PHASE V : THE NIFELHEIM ARC ( 37 of 62 )
“ War to the Knife ”
"Hate is many things. A feeling. An emotion. A
thing to live by. A foundation to base existence upon. A morale booster. A
reason for living. More importantly, hate is an efficient weapon. Hatred is
a sublime emotion. It is a flame; pure in purpose, provided the proper fuels
are in place. Envy, scorn and prejudice are but temporary fuels to the
flame. For our purposes, vengeance and justice are the best, the most
ignitable, the most long lasting and burning of reasons to fuel the flame of
hate. Based on research by TAARD, a warrior who hates his enemy fights
35.78% more efficiently than one who does not. He will live and ignore odds
that are insurmountable to a mere soldier. Living for the moment of
vengeance. That is why we must hate our enemy. It is efficient, and
- Sue Yen Ng Lai, "The Propaganda Manifesto"
Chinese New Year Charity Ceremony
She saw them from the corner of her eye. Almost a dozen figures, dressed in a variety of clothing and with seemingly no relation to each other. Except for the split second glance they gave at each other, and the jockeying about as they tried to form a rough semicircle around the platform. She didn’t know what they packed; but anything was bad news. Almost a dozen guns were undetectable by metal detectors - ironically a good portion of them were made by either Tanfen or Porhen and any one of them could strike a man dead at the range the assassins were at.
Inwardly, she cursed her old friend for his foolishness. The platform the ceremony was on was out in the open, right on Independence Avenue, where the monolithic Corporate Tower lay. Even now, crimson, gold and silver colored lion dancers were just about to finish. People flocked around the platform, kept away by a single line of TSF troopers and respect for the Patriarch, the President of the entire corporation and ruler of all he surveyed. A little girl had just accepted a red packet from the Patriarch, smiling happily before curtseying and walking down the platform. There was clapping as the crowd cheered.
A TPRO exec begun to light a stream of firecrackers.
One of the assassins began to make their move, timing his attack to coincide with the cacophony of the firecrackers. No time.
“Kim! Down!” she bellowed. Even amidst the deafening report of streams of firecrackers going off, her voice rang clear and strong. Reflexes honed over three decades of combat made the patriarch duck. For a split second, the crowd stood stunned.
Branford leapt off the platform, drawing her sword and igniting it in midair. She screamed a battlecry, “TAAANNNN!!!!!!!”
A round of white hot energy blazed out, missing her. There was a hiss of spent energy. Someone was hit. Branford didn’t have time to look behind her.
The stunned assassin raised his handgun to fire at her, drawing it out of his leather jacket with lightning speed. Branford was faster. She landed lightly on her feet despite her armor as she gave a vicious controlled punch with her left hand that shattered another killers jaw wielding a vibro-blade to her left, even as she gave a rapid chop and backhand that first severed the gunman’s outstretched hand at the wrist. As the man stared incredulously at the stump of his hand, her backhand laid him entirely open with a searing blaze of heat and fire from neck to gullet. His clothes caught fire, ignited by the superheated blade. The man fell, gurgling and alternating between rolling over to quench the flames and keeping the remains of his entrails in his gut with his remaining hand.
The sickly sweet smell of burning flesh fringed Branford’s nostrils in the redolent stench of battle. The screams of the dying around her were a grim symphony in the song of battle; her blade a strident clarion call in the symphony of death. The crowd begun to scream and panic. Chaos reigned. TISD agents flung armored jackets onto the President even as they stood in a circle to protect him and take him away to a waiting APC. The press of the stampeding crowd offered them little escape, leaving them trapped on the raised platform. In any case, they had their orders: Protect the President. They gritted their teeth and stood in a circle around the president with Loyalists acting as an outer shield of bodies. The TSF troopers at the base of the platform gave oaths of surprise and pain as the crowd ran them over. They were their own people and they could not use their weapons, except to hold the line and keep them away from the platform. Chaos. Blood. People screamed.
