautious of this. There is likely to be a large number of civilians there – as what is essentially the black-ops part of Stormwater, you will not be penalized for accidental casualties should the mission succeed, however punishment will be in order for intentional or excessive killing of anyone outside the brief.


    Instructions:

    The volunteer for bartender is to keep in cover until reinforcements arrive, at which point they may join forces. They are to alert us when the target is sighted. Once reinforcements do arrive, they are to enter through each of the four entry points to the building, one squad to each. These entry points are the front door, the side windows, and the two back doors, one of which leads directly into Samson’s usual room. Spectre’s unit will make entry into the owner’s office through the windows, and will use this position if the target(s) somehow manage to break past the other squads.

    Once inside, all squads are to follow their assigned paths until they encounter the target(s), or they meet up with another squad, at which point they will declare the sector clear. Rinse and repeat until the target(s) are located. Find them. Kill them.


    Objectives:

    1. Locate the target(s)
    2. Eliminate the target(s)


    Equipment Distribution:

    Each ‘Tempest’ squad should consist of four members, with one Assault, two Infantry, and one Scout, utilizing ballistic weaponry.
    The ‘Flash Flood’ squad should consist of six members, with two Assaults, one Gunner, one Infantry, and two Scouts, utilizing ballistic weaponry.
    A member of the ‘Ghost’ team, Spectre, will join the Flash Flood as a Sniper, taking the place of one Scout. Spectre has access to Shadow Armor and a laser sniper rifle.


    Confirmed and Expected Enemies:

    ‘Samson’ (confirmed)
    Isaac ‘The Judge’ Anderson (confirmed)
    Evelyn ‘Raider’ Gandra (confirmed)

    Samantha ‘The Iron Huntress’ Steele (expected)
    Jack ‘Noxious’ Lazarus (expected)
     
  17. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Washington DC, ‘Tasteless’ Club
    January 10th, 11:37 PM



    Stormwater made their entry not long after. Their inside man dead, they lacked intel – where the targets were now, and so on. So far they knew that three opponents were present on site, with the suspicion that the other two were somewhere nearby. Pushing past fleeing partygoers and staff, each mercenary, wearing gear lacking their outfit’s logo, pushed into their entry and prepared themselves for a fight.

    In the back room, the two operatives and their new ally were doing exactly the same thing. “These motherfuckers been watching me for about the past week,” Samson explained, handing Raider a spare ballistic vest and some boots. “You know them?”

    Isaac grunted, checking that the clip in his Desert Eagle was secure. “Probably. My guess is Stormwater.”

    Samson looked at him in surprise. “Man, a fuckin’ PMC? What the fuck you do to piss them off?”

    “I… may have blown up one of their warehouses. And interrupted one of their other operations.”

    The enforcer looked at him like he was mad. “You fuckin’ psycho, man. Ya’ll better be paying me good for my shit, I ain’t associating myself with the likes of you for charity.”

    “You two can work out the terms of your employment after we fight off the mercs, alright?” Raider said, still holding the bartender’s pistol.

    “Right. Huntress, Noxious, I want you both to stay in the car until we engage, then come up behind the ones that went in the main entrance. Catch them off guard,” Isaac directed. He frowned. “Azazel, you want to join in or sit this out?”

    The Ethereal hesitated. I am more helpful to you in here, he said at last, telegraphing their movements to you. I am… not experienced in a combat role.

    “Alright. Keep that ESP working then. Hannah, keep your foot close to the accelerator.”

    Samson seemed confused. “You hear that voice in your head? You guys got a psion?”

    “… yeah,” Isaac answered, without elaborating.

    The enforcer looked at him incredulously. “What the fuck kinda job you pullin’, with people like this?”

