Lumaire Nights Remixed

Lumaire Nights Remixed

Cyberpunk roleplay. The year is 2075. What stories will you tell? [Open/Reboot of the original Lumaire Nights.]

5,293 readers have visited this universe since VindicatedPurpose created it.

Introduction





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"This is the world we live in. Sure, it ain't pretty. It ain't been pretty for maybe at least a thousand years, but that's just my opinion. If things are gonna change, then we need people to change 'em. We had people get us into this hole, we'll need people to get us out of it."


World War III began in 2023 and ended in 2030, leaving much of Asia, Europe, and North America devastated. The U.N. labeled the regions not hit by fallout the Green Zones and the regions irreparably damaged, the Red Zones. Only parts of South America and Africa escaped the nuclear fallout and destruction completely.

ImageIn the developed world, few Green Zones exist. In North America, wide swaths of Red Zones are dubbed The Wasteland. Though many believe The Wasteland to be uninhabitable, there are a desperate few who eke out a survival through banditry and ad hoc life support systems. Most of the sovereign nations that existed before 2023 no longer exist. Those that survived the war maintain similar geographic borders as before, but, politically, things have changed in many places.

Between 2040 and 2060 the post war period was marked by reconstruction and population growth. During this time, great strides were made in science and technology with the development of artificial intelligence, the first combined mission to Mars, nanite medicine, cybernetic enhancements, augmentation grafts, renewable energy transportation, and much more. Nanite technology came to the fore in cleaning up radiation. Yet, at the same time, with the U.N.'s dissolution, large anti-establishment groups developed to thwart the new world order. While most of Earth continued its recovery, the offworld colonies on Mars and the Moon began to prosper economically. Groups like the Independent Mars League formed to antagonize relations and spur secession.

ImageMany towns that survived in Green Zones became independent city states as they took on fleeing refugees. Lumaire became one such city state. French Huguenots, followers of the French New Ecumenicalist Church, founded the city in 2057 on the West Coast in North America after fleeing persecution in France. Eventually many refugees from all banners and ethnic groups came to what the Huguenots would call the "Land of Light."

It is pluralistic, multi-lingual, and multi-ethnic in makeup. By 2068, it had become a leader in world trade along with other city-states on the Pacific Rim such as Seoul II, New Edo, and Xin Aomen (Neo Macau). With this rise, also came the rise of organized crime. This coupled with the recent displays of jingoism from Martianists can only lead many to wonder if this world was any better than the one before W3.

Note: While the initial setting is Lumaire, future missions can take LSP agents to other locations like New Edo or Mars.
As time goes on I will add more to this page.


Lumaire Nights Urban Dictionary
AMF – “Adios Motherfucker.”
AO – Area of Operations.
Arcos – Short for Arcologies.
Ballerinas – Augmented female assassins.
Bosozoki (Japanese) – Bike gang samurai.
Bordel (French) – Lit. “Brothel.”
Bots – Originally referred to all androids, cyborgs, robots, or artificial intelligences. Derogatory.
Candys – Shortened amalgamation of cop android referring to police bots. Derogatory.
DNI – Direct Neural Interface.
Draga (Hungarian) – Lit. "Expensive."
Dust/Frag/Grease/Wax – To kill.
DZ – Drop Zone.
Ferryman – Term for expert assassin.
Gaijin (Japanese) – A derogatory term for a foreigner or outsider.
Gato (Spanish) – A smooth operator, cool person; a Fixer.
Gicil – Short for logiciel (French for “software”).
Gumi (Japanese) – The Yakuza syndicate. Lit. “Extended family.”
Hardsuit – A suit of powered armor.
Hatamoto (Japanese) – Retainer for a family. Lit. “Under the banners.”
IML – Abbreviation for Independent Mars League.
Ji-ral (Korean) – "Bullshit."
JoyBoy/JoyGirl – Prostitute.
Karoshi (Japanese) – Term for “overwork death,” related to Sarariman.
Kobun Wa (Japanese) – Lit. "Good evening."
Konnichi Wa (Japanese) – Lit. "Good afternoon."
LDF – Abbr. for Lumaire Defense Forces, the closest thing Lumaire has to a military for a city-state.
Les keufs (French) – Derogatory slang for police.
LSP – Abbr. for Lumaire Special Police.
Maglev – Short for magnetic levitation train.
Make a deposit in the body bank – To die.
MCU – Abbr. for Major Crimes Unit.
Mechas – Short for mechanized walker, most often referring to the Mobile Guns mechas.
Merde (French) – “Shit.”
Oyabun – Head of a Yakuza clan.
Razor[boy/girl/gal/guy/etc.] – Slang for street samurai.
Rimbo – A gun-totting sex kitten (a rambo bimbo).
Sarariman (Japanese) – salaried man, a person whose income is salary based and works for a major corporation.
SOP – “Standard Operating Procedures.”
Tiger – Military Hacker/Net Operator.
Va te faire foutre (French) – “Kiss my ass.”
Veet – Slang for VTOLs.
Wakarimasu-ka? (Japanese) – “Do you understand?”
Yeos meog-eo (Korean) – “Fuck you.”
Yono (Korean) – Low life scum.
Zaibatsu (Japanese) – Lit. “A megacorporation.”



Timeline

2015 - China inherits the mantle of superpower from the United States as far as economy is concerned. Cooperation with the EU grows. The last American forces pull out of the Middle East.

2016 - Scotland secedes from Great Britain, and Great Britain withdraws from the EU. Israel is struck by a surprise attack from elements of a new Arab coalition led by Syria. A Chinese and EU coalition are deployed before Israel is completely overrun.

2017 - Jinku Galactic performs the first successful sub-orbital commercial spaceflight. Though the Arab coalition is defeated and a Palestinian state is established, the Sino-European coalition forces still face resistance by militant Islamists in Iraq and Syria.

2020 - The world's oil supply begins to deplete, developing industrial countries relying on fossil fuels such as China and India are hardest hit. Western countries fare better due to renewable energy and austerity measures.

2021 - Chinese leaders start a proxy conflict in order to maintain power amid economic unrest, the Fourth Taiwan Strait Conflict. American warships of the 7th Fleet are deployed to the region in support of the Taiwanese.

2022 - Japan goes public with information regarding an increasing number of Chinese spy planes in the Sea of Japan. The first batch of Chinese veterans return home from the Mid-East. US and Japan sign Nullification Act, voiding Article 9 of Japan's 1947 Constitution. Tensions between the US and China grow.

2023 - World War III starts with China firing first on the eve of July 4th. Most of Japan is devastated by a nuclear holocaust save the rural regions and a few small cities such as Edo.

2024 - North Korea immediately invades South Korea seeking reunification. The ROK capitulates. Tibet declares independence. The war becomes increasingly difficult to maintain by the participants due to dwindling fuel supplies. China invades Siberia for its oil.

2025 - Russia decides to invade Eastern Europe and reclaim former "Soviet republics." The EU led by Germany and France declare war on the Russians.

2026 - Indo-Pak relations deteriorate, skirmishes break out into a nuclear exchange along the border and in the Kashmir region. Millions die and millions more are displaced throughout the war. The intervention of Great Britain saves the U.S. from defeat at the hands of the Chinese.

2027 - Chinese veterans start a revolution against the over-extended government. Three Chinese nuclear subs go rogue and fire their warheads upon Beijing. The majority of communist leadership hiding in bunkers beneath the city is wiped out. A truce is established between China and the US and SEATO allies.

2029 - Russians manage to reach Berlin. A breakout of cholera and ebola ravages West Africa due to lack of medical aid. EU forces manage to push back the demoralized Russians with the aid of NATO forces. Civil war continues to plague China. Russia capitulates into various fragmented autonomous nations.

2030 - End of World War III. The mantle of leadership falls to the next line of powers untouched by the war, the Republic of South Africa, India, and Brazil. Third World countries in Africa and South America are the strongest economically, not counting the city-states that emerge in the unradiated zones of China and America.

2031-2037 - Post-World War III Global Depression. Most of the major belligerents are rebuilding. Post-war population growth is the slowest in centuries. Millions perish due to lack of available farmland. The New Liberation Front is founded as an insurgent cell amid the instability of the world. NLF terrorism spreads, unhindered as a result of a lack of vigilance from any major powers.

2039 - An international currency to alleviate economic instability, known as Credits, is proposed by Swiss economist Patricia Germond and adopted by major countries.

2040 - Jinku Galactic and Wright Exploration jointly begin the MarsX mission. Dr. Gujarat Singh of MarsX 1 claims the honor of being the first human on Mars. The U.N. sanctions the establishment of Guardian, an international peacekeeping task force made of volunteers to counteract the NLF.

2041 - A year later contact with MarsX is lost, when it is re-established the colony has no survivors. Only thirty remain on the MarsX colony and supplies dwindle as the second MarsX mission races to maintain the colony's survival.

2043 - The Communist Party is removed from power in the Korean Reunified Republic. Cuba becomes a leading Caribbean economy. The MarsX 3 mission is blown out of orbit by an NLF missile stolen from India.

2046 - Six years since inception, Guardian manages to wipe out NLF presence completely. Most Guardians retire and work as mercenaries, bounty hunters, private contractors, or for official uniformed services.

2049 - The New Ecumenicalist Church is founded in Lyon, France. Nano-technology matures and is diversely applied. The MarsX 4 and MarsX 5 missions begin to repopulate the Mars colony.

2053 - Advances in vectored thrust engines and solar battery capacity allow the proliferation of commercial VTOL transportation. Civilian transportation in cities has become a mix of energy efficient cars, VTOLs, and high speed trains of varying sorts.

2055 - The rise of a right-wing dictatorship in the state of Sao Paulo (formerly Brazil) is marked by the persecution of gender and sexual minorities. The continued threat of insurgents has allowed major corporations to develop private armies to defend their operations, essentially becoming imperialists.

2057 - The first wave of French New Ecumenicalist Church followers flee persecution from the Sixth French Republic. They found a settlement called Lumaire in a green zone on the west coast of North America. The Lumaire Special Police is formed to maintain law and order.

2060 - Gemma Arizzo and Lucius Tatsuda make a breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence, but their work remains the intellectual property of Sans Limites Technologies. Lumaire passes the Religious Freedom Act granting the right to practice to a number of groups.

2064 - The Chicago Industrial Zone assembles a delegation of representatives from various North American city-states to re-establish a sovereign nation over the green zones. Their petition for re-unification has met with limited success.

2065 - Sans Limites Technologies mass produces an AI model, CG-279, to help fill labor shortages in Japan. These units are also sent to the Mars colony, which has seen unprecedented growth. It is believed that in two decades, a population shift from Earth to Mars will begin as opportunities present itself on this new frontier.

2067 - Acid rain storms destroy infrastructure in a portion of Lumaire. The city accepts the aid of corporations such as Hayworth Heavy Industries, Myong-Hauser Corporation, and Nansoko Corporation to rebuild the city, ceding a large portion of political control along with it.

2074 - The Bamako Incident. The Bamako Preparatory School is the target of a bomb threat. Fifty students along with twelve faculty members are killed in the incident. Among the students were children of various prominent figures within Lumaire society. The LSP receives most of the PR fallout and are subject to "reforms." Crime rates climb, organized crime prospers, and corruption begins to overtake the city of Lumaire as it has in other growing cities.



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Lumaire Nights (/lo͞om-aer/ nīts/) is a cyberpunk police serial drama. Aesthetic style incorporates elements from modern and sleek science fiction transposed in a neo-noir post-contemporary setting with grit and edge to its feel. Inspirations include, but are not limited to, Old City Blues, Blade Runner, Neuromancer, Ghost In The Shell, Cyberpunk 2077, Killzone, and copious amounts of concept art.

"The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry."


The intrepid, adroit, and sometimes cynical agents of the Lumaire Special Police's Major Crimes Unit will take on criminals ranging from drug hoarding cyborgs, augmented psychics, and serial killer scientists to identity hackers, corporate spies, and transhumanist terrorists. The law is not what it used to be, but then again...what is? Existential angst. Get some.

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"High tech, low life? Yeah, I guess that about sums it up."

The rise of private military contractors, mercenary guilds, and bounty hunters, and the budget cuts following the Bamoko Incident of 2074 have left the LSP reeling with only few specialized divisions remaining. Among these are the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) and the MGs (Mobile Guns). The MCU has field agents supported by artificial intelligence and support specialists. The MGs serve as the LSPs rapid armored reaction force with their suits of flying mechas. Yet, these distinctions are only obvious on paper because the LSP is undermanned. The responsibilities of each unit tend to overlap, much to the chagrin of bureaucrats.




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So here's how this RP works. I've never run this before, but I have been part of a roleplay that worked with this. The other roleplayers and I really enjoyed it because things went at a steady pace and there was room to create. Hopefully, I can make it work with you guys. Your characters will all be LSP detectives, essentially specialized field agents who are not beat cops. We'll be playing fast and loose with police hierarchies and actual police procedural. Just because they're a detective doesn't mean they won't get to fly a mecha or do some hacking. I don't want to set any false expectations when I say that our focus will be on storytelling and long posts.

Image1. The GM (that's me) will post assignments for the officers, Missions, in the IC through certain NPCs (questgivers).

2. The RPers (you guys) read the list and pick one. You will state which mission you're taking in the OOC to prevent two people from doing the same one.

3. Once you've declared interest, you start writing! From the day you called for a mission, I'll give you a week to complete your post.

4. Once all the posts are in, the GM (me again) will create a post that deals with the epilogues of each mission and how they will impact the setting. Then the GM will post a new set of missions and back to step 1.



Notes:
1. There are many things I like about this. It's structured, so the deadline ensures that everyone stays on target to prevent the roleplay from stalling (which sucks, we've all been there). It gives you guys a lot more freedom to create, in terms of plot, character development, worldbuilding, you name it because you guys are free to write however much you want in your post (no word limits). Also, missions are not always solo, they can be collaborative depending on the story.
2. I know that for some folks a week might not be enough, and I'm willing to extend the deadline to a week and a half or two weeks. After that point, I will have to close out that mission. If you don't get your post in on time, I'm not going to kick you out or anything like that. We all have those weeks. I'll just say that your character caught a nasty stomach bug or something.
3. Missions will come in two flavors, solo and collaborative, and, though I'll make recommendations in the missions, ultimately I'll leave it up to you guys to decide the arrangements.
4. I won't be playing a detective myself per se, but I'll embody the NPCs as though they were my character(s).


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2075 -
  • August 7th - The events of Lumaire Nights begins.




Code: Select all
[b]Rank:[/b] For the purposes of the general police hierarchy, your character is considered a sergeant.
[b]Name:[/b]
[b]Age:[/b]
[b]Gender:[/b]

[b]Physical Description:[/b]

[b]History:[/b]

[b]Augmentations:[/b]

[b]Skills:[/b]

[hr][/hr]
[b]Reflections:[/b]
[hr][/hr]

This section is open ended and optional. So it's totally not required. The gist for this is this is supposed to cover what your character feels or thinks about other characters. Consider this like a quick stop for other players to see what your character is like. I think it would work really well if you're dynamic about it and you keep up with updating this as the story progresses. Again, totally not required. It'll be like an easter egg. Have fun and code this in whichever way you like.


Notes:
1. Potential and faux-realism, now go! Feel free to add any other categories that you want. Code it however you want, I have no preferences beyond what's listed in the character sheet.
2. Standard LSP equipment is just a J9 Handgun.
3. Check this for an example CS.

Toggle Rules

So, let me just say that rules are subject to change in the future. I'll try to notify everyone of changes. They won't be drastic because I consider myself pretty reasonable.
- Communicate, talk to us about anything and everything. If you have a problem, we can't really help you if you don't tell us.
- Respect each other, though, I think someone else said it best: Be awesome to one another.
- Standard roleplaying rules apply, you know, no godmodding and metagaming etc.
- NPCs that are in the list are untouchable (can't be killed), and NPCs off the list can be offed. Positions of NPCs may change as well.
- One last stipulation, you should be 16+ for this because this will definitely be rated R or M if it hasn't been rated already. I know this is an awesome looking roleplay, but, while I won't really know if you're 16+, we should all abide by an honor code.

Taking place in...

Lumaire Nights our primary setting

Locations In The Lumaire Nights Universe

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 4 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron Character Portrait: Luciana Chavez-Alesci Character Portrait: Vitali Zhang

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Earth

August 6th, 2075

3 AM

Lumaire

Nansoko R&D Center


The rain poured while the maglevs churned around the city. The Nansoko R&D building stood in the middle of a group of skyscrapers in Lumaire’s west side. A Nansoko VTOL approached the twentieth story rooftop landing pad.

VTOLs had become a staple mode of transportation. The corporations used them heavily to ferry equipment and personnel to avoid the unnecessary ground traffic.

Three NanSec guards waved the ship in with bright searchlights that lanced through the rain as a giant holo-board in the background displayed a large face singing viciously. NanSec, short for Nansoko Security, was a private security subsidiary of the larger Nansoko Corporation.

The VTOL’s descent began as the nacelles turned horizontal.

The lead guard walked up to the side hatch as it slid open, “We weren’t expecting anybo-“

He fell over, cut down by several bullets to his head. The other two guards raised their weapons just as soon as smoke holes burnt through their skulls. They fell limp like sacks of meat.

The man that stepped out of the VTOL holstered his automatic pistols. He had olive skin which suggested Mediterranean ancestry, and he stood taller than the average man wearing a black trench suit with multiple straps unbuckled while a pair of round rimmed mirror shades covered his eyes. He wore a black beanie and his jaw had a stubble.

Upon approaching the entrance into the interior of the building the system asked for security clearance, which he answered by pulling one of the dead guards’ palms up to the biometrics scanners. The system approved and the door’s lock clicked. He slid into the building.

- -


Dr. Marcus Laitinen was an elderly man, but he looked nearly three decades younger with curly brown hair and an incomplete beard thanks to aesthetic implants. His mind remained sharp, so he was practically the same man as he was in his youth. Though, in his youth, he was a scientific prodigy who burnt through much of the grants after several personal tragedies left him a burgeoning alcoholic. He loitered many years on the tailcoats of more prominent researchers and scientists.

Nansoko soon picked him up and put him to work in their R&D department. After a couple of reshufflings, he landed at Nansoko’s Lumaire offices. On this night, he was alone save for one or two interns and a contingent of Nansoko Security personnel that always patrolled the grounds as though it were a prison. Though, that would soon be rectified.