Though she was fast, Branford was not faster than a bullet. One of the attackers, hanging at the back of the crowd let loose with a burst of 10mm rounds from an SMG that seemed to be made from a ceramic compound. Many hit the crowd. Dozens fell. The rest dropped to the ground or trampled the rest in a stampede.
Several ricocheted off her armor, but one slammed into her sword arm, making it go limp, and causing her to wince in pain. Without missing a beat, she switched sword arms, and then gave a rapid dash at the gunman. As she dashed, she body-blocked another attacker aside, skewered him on her blazing blade, and then used him to take the next few shots like a human shield before she skewered the gunman on her blade, making her weapon look like a human kebab with two flaming victims impaled on its white hot steel. Branford gritted her teeth, she had to body block with her wounded side to use her sword, and the impact jarred her, causing waves of pain to roll up her arm like arcing electricity. She let both corpses fall to the ground, sliding off her blade with the smell of burning flesh and blood.
Branford was not done, another man strove to tackle her, to bring her down with his sheer size. Taking advantage of his momentum, and her own armor, she flitted sideways, avoiding the man, and as she gave a vicious swing that beheaded another attacker, she hyper-extended the man’s leg with a savage kick that shattered his tibia bone like glass. The weight of her greaves, the angle of her attack and her strength all combined together to deliver a strike that made the tacking man fall screaming to his knees, his kneecap shattered like a glass golf ball. Without pausing a beat, she reversed her blade, and stabbed a man that attempted to back stab her with another vibro blade, before she reversed her sword like a baton leader, neatly cleaving the fallen man’s throat in half with scarcely a pause in rhythm.
As Branford begun engaging with another attacker, one of them tackled her from behind, holding her in a bear-like iron grip. The man’s beard and stinking breath nearly made Branford retch. Another attacker grinned, and then moved in to gut her open like a fish with his vibro stiletto. With a savage grin, she leaned down, and went limp, causing the man holding her to stagger in surprise at all the weight he had to carry. In a second, she broke the iron grip of the man while thoughtfully snapping his thumb in the opposite direction with an audible crack and gave a head butt at the attacker in front of her. As both of them fell back, screaming, or groaning with pain, she gave a roar and spun her regressive blade in a rapid circle that beheaded both of them with the same consistency as a bread slicer.
Before she could reach the last three men to engage them, one of them armed with a stolen HV-SMG, they suddenly jerked wildly and exploded like blood sausages. Branford looked up, and saw Laifen Highlanders with Dragon 6 sniper rifles perched on the rooftops; so far unable to act until they were able to get a clean shot. A Highlander on a rooftop, wearing black battle dress waved at Branford and gave a hand signal: "All hostiles cleared. Area secure."
Letting out a deep breath, Branford gave a Loyalists salute with her blade, before sheathing it, its argent fire quenched by the scabbard. In but a few scant seconds of battle that lasted like an eternity the area around her was littered with the desiccated corpses of both assassins and casualties alike, as well as dozens of moaning, injured civilians
The Patriarch rose, shrugging off the armored coat he was given, even as a flock of TISD and Loyalists nervously formed a security wheel around him. His eyes were steel gray, and looked at the horrible loss and devastation. He saw something and walked down the platform, pass the steaming hot pools of blood leaking onto the floor from the dead assassins. His shoes crunched the severed fingers of an assassin strewn over the courtyard. Loyalists followed him, guns and blades at the ready, though the square was all but empty now, save for teams of medics called from Laifen General, and the wail of ambulances and regular TSF troopers forming a cordon.
The Patriarch walked on, until he paused before a small and still form.
It was but one of dozens in the square. It was one of his grand nieces from the Families Minor. Barely a dozen winters old.
The assassins bullets', meant for him, did their work well. He knelt, and carried her in his arms. There was no blood the round of blazing energy had cored through her slight form, straight through her back and out the other end. Her dress was scorched, even as her wound was cauterized black. Bits of crisped flesh powdered on his immaculate suit. The Patriarch brushed her hair away and held her tightly.