    The three snapped their heads to the door, as the sounds of someone kicking another door down reached them. “We’ll discuss it all later,” Isaac said, returning his gaze to his newest employee. “Right now someone is intent on us not leaving this building alive. I’d rather not give in to their wishes.” As he said this, he felt his attention being draw back to the door, a slight tugging at the edge of his awareness. This tugging became a coherent vision – like he was seeing through a second pair of eyes. No, that’s exactly what it was. Through these eyes he saw a hand – close enough to belong to him – indicate a familiar door, and several individuals, all heavily armed, take positions on the other side, ready to conduct a breaching maneuver. Memorizing where they were, Isaac turned, rifle out, and fired once. The other eyes snapped sideways, the bullet having gone through the door and straight into one of the other soldier’s heads.

    Push them now, Azazel instructed. Their thought patterns are disorganized.

    With a wave to indicate what he was doing, Isaac brought out his handgun again and kicked the door open himself, proceeding to dispatch two of the remaining three mercenaries before they had a chance to react. Samson, not wanting to be left out, pushed the barrel of his shotgun past Isaac’s shoulder, angled at the remaining foe. With a crack, the second pair of eyes in Isaac’s mind were consumed in darkness, the connection broken as the shotgun pellets forced their way through the man’s head.

    The two men glanced at each other, then strode forward, weapons at the ready. Raider poked her head through, raising an eyebrow at the bodies. “Nice work,” she said simply, following them. “Did you just get one through the door?”

    “ESP can be a powerful tool,” Isaac said, glancing around. “They’ll know we’re here now. Come in behind them.”

    “I do so love surprises from behind,” Samantha said, the sound of a car door opening and closing audible over the earpiece. “We’ll meet around the dancefloor, alright?”

    “I’m still not dancing with you,” Isaac responded, before hefting his rifle back up, at the ready. With only a motion of his hand, he started moving forward towards the front, with Samson and Raider in tow.

    *

    The manager flinched under his desk as the windows to his office burst inward in a merciless cloud of glass. The boots under which the windows had shattered landed on the ground with a thump, then a quick scatter as they moved out of the way to let the next pair in. The people they were attached to clearly meant business – the manager spotted a few laser firearms from underneath the desk, a sign that whoever these people were, they were well equipped.

    The last one to enter was clearly their leader, the best equipped of the six. His armor, for example, was evidently a step or two above Kevlar, and where the rest of the squad only had one laser weapon each, both this man’s sniper rifle and pistol were laser-grade. And, the manager thought glumly as the leader turned to face him, he probably had ESP.

    “Get out from under there,” the mercenary commanded, and the manager complied, holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Where does Samson usually do business?”

    “Out the back,” the manager replied without hesitation. When his life was on the line, he felt no remorse about selling Samson out. “There’s a private booth he hires. He was supposed to do business with someone tonight. That’s all I know.”

    The mercenary nodded. “Thank you for being so forthcoming.” With a speed that almost defied logic, he then proceeded to whip out his pistol, aim it at the manager’s head, fire, and discharge the heat in one smooth motion.

    “We heading straight there, Spectre?” one of the other mercenaries asked.

    Before Spectre could answer in the affirmative, the sound of gunfire at the entrance of the club drew his attention. “Assault rifle and SMG, both spraying rather than bursting. The Huntress and Noxious are here.” He shook his head. “No, we’ll set up here while we still have the chance. Assaults, Scout, get onto the dancefloor and find positions. You’ve got maybe a minute before they get in here. Gunner, Infantry, stay up here with me. Get into a good position.” He readied his sniper rifle, a scowl curling the side of his mouth. “Tonight I avenge Banshee.”
     
  18. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    “Entrance squad is down,” Samantha said gleefully. “They weren’t expecting lurkers, their behind was completely open. Just mowed ‘em down.”

    “Nice work,” Isaac said. “Azazel, how many more are there in the building?”

    The Ethereal did not respond for a moment. Another squad left, he replied at last, though his tone was one of worry. One of the members is psionic, I could not get a read on him.

    “Could you tell which spectrum at least?”