He worked quietly in a laboratory with sterilized flooring and various chemical instruments resting at nearby workstations. Different screens were scattered about the room. He heard glass shatter outside followed by spurts of gunfire and stood up on instinct.

He adjusted his glasses and rushed to the communication module at the center of the lab, “Security, what’s going on?”

“Doctor Laitinen, there’s an intruder in the building. We think he’s after you.”

“Shit!” Laitinen gasped and rushed to one of his monitors.

He popped a wire from the system into one of the ports behind his ears just as he heard gunfire approaching closer. He tapped some keys and the download began. Once it had finished, he released the wire and turned to meet a man with round rimmed sunglasses and a beanie.

Laitinen froze, “Who are you?

The man spoke with an Italian accent, “My name is Leon. I’m an extraction specialist. There is a VTOL waiting on the roof, we must hurry.”

Laitinen’s eyes narrowed, “You’re with NanSec?”

Leon nodded.

Laitinen pushed his glasses up and, despite brief hesitation, followed him. They took a lift to the roof and made their way to the VTOL hovering a few inches off the landing pad. The doctor climbed aboard after moving past the guards’ corpses. Then a NanSec guard burst out of the roof entrance and fired several bullets that all hit Leon dead in his chest.

Leon looked at the holes, and then smiled at the guard. In a blink, Leon closed the gap between himself and the guard, a sharp blade extended from his left elbow, and, through one quick stroke, he decapitated the guard.

Laitinen saw the NanSec insignia emblazoned on the decapitated man’s uniform, and then he looked back at Leon.

“Good night Doctor,” Leon said as he injected a solution into Laitinen’s arm.

The scientist collapsed unconscious on the VTOL’s cabin floor.

The man in black then climbed aboard, shut the side hatch, and made a call, “Murad, I have Laitinen.”

“Excellent work Leon, meet us back at Site 13.”

The VTOL departed from the Nansoko R&D center.

- - - -


August 7th, 2075

6:45 AM

LSP Armory


Coen Kejong Yoon aimed his J6 at the hologram targets. His contact augs traced after the moving targets as he fired several rounds. Each hit their foreheads. O’Malley, the quartermaster, sat on a bench nearby cleaning out a T77 submachine gun.

“Excellent shot, per usual. Maybe you should use the test guns, save you some bullets,” O’Malley nodded to the duds left behind from a previous target practice.

The sergeant exhaled a sigh as he stared at the holograms, “Just doesn’t feel as real…”

O’Malley scoffed, “What feels real anymore? Anybody can shoot with auto targeting augs linked to their guns, makes things a walk in the park donnit? Like the Academy physical exams?” the quartermaster chuckled, “You should see these kids nowadays, either all pumped or replaced with parts. Makes ya wonder why we still need physical evaluations.”

“They still need them for the ones with blood and guts legs.”

“Yeah, but then those kids burn through their first paycheck for some metal ones. Funny, right?”

Coen shrugged, “I’ve never been too partial to replacements. Losing an arm or a leg is permanent, and people should wait for when that time comes,” Coen fired several more rounds then reloaded.

O’Malley spoke, “It’s the disruptors that makes things complicated. One second your arm can get you through walls, and the next it’s bricked. It’s a liability.”

“Well…you could always litter them with tungsten rounds. As for nano-fibre muscle augments and grafts, I can get behind that. I still get to bleed.”

“Still get to be human.”

“One of the few things that still matter.”

O’Malley continued cleaning out his gun, “Y’know, after Bamoko, a buddy of mine decided to replace his left arm. Then he goes and chokes his wife to death. Seems like all the problems with kids these days are the mentals.”

O’Malley saw that Coen was staring at his right hand and said nothing more. Coen never applied fake skin, but he always chose to wear long sleeves on his right arm. Then a ping alerted him, it was from Tia.

“C.K. I got something.”

“Tia, what’s up?”

“Not much besides a report, what about you?”

He picked up one of the duds, which were linked to the range’s computer systems, “At the-“

“-Firing range,” she intercepted, “how predictable.”

“Hit me,” as he shot phantom projectiles that hit their marks.

“One of Nansoko’s labs on the west side was hit, several guards were killed and a Dr. Marcus Laitinen was abducted. This is what I’m getting on their channels. The chatter is nuts.”

“When did they report that it happened?”

“They didn’t. Nansoko and its keiretsu are keeping this one in-house.”

“What’s the captain’s call on this?”

“He wanted me to consider it anyway, too many officers waiting in the break room for something to happen.”

“Details on the abducters?”

“Abducter. From the available security footage, there was only one individual. He’s not flesh and bones, I’ll give him that. He’s a ferryman, but I’m assuming he had some outside assistance.”

A screen overlaid Coen’s vision field as he stopped shooting. A time-laspe played of the intruder gunning down several NanSec guards without breaking a sweat.

“Assuming?” Coen replayed the footage.

“For starters, his tech support managed to shut all the cameras down two minutes in. Whoever is helping our friend is packing the kind of heat that can cut through Nansoko’s ICE at a major research center.”

“Any ideas?”

“Plenty. We might be looking at the start of another zaibatsu war. Only major corps and the military have that kind of gear.”

“Christ.”

“Or…”

“Or…?”

Captain Mountbatten pinged for a meeting to both.

“I’ll tell you after.”

- - - -


6:45 AM

LSP Headquarters


“You’ll have to stand down, Captain,” Chief Motoko Kyung marched through the corridors of the LSP headquarters to her office.

She was dressed in a grey pant-suit and a tight white turtle neck with a slit that left her throat exposed. Several important figures trailed behind, first was Helene Laurent, she had short brown hair that reached her shoulders and crystals for eyes, she was the Head of Internal Affairs. Then there was Captain Mountbatten, an apparent robot who did not bother disguising the fact with fake flesh. He preferred his long rectangular strip of a blinker over a pair of silicone eyeballs. He was the head of MCU. On his flank was his second in command at MCU, Lieutenant Alexandra Paris, a woman who had seen many things that she wished she never saw. Lastly was the Titus Gretien, who was a thin gaunt man of African ancestry with a bald head and piercing eyes. He was highly educated and chose his words well, which was why he headlined as the LSP’s Public Relations Specialist.

“Are you sure about this chief?” Mountbatten asked.

Kyung paused, “Nansoko has made it clear that they want to manage their own affairs. If it took them this long to get the report out to us, that means they don’t want us to get involved all too deeply, or maybe not involved at all. This is standard procedure for them and us by now.”

“If we don’t do anything, it won’t be long before nothing but security contractors patrolling the streets,” Alexandra protested.

Gretien spoke, “Lieutenant Paris, while I am inclined to agree with your assessment about the necessity of action, there are bigger forces in play that we are dealing with here, if you don-“

Kyung interrupted, “Titus, it’s okay. I think you have some statements to prep, you should get back to that.”

Gretien glanced at Paris, but nodded and split off to his office to prepare.

Kyung continued, “…And lieutenant? If you haven’t noticed, we’re already past that point. Now we’re just trying to find a buyer willing to scoop us up and pay us forty cents to the dollar an hour.”

“You…you can’t possibly be serious…,” the android winced.

The chief glanced at the captain, “Figure of speech, captain. Point is, we’re not to interfere with them, at least not until we know more. It’s bad enough that we’re on security detail for the Nansoko himself. Their board of executives thinks that the heir to the Nansoko fortune isn’t as important as one of their scientists who they’re willing to protect with…” Kyung paused as her DNI searched through the information feed from one of the analysts, “…Jesus Christ, twenty contractors from NanSec? Who is this guy?”

“Dr. Marcus Laitinen,” Mountbatten scrolled through the data that Tia had sent him, “One of their people in the pharmaceuticals and cloning research department. A rather talented and tragic individual, I might add…”

“What else is new…?” Kyung entered her office which would have had a decent view of the Lumaire skyline on a sunny day, but rain still poured since last night.

The chief took a seat at her desk, and Helene remained silent as she took a seat in the back of the room.

“Or maybe we’re doing important work by protecting this kid and they don’t want us to worry about some poor labcoat,” Lieutenant Paris suggested with a quirk of a smile.

“Maybe, but highly unlikely,” the chief turned on the main screen in her office, which had been preset to LTV news.

Javed Mukherjee, one of the lead anchors for LTV appeared, sharply dressed as usual, “…major riots continue throughout Lumaire as…”

The chief lowered the volume and shook her head.

“How goes riot control?” the captain asked.

“We’re thinned out,” Kyung steepled her fingers on her desk as she watched footage of crowds and fires and violent confrontations, “Which is why we need to use what we have available, sparingly,” and after a moment, “We’re done here, dismissed.”

Captain Mountbatten and Lieutenant Paris both nodded to the chief and left the room. Alexandra exchanged a glance with Helene before she left.

Once everyone had left, Helene spoke, “There are two trails in your department, Chief. One is corporal Gafarov, and the other is somebody in MCU.”

Motoko Kyung looked at Helene.

- -


7:05 AM

LSP Headquarters


Mountbatten strode past the many detectives, officers, MG pilots, and support agents tapping away at holographic keyboards and entered his office where Lieutenant Paris, Tia Marie St. Cloud, and Lieutenant Ioanna Nikos waited.

Mountbatten offered his greetings, “Paris, C.K., Miss St. Cloud,” and then took his seat and did a double take when he saw Ioanna Nikos, “Miss Nikos, I thought Chief Kyung assigned you to riot control?”

Ioanna spoke with a noticeable accent that was a mix of Slavic and Greek, “Was that a question?”

“No, I just…”

“The chief reserved 2nd squad for MCU in case you needed heavy support. Detectives are rather squishy, aren’t they? It’s a pity. She knows how much I just love sitting in reserve.”

“Sarcasm, quaint. You’re well cared for here at MCU, lieutenant Nikos.”

“I prefer to shoot first then ask questions, but you do things differently here, yes?”

“Naturally,” Mountbatten ‘smiled.’

“I’m also here as oversight for Sergeant Luciana Chavez-Alesci. She’s one of my pilots, but she’s now a probationary officer for MCU.”

“Another probie? Lovely,” Lieutenant Paris muttered, “C.K. you want to take the rookie out for her test drive?”

Coen shrugged, “That depends, is Lieutenant Nikos ready to give piloting lessons."

The lieutenant smiled, "We're considering it."

“How’s Vez doing?” Paris asked.

“He’s…transitioning…decently,” when Coen saw Paris’s look, “What do you want from me? You know I don’t write evaluations.”

The lieutenant rolled her eyes.

Mountbatten glanced at Paris, “All of this is part of the chief’s plans to integrate the various units. Eventually the distinctions between MGU and MCU won’t matter. We’ve already merged with narcotics and cybercrimes. It’ll be better for us long term as the point is to get rid of red tape. Anyway, you may begin Miss St. Cloud.”

Tia used motion controls to send one of the screens she saw in her augmented reality into plain view before the others.

Coen spoke first, “We’ve got several items on the docket. First off, we got a tip that a new illegal drug has appeared in the underground scene. The drug is called YX7. Our agents are telling us that a chemist by the name of Bernard Choi is manufacturing. It’s been running the circuit for weeks now, and we’ve only gotten news about it now.”

“He probably has a distribution channel set up already if he’s weeks ahead of us,” Nikos noted.

Mountbatten muttered, “That can’t be good.”

Tia continued, “Next item, Naima Khedira, she’s a hacker and thief.”

“Right then, what’s the case?”

“She owns a flower shop in the northwest side. Several million creds swindled from passers-by on the streets, but we’re looking at possible ties to NTS.”

“Neo-Terra? Good god.”

“Unconfirmed, but the signs are pointing that way.”

Nikos smirked, “If she’s with Neo-Terra, you’ll need some of our guns. They don’t mess around.”

Coen leaned back, “I never pegged you as the type for flowers lieutenant. Ready to lose a few creds?”

“Stargazer lilies are my favorite, and if I lose any credits, it’ll be for repairs once I’m through that place.”

Lieutenant Paris spoke, “The last one we have is a report from early this morning. Two androids were found dead in a back-alley south west side near the Omega41 club. This is the fifth one these past two months. Definitely not gang-related…”

Coen shook his head, “Emmett will be disappointed.”

“It’s the same as the others,” Paris noted, “Mutilation, same cuts. We’re looking at…”

Tia interrupted, “Captain…”

“What is it Miss St. Cloud?”

Tia let her neural interface put together the pieces, “Captain, they found Abikiwe Nansoko dead in his penthouse.”

“What?” the android stopped.

Chief Kyung appeared on one of Mountbatten’s screens, “You got what you wanted captain, I’ll send several squads to cordon off the Nansoko penthouse. Lieutenant Nikos, you’re to secure the air space and keep an eye on anything suspicious.”

“Already on my way,” the lieutenant bolted out of the office while entering another comms channel, “This is Nikos, 2nd squad suit up. Tag-alongs welcome but don’t expect us to baby-sit you.”

“I’ll have some of my people on the case,” Mountbatten stood up.

The chief nodded and her face blinked from the screen. The captain took a moment to compose himself.

“Right then,” the android stated, “This looks like it might be a big one. Miss St. Cloud send out the briefs to other the field agents. It seems we might be urgently needed. Lieutenant, you’re with me. Sergeant Yoon, you take point on this Nansoko murder case.”

The detective nodded and they all departed the captain’s office.

- - - -


-

Breaking Even

Target – Bernard Choi

Information –

A new drug called YX7 hit the market weeks ago, which shows you how late to the party we are. Those of you who came from Narcotics, now would probably be the best time for you to lend your expertise.

YX7 is a psychotropic that sends the user on a mind trip, but we’ve got reports that it also sends them into a cyber psychosis, which runs lethal for our more “cybernetically-inclined” citizens. In a city where almost everyone has interface or augmentation, we’re looking at a city-wide threat. This isn’t even considering whether it’s traveled into international waters.

YX7 has become popular in the underground and club scenes in Lumaire though. A couple of cases of vegetable brained clubbers have cropped up. Worse yet, YX7 is near identical to the already popular, and legal, drug Yatsa.

Several independent informants have identified the source as a man named Bernard Choi. Augmented, obviously. Former chemistry teacher turned clandestine chemist. Sounds like something out of a teledrama to be honest. He’s in deep with loan sharks, and that might be why he’s trying to make some creds on the side. He’s got a son and a daughter living separately, wife passed away.

We’re assuming Choi has a dealer or distributor of some sort that has allowed him to penetrate the market so well in a matter of weeks. We can’t stop the drug from spreading, but we can stop production. If we find Choi, we can find his operation and his dealer. Bring him in alive, otherwise…

His last recorded place of residence was Almagen Court apartments in the 8th Arrondissement. It’s a pretty run-down place. The acid rain storms did a number on it, so it’s mostly abandoned except for the gangs that operate in the area.

Recommended agents – 1.

-

Flower Girl

Target - Naima Khedira

Information –

Naima Khedira is a small-time business owner who moonlights as a cyber thief. Early to mid-twenties, no doubt augmented. She’s never had a felony, which means her record is clean. But she’s not as smooth as she likes to think since our analysts have collected a digital trail on her. She’s gotten away with several million in credits from people she passes by on the streets and those who enter her shop via a passive decryption software for digital wallets and bank accounts. The crafty lass sells flowers. Her shop is in the north-west side near the corporate plazas. Her customers are most often sararimen types who forget anniversaries. We’re thinking she’s probably spent several hundred grand on defensive augmentations and more Net goodies to keep her little operation going.

This could have been a simple bagging, but this is where things get complicated. We think she might have ties with Neo-Terra.

For those who don’t know Neo-Terra, short for Neo-Terra Syndicate (NTS), is a criminal organization that commits terrorism. They’re as bad as the NLF. If there was ever a war between Earth and its colonies, you’ll know that these guys started it. They don’t talk because they’ll grease anybody whose policies they don’t agree with.

We believe her business is a front for NTS operations in the city. She’s siphoning a percentage of her profits to them, and they’re using her warehouses as staging points. Footage of people with ties to NTS, both current and previous, can be seen entering and leaving one of her flower warehouses in the port district.

She’s likely to be in shop right now if she’s going to keep up her appearances. If she’s not there then check her apartment in the west side. I suggest bringing backup and maybe some heavies as she’s likely to have NT muscle disguised as delivery boys. Our initial recommendation was to bring in the MGs, but they’re away on more…pressing matters. Don’t worry about NTS, she’s the target.

Recommended Agents – 1.

-

Omega41 187

Information –

Two cyborgs were found murdered in a back alley in the southwest. The bodies were apparently mutilated after death, but we managed to ID one of them. Damien Legrand was the brother of Mathieu Legrand, the politician, a member of the Lumaire Assembly. The other was a woman, probably a rimbo, hired as a body guard because the politicos get paranoid. She was mangled beyond all recognition, but she was armed which gave us our first clue.

As you know, this is the fifth cyborg homicide case this month, and it’s probably going to get worse with the way those are talking.

However, we’re thinking this one is related to the previous cases. They’ve all been killed the same way. No discrimination in gender. It only matters that they’re cyborgs. Precision cuts followed by mutilation. It could be a master swordsman, shit, how many of those are still left? And if they were in the city, we would have been fucking notified. That might be something worth thinking about.

Damien Legrand and his girl were returning from Omega41. Omega41 is a popular nightclub in the southwest side of Lumaire. I’ve never been myself, but I hear the place is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots in the city.

Some backstory if you didn’t know, Damien Legrand was a faculty member at Bamoko Prep, and was a large opponent to cybernetics, contrary to his brother’s own position right now in advocating the cloning bill. Damien nearly died following the Incident if it hadn’t been for his brother’s decision go ahead with the full-body replacement surgery. I’m guessing their relations didn’t really improve after that.

Seems Damien got over it quick as he was out celebrating his twenty-first birthday. Our boy finally got to drink, and, of course, something like this was bound to happen. He seemed like an innocent kid with a future in academia or politics ahead of him, but he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. We don’t get to decide who lives and who dies.

Get down there, have a look and see if you can find anything that we might have missed the first time around. Talk to any of the locals for leads, this one’s up in the air at this point.

Recommended Agents – 1.

-

Abikiwe Nansoko KIA

Information –

This is a big one. As of 7:13 AM this morning, Abikiwe Nansoko, heir to the Nansoko Corporation and fortune was found murdered in his penthouse suite located in the south-west side of the city. Nansoko Corporation is one of the big three that runs Lumaire besides Hayworth and MHC. They practically rebuilt the city, so they practically own parts, if not all, of Lumaire. They’re big in cybernetics, pharmaceuticals, software, and of course biotechnology. After all, Captain Mountbatten wouldn’t be here without them.