A shout came from the perimeter. Her mother. The grim TSF troopers held her back. One looked at him. He gave a terse nod and the wall of TSF troopers parted.
Her mother broke through the cordon and saw her daughter. Stunned silent, she accepted the still form from his hands. “Oh Ling..my Ling!!! Why? Why? WHY?”
She fell to her knees before the Patriarch and wailed in abject grief.
He was the Patriarch. He was the defender of the Corporation. Of all his subjects. They counted on him to protect them.
And yet, he couldn’t even protect one of his grand nieces.
“Ling… forgive me.”
In the Blood Feud, there was an unspoken rule- no noncombatants… and no children.
He saw Branford, her weary eyes meeting his. She bled from her shoulder, but a tourniquet and a trailing TSF medic saw to her injury. Branford gave an inward shudder. Her old comrade and friends eyes were hard. He knew what will happen when he looked like this. “Branford, request the presence of Matriarch Lai and Patriarch Gan along with the Division Chiefs for an emergency board meeting - mobilize your brethren… no more defensive operations, no more following the Corporate Code…we go to war."
The Patriarch’s words were grim and fearful. The chains of honor, held hitherto by centuries of unspoken codes between both Family and Noble House were shattered.
The ravening dogs of Tanfen war were let loose.
Branford knew what would happen.
War to the knife. The knife to the hilt. No mercy, no quarter.
Things had suddenly gotten a lot worse.
“Enough coincidences form a fact. There is a unity and correlation in
the smallest of actions that correspond to a greater act being performed
in the shadows, much like how only the strings of the puppet can be
seen, but its master hidden. Notice how actions being performed in the
shadows actually make a puppet move in the light, and that the slightest
twitch of a finger would cause ripples in its actions. That is the
nature of the shadows.”
- Sayings of Yen, A Collection of thoughts and essays
The jungle was awash with weird sounds. Sounds travelled strangely in the jungle. Things you could have sworn to be a few metres away were actually miles off. The constant chattering, screaming and whining from a million indigenous lifeforms, half of which seriously considered a man fair game for a meal and were more dangerous than the enemy made it more difficult. The constant gunfire from faraway, and the screaming overhead as remaining defensive positions came under attack from Honour Guard star-fighters made for a rather stressful situation, if not terrifying. In this chaos, a group of desperate men ran. And ran for their very lives.
The Porhen Cadre troopers, badly mauled by a Tanfen airstrike on their positions attempted to regroup, falling back haphazardly to a staging point designated by one of their surviving officers, their desire to flee from the fighting more than their fear of what haunted the jungles of Meiwan. The accursed Tanfenners used up what remained of their carefully hoarded air power in a series of vicious strikes that tore deep into the Porhen OZ. Hardened positions and reinforced structures simply became rubble under the relentless series of hammerblows as fighter after fighter dropped bomb after bomb. Many of their outlying outsposts and positions on the smaller islands were literally pounded into rubble. Then the order came. To fall back, to regroup. They were more than glad to do so. It was one thing fighting an enemy man to man, another to seeing winged death come from the skies with the only hint of impending doom the whistle of an incoming warhead or the white hot sizzle of lasers strafing you.
As the Cadre point man broke through massive ferns and cracked tentacle like branches in his pressing desire to reach the staging point, a rapid flash of movement blurred his vision. Hardened eyes set with pure hatred. A vicious grimace of anticipation. A face darkened with camo paint. The Loyalist Marine leaped out from the undergrowth, with a hissing reg blade leading the way.