    I would hazard Blue, Azazel said. His energy is controlled, rather than bursting at the seams like a Red, or swirling like a Yellow.

    “Shit. He probably knows where we are then.” He waved forward. “We’ll need to be quick.”

    Running is out of the question. The enemy squad has set up position directly between you and the exit. They seem to be fully aware you have no exit through the back.

    “We’ll break onto the main room when you do,” Samantha said. “Just give the word.”

    “Yeah, y’all do that. I got another plan,” Samson said, a cocky grin on his face.

    Isaac frowned. “What?”

    “Best place to overwatch the dancefloor would be the manager’s office, right? Fat motherfucker sees errythin’ goes on on that dancefloor from there.” Samson turned, striding towards the storage room, shotgun at the ready. “His door’s through here. I dunno ‘bout you, but I think that’s where they be. And that’s where I’m going.”

    The side of the Judge’s mouth curled up slightly. “Good idea. Raider, you go with him, make sure he doesn’t get stabbed in the back.”

    Samson frowned, stopping. “You not coming with?”

    Isaac shook his head. “I’ll draw attention on the floor. Give you two a chance to get close. When I give the word, everyone burst out of your spots, alright? Pick them off.”

    “A’ight, if that’s what you want man.” The enforcer gave a mock salute, then continued on his way, Raider following with a worried glance back at Isaac. Exhaling, the Judge made his way out from the back into the main room, appearing from the door behind the bar. His eyes scanned the room, resting briefly on the dead bartender directly in front of him. Another cursory sweep of the room revealed the barely visible gun barrel poking out of one of the chairs on the upper balcony, aimed at the other door he could have come from.

    “Amateur,” Isaac muttered, raising his rifle and taking a single shot. He was rewarded with the sound of someone suddenly dealing with a piece of metal flying through their throat, and the gun barrel shifted as the target thrashed.

    “Nice shot,” a voice echoed from above. Isaac turned his head, noting that the glass wall that had separated the manager’s office from the main room was shattered. The voice had come from there. “Didn’t realize there was a door there. Would have set someone watching it if I had.”

    “Should have studied the place beforehand then,” Isaac responded, retreating to the doorway.

    “It’s too late now,” the voice said. “We’ve chosen our positions. You’ve chosen yours. And even though I didn’t have anyone watching that door, it, by merit of being the only door unwatched, means I know exactly where you are.” This last was punctuated with a laser shot, the beam tearing through the plaster beside the door and missing Isaac’s shoulder by centimeters. There was silence for a moment. “Just off, was I?” the voice asked.

    The Judge’s mind raced. How did they source laser equipment? What else did they have, if they could get that? “Now,” he whispered into his communicator, bracing himself for a breach.

    The next few seconds were chaos.

    Samantha charged in the main entrance, spraying bullets in every possible hiding place before reaching one of the pillars holding the indoor balcony up and taking cover behind it. Noxious too entered through the front, but instead of following Samantha, he ran up the stairs to the upper floor, catching a hiding mercenary off guard, spraying him down before he had time to even fire his shotgun once. Samson and Raider both burst through the door to the manager’s office, with the former already firing. A man wielding an assault rifle managed to get a few shots off, but they went wide as he attempted to compensate for his surprise. The merc with the LMG didn’t even have time to turn around before he took a number of autopistol rounds in his cranium. Isaac himself breached, spotting a shotgun on the upper floor. One shot, and he was dead too.

    That left only the final mercenary, who had been hiding behind the manager’s desk with a laser sniper rifle pointed close to Isaac’s position. Unable to take the shot without perishing to the two operatives to his side, he made an executive decision, utilizing his Shadow armor to cloak himself and relocate.

    There is still one.
     
  19. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    “Lovely tactic,” the voice said dryly, no longer located in the office. “Very clever. Very simple, but very clever.” But this is a new game you’re playing, he added telepathically. And if there’s someone good at hiding… it’s me.