So, in some ways, we owe them more than just a favor, but this was a fuck-up, and a really bad one.

The report came in from one of our officers who heard the screams of a woman from inside the apartment. We don’t have many leads at this point, and it’s too early to speculate.

Notes:
First, some of you already know that Nansoko had asked us to maintain a security detail outside the prince’s home. If anything, this will come back as a public relations nightmare for us, as if we needed more of that. Don’t worry about the reporters, Titus can handle them.

Second, don’t be surprised by the fact that Nansoko is full on cyborg. Not people seem to know this, but they’re surprised by this fact. I don’t think anyone in the Nansoko family is ‘human’ anymore, at least not in the biological sense.

Detective Coen Yoon is already headed to the penthouse. We need one of you to join him on site, and he’ll brief you with what he’s found once you get there.

Recommended Agents – 2.


Report in to me whenever you can, I’ll keep you posted with anything that I can find. Good luck out there. As always, the warrant data will be on file by the time you get there. Courtesy of yours truly.

- Tia Marie St. Cloud

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Luciana Chavez-Alesci

0.00 INK

#, as written by Dae Mec
Luciana strolled in with four cups of coffee, two precariously balanced in each hand.

“Hey, Lieu’ Nikos.” With flair, Luciana handed her the first cup. “No cream, three spoons of sugar. Is the sweetness to compensate for your personality?”

Ioanna’s stare was unimpressed, but she downed the coffee and continued to suit-up. “It is to compensate for the headaches you cause me.”

Soren Farwell, the other pilot, laughed. “It seems like most of your headaches were because of the MCU today. How was the meeting?” He also accepted the coffee with a contented sigh and mumbled ‘thanks.’

“It was interesting,” said Ionna, drier than the irradiated Sahara. “But not as interesting as the mission we have.” It was Soren’s turn to experience her glare. “Frost, suit up. Drink the coffee now or leave it.”

Luciana swiveled around. “Where’s Marat? I got a cup of motor oil for her, but I guess it’ll have to wait.”

“She is ready. Unlike Frost, Lily suited up the second she heard the order.” Ionna put on her helmet. It let out a pneumatic hiss as it clicked into place, and a gentle pulse of light along the arms and torso confirmed the locking of her inner suit.

Soren scoffed but put his cup away, quickly putting on the multi-layered suit.

“Alright, alright.” Luciana pulled up her hair. “I’ll get—”

“Not you, Officer Chavez. You are now a probie for the MCU, remember? Look at the briefs like the rest of them. There was one I flagged; you might like it more than the rest.”

Chuckling, Soren adjusted his boots. “They real serious ‘bout that integration stuff, huh? Well, good luck being a paper-pusher, Lucy.”

“This is total ji-ral,” complained Luciana. “Why’d they pick me as the test guinea? Hey, Farwell’s nice and unthreatening. He’d be a good chico, much better than me.”

Ionna didn’t bother with a response as she exited.

Soren followed behind her, helmet in hand. “Have fun!” he crowed as the door shut.

Sipping her own lukewarm coffee, Luciana scowled as she accessed her DNI and skimmed the available briefs. Most of the interesting ones were taken, save for the one that the lieutenant had flagged: something about bagging a Neo-Terran terrorist. Apparently, they ‘d recommended back-up and heavies along with a detective, but Luciana was the heavy back-up. It struck her as a two-for-one deal. Her bad mood began to dissipate. She wouldn’t get to bash as many heads as the squad, but Luciana could work with this. With a blink, she accepted the brief. Then, a message popped into her interface.

//Lu, did you hear about the murder? Do you know anything about it? Are the same people targeting other families? Will Kee and Akio be safe?

With exasperation, Luciana sent a terse response to her sister. As much as she loved her, Maria tended bombard Luciana with questions whenever something bad happened on the news.

//don’t kno. prob just Nansoko but be careful. must work bye

With that taken care of, excitement coursed through her as she prepared to suit up. Despite Soren’s expectations, she might actually have some fun today.




Unfortunately, Luciana didn’t get to immediately get going. After paperwork, some mandatory whatevers, and some other stuff she nearly fell asleep during, Luciana was finally given the go-ahead. It was past evening by then. With nightfall, the city had burst into artificial lights. The neon was bright enough to rival the sun, but there were still enough shadows that Luciana’s mech-suit could blend in. She finished suiting up and grinned. The matte-black and special synth panels made her hard to see by both the naked and augmented eye. It would be a simple in and out. From what intel had said, the flower girl—Naima something or the other—was in her apartment tonight. Luciana shut down non-essential communication interfaces and activated combat-mode.

“Hammer to HQ, preparing to depart for bagging. Over.”

The cool voice of the operative responded, “Copy, Hammer. This is HQ. Interrogative: are you certain to proceed without backup?”

“Affirm, keep them on standby. Well, if there’s anyone who is on standby. We’re a bit stretched thin, huh?”

As usual, he ignored her extraneous comment. “Very well. Hammer, you are cleared to depart.”

“Wilco. Hammer, out.”

The propulsion on her mech pulsed, and she took to the air. The flight was short, and Luciana could probably have driven there on a motorcycle. In her experience, though, no one looked up. She landed on the roof of the building, but before she could take another step, HQ’s smooth voice murmured in her ear.

“HQ to Hammer, be advised that target has broken routine. Cameras note that she is en route to the flower shop.” A pause. “Pardon, she is already inside the shop.”

“Roger, HQ, but didn’t intel say that she was in her apartment just ten seconds ago?”

Silence for another moment. “Affirm. There must have been some error with the tech.”

Error with the tech? While hunting a cyberthief? That wasn’t a likely coincidence. “Roger. I’ll proceed with bagging.”

“Take caution.”

“Maybe! Hammer, out.”

With a leap off the building, Luciana took to the skies again.




She crouched on the roof opposite to the flower shop, interface activated. Luciana whirled through the different ray-vis: infared, heat, x-ray, and so forth. All of them only showed one person in the building, and she’d bet it was the target. As she cycled through the different settings one last time, something caught her eye. Ah-hah! Visible only in x-ray, all the way in the corner, was one more person. They must have a pretty decent cloaking device. One heavy and a squishy cyber-thief? Luciana could handle that.

“HQ to Hammer, external cameras are on-loop. You have go for extraction.”

“Wilco and out.”

With ease, Luciana flew—though it was more like an extended leap—and landed on the third-story balcony that gave access to the flower shop. The cameras were no issue, and she’d be fast enough that the security alarm wouldn’t cause any trouble, so Luciana crushed the doorknob and burst into the room that had the two life-sigs.

Instead of seeing Naima and one other person, Luciana found herself in a room with at least ten people.

“Fuck.”

Several things happened in the next few seconds.

First: her interface scanned the faces of everyone present. Most of them were low-level NTS operatives. One was her target, the woman with her back against her wall. Another was a… sarariman? One who worked for Sans Limites? The hell? That puzzle was quickly forgotten when she saw the two people in the back. The first was a pale, handsome man with yellow eyes and wide grin—Cael Meint, one of the faces of NTS. Shit. Even worse was the black woman beside him: there was no information about her at all.

Second: the low-level operatives all raised a variety of weapons at her and Naima, the terrorist-sponsoring cyberthief she was about to capture. Another person grabbed the sarariman, while the two big-league terrorists didn’t bother moving. Naima slammed her hand, which expanded into a spindly appendage, against the desk and connected it to some sort of port, and a shimmering orange bubble surrounded the desk. Sirens began to blare, and lights flashed.

Third: Luciana tackled Naima to the floor while activating her own meager energy shields. Bullets ricocheted against the walls as the various operatives surrounded the desk Luciana was using as cover. She fired back, but their shields were a much higher quality than hers... save for the unlucky few who were shot by friendly fire. Diverting energy to her boosters, Luciana prepared to do something reckless.

“Hold fire, please.” It was the smooth voice heard in a hundred propaganda videos, and all the personnel were quick to obey. They kept their shields up, though, and their guns pointed at the two. Luciana glanced at her captive, whose spider-like hands were wrapped around the mech armor, and likewise kept her guns aimed.

The alarm went silent, but red lights continued to flash, casting an intermittent shadow over everyone present. Heavy footsteps started and stopped. From her position on the floor, Luciana could see steeled-toed boots. Then, the person crouched down, and Cael Meint smiled at her.

“Hello, there. Now, where are you from? Who are you with?” he mused in that same silky tone. “Your mecha isn’t… standard for any of the organizations that might be interested in us. Why don’t you tell me who you might be?”

Luciana hissed into her internal channel, “Securité, securité, securité. HQ, this is Hammer. I’m standing in front of a high-ranking NTS operative. Don’t worry about it, my ass! I think I’ll need some help here!”

The channel was silent.

“HQ?”

Cael Meint tilted his head and frowned, contorting his perfect face—it had long been rumored to be artificial. “You’re being awfully silent. See, I’m trying to be nice. Why aren’t you cooperating?”

He nodded at one of the lackeys, and she brought forward the poor sarariman. The man looked terrified, a logical response considering the gun pointing at his head.

“If you don’t speak,” said the infamous terrorist, “I’ll kill poor little Avinash.”

The hostage in question began sobbing and begging for his life. "Please, p-please don't, just please—"

Luciana activated the voice modulator, changing her voice into a mechanical, crackling one. “Go to hell.”

Cael Meint sighed. “How cliché. I thought you’d be more… entertaining. Now, please do answer my questions. Who do you work for?”

“And you call me cliché?” she shot back. Luciana prepared herself. She was stuck with a bunch of terrorists, an uncooperative cyberthief, and a terrified civvie—and Luciana was about to do something really, really stupid. “And what makes you think I work for someone? Perhaps I’m someone taking revenge on this thief here.” She shook Naima by the neck for good measure.

Meint gestured with his hand. “I don’t think so.” The lackey slammed the butt of her weapon against Avinash’s head. “Are you going to tell me the truth or not?”

Luciana scoffed, though it sounded more like a cough with the modulator. “What makes you think I care about that man?” She had a slight advantage here, from a certain point of view. A very slight one. There were so many lackeys that they had to be careful of friendly fire. And, despite what she wanted to do to those terrorist bastards, all Luciana had to do was get out of here with two civvies. She didn't have to fight. Just run. She could do this.

“Oh, so you’re not with Sans Limites? I assumed as much, considering that your first move was to take down our lovely mutual friend, but I thought I’d confirm my suspicions. So, that leaves—”

She activated her propulsion jets and dashed forward. Naima's own personal shield covered herself, so Luciana could focus on tearing right through the lackey’s gun-arm, thus placing the mechsuit in front of any bullets. Grabbing Avinash, Luciana activated her flickering shield and covered all three of them from the hail of gunfire. Cael Meint, however, was having none of it. His fist went right through her shield, splintering the last of it. Luciana responded by shooting him in the face.

Unfortunately, thanks to his own shimmering energy field, it didn’t even leave a scratch. Still, Luciana took the opportunity to burst out of the side of the building, Avinash and Naima in tow. Gunfire followed her, some even hitting her bulletproof armor, but she rapidly ascended high enough that it was no longer a problem. For the third time, Luciana flew freely in the air, though the two screaming captives put a damper on her joyride. Cristo, that had been close. Luciana tried not to think about what had happened, instead taking the time to enjoy the adrenaline pumping through her. However, her relief and excitement was soon interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Hammer, come in! Hammer? Hammer?” For once, HQ’s usually placid voice sounded stressed.

“Hammer to HQ, copy. Have you been screaming my callsign for the last ten minutes? How do you receive me?”

“Reading you Five, finally! Hammer, where the hell were you? What happened? Why didn’t you respond?”

“Well, HQ, I was in a standoff with a bunch of terrorists, there’s a hole in one of the commercial buildings, and I captured an extra captive, but… other than that, I’m fine! Thanks for your concern. Wow, we must be really low on personnel if you couldn’t send me any backup. Oh, and I think they were using a jammer. I sent out a couple distress calls and you didn’t reply.”

“… say again?”

“Eh, I’ll explain it in debrief. Hammer, out!”

Naima had never really been screaming in the first place (she hadn't said anything this entire time, actually), but Avinash had finally gotten used to the flight and shut up. With both HQ and the captives quiet, Luciana had time to think. She was no fancy logical detective or anything, but she wasn’t dumb. Through this all, there were a few questions that were bugging her. How was this sarariman involved and why hadn't they shot him to begin with? Why did high-ranking NTS operatives show up in person to meet with a woman who’d formerly contacted them only through the net? And perhaps strangest of all, why had they been shooting at Naima?

She mentally shrugged. It wasn’t her job to find the answers... just to deliver the cargo. Still, Luciana couldn’t help but wonder how complicated this “simple” extraction job really was.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Vitali Zhang

0.00 INK

#, as written by TheHaze
The hotel was crap. Anyone who had dared to stay there could tell you why, and each would have a different reason. The dragon-lady smoking at the receptionist desk, the nearly-empty vending machines that ate cash like cheap noodles the caustic smell, the spotty electricity, the dangerous location, hell, even the carpet was blamed more ruined vacations and clinic visits than a particularly feisty STD. It was miracle anyone stayed there at all, even though the owner had desperately lowered the rates to prices even the most scragged-up baka could toss down. Those who did stay for a full night willingly were either scum who needed to lay low or someone looking for safe place to fix, and Lady Ma had no illusions about where she worked. She had watched more sani-crews spritz some greased fei wu out of those coffins than butts in her ashtray. In her twenty years working the desk, she’d seen more fluids than a forensic detective could see in six generations. She never had more than twenty people at any given time, and there was always one who ended up leaking or spewing or splattering up and down those rat-infested corridors. Today was no different, even though the majority of the trash had already hauled itself to the curb. Right now, she had eight stiffs-to-be cramming themselves into those plastic shitholes for the collective price of a cheap protein bar, and she knew that not one would be around by the morning. Well, the ones that made it through the night, anyway. There was a ninth customer, but Ma didn’t really think he counted. She was loathe to admit it, but the bot had become the closest thing the place had to a return customer. The gaijin, with whatever the fuck that accent was, had been here for three days now and hadn’t complained once. It was unthinkable. Ma didn’t know whether to get him committed or give him a trophy. What she did know was that he had paid in full and had actually tried to engage her in conversation that didn’t immediately devolve into a request for sex and drugs (In Mandarin, no less!), so she wasn’t complaining either. Not out loud, anyway. In fact, she did the opposite. Maybe it was the reprieve from decades of serving idiots, maybe it was the human interaction that wasn’t an exercise in abject stupidity, and maybe, and she would see herself strung up by her tendons before breathing a word of this to anyone, maybe it was that he didn’t look half-bad, but Ma felt her professionalism crawl it’s way back into her routine. She had swept the hall enough to keep the mites off of the carpet, restocked the vending machine that had that spicy ramen he always seemed to get, and even washed his mattress. Well, sprayed it with cleaner, but the laundry room had flooded years ago and she wasn’t tangling with that mold colony again any time soon. Stubbing out her cigar, Ma lean back in her chair behind the reception desk and sighed. She watched the acrid smoke drift up and scatter as it hit the ceiling fan, thinking about how she was up too early.

The figure sprawled out in Coffin 141 couldn’t have agreed more, which was why they were nearly comatose. A solid week of waxing mixers and dropping stims had done a number on them, mostly due to Lady Ma’s deep-discount booze rack. Tough as they were, a gallon of cheap Maotai mixing with a half-dozen various chemicals and substances was not a healthy decision, even though it had done an excellent job of testing their toxin filters. So, the tiny coffin was silent and only lit by the flickering light of the TV, which had been left on after the power button had fallen out. Until, of course, a call came in. A little orange light shone from the pocket of the tenant, thrumming insistently they finally patched themselves into their phone, unmoving.

“Hello? Agent Zhang? Vitali Zhang? Hello?” The voice that woke Vitali was young and irritable, desperately attempting to hide the fact that they were exhausted. He shifted, leaning against the back wall of the coffin, detritus from last night's blow-off settling around him. He held the phone to his ear, silent. He refused to speak to anyone on the phone before they made it clear they were with the LSP. He had seen enough false-flags to know otherwise. “This is Agent Patel. Minna Patel? I’m supposed to be your assistant, remember?” Vitali nodded to himself.

Of course, the girl. She was, ostensibly, his assistant, someone who could teach him the ways of the LSP, get him info, and general be an asset for Vitali to use in the field. They both knew that wasn’t really true. While Minna had proven herself as a helper, she was meant to be more of handler, someone who could reign Vitali in and stop the newbie from flying off of the rails. So far, she had done a pretty good job, and actually seemed to get along alright with the enforcer. They had only known eachother for about a month, but Minna had a pretty good idea what to expect from him. “Well, if you’re not going to talk, I’ll start. I’ve got a job for you and it’s too early for this cloak-and-dagger crap. Are you up for it or not?” Vitali let out a small grunt, gathering his things with his free hand. On the other end, there was clacking of keys, a muffled crash, and a hiss as something hot was knocked over.

“Fuck. Alright, that’s my morning shot. Listen, there’s someone we need you to bring in. You know the deal, keep him breathing and at least try to make sure he can talk. Kill him, and it’s both our asses, but mostly yours. Scan?”

Vitali keyed the call into his headset, freeing up both hands and quickly assembling his kit in the confines of the capsule. It wasn’t the easiest, especially because of his weapons, but Vitali had done it so many times by now that it was practically rote. So, it only took him a few minutes to slide out of the capsule into the hallway. It was dim, lit by one clouded fluorescent valiantly attempting to keep his section of hall bright enough to see. Despite the relative darkness, Vitali could see that the other tenant in his hall had already left, leaving the whole floor to himself. Good. It gave him a minute to sort himself out. He rolled his shoulders, shifted on his bent-back ankles, hopped in place slightly, and generally did everything he could to exercise his augmentations and whatever muscles he still had. There was a reassuring chorus of clicks, whirrs, and humming as everything settled into place, priming him for whatever it was Minna wanted him to do. It left a light tingling in his limbs, little more than an indication that they were there at all, but he still sighed quietly as his talons sank into the filthy, threadbare carpet. Even though he couldn't really feel it, it felt good to stretch out. He knew his chrome wasn’t the best, and if he didn’t take the time to warm them up they might could bind up on him when he needed them, or worse. Thankfully, Minna knew to wait. She had seen him in full when he got ambushed in the shower after another UC had blown his cover and he had opened a video link to her right then to warn the LSP. She hadn’t quite vomited, but she hadn’t complained about him taking time to keep himself working since.