The Cadre point man gave a blood choked gurgle before several inches of finely crafted blade entered his throat and exited out the back of his skull and causing the wound to sizzle like meat on a grill. Behind the point man, the battered Cadre column gave shrieks as they were beset on all sides by members of a Loyalist hunter-killer squad. Though they were outnumbered by the Cadre they were hunting, they were in their element -- on the offensive, and in close built up terrain. A blur of motion, hissing white hot blades and the roar of high caliber ammunition at close quarters. Silence. The last Porhen cadre trooper fell like a gutted fish, his spilt blood already being sampled on by a host of ground crawling vermin. A quick cursory search of the bodies yielded nothing. They were conscripts, nothing more. The Loyalist corporal turned his head up, his keen senses hearing the approach of more men. Shouts and oaths in Euro-Indo. He thought about moving the bodies aside, but decided that they were more effective where they were. He gave a gesture. His men plucked fragmentation grenades from their belts and armed them, placing them under the freshly slaughtered Porhenners. The Loyalist nodded with satisfaction. But first things first.
He gave a gesture and his team each took out an aerosol can that they called Bug Juice and sprayed themselves head to foot, careful to cover every inch. Chemically synthesized pheromones that made them, at least to Maywan’s less vicious predators something distinctly dangerous and unpalatable. Porhen Industries had not come across the formula yet, and thus relied on jungle paths laboriously hacked through with chainsaw and axe. It was an advantage the Loyalists would not relinquish. The chemicals tended to run out after several hours though, which meant a reapplication; and woe betide one who was in Maywan’s jungles without Bug Juice. Death came rapidly, if not instantly. They melted into the jungle like wraiths in the mists of dawn.
From cover, they watched as the approaching Cadre squad happened upon their former comrades. What was left of them. Several looked nauseous and all looked horribly unsettled. One thought to turn a corpse over with a boot, even as ground crawling vermin were already chewing through the flesh. A click. White light. Screams. "FIRE!!! FIRE!!!" screamed them all as they opened up in a mad minute, automatics, lasers and a light cannon tearing up the jungle. The corporal gave a grin. They were wasting ammunition like mad. Soon, when they ran low, they would strike again. If the jungle didn’t get them first. He gave a gesture as he and his retinue flitted off into the vicious Meiwan jungle like wraiths.
The hunting was good. And the prey was better.
“Would the killing of a thousand evil men justify the killing of an
innocent? Logic says it is a clear profit. Good would benefit more. But
would the retribution of a thousand evil men be enough for me to go to
Heaven? Or the killing of one innocent be the justification for Hell? Or
maybe it all means damnation ever after?”
-Remark attributed to former Loyalist Marine, Kian Tan
In the darkened tenements and soaring star scrapers of humanity, another war was being fought. Another game of life and death. This time, it was not man against inhuman alien, but man against himself. It should have been realised that in the light of a species wide conflict humanity would pull itself together to face the coming threat. Unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself. It was a game as old as time. It was a game as young as human evolution itself in the grand scheme of things. It was a game of cat and mouse.
In the jungle of chrome, plascrete, glass and steel, man hunted man. Tanfen TISD pitted its full array of subversive agents and SWAT teams against Porhens Korporat Sekuritat hit teams and saboteurs. Prior to this, both had a pretty good idea where each others sleepers and other agents were, their so called covers and the double lives they led. It was easier to feed misinformation to a living agent than to 'sanction' one and have an unknown replacement that would take months, time and money to track down again.
Except, the kid gloves were off now. In light of the assassination attempt on the Lord Patriarch, and the brutal execution of an innocent daughter of the Families, they howled for blood. Porhen blood. Porhen in return were incensed at the slaying of House non-combatants in the Blood Feud and the murder attempt on their President. It was one thing to kill a PKS or House noble in battle, it was another to slay them, and their entire family. PKS and TISD received their orders. Extreme sanction. No mercy. No pity. Kill everything.
And both followed their orders to the letter. To that end, seemingly random killings and executions blossomed like a bloody rain throughout human space as seemingly uninvolved innocents were killed helter skelter. A secretary, a TISD deep cover plant for a prominent politician was blown into a hundred separate pieces when a demo charge went off in her apartment. Another, a PKS sympathizer in Origin Aerospace was killed in a mugging went horribly wrong. A fixer, this one with PKS ties died in a blazing hail of gunfire as a "Drug Enforcement" team kicked his door down and opened fire with Tanfen Gauss Archers and MLS-101 support weapons.