    Isaac scowled, scanning the room. “Who the hell do you think you are?”

    A mental chuckle. Have you ever considered a ghost story, Judge? Why are we so afraid of the dead? Do we see it as unnatural that they return? Is it the secrets they bring? Their ethereal appearance? A pause. It matters not, really. In the end, it’s the Spectre of all this that everyone fears. Do you feel that? The terror? Just like a Spectre-

    MOVE!


    -I fade in and out of view!


    Isaac dove sideways as a laser sliced the air his head had been occupying, causing the bottle of alcohol it did hit to explode in shards of glass and liquid. Samantha sprayed into the spot the laser had come from, but was not rewarded by a gasp of pain. She reloaded, cursing, while the other operatives, suddenly cautious of their backs, started edging towards the center of the room from their positions.

    The Judge swore, returning himself to an upright position. “The hell?”

    He’s using ESP, Azazel whispered. When he does, I can pinpoint his position, but he can also pinpoint yours. He’s using it to see where you all are before he attacks someone.

    “Any way you can alert me before he de-cloaks and snipes one of us?”

    Yes. I will need you to trust your instincts for it to work, however.

    “Trust my…?”

    If you feel the urge to shoot somewhere, do it. Do not question it.

    Isaac swallowed, raising his rifle again. “Got it.”

    “Ay man, you a fuckin’ coward you know that?” Samson spat. “Pulling this ‘you can’t see me’ bullshit. You fuckin’ John Cena or something?”

    Is it cowardice to utilise one’s equipment to effect? Spectre taunted. To act in a way that pursues one’s own survival?

    “You usin’ hit an’ run tactics. That’s not cool, man.”

    Isaac felt his attention being drawn to the manager’s office. Following his instinct, he could see a faint blue outline standing on the steps leading up to the office. At least, that’s where he assumed Spectre was – he was seeing this through a wall, after all. But if the enemy was there… “Raider, run!” he commanded. Thankfully, she wasn’t one to question his orders, and she pelted out of the office by the shattered glass wall, landing surprisingly well for someone wearing heels. In the time she’d run, a laser drilled through the spot she had been, revealing Spectre. Samson snarled, and unloaded a few shells towards the unveiled mercenary. Spectre merely cloaked again and ran, though a gasp of pain indicated at least some of the pellets had found a home in his torso.

    Impossible! Spectre gasped. How did you know I was there?

    No longer happy being by himself, Samson followed Raider off the second floor, though he slid from the ledge rather than leap off it. Noxious too descended, having ascertained that the top floor was indeed clear of lurking foes. The three kept their distances from each other, though, wary that if they clumped together it would only make it easier for their foe to pick them off together.

    He will be more cautious now, Azazel said. If you spot blood dripping from mid-air, do not hesitate to open fire.

    Raider discarded her pistol, noting that she had a grand total of one bullet remaining. “Should have brought an actual gun…” she said disdainfully.

    Noxious shrugged. “I should have brought a knife. Wanna swap?”

    “No.”

    “Exactly.”

    Again, Isaac felt his attention being pulled. He followed it, his gaze resting uncertainly on the space behind Noxious. “Not certain?” he asked.

    I thought I felt something… the Ethereal muttered. … but nothing now. It’s possible he’s trying to deceive us by triggering ESP in one spot then moving quickly and attacking from elsewhere.

    Sure enough, a mere second later, Spectre re-materialized behind Raider instead, laser pistol in hand. Before anyone could cry out or shoot, however, Raider herself had already detected her enemy, spinning around with her switchblade out and embedding it into Spectre’s chest. His helmet glanced down briefly before striking her in the face and cloaking again, using the opportunity to flee the position.

    Alloy blade? the mercenary queried. Must have been, to get through my armor like that. Not long enough, though.

    “It’s not the size that matters,” Raider said with a grin on her face. She reached to her right heel, fingering a button built into the side. “It’s how you use it.” She pressed it, and Spectre de-cloaked again, screaming in pain from the electric shock.