“Yes. Scan.” Vitali responded, mind clearing as he felt the subtle vibration of his synthetic organs and chemical filters kicking into high gear. Christ, he hadn’t cut that loose in a long, long time. The clipped sigh on the other end confirmed that Minna knew that as well, likely due to the messages she had to read before making the call.

“Good. First order of business: Hold off on the Jade Crew work until we get this done, alright? You’ve done plenty enough as it is and the coroners are beginning to ask me uncomfortable questions. They’re down, Vez, stop kicking them. Literally, because evidently you have fucking knives for feet.” There was more clacking of keys as a files were pulled up, a burst of decidedly adult noises, a hasty keystroke, and a frustrated sigh. Minna would later swear that she literally heard one of Vez’s eyebrows raise.

“Listen. I’m on my home laptop today, I’m in my pajamas, and my coffee just redecorated my carpet. There’s an all-hands scenario going down at HQ and I got dragged out to help deal with the boots we still have on the ground, scan?” She didn’t wait for an answer, continuing out of a red-faced mix of embarrassment and impatience. “So I need to you to nab me some brewer called Bernard Choi. Apparently he’s the guy behind that fake Yatsa, YX7. Sure you already know it, but just in case you didn’t already drop a kilo of that shit, it’s those little orange triangles. Yatsa is yellow, but if you’re in a club, you probably don’t know or care. We’ve got people going chrome-crazy because of it and we want him and his operation shut down. He’s got a dealer shifting his candy, too, but don’t lose sleep if he ends up not seeing a cell. Sending everything your way now.”

There was a beep as the dossier was sent through his phone. If there was one thing Minna was good at, it was dossiers. She might not tell Vitali everything herself, but she could dredge up enough info to set him up. Pictures, contacts, histories, affiliations, locations, personalities, she could take someone or something and collate into a little orange file as easily as someone writes their own name. She knew it, too, which was why she didn’t bother to give Vitali time to look through it before plowing on.

“Right. Before I can get my ass out of here, I have to ping you. Higher-ups want to know where their people are, at least right now. Your signal sounds like it’s coming from a public toilet, so I’m assuming you're in one of those flops you insist on staying at. As long as you hose yourself off before coming back, I couldn’t care less. Just give me a name and address.”

Vitali didn’t know why people hated these places so much. There were high-end joints on Silicon Boulevard and elsewhere that were nicer than most apartments. Granted, he never stayed in them. He hadn’t seen Minna’s apartment, but he imagined it was pretty damn good. She didn't seem like to type to deal with messes. Certainly didn’t like managing his.

“Yes. I’m at the Hakka Rose, in the Five-Foot-Way. Across from Three-Bone Shen’s?” Vitali had to concede that the noise of astonished disgust coming from the other end was warranted. If he could still get parasites, he would have probably burned this place down as a public service, but he had stayed at far worse places in far worse cities. At least he didn’t need a geiger counter to see if the toilet was safe to use. Probably.

“Shit, seriously? You do remember what happened to that CI last week, right? They couldn’t get the brain fluid out of the throat mic and had to scrap it.”

“Yes, that’s how I got his room for so cheap.”

“Oh. Oh. Just... Shut the fuck up. God. You’ve got the info, I’m going home to try and salvage a night of passion and rest, whichever comes first. Don’t die.”

Vitali chuckled as the call went dead, flicking through the info he had been supplied with. She’d get him back, somehow. That’s just what they did. If someone had seen them talking on the street, they’d be mistaken for close friends, maybe even a couple. Work wasn’t much different. Nobody cared if you were close on the side as long as it didn't interfere with work, and there was running pool on whether they’d end up together. It wasn’t going to happen, though. They had their own reasons to keep it strictly platonic. Didn’t stop them from placing bets against themselves on the sly, though.

Vez walked down the cramped stairway, made to the lobby, dropped his key on the counter, thanked the lady for the stay, and made his way into the street. It was a bit abrupt, but he wanted to get this job done so he could focus on whatever it was that caused the station to go critical. Lady Ma was a bit hurt, but she found later that he had cleaned his capsule and let his garbage in small bag outside the door. She would, in the end, call him a good person.

Vez looked up as he walked out of the hotel, door sliding closed behind him with a hollow pinging sound. He couldn’t see the sky, not this deep in the city. The only thing lighting the glorified alley was the slowly blinking sign of Three-Bone Shen’s and the cage-lamp fastened above the hotel door. Above him was snarl of wires, pipes, tarps, and sheet metal that blotted out all natural light. He was used to the ad-hoc style of utilities common in the poorer areas of Lumaire, the Ural Shanties being a prime example of ingenuity in the face of abject poverty, so he knew what to look out for. See, the Five-Foot-Way got it’s name because that was the walking space you had before you stepped into open air. It was deep in the urban sprawl, but it wasn’t ground level, being little more than a connected series of balconies connected by walkways and ladders. Getting across the street meant navigating homemade bridges and the occasional leap. Stumbling usually meant you went tipping into the abyss for about sixteen stories. It used to be twenty, but the trash had built up enough drive out the lower tenants and make the landing a little softer. This was literally what Vitali was built for, however, and it didn’t take him long to get where he needed to be.

The 8th Arrondissement had seen better days. Vez hadn’t been in the city before the acid storms hit, but he could see the signs of the damage even before he entered the district proper. It was the type of urban decay he had seen in Russian mining towns that bordered the Red Zone, places that had been left empty and rotting until somebody decided to move back in. The place was still caustic, small pools of corrosive liquid fizzling away where the rain couldn’t wash it down into the sewer, filling the air around them with toxic vapor. Anyone living here had maybe ten, twenty weeks tops before their lungs dissolved. A plume would probably kill in minutes. Vitali was working his way through an old traffic tunnel, lightless and jammed with the rusting hulks of hundreds of vehicles. The gangers probably didn’t know how dangerous this place really was, which suited Vitali fine. He had already seen a few of the stupider ones, curled up in acid-bored pits, clutching their melted throats in dark places, face-down in acidic puddles and turning to mush. Vitali guessed these were runners who didn’t make it to their destination, as most were younger and had mobility-based augmentations. Whatever they were carrying would have been picked up by whoever came next, but there were a few Vitali had found that were out of the way enough that they likely would never be found. Their own brothers couldn’t even loot them, but Vitali had no trouble sifting, literally at times, through their remains. A lot of cheap weapons, bad drugs, and petty cash, except for one runner who had managed to wedge herself into the wheel-well of a moving van. She was clutching a duffel-bag to her chest, and was in good enough condition that her tattoos and colors were still visible. Yellow clothes with lots of eagles, the sign of the Talons. They were a low-key, low-status group that farmed themselves out to the larger gangs by doing all of the legwork no self-respecting gang would do. Vitali bet that there were a few of them down here, rotting with all of the other upstarts and washouts. Wrenching the bag from the corpse, Vitali zipped it open and was greeted by hundreds of orange triangles. Zipping it closed, Vitali threw the back over his shoulder, nodding to himself.

A lucky find. The girl, judging by the shape she was in, had been dead for a few days, meaning that the gang that had called for her had likely put out a call for a runner who would be making his or her way down here to get that pack. Vitali knew he looked worse than most of the people who would likely be sent, and the gangs wouldn’t be surprised at a freelancer shifting the drugs if they were used to throwing fresh meat at the problem. As for where to go, Vitali figured it out once he left the tunnel.

People didn’t like to start over, and gangers didn’t like to do more work than they had to. When Vitali emerged from the sagging mouth of the tunnel, he wasn’t surprised to see the district dark. Utilities would be shot, and anything here would either be tapped from the surrounding Arrondissements or produced on-site. It wasn’t hard to notice, then, the one building nearby that actually had the lights on. It was an apartment building that appeared to have held up nicely, fortified overtime by gangers looking to secure their turf. Someone had built a crude portcullis out of sheet metal and dropped it over the double-doors, watched over by a half-dozen gangers. They were older and tougher than the teens Vitali had encountered in the tunnels, all tattooes and gold-plated augs. Fairly well-armed, as well, cradling police-issue weapons boosted from an abandoned police armory somewhere in the district. They didn’t react as Vitali approached, wordlessly opening the gate as he showed them he had the pack. The portcullis was dragged up the side of the building with a metallic screech, and Vitali walked through the double doors into the lobby.

Vitali didn’t expect the lobby to be so nice. He had expected graffiti, joygirls, urine, maybe a gun emplacement, but not Art Deco. Someone, for some reason, had taken the time to improve the place and make it look...quite good, actually. There was even a chandelier. Granted, Vitali hadn’t seen a interior like this that wasn’t bombed out, but it seemed like a close approximation. The gang members who crowded him as he walked through seemed to ignore it, seeming slightly annoyed at the decoration that was undoubtedly against their chosen aesthetic of bodily fluids and stabbing weapons. The someone responsible for all this stopped him at the elevator, and Vitali was entirely unsurprised by his character. A thirty-something mobster wannabe in a shitty stolen suit blocked the way, smirk plastered on his greasy face.

“You like it, runner? Did most of the work myself. Art Deco. Know what that is?” He had a voice like a Danube wharf-rat, low-class but still incredibly smug. Vitali shrugged. Never hurt to play the part, even though he hadn’t been entirely sure what it was himself.

“Yes, now. You where this needs to go?” The chorus of chuckles behind him wasn’t a surprise. His accent was strange, even by the standards of Lumaire. Slavic, Siberian, a tinge of Mongolian. He was proficient in English, near fluent, but he could quote Shakespeare and it would still sound oddly broken to most ears.

“Yeah. Poor fuck before you didn’t do so great, huh? Who are you with, Comrade?” Another wave of laughter, another shrug.

“Cossacks. Ataman sends his regards.” Vitali nodded, shifting the pack slightly on his shoulder. The Cossacks didn’t exist, but Vitali knew that the dealer, who Vitali was pretty sure was right in front of him, had contracted from so many different gangs that the name didn’t really matter. If someone skipped out with the pills or tried to cause trouble, retribution would come later, likely involving the offender and everyone they knew and loved being fed into an auger. Such was their way.

“Sure, Comrade, good for you. Choi’s up top, sweating bullets. He better be glad you came when you did. Egghead’s tellin’ me he’s got to step on that shit himself. Holdin’ back on me, can you believe it? Close to steppin’ on him, eh?” More laughter issued from the mob of gangsters as they forced themselves to enjoy their dealer’s joke. The dealer stepped aside, sweeping his arm at the elevator. Vitali stepped forward and the dealer quickly stepped back into place, placing an arm on his shoulder.

“Hold up, commie. I’ve been hearing some- Christ, you smell like shit. I’ve been hearing some concerns with our product there, causing our select clientele to go a little funny in the chrome-dome, if you get me. Seems like we could use a test.” The gangers stepped closer, and Vez wordlessly let the bag fall the to the floor. It was a test, one that the dealer fully expected to kill him. The fuck didn’t need to pay dead men, and Vitali wondered how many augged runners had been tossed into the street foaming and twitching. Vez was different, though. He knelt slowly, quietly unzipped in the bag, and picked up a handful of pills. The little orange pills tasted strangely of chocolate, and Vitali felt the colors begin to shift and breathe, the chemicals sinking into his genes, and then....darkness.

Vitali didn’t remember much of what happened. He had gone cyber-psycho before, and all he knew then was raw, unbridled violence. Splintered bone and pulped organs. Screams torn from collapsed lungs. Red, pulsing vision and that keening shriek filling his head like a devil’s laughter. He saw flickers of faces, before they were smashed against the walls like rotting meat. Some were crying, some were defiant. He thought he heard one praying before his spine snapped like dry straw. Dull thumps broke through the haze, gunshots from automatic weapons filtered through a fog created by enough narcotics to kill ten men. He could feel them whistling by his head and cracking against the steel plating of his augmentations, his own guns forgotten as he tore through the building with claw and talon. He smelled smoke as someone tried to throw a firebomb that uselessly crashed to the floor when the wielder was impaled on a broken railing, the heat building as the flames began to spread. His world was fire and blood, and he feasted and slaughtered and reveled in the psychosis until finally he felt a needle work it’s way into his neck and then...

Sanity. It was like a bolt of lightning, shocking him back to reality. His vision cleared to a pinkish mist, the roar in his head subsiding to a ringing whine. He was in a room, a lab. It was destroyed, reeking of chemicals and carnage. There were two corpses, one that was covered in shards from being slammed into a rack of glassware, the other had a disruptor rammed into his eye socket. He still had his hand attached to it, thumb desperately fishing for the button as it was torn from his wrist. It took Vitali a few seconds to process that there was a living person in the lab with him, likely the one responsible for the auto injector sticking out of the back of his neck. A small man, older, huddled in a corner. He had wet himself. Vitali looked at him before looming over him, still twitching from the stimulants coursing through him. It was difficult to see from the artifacts distorting his vision, but it was Choi. He grabbed him and threw himself out of the building, scaling the wall of the neighbouring structure and navigating the rooftops until they were a good block away.

Vitali had placed the brewer by an AC unit, which he had cowered against like it was his mother. The enforcer knelt down, augmentations whining in protest as he tried to get them to move. He couldn't go any farther, not after what he’d done. He could see the bullet holes in his augmentations where the armor had given out, struggling against the the resistance where the internals were binding and warping from damage and heat. He’d need serious repairs, and medical attention. He could feel that his eyes were bleeding. Smacking the side of his head to get his commlink working, he called Minna.

“Yeah? You get Choi?” She sounded better, well-rested. It was still dark out, likely around four or five in the morning by now, but she was a master of the power-nap. That didn’t last as she heard Vitali’s voice.

“Yes. Choi is with me. I need an extraction.” His voice was rough and angry as his filters lurched under the strain, desperate to clear out his system. His crude accent was digitally distorted from the damaged commlink. He sounded...well, like a monster.

“Christ. Yeah. I’ll get you one, just stay put, alright?” He heard a frantic conversation take place, an affirmative, and the line was closed.

Vitali sat quietly on the rooftop, leaning against the same unit as Choi. The doctor was immobilized with fear, so Vez didn’t feel the need to restrain him. He watched the building burn in the distance, just now feeling the ash drifting from the sky, cooled by the frigid weather. It wouldn’t spread, but it would do a good job of disposing of whatever had occurred in that filthy place. Hundreds, maybe? At least a few dozen. He didn’t even know what gang that was called, if it even was just one gang, hell, the dealer’s name. It didn’t matter now, he supposed, not with it all burning to the ground. So he sat, in the darkness, quietly letting his filters do their work as his mind slowly cleared and his body began to shut down.

Choi sat, staring at the sky. He didn’t know what was going to happen to him now. The Morley and his gang was dead, his business was destroyed, his family would likely be killed. That thing had just torn him away from the one chance he had to save himself and the people he loved. He knew it was over. And yet, when he felt the hum of the VTOL approach and found himself blinking in the spotlight, he found himself crying. He had been crying before, but this was different. When it lurched upward and carried him into the shuttle like a child, coating him in blood that was not his, he knew why. It was over.

And he was going home.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron

0.00 INK

5487 Anderson Street, #32

kzzt-hsss-pop

“-ight now! I’m telling you, Frederick Montioum is moving to the top of the Yorkshire Cannons. When he’s throwing perfect passes to perfect catches, you end up with a perfect season!”

“I think you’re blinded by your patriotic lust towards your favorite team there Mike. If you take a step back, you realize that the only reason Frederick is where he is is because the team’s running game is so strong. Kendel Isaac, Leon Farsteady, Bruno Oris and Henry Uller. Frederick is lucky to have them, if it weren’t for their soft hands and quick feet, the season would be playing out quite differently.”

“Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great part of the team and make up the core, but Montioum is going up there with the greats, mark my words.”

“Well consider your words Marked Mark. For those of you just tuning in, this is Marky Mark and Ricky Two-Fingers talking your way through the morning at 205.7 The Shark. Up next is Last Night Goodbye by Locked Elbows.”

Music filtered through the apartment as a slumbering figure finally summoned the strength to pull himself from the fairly average mattress he had been sleeping on. Slowly, his hand combed through his messy hair as a yawn escaped his mouth and he blinked slightly to clear his vision as he stood up. Emmett pressed a button on the wall, watching as the bed quickly made itself and folded into the wall. A window, placed behind where the bed had been, held a small radio at roughly chest level. The music, a soft melody depicting a night better left to memory floated through his ears and out towards the rest of his apartment.

The rest of his room was essentially bare. With the bed having disappeared into the wall, all that was left was a dresser, a closet and a full body mirror. Walking out into the hallway revealed a small if somewhat open living space. As he walked from the hallway into what could be described as a kitchen area, the counters slid out from the wall, along with all the appliances one would need to make something to eat. Emmett stopped by the coffee maker, checking to make sure the timer had gone off and that it indeed was making the very liquid that would allow him to function at 6 in the morning. Walking back, he entered a different door to a bathroom that didn’t have all the amenities folded into the wall. A simple room with all the basic requirements. While all he had was a standing shower, he wasn’t much of a bath man so it didn’t bother him.

Ten minutes later, Emmett came out, continuing to dry his hair and naked as the day he was born. The radio continued to play, although the song had switched to some sort of pop music that he hadn’t heard before. It wasn’t unpleasant, as his bobbing head would seem to suggest as he made his way into the bedroom and opened his closet. Inside, his clothes for the day were already put together, and pulling a singular hanger allowed him to acquire his entire outfit. Within another few minutes, Emmett had already donned his clothes, pulling a tie close up to his neck. He had an odd style according to some of his coworkers. He was professional, and his personality suggested a no-nonsense attitude when it came to working matters, yet his dress shirts and tie were always colorful. Even now, his red dress shirt was tucked into very nice jeans. A white belt and tie adorned his person, mixed with his red socks. Pulling on his clothes to make sure they were snug, he wandered over to the opposite wall of his bed, placing a palm on the surface. There was a small, brief flash before a panel opened to reveal his under-arm holster, pistol and badge. He quickly equipped them, making sure his pistol was loaded and the safety was on. He took a moment to look at himself in the mirror as he started to head out of the room. He wouldn’t say he was a vain man, but he did like to look nice, especially when a lot of his job required having face time with many people, a number of them influential.