The papers foretold the seemingly senseless destruction being waged among both megacorps. The papers screamed headlines that seemed to herald the end.
"Random slayings rising!"
"Confed says violence under control"
"Corporate war in full swing!"
"The Stallion vs. The Eagle!"
"ConDex plunges! Megacorps at war!"
"Megacorp share values drop!"
The public grew terrified. Sweet words of concern were uttered to placate them. "No, there is no such thing. We are enjoying an amicable working relationship with Tanfen and Porhen Industries. We will continue to investigate and stop this rise in random accidents of violence for your safety! Don't worry!" said a sweet smiling Confederation senator. And the public smiled. It was alright they said. The government was on top of it they said. It was a temporary thing. And like all things, they forgot about it. There were more pressing concerns for the average man and woman in the street. Like where would their next paycheck be coming from and why in heck a canister of Soy-Milk cost two credits more than it used to cost last year! Damned corporations, greedy as all hell.
"THE END OF DAYS IS HERE! THE TITANS ARE AT WAR!" screamed a white haired, ragged zealot in the streets. "THE BLACK STALLION WILL KILL THE EAGLE!!!
"THE EAGLE WILL SLAY THE STALLION."
"NOBLE BLOOD WILL MAKE NOBLE HANDS UNCLEAN!"
Little did they know how true it was.
House of Flavourful Blossoms Restaurant
Tina Branford was, unfortunately rather easy to pick out in a crowd. Her hair was one thing, her bearing was another. Tall, proud, sleek and noble, she was like a thoroughbred and a hunting hound in one. She found it difficult to control the near overwhelming urge to gently reach out to the perpetrators when she found them, and then slowly and methodically break and dismantle them bone by bone with her regressive blade. Now however, she was dressed in a plain jumper and a faded jacket with the Platinum Panzers logo, sitting in what could be considered a relatively upper class restaurant in Paradise Heights. One of the richer districts in Laifen.
There, she talked with one of her personal contacts, who had associates of his own that received information about the various goings on on the corporate homeworld. She could have asked TISD, and they probably knew it-but her investigation was personal.
"You know why I'm here."
The man on the table took a sip of chrysanthemum tea and nodded. "My apologies to the Lord Patriarch. I hope he recovers."
Branford shook her head in a derisive snort. "Of course he will." She was about to say something but kept silent. The old warhorse won't go down unless he took down at least ten Porhen Noble dogs with him first. A little terrorist just wasn't up there on the scale of taking down someone as great as him.
"Forgive my doubts milady. But please, would you like to dine or go straight to business?"
"Business please, but do order something." Branford beckoned to a waitress. Outside, her lesser brethren kept a silent vigil, watching for anything out of the ordinary while scouring the city along with TISD for the perpetrators. Though she knew her brothers and sisters in arms tried their best, they still unfortunately stood out in the crowd as more than normal citizens or corporate employees. The wary look in their eyes and the forcibly relaxed body language, as well as the telltale signs of reg blades beneath their jackets gave them away. Needless to say, TISD was probably listening in or had knowledge of the meeting. Let them then.
A waitress came. Quickly and discreetly, she took their orders and came back with a glass of dark red burgundy along with two bowls of rice and several Cantonese dishes. Branford picked idly at the dishes, but observing proper courtesy served her guest first, picking the choicest pieces of meat and vegetables on his ricebowl. The man nodded his thanks as he took back his ricebowl and begun eating, and talking.
"Your...er...associates in the 'fortune telling business," Branford nodded for him to continue. That was another way people mentioned TISD among the intelligence community and among the more common populace when they declined to elaborate, "were quite thorough in acquiring additional knowledge about them, and you may notice that they possessed both Blood Foe and Brotherhood...property, though my friends in the Brotherhood wish to assure you, and the Lord Patriarch that we had nothing to do with the matter, nor did we assist them in any way. They were not our people."