    “What is this?!” he yelled once the shock had passed. He ripped the blade out, tossing it to the side. “Sneaky tactics? I’ll show you sneaky tactics…” He made to cloak once again, then glanced down at his armor, surprised he could still see it. “Eh?”

    Noxious withheld a grin. “That shock must’ve fried your armor. Short circuit.”

    “Son of a –“ Spectre cursed, then made to run away, into the back of the nightclub. “Don’t think this is over!”

    “I beg to differ,” Isaac muttered, simply walking around the corner of his doorway into the back and aiming down the room. Sure enough, Spectre emerged from the doorway opposite him, directly into Isaac’s sight-lines. He froze when he spotted the Australian, the severity of the situation sinking in.

    “God dammit.”

    “Yep.” Isaac fired, the bullet piercing the helmet of the merc and eliciting a spray of blood and grey matter. He let his rifle loose in his grip, slinging it down as his opponent fell, lifeless. He examined the corpse for a moment, then shook his head, turning to leave. A thought made him change his mind, going back to the Spectre and retrieving his weapons. “May as well get something out of this.”
     
  20. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Warehouse HQ
    January 11th, 6:45 PM



    “So run me by this shit again,” Samson said, rubbing his forehead. “This motherfucker iced your wife, fucked around with your daughter, so now you creepin’ on him, right?”

    Isaac nodded, taking a mouthful of water. “That’s a proper summary, yeah.”

    “And you been devotin’ resources, time, money, and effort to findin’ him for the past… what, two decades?”

    “Yep.”

    Samson shook his head. “Jesus, man. Remind me never to get on your bad side.”

    “Most people learn that pretty quick.”

    “You know where he is?”

    That made Isaac frown. “No,” he said, “but thanks to the Overseer, I’ve now got some hints. Their agents finished going through some data I provided earlier today. He seems to return to America after business meetings and the like, which leads them to believe this is where his home base is.” He frowned, steepling his fingers. “Now it’s just a question of which city, which building.”

    Any idea what opposition we can expect? Azazel asked, having elected to stand beside the table rather than contest one of the seats with his reluctant allies.

    Samson gave him a glare. “I’m still not happy you held out on me about this motherfucker right here,” he said.

    “So you’re fine with me going around wearing an Ethereal mask, but you aren’t happy with an actual Ethereal?”

    “Fuck no,” the enforcer snapped. “You ain’t likely to be abductin’ peeps in your spare time.”

    I can assure you the rumors of posterior probing are entirely fictional. The only area that was conducted in was the geni-

    “You shut your fuckin’ mouth.”

    “How about both of you do?” Samantha said tiredly. “We’re working together now. We might not have to like it, but if you don’t for god’s sake keep it to yourself.”

    The two settled down, Samson muttering obscenities under his breath while Azazel remained silent as always. “… as I was about to say,” Isaac said carefully, “Stormwater is essentially in Lester’s pocket. Their head honcho, a Mr. Peter Hackett, is directly on Lester’s payroll. Hell, Lester practically owns the business.”

    “So the whole ‘go in, fight a private army, go out’ routine is a permanent thing then?” Noxious asked.

    “Sadly yes. And it gets worse. That elite unit we fought when we collected Samson was part of a special squad of Stormwater troops, code-named ‘Ghost Squad’.”

    Samantha raised an eyebrow. “Is that why he was jabbering on about ghost stories at the beginning there?”

    Isaac nodded. “Yes. His code-name was ‘Spectre’, and he was probably the weakest out of the five operatives in that squad. Luckily for us, we’ve already beaten the strongest.”

    Everyone around the table made a surprised noise. “Eh?” Raider scratched her head, having discarded the uncomfortable dress for proper clothing. “I don’t recall ever seeing someone more geared than him outside our mission on the Temple Ship, and even then Sam was on our side. Uh…” she hesitated when both Samantha and Samson looked at her. “Samantha, I mean. This is going to get confusing very fast…”

    Isaac grinned. “Jack, you remember that cloud of gas you popped when we were destroying that warehouse?”