“Radio off.” Emmett stated, cutting the music short as he made his way into the kitchen, grabbing the coffee cup as he passed. He snapped his fingers twice, and the kitchen once again disappeared into the wall. He passed that into the living room, the only other area in his apartment. Like his bathroom, this room didn’t have all fold in furniture and appliances. A single couch faced an apparently empty wall, while a roof-hung light of some ornamentation hung above it. It illuminated the room, even though a glass door leading to a balcony that gave a decent view of the suburbs provided most of the light. “TV on.” Emmett stated, and a part of the wall flipped to reveal a sizable 42” Television. Immediately it flashed to life in what appeared to be the middle of a news broadcast. It showed a man on the screen who appeared to be somewhere near a red zone, most likely hating his career choice at the moment. He was adorned in body armor and a helmet as soldiers wandered around him carrying weapons and armaments that suggested he was in the middle of some sort of combat zone.

“-o sign of stopping. It appears like they’ve hunkered in and are ready to attack anyone who would take a step inside their territory. Despite *Tukana’s military pressure, they’ve managed to inflict several casualties with what appears to be high caliber rail weapons. As of now, Tukana’s spokespeople are not recommending travel along the *Francis Strait.” The image on the TV changed to show a rigid man in a full suit sitting at a table. His eyes were cybernetic, creating a somewhat eerie image to look at even as he spoke softly.

“I see, are you going to be alright out there Michael?” Richard asked.

“I believe so, the insurgents have yet to push out of their respective zone, so as long as I stay away from No Man’s Land, I should be fine and able to give constant updates.”

“Alright, well stay safe out there. We’re wishing you well and the best of luck, keep us updated.” Richard stated, flipping through a couple papers on the desk.

“Will do. Thank you.” Michael stated before his image disappeared, replaced by Richard clasping his hands.

“Well that was the insurgency issue plaguing the main trade route of the Francis Strait. We will keep you updated as the situation progresses, but in the meantime, what do corporate security and your home office have in common? What our specialists say can turn your house into a fortress. Stay tuned.” The screen shifted to start showing different stock prices as other news stories scrolled along the bottom. Emmett took another long draw from his coffee as he wandered towards the glass door. He slowly opened it, taking a step onto his small balcony and looking down at the number of tall and somewhat beautiful buildings that made up Lumaire City’s middle class. Many of them were apartment buildings, but some of the small corporations had their headquarters out here as well. The sun was just starting to rise, and the early morning rays were glistening off of the metal buildings, cars and maglevs. He enjoyed this view, even if some people preferred the wide open wilderness to this. He was pulled from his reverie from the sound of ringing coming from his apartment.

He wandered back inside, the TV automatically muting itself in conjunction with the phone call. “Call from:” A robotic voice stated, only to be replaced by another female voice.

“St. Cloud.” Simple, to the point, to be expected of the nearly anti-social communications specialist.

“Answer.” Emmett stated as he made his way to his bedroom. There was a beep to indicate that the call was now live. “Morning Tia.” Emmett said quite flatly as he grabbed a small ear piece off of the same shelf that his radio was on.

“Morning Detective, thought I would catch you before you popped into the office.” Her tone was even, light but not necessarily jovial.

“Got a case for me already?” Emmett asked, placing the earpiece into his lobe and tapping the button to transfer the call to his personal cell.

“Cyborgs were murdered down by the Omega41 club. It’s on your way to the office, so I thought I would save you the travel time.”

“Appreciated.” Emmett said, grabbing his black and red blazer and heading out of his apartment, locking the door and making his way to the elevator. “Anything you can tell me?”

“Double homicide. Both cyborgs. A woman, Jane Doe, assumed to be a Rimbo. The other has been identified as Damien Legrand.”

“The brother to Mathieu Legrand?” Emmett asked as he pressed the button in the elevator for the parkade.

“One in the same. They were both pretty diced up, the Rimbo seemingly beyond all recognition. Officers have cordoned off the area and are awaiting the arrival of a MCU detective.”

“What’s the feel?” Emmett asked, watching as the number at the top of the door slowly counted down.

“Talk around the precinct is that it’s connected to the previous cyborg homicides currently plaguing the city. The M.O. seems to match, although the inclusion of a high profile target seems to indicate an escalation.”

“Or maybe Damien just happened to wander into the killing ground.”

“Also a possibility.”

“Alright.” The elevator dinged and Emmett walked out into a concrete basement, striding towards a large metal door. As he got closer, a panel lit up. He placed his hand on it, and the door opened to reveal cars on a giant gyroscopically able rotating levy system. The entire machine shuddered as cars started sliding past. “I’ve been looking into a couple of the other cases on the side, but make sure anything relevant gets to my computer. Has the coroner been notified?”

“He’s already at the scene. He should have a more detailed report for you once you get there.” Emmett nodded to himself as his car came into view and was slowly released from the grip of the oversized merry go round.

“Sounds good, I’m grabbing my car and heading there now. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Take care out there Detective.”




Omega 41, Alleyways

Traffic had always been a pain, but when it came to crime scenes and potentially having evidence waste away on the street, Emmett was more than happy to blare his siren and blast past everyone else as they stared on in concern, curiosity and possibly envy. As he pulled up to the street where the police had already cordoned off, he turned off his lights, parked and exited his car. Emmett paused briefly to pat himself down, ensuring his gear was where it needed to be before walking over to the holographic police tape.

A couple of police androids stood guard, their blue and silver color mixing well with the letters ‘LCPD’ stenciled all over their torso. They held automatic rifles in their grips and their elongated heads didn’t allow for anyone to mistake them for human. As Emmett approached, he swung open his jacket slightly to allow the badge to be seen. Upon recognizing the emblem, a soft beep was emitted from one of the bots. “Authority Recognized. Welcome to the crime scene Detective Tigron.”

“Gents.” Emmett stated as he passed through the tape display and wandered further into the alley. It was a grimy looking place, although the street definitely had some cleanup done on it recently. Trash littered the ground, a couple of needles could be seen poking out of the dirt, and more than a little dried blood was caked onto a couple of dumpsters. Back alleys, maintaining a stereotype since the beginning of their creation. Emmett walked for a slight ways before turning a corner into what appeared to be a alley intersection that lead off into the other streets. Nearly dead center, a poor choice of words, were the corpses of Damien Legrand and his armed escort. A couple of officers stood nearby, heavily armed and in full combat gear. Such was the protocol when dealing with crime scenes in the more seedier parts of the city. Kneeling over the possible Rimbo was an aging man with more than a few grey highlights accenting his hair. Wrinkles covered his face like rolling hills in a meadow but his eyes defied all aging as their focus seemed reminiscent of a man half his age. He was covered in a semi-plastic wrap as he poked and prodded at the body in what seemed like a random manner. He spoke in a hushed tone, and a light blinked on the side of his head. His phone, using it as his personal recorder as well.

Upon coming closer, the two officers paused slightly before recognizing him and giving respective nods. “Detective.” One of the officers stated, drawing the attention of the Coroner.

“*Blues.” Emmett replied as he walked closer to the Coroner who fixed him with a stare.

“You got here faster than I anticipated Detective.” The man stated, his voice low but smooth, almost calming actually. Emmett shrugged.

“Benefits of having a siren I suppose.” He stated, to which he was answered with a shrug.

“Wish I had one some days, did you see the I-77? Made the mistake of trying to use that to get here, apparently they have construction going on, cutting off the one lane.”

“I’ll make a note to avoid it then.” Emmett stated, looking at the mangled corpses. He had done enough homicides, suicides, mass murders and general what the fuckery that this didn’t exactly phase him. Still, it did disturb him to some degree that someone could do this to another living being.

“Too bad these two can’t take a note to avoid whatever hit them last night.” The Coroner stated, pointing down at the mess of blood, bone and metal.

“Well you know what they say Barry.” Emmett stated, kneeling down to get a better look at things. “Hindsight is 20/20. What can you tell me?”

“Well, the M.O. is the same from my initial assessment. Precision cuts followed by mutilation.” Barry knelt down next to Emmett. “If I had to take a guess, I would say it’s the same person or persons from the previous murders.”

“I was afraid of that.” Emmett said, reaching into his jacket and pulling out an overlarge pair of blue frames that looked like safety goggles without lenses. Barry continued.

“There is a slight variation this time around though. First, the woman is mutilated far worse than any of the previous victims. Second, Damien here was dragged back to this position.” Barry pointed to a blood trail that lead nearly out of the alley.

“He tried to run.” Emmett stated, which received a nod from Barry.

“That would be my assumption...also one last variation.” Barry’s voice got a little lower. “Damien didn’t die quickly. The previous murders were quick and clean, all mutilation was done after the fact. For whatever reason, a lot of these brutal cuts and tears here…” Barry pointed to Damien’s arm, naturally cybernetic in nature as he was one of those ‘full augs’. “Here…” Barry pointed to his chest cavity. “And here.” Barry finally pointed to his stomach “Were done first instead of last.

“What does that mean?” Emmett asked, not expecting a full answer but at least wanting a hunch so as to base a hypothesis after.

“To be honest, I don’t know. There are signs of precision cuts that came after Damien’s mutilation, but if that was the case, why not keep the same M.O.? I’ll need to take them back to the body shop in order to know for certain.” Emmett stroked his chin slightly, still holding the blue frames in his other hand.

“Huh...anything else you can tell me?”

“Rough estimate as to time of death...about 5 or 6 hours ago.”

“System logs were destroyed again?” Emmett asked, receiving yet another nod from the Coroner.

“Same precision cuts, managed to destroy the memory unit without dismantling the actual cybernetic implant itself.” Emmett nodded, placing his hands on his knees and rising to a standing position.

“Alright, well you continue doing your thing, and I’ll start doing mine.”

“Will do.” Barry answered, staying in his kneeling position to inspect the bodies some more as Emmett placed the frames on his face. Tapping a button, a blue overlay appeared before him. Data points started compiling information and Emmett turned into a circle to allow the glasses to get a complete picture of the crime scene. Once they were calibrated, a small green ‘Ready’ appeared in the top left of his vision. “Detective: Emmett Tigron. Badge Number 14G672J7. Authenticate.” There was a brief pause as the frames did their magic and contacted the MCU servers for verification. Soon enough, there was a small green ‘Verified’ where the ready word had been. Emmett continued. “Scan Cases: Cyborg Double Homicide.” He had forgotten to get the case number from Tia, but this function should work just as well. There was a moment as it searched through all of Emmett’s potential cases, and eventually found the one that he was looking for. Immediately a mass of information passed over a corner of the glasses before a green ‘Ready’ flashed once again in the same spot as before.

“Two victims, cyborgs.” The glasses worked almost autonomously, through voice command and movement. Honestly, if you asked Emmett, they were an invaluable part of his investigative arsenal. Essentially, he could just talk his way through the case and the glasses would take the evidence given and reconstruct the scene. Emmett walked back down the alley to where the couple were assumed to come out of. Omega41. A dirty, grungy place but ultimately not the worst of the worst. The music was low this time of day, early morning wasn’t peak business hours for a night club.

“Victims exited the club.” Emmett stated, and immediately blue dots coalesced together to form the exact shape of the victims, walking their way through the door. “Victim ID number 1: Damien Legrand. Victim ID number 2: Rimbo.” Emmett stated, pointing to the respective holograms. Immediately a red title appeared over each. “Assume Damien was drunk, leaning on Rimbo for support.” The image blurred for a moment before it recast itself to show Damien obviously intoxicated and using the Rimbo for support. “Walking.” Emmett stated, keeping his vision focused on the display in front of him that only he could see.

The glasses made the walking realistic, slowing the pace down to compensate for the intoxication and support. It stopped when it reached the bodies, a pulsing red light appeared in his vision. ‘Need More Information’. Emmett looked around, knowing this was the place where they were killed. There were so many avenues of approach, being an alleyway crossroads and all. In fact, a question leaped to Emmett’s forefront. Why was Damien in this back alley anyways? It’s not like going out the front door would ruin his image, he was 21. It was kind of expected for him to go out and enjoy life a little today. An ironic statement to be certain.

“Attacker came from the East...with blade.” The image shifted to show a placeholder bad guy rushing them with a single blade. The Rimbo pushed Damien to the ground, withdrew her weapon and filled the entire alleyway with bullets. The attacker didn’t stand a chance. The glasses took all of the Rimbo’s cybernetics and weapons into account, and while it couldn’t handle psychological information, it could give a fairly accurate ‘guess’ as to what would have happened. “West.” Emmett stated, and once again it ended in the same result. The only time it changed is when Emmett had the enemy come from behind, but that didn’t make sense considering that’s the way Damien had run to get away from the attacker before being brought down again.

So if the attacker came on foot from any direction, the Rimbo would have most likely killed him or her. Especially considering that the attacker didn’t seem to use any ranged weapons with the notable exception of a blade through Damien’s leg. Although that seemed more out of desperation than anything else. Emmett looked up, it was a good 4 stories up for the buildings in front of him, and considering that an attack from behind would have had Damien running in another direction, it was the only possibility. To land from that distance without seriously hurting one’s self would either require specialized tech or cybernetic legs. “Above” Emmett said, looking as the glasses calculated the best avenue of approach for the aggressor before showcasing the attack. Sure enough, an attack from above limited the Rimbo’s vision. She was impaled with a sword and diced before she could move, and the simulation paused.

“Impaled from above. Doctor, does that seem to coincide with the injuries?”

“Hard to tell.” Barry stated. “Although she is packing a pretty decent chest piece, a blade coming in from above would slide between the armor and skin, quick and clean.” Emmett nodded.

“Would it have killed her instantly?”

“Possible? Chances are though, with her heavy augmentation, something would have kicked in to keep her standing for a couple minutes. I would say about a 30% chance she would have died instantly.”

“Alright, we’ll go with the assumption that she didn’t die instantly. Where are the precision cuts?” Barry pointed to the injuries, tracing his finger along them to allow the glasses to calculate the wounds. Once that was done, the glasses processed for a moment before giving the ready signal again. “Simulate injuries.”

The simulation went through the process of detailing the precision cuts. Once the blade had gone into the torso, the attacker pulled his blade out, sliced at her gun arm to prevent her from drawing her weapon, spun around and slashed her legs to prevent her from running, and finally stabbed her clean through the throat. Death would have happened within a matter of seconds. It also confirmed the use of a sword, as a simple knife wouldn’t have the reach to perform all of this in the necessary time. Two blades could have done it, but the number of cuts would most likely be double as well. “The blade swipes would have hit Damien if he remained using the Rimbo for support. Rimbo pushes Damien away at time of attack.” The image shifted to show the Rimbo push Damien to the ground. Emmett looked over and knelt down. Sure enough, there was some scrape marks on the ground from where Damien’s metal chassis would have connected.

“Damien runs North.” Emmett stated, and Damien’s Hologram scrambled to his feet and started running. Emmett raised an eyebrow when he took off at an incredible pace, his cybernetics must have helped, but that would mean in order for the aggressor to throw his blade, he would have to be incredibly strong and accurate. “Stop Damien at end of blood trail.” Emmett said, watching as the simulation paused, looking back at the swordsman. “Aggressor throws blade, catches Damien in the leg.” There was a brief moment of calculation as the simulation ran a few times to see how the Aggressor would have to move the Rimbo in order to throw his blade. Eventually it settled on an underarm throw as the attacker threw the Rimbo over his shoulder. Apparently that was the most plausible way he would have been able to throw the blade.

“From that angle, he would have gotten blood on him.” Emmett said out loud, thinking to himself as he wandered closer to Damien, who was showcasing the sword through his leg. “Attacker kills Rimbo, collects Damien and drags him back.” The simulation continued, showing the attacker coming and dragging Damien back to the crime scene. At that point, there was no longer any reason to continue the simulation without the Coroner’s full report.

“We’re dealing with a cyborg for sure, most likely a master swordsman.” Emmett stated, to which Barry only nodded.

“Makes sense, these cuts are something else. Every single one managed to hit something vital.” Barry said, standing up and pressing a button on his phone. “What’s the status on the Body Bus? Alright, well I’m done here so start loading them up the moment you get here.” He tapped the button once again and ended the call.

“I’m also going to need a vial of her blood for comparison purposes. I think the attacker managed to get some on themselves during the assault.”

“You got it.” Barry said, grabbing a vial from his kit as he did so.

“In the meantime, I’m going to check the club, see if their cameras picked something up in there. Officers, once the bodies have been moved, canvas the scene and grab anything you think might be noteworthy.” The officers nodded as Barry went to work cleaning up his gear and prepping the bodies to be moved. Emmett already had some theories as to what was going on, but he would need to see the other case files from the previous murders to be sure. For the moment, he had the unenviable task of questioning a nightclub owner about his patrons and security footage.




“Ah, well if it isn’t a member of our illustrious police force. What can I do for you today, Copper?” A rather well dressed man with a voice that sounded like it belonged to some drugged up hobo addressed Emmett almost the moment his foot soiled the lawless club floor. His black hair was nicely styled, his beard groomed, and his entirely pink suit was drawing more attention from Emmett than he dared admit. It was an odd choice of color, but he supposed it was doing exactly what the manager wanted it to do, which was distract people. One of the man’s eyes twinkled and shifted, revealing its nature as a cybernetic, but it was high grade. Chances are he left his contact that made it appear organic at home, or it was a deliberate choice to let people know he was scanning them. Whichever, it didn’t matter.

“You have an eye for people it seems.” Emmett stated, walking across the well lit area now that most of the patrons had either passed out in alleys or gone home with unsavory strangers. The dance floor was massive, but from the front door there was a path that lead to the front desk. It was there that the Manager was standing, behind him a coat rack with a few articles still hanging from people who either forgot or didn’t care about them. The Manager, of which Emmett was certain that was this man’s title simply by the way he looked, smiled and shook his head slightly.

“Well I’m not going to turn away a compliment, but I actually saw you enter the alley just a short bit ago. You do have the air of a judgmental law bringer though.”

“Good, the cologne I’m using is having an effect.” Emmett stated dryly, which earned a laugh from the Manager.

“A sense of humor is always good, but I know what you’re here for isn’t in such good tastes.” The Manager walked around the desk. “But where are my manners. My apologies, I’m Isaac Red-Eye Lucican.” The Manager stuck out his hand, to which Emmett stared at it. He didn’t want to be rude, but with so many cybernetics being an unknown, he wasn’t about to touch this man without a care in the world.

“Detective Emmett Tigron.” He made a very clear indication that he had no intention of touching Isaac. Isaac stared at his hand for a moment, smirked and shrugged. “You are aware that two patrons of your club last night were found murdered behind your building?”

“Kinda hard to miss, what with all the bots and blues around.” Isaac stated, crossing his arms as he did so.

“Do you know who they are?” Emmett asked, wanting to probe the man’s knowledge.