Branford nodded once more, in assent this time. She knew that as well. If there was even an inkling of it. Family Tan would come down on the Triads like a sledge hammer on a grape. Organized crime was inevitable, but there were limits. Betrayal was betrayal. The corpses left of the assassins bore both Porhen corporate scripts and elaborate dragon tattoos that made it seem that they were both Triad and Porhen affiliated. Their weapons were also a mix of both Tanfen and Porhen issued armament. Though their registration numbers were wiped off, TAARD pulled off a rather nasty trick. Though ostensibly illegal, and possibly detrimental to sales, each weapon manufactured by both the Families and the Noble Houses had a rather unique molecular stamp to it, imprinted on a molecular level somewhere on the gun that was indistinguishable without the proper equipment. The registration number and laser etched production number were on the gun and could be erased quite easily, even the supposedly hidden internal etching in the gun. Thus, it was a rather interesting secret. Using that, a weapon could be traced down to the exact production batch and where it was sold to. All of them disappeared from registered hands when they were sold to a second hand arms dealer in Gemini. That trail was not helpful, but it was useful in the sense that it told them the perpetrators at least had the brains to buy untraceable armament.
“In any case Tina, the Brotherhood has noticed unusual activity in an abandoned safehouse near the corner of the Shipping district. You know the corner of Goulburn and Dixon street?”
Branford nodded, picking away at the food with her chopsticks.
The man continued, taking a sip from the burgundy before wiping his mouth with a napkin.
“A visit in haste may be in order milady. I have said too much. Thank you for your hospitality, Lady Branford.”
The man stood up and left.
Branford waited until he left the restaurant before she flashed her Executive Privilege card to the waitress. It bore the Tan coat of arms. With it, she can conceivably do anything from ordering a cup of tea to buying a Starliner in cash. The waitress nodded and charged it to the Family account.
She walked outside. Leaning next to a lamp post was Sue. She too was casually clad in jeans and a jacket that bore a comically amusing caricature of EVE. If not for the fact that she bore a sinister bodyguard that stood a discreet distance away, she would have been a very attractive, if casually clad lady out for a day in Laifen.
“You heard,” said Branford. It was a statement. Not a question.
Sue nodded. “We watch the shadows. Always.”
“I want my Loyalists to take them down.”
“Sorry Tina. Cooler heads must prevail. We need them for questioning. I’ve ordered a Delta and Alpha team to secure the insurgents."
Tina clenched her fists in anger. Sue stood straight and nodded to her.
“Make no mistake, Tina Branford. They will pay. Blood for blood.”
Sue then said something that was profoundly true.
“Nos patriconor noster gens.”
Tina nodded in acceptance of her words. She was right. Her Loyalists were warriors, not agents of subterfuge. She too was as angered as her. But she bore her anger differently. They both worked to the same goal. Where she was a white hot flame of vengeance, Sue was a cold pillar of icy hate.
Branford knew the ancient words.
“We take care of our own.”
Corner of Goulbourn and Dixon Street
The agent gave his best smile as he knocked on the door. "Good afternoon, sir, Agent Miller from TISD. We'd like to ask you a few..." If it wasn't for his training and his enhanced reflexes, he would never have noticed the subtle and rapid movement the man made towards a hidden derringer. Agent Miller leaped aside from the door, his co-agent leaping aside in the opposite direction. A dim part of agent Millers’ mind idly noted with casual efficiency the type of bullet that nearly bisected him in half, but which devoted the turf and permacrete behind him -- an APDU shell, Armor Piercing Depleted Uranium-something that would have torn a neat football sized entry and exit wound in him, regardless of body armor. The door slammed shut as heard shouts in Euro-Indo from within and the unsafetying of automatic weapons. Agent Miller tapped his ear as he sub vocalized to another agent. "Send in the Dustmen. These sons of bitches have just showed their hand. Sanction and bag them. Try to leave a few for the Queen and Beta."