    Noxious flinched at the use of his name. “The one I dropped in the doorway? Yeah, why?”

    “Their strongest, Banshee, was caught in that gas. Aside from the internal damage, he was also caught in the explosions. Poor guy’s still alive, barely, but he’s certainly out of commission for a few months at least. Probably the rest of his life.”

    “Niiiiice.”

    “So that’s one roadblock we won’t have to deal with,” Isaac said, folding his arms. “There’s still the other members, though. Apparently, we’ve got Wraith, Phantom, and the Lost left, although the Lost is apparently pretty green. Had their training fast-tracked recently.”

    Samson grinned. “Three motherfuckers left. And how many are we?”

    “Not enough,” Isaac responded. “I’ve still got some people we need to track down and hire. And I wouldn’t count on numbers to see us through,” he warned, “since Spectre had superior gear.”

    Samantha nodded. “I’ve been meaning to ask about that, actually,” she said. “How did he get his hands on a pair of laser weapons? Better question, Shadow armor?”

    The Judge shrugged. “Black market. Where else?”

    The Huntress gave him a dark look. “Have you seen the price for even a laser pistol on the market? We’d have to rob two banks to even get close to buying one.”

    Isaac returned the look. “You seem to have forgotten who their benefactor is. Lester has far too much money to leave lying around when his life is in danger.”


    Is there any way you could close this technology gap?
    Azazel asked in an attempt to keep the conversation civil.

    “Aside from picking the weapons off their dead bodies, not really. Although…” Isaac frowned. “The Overseer’s in pretty good with the XSDF. Might be able to turn that angle, get us a few items at discount. Few bits of armor, weapons… even if we can procure the weapons, they’re no good without ammo.”

    “Well, get them working on it then,” Raider said. “If Lester’s outfitting his grunts with high-tech gear, we need to be able to match up, or we may as well be firing pea-shooters.”

    “Yeah, I know. For now, though, everyone’s dismissed. Go get some proper rest.” The chairs scraped against the concrete floor as those seated rose, making their way to their rooms to get some well-earned rest. Samson gave a mock salute before disappearing, leaving Isaac alone with the Ethereal. He frowned when he realized Azazel was still there. “That means you too.”

    The Ethereal hesitated. I wanted to ask about this ‘Overseer’ you speak of. Am I right in assuming he has a similar role to the Overseers of my own people?

    Isaac raised an eyebrow. “’He’? The Overseer’s identity is unknown. They could be male or female, or even neither. Could be an AI for all we know.”

    My mistake. ‘They’, then.

    Isaac shrugged. “You’re mostly right, though. The Overseer’s job is to oversee, oddly enough. They watch the events of the world. Note them. Determine the implications. Once upon a time, they’d simply sell information. Now, with the partnership with the XSDF, things are a little more… complicated.”

    I see. Azazel turned his head, facing the mask resting beside Isaac. When did you receive that?

    “A long time ago,” the assassin answered carefully. “Before your people showed up. Never worked out that puzzle.” He watched as Azazel picked up the object, examining it carefully.

    It appears to be an excellent duplication, if not the real thing, he said at last, setting the mask back down. The… language carvings, in particular, are spot on. He rested a finger on one such carving before releasing his hold on the mask and stepping away. In any case, I should get some rest. I will see you tomorrow, the Ethereal said, before melting into the shadows in the back of the warehouse.

    Isaac leaned back, partially unsurprised. One day, he might have to sand that particular carving off. Elene Exalt had once said it was a dead giveaway to anyone who could read the Ethereal language. For it marked him for what he was.

    Overseer of Earth.

    The Judge frowned. He’d have to keep an eye on Azazel from now on. The Ethereal was proving increasingly crafty for such a quiet individual.