“Sure. The man is Damien Legrand, a fairly big name coming to my quaint little club of leisure. Honestly was kinda surprised he came all the way down here, although I did hear more than a little bitching about his family as his alcohol tolerance was damn near negligible. You would think, for being a full aug, that they would have given him a detox filter or something.”

Most likely turned it off in order to feel the effects. Emmett thought to himself as he pulled out a web pad with a direct link to his computer back at HQ.

“The girl was actually one of mine. Melanie Monroe, although many people called her Missy.” Emmett wrote that down, he would have to investigate that name as soon as possible.

“One of yours? What was her job?” Isaac threw up his hands in mock surrender.


“Before you go thinking she was a JoyGirl, she wasn’t. To be honest, she was much to stubborn and headstrong to ever make it in that line of work. No, she was one of my insurance options for some of the more well paying patrons, such as Damien. Essentially a temporary bodyguard, to ensure people get home safe.”

“How noble.” Emmett said dryly, earning a sharp look from Isaac.

“It’s more than what other clubs do.” He said, to which Emmett looked up.

“Uh huh.” Emmett had his doubts. Clubs like to use ‘Temporary Bouncers’ to sometimes figure out where people lived and case joints. He couldn’t prove that was what Isaac was doing, and to be honest he had bigger problems at the moment. “Do you have a residence for Ms. Monroe?” Isaac wandered back to the desk, pulling out a pen and paper and writing an address down on it.

“Far as I know, that was her last known address, but I wouldn’t expect much. She wasn’t one to settle down for long, she had only been here for about 2 months.” Emmett grabbed the paper and wrote down her work length. It meant that Damien hadn’t come here with anyone, most likely trying to keep a low profile. When he started getting hammered, maybe a little panic set in and he hired Missy on the spot to essentially get him back home safe.

“Hmmm...Well I’m going to need your surveillance tapes.” Isaac paused, once again crossing his arms.

“For what reason? The murder happened in the back alley.”

“Checking all the boxes, covering all the bases, taking all the shots. Pick one.” Emmett stated, which didn’t earn a cooperative glance from the Manager.

“I don’t think so. I have some rather...high profile people who like their privacy when they come in here.” Emmett shrugged, shutting off the pad and placing it back into his pocket.

“That’s fine. I’ll go get a warrant, and you know what, when I do I think I’ll bring by a number of my cop buddies. Get a warrant for them too, see how many drugs they can find and how easy it would be to put this place out of business.”

“There’s no drugs here.” Isaac stated, his teeth grinding a bit.

“Nah, but if word got out you were under surveillance for drug activity, well suddenly people would be less inclined to show their faces around here. Do you really want to kill your bottom line like that Isaac?” Isaac paused for a moment, contemplating his actions and wondering which path would screw him less. Eventually he relented, preferring to out a few customers as oppose to lose about 50% of them. Emmett made a mental note to check with Vice about this place.

Isaac lead Emmett into a back room where several dozen screens showed multiple angles around the club. Isaac pressed a few buttons and a small disk slid out of a computer tower. He reluctantly handed it to the Detective. “This will include last night and the night prior.” Emmett took the disc, placing it in a plastic evidence bag and slipping it into his pocket.

“Much appreciated Isaac.”

“Yeah, whatever, either way you’re costing me money.”

“Yeah, it’s such a shame two lives were ended right behind your place of work. Couldn’t they have done it somewhere else? The nerve.” Emmett stated, before looking right through Isaac. “Now if you don’t mind, I need to ask a few more questions…”




Late evening, MCU Headquarters.

Emmett sat at his desk on the main floor, several empty coffee cups were placed off to the left of him as his fingers were laced under his chin. His brow was furrowed even as the bags under his eyes detailed just how much sleep was trying to control his body. His screen showed the footage of the club for the fourth time today as his eyes tried to comb over every last detail that was presented to him. He hadn’t managed to find anything from it, even though there was a number of people doing...things that surprised him. Not necessarily illegal, but still worthy blackmail if he was into that sort of thing. From the footage, all he could figure out was that Damien was having a grand time, spouting his name and family heritage quite a bit, and finally hooking up with Melanie Monroe. Nothing that would point towards someone hunting them, or anyone really who warranted a second glance. For the most part, it was just a place filled with sex, drugs and bad decisions. The Manager hadn’t been that useful either, aside from an ID on the Rimbo. He must have been used to dealing with cops, for all of his answers were just ambiguous enough to not point fingers, but also not relay any decent information. Emmett had given up questioning him after a few minutes.

Melanie’s small apartment had been a bust as well. There was nothing there to indicate that she had anything to do with what happened, or that she was even a person. Emmett liked to believe he lived modestly, but this girl took it to another level. Emmett doubted she had been back there in over a week before she was killed, so nothing useful came out of that save for the exception that she took a pill called Imenicilin, or Imin for short. It was meant to help with augment rejection, a common medical problem that plagued a number of people.

The crime scene wasn’t much help either. Aside from the simulation, and a couple of assumptions that could be made from it, no evidence had been left behind. The blood all belonged to the victims, no cameras, no witnesses, and no items were dropped from the attacker. Essentially he ghosted through the attack, even with what appeared to be the unknown of Damien running away from him. Even the Coroner couldn’t explain the method behind the attacker’s madness.

The precision attacks followed by mutilation, or vice versa in Damien’s case, couldn’t be explained aside from some sort of psychological thrill. Barry had told Emmett that it appeared like the killer was searching for something and maybe using the mutilation to hide that fact, but when he went searching, none of the parts were missing. Every organ, aside from being sliced to oblivion, was accounted for. There was zero sense to attribute to this brutalization of the body, but Emmett didn’t buy that. There was always a reason, even if that reason was a pathological need to open people up and inspect their insides.

Emmett finished reviewing the Club tapes once more and sighed to himself, writing his last bit into his report. He made a special mention to give him all cyborg homicide cases until this one was solved, but aside from that he basically repeated what he had managed to accumulate throughout the day. It wasn’t much, but at the very least they were a step closer. The attacker had to be a cyborg themselves, there was no other way for them to be able to do the things that they were able to do to Damien and Melanie. Finally, he labelled it ‘Halted’ on the file, indicating that without further evidence, he couldn’t proceed.

Whoever was committing these murders was good. Very few mistakes, if any, and next to no trail. It may come down to trying to bait the killer or putting himself in the position of the victim in order to actually even get close to the killer, but that would have to wait. For now, he needed more information, and he wasn’t going to get that from the useless surveillance footage and empty apartments. With his report sent off, Emmett shut off his computer and grabbed his jacket.

It had been another long day, and he needed a drink.




*Tukana: A neighboring city state to Lumaire, known for its militaristic approach on nearly all matters. Has a sizable standing army and garrison.
**Francis Strait: A green zone surrounded on both sides by red zones that connects Northern Europe to Southern Europe. A major trade route.
***Blues: A common nickname given to the enlisted officers

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron Character Portrait: Luciana Chavez-Alesci Character Portrait: Vitali Zhang

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Epilogues

August 6th, 2075

11 PM

Site 13


The lights flickered in an abandoned warehouse where old parts and machinery rested like ghosts of the past. Pools of grime and chemicals had coalesced with murky water. All the windows had been blacked out by tinted shade frames. Leon stood underneath a single light with Laitinen bound and gagged.

“That wasn’t part of the agreement,” Leon said.

Marcus Laitinen opened his eyes, dazed. He saw Leon in his round rimmed glasses standing next to him. He pieced together several shadows in the darkness before him as men.

“I brought you Laitinen as you wanted,” Leon said, “Where is the girl?”

One of the shadows spoke, “Leon, that was excellent work, but our situation has changed. The girl is safe. We just need you to do one more job for us.”

Leon flicked open his suit and held an automatic pistol at Laitinen’s forehead.

“Really now, Leon? Is that necessary? We’re only asking one more favor and then you and her are free to go. That’s all. Just strap that bastard to a bomb on the LR Line. We’ll give you the time and date. Once that’s done, all debts are paid off. We both walk away.”

Laitinen’s screams were muffled.

“How can I be sure?” Leon asked, “You’ve crossed me once already.”

“Scout’s honor. Leon, you’ve been a very good associate of ours. There wasn’t anyone else we could entrust with such a vital task. Your skills are why we asked for your help.”

Leon holstered the pistol and disappeared into the darkness.

- -


August 7th, 2075

7:30 AM

Nansoko Penthouse


The Nansoko penthouse sat secluded from the rest of the nearby high-rises by a winding driveway. A small garden surrounded the exterior even though the trees were not tall enough to blot out the skyscrapers in plain view. At the main entrance of the complex was a landing pad for VTOLs. The hologram police line cordoned off the entrances while a set of officers stood in a ring around the building’s exits to enforce the line’s significance. A small crowd of reporters had already arrived on scene waiting for details outside. A car shaped like an obsidian shell pulled up to the police line. A hologram of credentials blinked on the driver’s window for one of the officers to inspect. The officer waved the car through the line.

The car’s butterfly door opened and Coen stepped out while wrapped inside his black trench coat. Upon entering the building, he took out a cigarette and flicked open the lighter. He saw three women adorned in colorful lingerie, sitting on the couches, and smoking. Their eyes shifted about and their feet tapped unsteady on the floor. Their arms were crossed and they looked ready to leave. Two LSP officers stood in the lobby lounge talking to one another before one noticed him and approached him.

Coen tapped his wrist unit and his holo credentials blinked into existence, “Detective Yoon, MCU.”

The officer sifted through the screen of data and then glanced back at the three women. He introduced himself as corporal Gafarov.

“What do we have here corporal?”

“Well, the Nansoko is definitely dead. Sliced up, according to Wayne,” Gafarov stated.


“I thought it was a cleaning woman that found him?”

Gafarov pointed a thumb back at the three women, “They’re the ‘cleaning women.’”

Coen nodded and took a puff of his cigarette, “Did anybody else see anything? Cameras?”

Gafarov shook his head, “Nope. Abikiwe didn’t allow cameras to be installed because he liked his privacy. We only have cameras for the complex’s perimeter. You can see why,” he glanced back at the women again, “We also had several officers on duty including myself.”

The otherofficer offered the women bottles of water to which they warmly accepted despite the traces of fear running down their faces.

“Who was the first on scene?”

“Myself and Corporal Morris over there. We found no evidence of forced entry or exit of any kind. I mean the only other possible entrances would be the balcony.”

“You sure one of them didn’t do it?” Coen nodded at the three joygirls.

“Our boys had the doors covered the entire night. They came this morning and found him when they came in.”

“Who was on security detail last night?”

Gafarov nodded at Morris, “Myself and Corporal Morris. Nobody came in or out except for Abikiwe.”

“Where’d he go?”

“One of the c-stores for vodka and rum around six last night, came back within half an hour.”

“Did anyone accompany him to the c-store?”

“His chauffeur.”

“Besides his chauffeur, what about security?”

The corporal cleared his throat and shifted his feet, “No.”

“Why not?”

“Well, sir, he always goes for a vodka run every night around that time. We didn’t think it would be any different.”

“Why didn’t he ask someone else to get him the vodka?”

The corporal shrugged, “Nansoko has a penchant for drink I guess.”

“I’m going upstairs. Keep an eye out for these ladies yeah?”

“Mr. Wayne is up there already.”

Coen stubbed his cigarette in one of disposal units by the elevator lifts. He arrived on the floor of the Nansoko’s suite where officers went in and out. More police tape, but for the most part the hallway seemed untouched as though a murder had never happened. The place probably ran for several million credits on a bad day in the market.

Coen entered the suite where he saw the living area in front of him. The balcony was beyond that with tall plexi-glass walls that probably gave Abikiwe a decent view of the Lumaire. Wayne, a forensics specialist, and scientist android, collected samples around the room, but mainly around the dead prince. Wayne had the likeness of a human being with kempt blonde hair combed as though he had a mother who groomed him. His smiles were a constant source of jokes. Wayne claimed that the facial gestures of his model were not of importance to the development team at Sans Limites at the time. He was made to be a straight-faced researcher, but he found smiling as a better way of interacting with associates and coworkers.

Abikiwe sat on his chesterfield couch with a bottle of rum in one hand and vodka in the other. His head bent awkwardly back on the neck of the sofa. His face looked as though he died pleasantly in his sleep, drooling while dreaming. His chest had been split open in various parts, leaking hydraulic fluids of all sorts that stained the couch in alien colors. Cuts, probably by swords, no bullet holes.

To Coen’s left was the kitchen area, though few would have expected Abikiwe to cook for himself. He had a personal chef that came in and out to cook him meals. Housemaid bots usually cleaned up after him because being the heir to a megacorporation allowed one to sit on their ass with a bottle of vodka every day. Neither the chef nor the housemaid bots were around when Abikiwe died. The chef was due to make breakfast at eight. The housemaid bots usually came around at five in the afternoon, or so the intel suggested.

Coen approached the android who recorded everything through his oculars.

Wayne smiled at Coen, “Detective Yoon, good to see you again.”

“Wayne,” Coen nodded, “I thought we’d agree you’d work on your smile. So, it looks like he was sliced up bad. Any ideas who did it?”

The android stopped smiling, “Not particularly. The blood hasn’t congealed yet, leaving the time at approximately within an hour ago.”

Coen looked at the body, “He looks like he was sitting down and not exactly expecting it. Otherwise there’d be signs of resistance or attempts at escape.”

“Indeed,” the android noted and continued surveying the body.

Coen glanced around the suite and saw the hallway to his right which led to Abikiwe’s bed room. His field of view became slightly distorted before he determined an outline usually generated by a cloaking device.

“Hey you!” Coen drew his pistol at the same time as the cloaked figure realized he’d been discovered.

Wayne noticed the commotion, “We need officers up, there’s an unauthorized person in the crime scene.”

Coen activated the recording in his contacts and fired several shots at the phantom outline all of which missed as the figure turned left. The detective ran after but he stopped at the doorway to the Nansoko’s bedroom. He could see a large vanity mirror placed at an angle that allowed him to catch part of the reflection. Through the mirror, he saw the transparent drapes leading to the bedroom balcony move.

Yoon spoke into his throat mic, “This is Yoon, suspect is heading out bedroom balcony.”

He turned the corner and spotted the individual de-cloaked.

Coen caught two seconds worth of visual details before he fired a round at the woman, “Stop right there!”

She had a pair of swords, katanas, sheathed in sayas mounted on her back. She appeared decked out in a full muscle suit. Her face was covered with a visor. She returned fire with an automatic pistol with high velocity rounds that cracked and punctured the walls. Coen activated his shield, but he retreated several steps back into the hallway as splinters and debris flew into a small cloud of smoke obscuring his view.

Coen turned the corner again to see the cloaked outline leap from the balcony balustrades. The detective ran to the balcony, his eyes scanning the premises before spotting the outline flee into the small forest surrounding the complex. Even if he jumped, she already had a head start on him. He slowed his heavy breathing and noticed a dull pain in his shoulder. He looked down to see a hole and blood seeping out. He realized that his personal shielding system had not activated in time. He fell back against one of the walls and passed out.

- -


Up in the air, two members of 2nd squad were en route in their mech suits. The suits resembled headless bodies with three cylinders for a claw-like hands. The cockpit was concealed entirely behind a bulletproof carbon frame. Visual data was acquired via interlinked exterior cameras. Machine guns and missiles were the primary weapon systems, while thrusters were the primary propulsion system.

“Viper to HQ, we’re circling the penthouse now,” Ioanna Nikos spoke into her comms inside of her mecha.

“HQ to Viper, maintain visuals on the surrounding areas. It’s possible the suspect may have just escaped from the crime scene. Be on alert.”

“Understood HQ, let me know if you find anything.”

The unit pulsed ahead followed by the other mech piloted by Farwell. As they pulled closer they saw through their cams Floreal Marat’s mech already maintaining an altitude above the penthouse.

“Viper to Lily, see anything?”

“Nothing yet, I’ve got infra on.”

“Viper to Frost, head to the other end of the complex. Maintain positions and report if you see anything.”

“Aye chief,” Farwell responded.

The mechs maintained a triangular formation around the complex as they surveyed the LSP officers on the ground.

“By the way Lily, Hammer got you coffee this morning.”

“That’s nice of her, tell her I owe her,” then Marat caught movement out of the corner of her cameras.

Coen’s voice entered their channels, “This is Yoon, suspect is heading out bedroom balcony.”

“Copy that Yoon, this is Lily, I’ve spotted the target, in pursuit,” Marat engaged her thrusters to the other side of the building.

She spotted the balcony just as soon as a woman landed on top of her mech and threw off her balance. The individual leapt off and recloaked.

Nikos and Farwell followed quickly behind. Marat spun around and activated the infrared vision system as she chased after a red form on her screen moving through the forest. Marat pulled the trigger in her right-hand controls which sent the mech strafing some rounds at the ground near-missing the target’s feet despite the dense foliage. The target then spun around and fired something at Floreal. She wove away from the blast, but then her IR visuals shut down. The red form on her screen vanished.

“Lily, this is Viper, my IR is out, are you still following the target?”

Floreal magnified her optics and continued along the same direction as the target was running, but realized it was no use.

Floreal closed her eyes, “This is Lily, I’ve lost visual on the target.”

- -


8:07 AM

LSP Headquarters


Titus Gretien sat in his office with a giant display in front of him. The faces of many journalists and press correspondents were on screen. Gretien held a livestream press conference regarding the death of the Nansoko, which had spread quickly even if the LSP had not offered a public statement until that moment. The affair had evolved into a public relations bomb. Gretien was merely the bomb squad.

In another section of the screen, live footage of LSP officers outside the Nansoko penthouse played.

“That’s all the details we have right now as the investigation is pending. Thank you all for your time.”

The faces and screens began to shut out one by one except one that remained, Kelly Pahlavi, a reporter for Lumaire News Network.

When Gretien saw her, “Kelly, I swear to god…”

“You guys really fucked this one up by letting the murderer get away, and I thought you were an atheist?”

Gretien clasped his hands before his mouth and listened, “Kelly, listen…”

“Titus, please don’t beg me, it’s pathetic. I’ll cover your ass this time, but you owe me a favor.”

They had known each other for a long time. They were in an on again off again relationship before Gretien started working for the LSP. Though, that was assuming that sleeping together was enough to be labeled a relationship.

“What is it?”

“I’ll come to collect when the time comes,” Kelly continued, “You know, normally, we’d have something when you guys don’t. But we’ve got nothing, this one looks bad. I’ve been hearing from my contacts at Hayworth about a presumed merger with Nansoko to break the power-lock with MHC.”