"Understood. Stand by, the Queen wants to speak to you."
There was a pause. Then, a feminine voice filled his ears like the voice of God. In all respects, she was. "This is DC Ng Lai. Gamma team on the way in plus three. TPRO has been informed and Kappa is giving you full psych intel in plus ten. Contain the threat. Make sure that we have survivors to question."
"Yes commander. Miller out."
Miller leaned behind a hovercar as he drew out his Gauss Archer. His co-agent took up position near some bushes near the house. He could hear the sound of breaking glass as the snub snouts of stolen Tanfen Iguti Type 7 assault rifles poked through, scanning for targets and loosing stray rounds around the area, causing passer-by and people to scream in panic. Miller jacked in a clip of high explosive rounds. "Contain she says. Empress' teeth!" He gave a glance over to his comrade and gestured for him to stay put and cover the front. Gritting his teeth, he jumped from cover to cover round to the back of the house to ensure they didn't escape. He gave a mad dash for cover before hiding behind a dumpster, a stream of bullets following him before pinging off the armored hide of the waste receptacle. He returned the favor, sending forth a generous helping of ballistic mayhem, causing miniature explosions to tear a manhole sized hole into the duraplast walls of the house and eliciting an ear piercing shriek, and then a wet splat as something burst apart from the inside out. Spent shells gave a gentle tinkle as they rolled around the pavement like wind chimes. Curses resounded and an even larger burst of automatic fire as well as white hot laser bursts shot back at him, one causing the metal behind him to grow uncomfortably warm. Miller gave a cheerful curse. "Stratch one dog. Empress knows how many to go." It was going to be a long day.
In minutes, a rapidly summoned perimeter of TSF troopers formed up around the warehouse, locking it in a cordon of steel. Minutes later, a black colored shuttle silently came in on silenced engines. Black clad figures came out of the shuttle. Each wore a heavily armored helmet that came with an air filter and vision compensation equipment. Each also bore heavy body armor, bandoliers of grenades and rappelling equipment along with a carbine version of the standard Tanfen assault rifle. They had only two symbols on their obsidian armor - a symbol of a half tarot card and even more chilling… the Greek Delta. Miller knew them. Delta agents - TISD’s bogeymen. Seen only in moonlight shadows and whispered in terse sentences even among TISD, they were Sue Yen Ng Lai’s personal stiletto against Tanfen’s enemies. Rumor had it they were cybernetically modified to a degree that put his own substantial upgrades to shame.
The shuttle doors opened and each slid down like sinister spiders before landing deftly on the roof. There was subvocalized communications before the half dozen black figures pulled out flashbang grenades.
At a signal, the black figures smashed the skylight of the warehouse open with hardened fists and tossed the grenades in and turned away. There were harsh oaths in Indo-Dutch and screeching as the grenades went off, blinding and deafening everyone within. As one, the shadow men held onto their rappelling lines and leapt down into the warehouse.
Outside, Agent Miller watched as the Delta agents cleaned house. Poor bastards. There were a few bursts of gunfire, the awful snap of bones and limbs being ripped from their moorings and then silence.
Another shuttle circled around and landed. The shuttle door opened and out stepped a sneaker clad foot.
Miller stood up and saluted. “Lady Ng Lai.”
“Report, Agent Miller.”
“None escaped the warehouse, milady.”
“Excellent. Maintain the perimeter and show TPRO the area. They will organize cleanup.”
Miller knew when he was dismissed. “Yes, milady.” He went back to work.
Sue Yen Ng Lai watched the Kappa agent head off to deal with the cleanup before she surveyed the area around her. Appearing out of the shadows of the warehouse came one of the Delta agents. The figure towered over her in height. The harsh sound of the rebreathers made the black clad figure a beast of sorts. Spatters of blood lined the figures chestplate and gloves as if something was ripped apart in a bloody welter of gore. The figure paused before her and lowered its gun. With a slight hiss of static, it opened up it’s voicecomm.
“Lady Lai -- the target has been neutralized. We managed to capture one alive.”
She walked past the man into the warehouse.
The black giant turned to follow.
She walked past a trail of devastation. One of the insurgents was dangling limply; impaled on a crossbeam. Almost a good feet of wood stuck out from the steadily bleeding corpse's gut. Elsewhere, torn limbs and spatters of blood lined the walls of the warehouse like the work of a mad painter. The insurgents gave as good as they got though. A black clad giant sat slumped against a wall in the shadows like a steadily bleeding mass of meat combined with the acrid stench of destroyed cybered body parts while another dangled from a rappelling rope like a limp rag doll missing several limbs and half a torso .
This was nothing. What gave her a twinge of surprise though was something else entirely.
One man was sitting in a pool of light from a fitfully flickering bulb. He sat down, tied to a chair and flanked by two black giants who held him down. One of his shoulders jutted out at an odd angle and his face was bruised. The sitting man looked up at the sound of her approach.
One of her most promising protégés. She was cultivating him towards being an Alpha level agent within TISD. He showed the utmost loyalty, passed the most rigorous of tests. He spoke often during training of his wife and three children. She saw them herself. His children were wonderful. He fit all the hallmarks of a loyal Tanfen employee… and what of this?
The Delta agent following Sue opened up his comm channel. “We found him leading the insurgents.”
Tseng gave a sneer and spat weakly at Sue’s direction. “You’re too late,” Tseng wheezed as even this scant effort caused a broken rib to cause him further pain.
Sue Yen gazed at him. She gave a terse word to one of the giants. The Delta agent faded into the shadows to return with a black bag. The agent then unzipped the bag open and laid bare its contents on a rickety table next to Tseng.
Row after row of precisely measured hypodermic needles. Each of them terrifyingly long and filled with substances that would make a hardened man cringe.
The Delta agent then upholstered a matte black Archer pistol, checked the action and clip and then left it beside the bag.
The Delta agents turned to leave as one, leaving her and Tseng alone. She stood in the pool of light, gazing down at her Judas. Except this time, she was prepared to deliver the price of betrayal.
She selected one needle with balefully red liquid churning through it like a turgid toxin, promising abject agony. Tseng knew what it was she held. The processed venom of a New Maynah Chaeronoid Viper. It was used only in the harshest, most time sensitive of interrogations. A drop would make a hardened man tell everything, even as it boiled his blood and fried his brain.
Sue approached him, each slow step a death knell.
Tseng gave a fear-choked wheeze before he tried to scream.
Outside, Agent Miller lighted a synth-cig as he tried to chat up a TPRO exec that looked fantastically fetching in her tight fitting crimson uniform. His work was done and the TPRO crew were hard at work cleaning up the landscape, removing the signs of combat and devastation until it looked like nothing ever happened. The Delta agents flanked the entrance to the warehouse, forbidding entrance to everyone. Stuck up sods.
All of a sudden, a shot rang out. The TPRO exec, unused to the sound of gunfire leapt into his arms in shock. Miller gave a grin that dropped from his face as soon as he saw what strode out of the warehouse.
Sue Yen Ng Lai, her face impassive strode out with a smoking Archer in hand. Blood and brains spattered her clothes. Miller reluctantly put the scared TPRO exec down and walked up to his Division Chief.
As a final mercy, she had granted the traitorous Tseng a merciful death before the venom did its work. She had what she needed from him, wrung out with the truth brought by pain.
She handed the Delta agent the smoking Archer as she took a proffered cloth and wiped her hands of the gore. The truth wrung out from him meant that this conspiracy was far deeper reaching than she thought. It stretched even among the Families themselves.
“Miller, prepare a direct line to Patriarch Tan and Loyalist Grand Master Tina Branford.”
She strode up to her personal shuttle and it lifted off into the darkened heavens. Time was short.