“That’s nothing new.”

“So, you think it’s an inside job?”

Gretien rubbed his eyes, “Frankly, that’s all speculation at this point, but they’ve been saying that for years. What makes you think this one to be any different? They never cared about the Nansoko in the first place.”

“But you guys do…” she paused before changing the subject. “You look tired.”

Gretien looked away when she commented on his appearance, “Stating the obvious won’t help.”

He looked back at her again and saw she had that look in her eyes. The look that would have resembled a come-hither hand gesture.

“Kelly…”

She chuckled, “Not even lunch for old time’s sake?”

Gretien smiled, shook his head, “Maybe another time.”

“Suit yourself.” She smiled and disappeared from the screen.

As soon as her face disappeared, so did his smile. He exhaled and reclined in his seat.

- -


10:15 AM

“C.K.’s been injured?” Captain Mountbatten leaned forward in his seat in his office.

He sat in front of a screen with Alexandra’s face on it.

“He’s in critical condition. The bullets went right through him before he could activate his shielding,” Alexandra responded from the cabin of a VTOL taking a quick tour of the city.

She preferred to be out in the field early in the day, so she could lend support wherever it was needed if she was on the move. Though, she was no netrunner, so the only support she could provide was with a gun.

“They’ve managed to stabilize him for now. We lost the suspect. She was using a cloaking device, probably military grade thermoptics. They disabled one of the MGs’ infrared vision systems to escape.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Mountbatten paused, “Did he manage to capture an image?”

“He’s putting it into the report right now in the hospital. I’m heading back to MCU, do you want me to grab you anything, donuts? Tea?”

“Tea, preferably.”

Alexandra turned off her comm. She wondered why Mountbatten still drank tea before she ordered her pilot to take her back to LSP headquarters.

- -


1:15 PM

La Boheme Restaurant


La Boheme was an upscale restaurant located on the top floor of the Stockman Tower in the northwest side. The restaurant was praised for its collection of wine and ribeye as well as its magnificent view of the city. The rich and famous often enjoyed dining there. On this afternoon, the rich and famous that dined there was Mathieu Legrand, a Lumaire assembly member.

He dined in solitude save a few bodyguards on standby, but he sat alone by the windows. He was neither gaunt nor portly. He looked several years younger than he really was without surgery of any kind. He had a few graying streaks of hair over his brown at his temples, and his eyes resembled steel. Mathieu did not look like the type to smile often.

One of his bodyguards walked in as he finished wiping his mouth on a cloth napkin.

“Sir, your brother was found murdered. Is there anything you want us to do?”

Legrand set the cloth napkin on the table and shook his head. He gestured for the guard to leave him. He stared out of the window as he clenched his teeth.

- -

2:05 PM

LSP Headquarters


Minna Patel stood in Lieutenant Paris’s office, but she may as well have been standing in front of a firing squad. The agent was to answer for anything that officer Vitali Zhang did and did not do on his assignment. After Agent Patel had reported the results, the lieutenant let the silence engulf her. Alexandra decided she would lash out against the intern in lieu of railing Vez because the latter was not present.

Alexandra stared directly into Minna’s eyes, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Mountbatten walked in, but, as soon as he heard those words, he walked back out. The intern had her eyes to the floor because she couldn’t keep up with the lieutenant’s gaze. She would have done anything to get the captain back into the room because at least he could have been of some comfort and maybe shield her against the lieutenant’s wrath.

“Ma’am, Agent Vez was certain the flames wouldn’t spread.”

Alexandra fumed, “And if they did? Who did you think was going to pay for those infrastructure damages? We are officers of the law, not bounty hunters. He could have easily called in a drug enforcement team to confiscate all the evidence necessary to put Choi away for years,” she massaged her temples, “Do either of you know how reckless that was of Vez?

Alexandra took the agent’s silence to press on, “Why didn’t you stop him?”

“We have an arrangement. I give him information that he needs to apprehend suspects, but I don’t have any say as far as his methods. It’s how we’ve operated for a while now, and we’” Minna cleared her throat, “Ma’am.”

“Riveting,” Alexandra’s brow creased further.

Minna continued, “From what he told me, the dealer made him try the YX7 to test if the contents in the parcel was legitimate, and that was where things kind of got…out of hand.”

“Out of hand? He takes the drugs and ends up slaughtering all of them during a drug-induced rage. Then burns the entire lab as well as the bodies, which, trust me, does not look good from any angle. I suppose he did us a favor by burning the bodies to cover up the fact. Do we look like action flick heroes to you?”

“No ma’am. He was under the influence only when he killed off gangers, but, in his defense, what’s wrong with killi-“

Alexandra raised a palm, “Agent Patel, you are to remind agent Zhang that there is a book that we play by. That’s the only thing that separates us from them. I trust that the both of you will try better to observe that in the future. This is Lumaire, not some fuck-all shantytown in Eastern Europe. There’s a level of respectability that must be maintained.”

Minna remained silent for a long time before conceding, “Yes ma’am.”

Alexandra looked at the intern up and down again before her face relaxed and she pivoted, “How is he?”

Minna glanced at the lieutenant, she had to process a moment before responding, “He’s…fine. He has some painkillers. No major injuries, the parameds patched him up.”

Alexandra nodded, “Dismissed.”

The intern left the room with her ears burning red. The Captain waited outside.

Mountbatten stopped Minna as she walked by, “Don’t mind the lieutenant, she’s just got a lot of paperwork,” he paused, “Good work today Agent Patel. I’m glad the LSP can count on men and women like you and Zhang.”

Minna looked at the captain for a moment, “Thank you sir.”

Mountbatten nodded. Minna walked off, unsure if she needed to have the ‘talk’ with Vitali. The kind of talk that might ruin their otherwise stable work relationship. The captain entered the lieutenant’s office but stopped in the doorway. Alexandra saw him watching her.

He cleared his throat, “I believe you may have overcooked the poor intern.”

The lieutenant rolled her eyes.

- -


7 PM

LSP Headquarters


“I swear I was just in there for flowers!” Avinash sobbed uncontrollably even as LSP officers shuffled by staring at him.

Tia and Alexandra exchanged some uncomfortable glances, while also hoping the other would say something to stop him.

“My wife would kill me if she found out I didn’t get her flowers! I’ve already forgotten her birthday!”

“I am not dealing with him right now,” Alexandra walked off to Mountbatten’s office.

Tia raised her palm up to pause the man, “Hey. Shut up. Okay? We know you’re innocent of any wrong-doing…”

“I don’t know who those men were, please, I don’t want to go to jail,” he wailed.

Tia cleared her throat, “You’re not going to jail. Just let us take care of some paperwork and we’ll let you go soon. Sit tight and not another word.”

Avinash sniffled.

“You want anything to drink? Water, coffee?”

“Coffee, cream, no sugar, and lactose free milk. I’m lactose intolerant.”

“Do I look like a fucking diner to you?” Tia stared at Avinash, “Besides…can’t you get like a replacement intestine for that?”

- -


7:35 PM

Captain Mountbatten was in his office when officer Chavez, MCU’s newest detective-to-be, entered with a lively stride. No doubt she radiated confidence after successfully nabbing the thief, which, Mountbatten supposed, warranted some level of pride.

“Good work probationary officer Chavez, with a couple more like that, and you might be turning that probationary badge in for a JG detective’s badge. We’re proud to have you with us whether it be MCU or MGU.”

She told him about the details surrounding the events that occurred within the flower shop. The mention of Cael Meint was significant. Mountbatten’s visage would have darkened had he owned facial implants. His chrome exterior provided the benefit of a poker face. Meint was involved in several Neo-Terra related incidences and operations. He became whatever Neo-Terra wanted him to be for the organization as a whole. His appearance anywhere was significant.

While a flower shop seemed surprising, it was located within the northwest side near many of the major corporate offices. The mention of the black woman caught his interest, but he dismissed the probationary officer before probing further about the woman, as he felt such information was on a need-to-know basis.

“I’ll start questioning Khedira soon about anything she knows regarding NTS. I’ll let you know what we find regarding this mystery woman. Off you go sergeant.”

The captain tapped into a separate channel once Chavez left, “Miss St. Cloud, Officer Chavez mentioned a woman was present alongside Cael Meint in the flower shop. Can you find me any details on that woman?”

- -

8 PM

The day ended with one less member present than it started in Captain Mountbatten’s office.

“So, looks like Emmett is saddled up for the long haul regarding the Omega41 murders of Damien Legrand and a Melanie Monroe,” Tia swiped along her screen, “But, without a doubt, it is the same person. He’s thinking it’s a cyborg. Mangle believes that to be the case as well.”

“It’s certainly better than nothing, I think you should give him access to the files for the previous cases,” Mountbatten offered.

“I wonder what Legrand’s brother will say. This is a pretty high-profile murder,” Alexandra noted.

Tia nodded, “It seems like the Bernard Choi situation was wrapped up nice and tidy…” she glanced at Alexandra.

Alexandra rolled her eyes and sighed.

Tia continued, “I’ll make sure everyone keeps an eye open for Meint. I heard about what happened to C.K.”

Mountbatten paused, “Yes, he’s stable for now. Thank goodness…”

“Any ID on the suspect?”

Alexandra crossed her arms, “We know she’s a woman, and we could assume she was behind Nansoko’s murder, but that still doesn’t answer the question as to why she remained at the scene.”

“We should ID her first before we start thinking about an MO,” Mountbatten suggested.

Tia nodded, “I’m turning in for the night.”

Mountbatten waited until she left to turn to Alexandra, “So…do you think he’ll consider it now?”

“He wouldn’t really have as much reservations as before, but I could be wrong.”

“I’ve noticed that he’s been rather uncomfortable about the idea.”

Alexandra mumbled.

“I don’t blame him. Being a tin-can is about as dull as it gets,” Mountbatten laughed.

“I’ve never said you were dull.”

“Didn’t need to.”

Alexandra scoffed, “Anyway, Captain…”

Mountbatten cleared his throat, “I was going to ask if you were interested in grabbing dinner with me some time?”

Alexandra took a step back, “Are you…are you asking me out on a date?”

“Not exactly.”

- -

11 PM

A Dark Room Somewhere


Chong Yi Petrov replayed the security feeds on multiple screens. He watched the unidentified man consume the YX7 and fall unconscious, only to awake in a few seconds and enter a blind rage. Petrov’s eyes narrowed as he watched the man dismember everyone present including Bakhtin. Then he watched the unidentified man take Choi and burn the lab. He knew his boss wouldn’t be happy to find Bakhtin dead, Choi taken, and the new YX7 operation trashed.

He sighed, and began to make a call, “Hey, let me talk to Lucky Lin. I got some bad news.”

- -


August 8th, 2075

7:05 AM

LSP Headquarters


Chief Kyung sat in her office watching the reports that filtered into her feed as well as news streams about incidents occurring around the city. LTV anchor Javed Mukherjee, with his famed jawline, delivered his prompter lines on one screen that Kyung decided to listen to. Even as Mountbatten, Nikos, and Alexandra entered her office, her attention remained fixed on the story.

“…talks continue at the Chicago convention as several other cities call for the revision of the first proposed draft of a new constitution. However, Tukana and Nueva Miami have announced their withdrawal from talks for the time being. This comes just days after Martian representative Julius Baltar of the Martian Neo-Socialist Party announced his North American visit culminating with his arrival in Lumaire, where he will remain for two weeks. Representative Baltar has been noted for his efforts to broker stronger relations between Earth and Mars…”

Without looking at either of them, “The mayor gave me a call earlier.”

The others looked at one another.

Kyung continued, “He wants us to help manage security for that guy,” she referred to Baltar, “…when he comes to town. I honestly wonder if he’s seen the news today,” without missing a beat, Kyung looked at the two of them, “What happened?”

The captain spoke, “The suspect escaped from the penthouse grounds, managed to injure one of our agents, but not before he acquired a visual recording of their appearance.”

Nikos continued speaking where Mountbatten stopped, “During the suspect’s escape, they jammed the infrared vision on our mechs during the pursuit. The suspect also used a cloaking device. They’re certainly well equipped.”

“We’re lucky the news hasn’t leaked yet. Jesus…having the Nansoko’s assassin slip out from under our grasp,” Kyung assessed the data coming in, “We’re on the defensive right now.”

Kyung changed the channel. LNN came on the screen with a story regarding the Nansoko homicide reported by journalist Kelly Pahlavi. Chief Kyung gestured for the system’s volume controls to increase.

“The death of the Nansoko comes as a shock to many. Some believe that he was assassinated in his penthouse. Details surrounding his death has yet to be confirmed or dismissed by the LSP. Meanwhile, the Nansoko Board of Executives has yet to issue a formal statement regarding the matter. Though many already begin to wonder, what will this mean for the Nansoko Corporation?”

“Jack shit,” Alexandra muttered.

Chief Kyung glanced at Alexandra, “Tell me that any of you have good news?”

Mountbatten spoke, “The lead on Neo-Terra was confirmed. The girl, Naima Khedira, had affiliations. Cael Meint was present as well.”

“Cael Meint? Jesus-fucking-Christ. Who was there for that one?”

“One of our new probationary officers, an MG pilot.”

Nikos smiled when she knew he was referring to Chavez.

“How did she escape?”

Mountbatten glanced at Alexandra, “Her shields, from Chavez’s account, handled all the small arms fire that Meint and his goons directed at her suit as she carried Khedira and the civilian out. Call it miracle.”

“Meint spared her. She didn’t bother calling in backup? We could have nailed the sonofabitch.”

“Apparently, the area was a communications dead zone. It wasn’t until after she escaped that HQ received her calls for backup, likely the courtesy of Meint and NTS. Based on Chavez’s multiple vision systems, she didn’t detect any other signatures besides Khedira and the civilian before she entered. That means they have technology that covers them from IR and x-ray. It seems they were planning to kill Khedira and end their business relationship for good.”

“Really? That seems really timely. Meint shows up to kill Khedira as soon as we send someone out to arrest her. Where’s Meint now?”

“He vanished,” Mountbatten took Kyung’s extended silence to mean they were dismissed, “We’ll update you if we find anything.”

Kyung stopped them before they left, “Also, what the hell happened in the 8th Arrondissement?”

- -


7:30 AM

Mountbatten tried to inhale the aroma of his earl grey tea, not that he could. He could only partake in the appearance of inhaling his native beverage. He was about to pour some down his digestive receptacle, that is, until he was startled by a chime from his communicator.

“Bollocks…” he muttered, as it was a call from Miss St. Cloud.

“Yes, Miss St. Cloud?”

“Captain? You wanted information regarding the woman present with Cael Meint in the flower shop?”

Moments later Tia paced in Mountbatten’s office while Alexandra looked out the clear skies of the day.

“From Officer Chavez’s reports, this is what I found,” Tia blinked a screen before Mountbatten displaying a black woman.

“Zora De Vries, she’s an arms dealer. She mainly deals in small arms, light weapons, and…disruptors. She’s based in Tukana. Her clientele is strictly high-profile, which includes mafia and yakuza crime families, the triads, and, as of our discovery yesterday, NTS. Our independent informants believe that she’s here to conduct a sale. We have a plausible time and location already.”

“What have you found regarding the Laitinen abduction?”

“NanSec combed the R&D center clean, so I’ve got nothing to go off right now. Still trying to ID the abductor. I’ll let you know when I find something.”

“Anything else?”

The screen changed to show two faces with colorful hair and a variety of tattoos.

“One of the street cams caught the Dominguez siblings playing a little rough. They shot and killed someone. Pfeiffer’s Seven had the two in custody until they managed to break out and escape. So they’re on the loose now.”

Mountbatten returned to his cup of tea, “Very well, and the briefs?”


“Already on their way,” Tia smiled.

- -


-

Omega41 187 (Cont.)

To Detective Tigron –

I am granting you access to case files regarding the four previous cyborg homicide cases since you believe they share the same suspects. Wayne has determined that the Nansoko’s cause of death fits the same characteristics as the other cases. You can visit the penthouse to comb for evidence if you wish. Wayne will be down at the morgue with the body if you need to see it. I’ve also scheduled a meeting with Damien’s brother, assembly member Mathieu Legrand, maybe he might know something regarding Damien’s murderer.

- Captain Niles Mountbatten

The Lady of War

Target – Zora De Vries

Information –

Yesterday morning, one of our officers found a woman accompanying the notorious Cael Meint of Neo-Terra to buy some flowers. This woman was later identified as Zora De Vries. She’s an arms dealer based out of Tukana, and it’s a wonder how she managed to get into this city undetected.

She deals mainly in small arms and light weapons like assault rifles and rocket launchers. However, she also has her own home-made, patent-pending, disruptors. These babies sell for a hefty tag. If you’re chromed and have ever been hit by one of these, you know how much they sting.

Our informants tell us that she’s in town to make a sale. The deal is going down in the port district as we’ve determined that her goods are coming in the old-fashioned way, by ship.

Also on the market today is a Republic of South Africa Z74, a military grade hardsuit. We don’t know how she managed to acquire that, but we’re not surprised. Maybe someone in their military is selling her the newest R&D schematics. This thing packs a punch, but we’re thinking it’ll be cradled in packaging so it won’t be a factor.

The other party is believed to be Akihiko Ishimura, representing the Ishimura-kumi, a prominent yakuza family. If De Vries’ appearance with Cael Meint means anything, expect NT goons to be present and armed.

We’re deploying a full task force with 2nd squad in support of this operation. Bring in De Vries and Ishimura, and secure the contraband.

Recommended Agents – 2.

Dynamic Duo

Target – Benny and Cha Cha Dominguez

Information –

Benny and Cha Cha Dominguez are wanted for murder. The cameras pretty much caught all the action in the south-east side when they gunned down a man named Danny Leitch. They didn’t even bother hiding it, but they quickly figured out the deep shit they were in. They head a small gang in the 8th ‘s southerly neighborhoods called the Rabbits. They’ve been at this since they were in their teens. Their gang runs a protection racketeer on the residents living in that area.

We put up a warrant for their arrest and a small private recovery firm, aka bounty hunters, called Pfeiffer’s Seven managed to arrest the two. Unfortunately, the Dominguez siblings didn’t remain in their custody for long. While the bounty hunters were waiting for an LSP extraction veet to take Benny and Cha Cha in for processing, the Rabbits struck and killed several of the recovery agents. Benny and Cha Cha escaped and went into hiding.

So now they’re wanted for more than just one count of murder.

You’ll know it’s them when you see the colorful attire and hair, that’s just how they roll. Bring in Benny and Cha Cha alive.

Recommended Agents – 1.

- Tia Marie St. Cloud

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron

0.00 INK

5487 Anderson Street, #32

kzzt-hsss-pop

“-st like that! You know, plenty of bad things happen in our good city; Lumaire City. I like to think that the good outweighs the bad!”

“Such an optimistic view on life Ricky, personally I believe we’re just taking a slow jaunt into what could be classified as a typhoon of misery?”

“Typhoon? Out of all the analogies you could come up with, you pick Typhoon?”

“It’s hardly used!”

“For a reason you depressive bastard. Once again, for those of you just tuning in, this is Ricky Two Fingers and Marky Mark, bringing you existential crisis first thing in the morning...from 205.7, the Shark. To ease your troubled mind a bit, up next is Seeing through the Golden Haze By Double I.”

Emmett slowly removed himself from his bed as was the norm. His eyes were still heavy from the night before, a couple of drinks at a local bar plus an extremely long day at the office trying to piece together something from nothing lead him to what he had coined ‘the Workday Hangover’. He breathed into his hand slightly and gave a whiff, recoiling at the scent that his breath was giving off. The radio played something soothing, but to be honest the words were so garbled by either the singer’s cybernetics or the autotune that Emmett couldn’t bring himself to like it. Instead, he resigned himself to his fate and proceeded to go about his usual morning routine.

After he had showered and put on his clothes for the day, he stood on the balcony holding a cup of coffee and staring out over the urban jungle. This was really the only moment of ‘calm’ that he felt during the days anymore. Every other moment was either filled with intense concentration, hectic adrenaline spikers or boring office meetings. After finishing his coffee, he took one last moment to enjoy the view before heading inside.

“Messages?” Emmett asked, walking into his room to grab his phone and gear.

“Personal: 0.” The cold robotic female voice stated. “Business: 12. 1 High Priority.”

“Read the High Priority.” Emmett stated, grabbing his blazer off the rack and pausing long enough for the message to be read. He stood there in contemplation as the entire thing was read to him, and he pinched the bridge of his nose a bit. His possible serial killer case just got turned into a high profile murder spree. That meant press, that meant political obstruction, that meant the killer was either trying to send a message or aiming for something bigger. As the message finished up, Emmett let out a huge sigh as he made sure his keys were in his pocket. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the challenge, in fact he got a great deal of satisfaction from stopping these types of people. The problem was everything else tied to these cases. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter, Emmett had a job to do and that was that. With his mind set to a certain state, he exited his apartment and made his way to the parkade.




Nansoko Penthouse
7:46 am


The trip had taken Emmett longer than he would have liked. Traffic was a moody mistress in a city such as this. It did have the benefit of allowing him to take some time and listen to the recordings of the previous cyborg murders as he allowed his car autopilot to get him from point A to point B. In retrospect, that’s probably why it took so long. Either way, he was now versed in the details of the murder at the very least, and from the sounds of the records, the previous detectives were stumped as well. They had also surmised that a cyborg must also be responsible, but they hadn’t come across anything in their investigations to even hint at a identity or possible motive aside from malice or random murder.

Emmett’s car pulled up to the Penthouse, the holographic police tape still in place and several Blues patrolled near the entrance to ensure that no hard nosed reporter would have the bright idea of trying to break the cordon. Emmett’s credentials flashed on his windshield to show the Blues who he was, and he drove inside. Once parked, Emmett grabbed everything he would need to investigate the scene and exited his car. Making his way into the lobby, he was met with several Blues who looked more bored than anything else. Many of them were young, fresh and clearly straight out of boot but they were being kept in line by a couple of sergeants who had more than enough experience to wrangle what could otherwise be a hazardous situation to the Blue’s morale. As per protocol, one of the sergeants approached Emmett, and before he could say anything, Emmett swung open one side of his jacket to reveal his badge. He did have his holographic credentials implanted into his wrist, as was the mandatory requirement of all MCU detectives, but there was always something about having a physical item to show people that made him miss the days the movies depicted.

“Detective.” The Sergeant stated, not even bothering to introduce himself. “We were told to expect you. The crime scene is this way.” The Sergeant led Emmett to an elevator, getting on with him and hitting the floor of the penthouse suite. It was during this brief lull that Emmett suddenly remembered something, tapping his ear piece.

“Call: Coroner Mangle.” Emmett stated, watching as the numbers at the top of the elevator doors started to go up. There was several rings before a groggy voice finally punctuated the repeated tone.

“Emmett? You know what time it is?”

“7:49.” Emmett said without a hint of sarcasm or levity to his voice. There was a sigh from the other end.

“Ok, follow up question...did you know it’s my day off?”

“Yes, it’s why I’m calling you.” Emmett said, watching as the Sergeant stretched slightly. He had probably been here all night. “Did you hear about the Nansoko case?”

“How could I not.” Barry replied, there was the sound of cutlery and cups being moved around. Chances were he was trying to get himself a cup of coffee. “Bloody thing was all over the news, no real details aside from a high octane chase? Running after the killer or something?”

“Something like that.” Emmett said, not wanting to reveal the full case details just in case his superiors wanted to keep something like this a little bit on the down low. Barry had a lot of security clearance with the MCU, but end of the day, he wasn’t actually a part of their organization. “We have a strong suspicion that the Killer may be the same one from the previous cyborg murders. I’m at the penthouse now.”

“Huh, that would make things interesting.” Barry stated, followed by a muffled curse and the sound of something dropping.

“I was hoping you could head over to the MCU, meet up with Wayne in the morgue. Go over some notes with each other and hopefully when we meet up, we can start piecing something together.” There was a brief pause followed by a sigh.

“Fine, I’ll get there as soon as I can. At least the overtime pay is nice.”

“Not to mention the benefits.”

“What benefits?”

“You get to see my handsome face.” Emmett said so dryly that dust was practically flying from his mouth. There was a brief pause before a click could be heard followed by the dial tone. I thought it was funny. Emmett thought to himself as he tapped his phone to end the call. It took a few more seconds for the elevator to get to the top, and it opened to reveal several Blues standing guard over a still active crime scene.

On top of the Blues, there were also several Crime Scene Cleaners, or CSC’s for short. They were waiting for the green light to start making the place livable again. For the most part, everyone stayed on one side of the holographic police tape, chatting with each other and generally being slightly grumpy this early in the morning. No one smoked, drank or ate anything for fear of contamination. Upon his exit, nearly everyone turned to look at him and the Sergeant. He gave a quick nod, which was returned in kind, before they went back to what they were doing before. “Everything’s remained untouched since last night Detective.” The Sergeant stated, walking forward and taking a post next to the tape. “Once you’re done here, we’ll be cleaning the area and returning everything we found to the MCU crime lab, so be as thorough as you can.”

“Got it. Thanks Sergeant.” Emmett said, walking through the police line to get a good look at the situation in front of him. The hallway where they had gotten off had been untouched, but now that he stood in what he could essentially call ‘Ground Zero’, he could understand why people were biting at the bit to get this case solved. Hydraulic fluid and blood mixed into several pieces of the furniture, not to mention several bullet impacts, debris, and general ramshackled-ness. Sure, by the time the CSC’s were done, it would be as if the entire thing never happened. For now, it was a haven of information.

He started with the obvious place, where Abikiwe had been found murdered. Unfortunately, now that the crime scene had been more or less trampled on and used for target practice by both the suspect and the LCPD, his glasses weren’t going to give him any information he couldn’t piece together on his own. They could, however, pull up a certain recording by a certain detective that got a first hand glimpse at the suspect. For now though, he would rely on good old fashioned detective work.

Slipping on a pair of latex gloves and pulling out his MCU-connected notepad, he went to work jotting down notes. Taking in such things as the amount of blood and hydraulic fluid loss, not to mention that the couch itself wasn’t mangled. That part was interesting, considering that if the killer was a maniac as intel had suggested, the surrounding area would also be damaged. It implied that, even though there were vicious wounds on him, they were calculated. He didn’t have to worry about taking a sample though, the CSC’s would take care of that for him. He moved on, tracking some of the blood trail to several places over the room. Most of it was splatter, indicating at least some level of force, but the angle and direction of it gave him more clues.

Next he started looking at several of the bullet holes in the walls and furniture. Taking out a small knife, he managed to retrieve several of the rounds and place them in sealed containers. True, they were identified as standard issue 9mm rounds that were fired from a J9 pistol. Most likely Yoon’s weapon as he was reported as firing several shots. Still, if he managed to wing the woman, as it was now confirmed, then they might have some trace of blood, fluid, or metal shavings on them that the boys down in the lab could test.

Next, he directed his attention to the rug, taking notes about the blood splatter and patterns that appeared. He started to notice something odd as he knelt down and felt at the carpet fibers. Several spots the fibers were almost permanently bent, like something heavy had sat or stood there for awhile. With his finger and going by touch, he traced along the edges of the bent fibers and sure enough, it seemed to form a foot. It was much too small to be Akibiwe’s, nor any of the Blues or Yoon. This was a woman’s size. Yet, she had been heavy enough to leave an imprint in the carpet? Even if she was, she stood in this exact spot for some time it seemed. First, it indicated something he had already guessed. Augmentation would allow her to have that weight without several health issues. Second, it also indicated that she was in here far longer than they initially thought.

Emmett stood up, his eyes still glancing at the rug and looking at the blood pattern. The blood seeped into the imprint, meaning that she had been standing in that spot after the deed had been done. Why would she stay? Why would she risk being caught? She had been using an active camouflage device, but everyone knew that those things weren’t perfectly invisible to the naked eye. Emmett looked towards the bedroom, walking over and noticing several more impact zones from Yoon’s weapon. Going inside the room was like walking into a fairy tail meant for the rich, famous and morally bankrupt.

The room was huge, the bed easily big enough to hold several people easily. It was one of those pieces with the overhanging arches and drapes on each of the pillars. The sheets were tossed each and every way, but he doubted the killer did that. The rest of the room was decked out in nearly priceless oak and mahogany furniture. A dresser, end tables, even the bed frame. This man lived in luxury few could even imagine, and spent most of the time hammered. The culture gap between the rich and poor was something to witness. All of that was besides the point however, as he wasn’t here to gawk at the gaudy nature of the man’s sleeping arrangements. Instead, he wandered to the balcony, brushing the drapes aside with one of his hands. Just a quick glance gave him more than enough of an image as to what happened here. Emmett looked down, a few stories drop but within range of most cybernetics now-a-days. A simple augmentation or grav-lift device would allow anyone to make that drop.

Apparently they had managed to chase her awhile with the mechs, but the target had used some kind of emp device that shut down the infra-reds and allowed her to cloak and escape. She had access to military hardware for sure, how and who was giving it to her, those were the questions Emmett needed to answer. For now, he walked back into the room looked at the bullet holes around the door frame, inspecting them for bullets. With his knife, he managed to wedge a round out, but it was too badly mangled for any evidence to be gleaned from it aside from size, which would place it at about the 10mm range. He continued doing this for awhile, pulling out wrecked bullet after wrecked bullet until finally one was intact enough for him to bag and tag.

With that being done, there was only one last thing to do before he could let the CSC’s go at the place. He walked back into the main living area, glancing over at the crew eager to get started so they could get out of here taking concealed glares at him. He knew they didn’t hate him or anything of the sort, but this was not their idea of an ideal morning. Ignoring their inquisitive gazes, Emmett placed his CSG’s on his eyes, performing the standard bootup sequence. He didn’t have the contacts or implants that a lot of the other MCU detectives had, partly because he didn’t believe in augmenting his own body if he didn’t have to, and he had a real thing with putting stuff into his eyes. So instead his CSG’s worked double duty as he pulled up Yoon’s recording of the night in question.

The recording started off with a bang, as Yoon activated them as soon as he drew his weapon. It took Emmett a second to adjust to the quick pace before watching the recording in full, up to the point Yoon was shot and fell unconscious. “Manipulate Recording, Create Model: Suspect. Environmental placement.” Emmett said, watching as the glasses went to work and recreated the suspect so that Emmett could interact with her virtually. The glasses were able to recreate as much as they could from the information given by the recording, but due to the nature of her active camo, all it really was was a shape.

Without a question, it was a woman. Her stature, curvature and running stance all indicated female. Granted, Emmett already knew that from the brief glimpse they got of her when she jumped out the window, but even with that information the glasses couldn’t put together a coherent picture of her. “Create Model: Yoon. Environmental placement.” Once again, the glasses went to work and this time they created a very detailed holographic display of Detective Yoon. It was easy since they had access to his records, so instead of a blue haze, Yoon was colored, dressed and looking as if he was standing right there. If he wasn’t partially see through, Emmett could have been fooled. “Activate Recording, half speed.” Emmett walked with the suspect as the recording took place in front of him. Using information from the environment and the first hand record from Yoon, he was able to view the situation from a different angle.

The woman, decked out in her muscle suit and katanas continued running as Yoon fired round after round after her. The recording continued until Yoon reported that she had entered the bedroom. Something wasn’t right. “Rewind to the beginning. Play, quarter speed.” Emmett watched closer this time, paying attention to everything. Then it hit him. “Trace Yoon’s weapon trajectory.” As Yoon fired his weapon, blue lines followed the rounds into the impact mini-craters in the wall. Then, on the fourth shot, the line intersected with the suspect. Yoon had believed he had missed, according to the report, but he had nailed her. From the looks of it, he managed to wing her right under the left breast as she was sprinting, a glancing blow. There was no blood or hydraulic fluid spray though? Which means it bounced off her armor...or through a non-essential area? Where did the round go? “Calculate bullet trajectory.” Emmett said, using his fingers and creating a box around the wound in question.

Within seconds, the glasses gave him several spots the round could have ended up if it wasn’t lodged in her armor. Under the couch, in a corner, rolled into the kitchen. Within a few minutes, Emmett found the round in question, partially rolled into the kitchen area after it had ricocheted off of her then a wall. A quick glance at it gave Emmett the lead he was looking for, there were metal scrapings on the round and striations that could lead to an armor model, or if they were extremely lucky, augment make and model. He slipped it into a bag and placed it with the rest of the evidence he was going to personally take to the boys at the lab. That little piece made his day, but he still had the rest of the recording to go through.

He continued the recording, going over the piece in the living room several times for another lead such as the last one to no avail. Next he moved on to the bedroom area, noting how Yoon managed to spot her heading for the balcony in the first place. “Nice catch.” Emmett said, mildly impressed with the senior detective. It was here that Yoon managed to get the best look at the woman. As he rounded the corner, the glasses instantly switched to using the image captured in that moment to replace the bluish hologram it had been utilizing. Emmett stared at the women, her features blurred due to the nature of the recording, but enough to give a general appearance. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough to send out an APP. What was he supposed to put in it? ‘Please search for a cybernetic ninja who is heavily armed and armored!’? At the very least, it showcased how dangerous she was, with everything she had at her disposal. Aside from that though, there was nothing left for him here.

Emmett removed the glasses, giving a slight sigh and making his way back to the hallway. “Scene’s yours boys.” Emmett said as he walked by. Almost immediately the CSC’s got their gear and started getting to work. They were anxious to get in there and get to work it seems, either that or they wanted to see what a penthouse suite such as this would look like all cleaned up. In the meantime, he had some things to figure out back at HQ as well as some evidence to drop off.




MCU Headquarters
10:57 am

Emmett had tried to give Wayne and Barry more than enough time to examine the body, by filing some reports and handing the evidence over to the boys in the lab. It would be some time before anything came back from it, but at the very least he was two steps forward from where he was before. As the elevator dinged, Emmett looked up from his own mental reverie and watched as the doors opened to reveal the pristine white corridors that lead to the morgue. Walking down these hallways, he couldn’t help but feel like one of the dead. This place always made him uneasy, even though it reminded him of home. Maybe that’s why it made him uneasy.

He continued walking, past a large window that revealed the rather spacious morgue. There Barry and Wayne stood hovering over Akibiwe’s corpse, which had been split open like a banana...somehow. Honestly, he never understood how they could take the most viciously torn apart people, open them up and make it look natural. Emmett scanned his card against the reader, which dinged and allowed him entry. Wayne was the first to look up, giving one of his infamous creepy smiles. “Detective Tigron. How are you doing this morning?”

“Could use another cup of coffee, but aside from that, pretty good. Yourself?”

“I am adequate, thank you.” Wayne stated, looking back down at the body as Emmett came up to the table to get a closer look. Emmett made his way beside Barry, reaching into his coat and pulling out a small bag that read ‘Bugsy’s Diner’. Barry took a look at it, raising his eyebrow.

“Don’t knock it till you try it. They’ve gotten me through many a early morning and late night.” Emmett said as Barry took it.

“I’d rather you pay my babysitter.”

“Yeah no, I’m nice, not a saint.” Emmett said, walking around the table to get all the angles on the body. Barry looked inside the bag, took a sniff and seemed pleased with what he found. He wrapped it up and placed it on another table for the time being. “So, anything out of the ordinary.”

“I believe we may have...something.” Wayne stated, the hesitation causing Emmett to look to Barry, who gave a shrug followed by something akin to a grimace.

“Well, there’s something definitely wrong here, not just the fact he’s dead. As to why it is, well your guess is as good as mine.” Emmett crossed his arms, waiting for them to continue.

“As you are well aware, Akibiwe was heavily augmented. This meant that several of his organs were, in fact, replaced with cybernetic enhancements.” Emmett nodded, already well aware since the guy looked like a robot to begin with. “This would also include his liver…”

“Which wasn’t where it was supposed to be.” Barry finished the thought. Emmett looked over at him, and Barry motioned for him to come closer. “Now, when a liver is replaced, it takes over the exact place that the old liver once occupied, at least in civilian models.”

“Which we have confirmed that all of Akibiwe’s augments were civilians models, if somewhat top tier.” Wayne added, holding his hands behind his back as he slowly walked around the table.

“Right, which means his liver should have been here.” Barry stated, pointing to a spot in the mangled corpse. “Instead, we found it here.” Barry then pointed to a spot that was a literal inch or two over. Emmett looked at it, then at Barry, then back at the spot. Barry, reading the confusion on his face, quickly gave an explanation. “If this was some hackneyed job from a back alley surgeon, I could reason away the misplacement. However, he had the best surgeons money could buy, along with the best augmentations we humans could make. There’s no reason for it to be anything less than in perfect placement.”

“So what does this mean?” Emmett asked.

“It means that the organ was moved.” Wayne stated, giving a slight smirk that came across as entirely too condescending, but Emmett knew that wasn’t the intention.

“Or better put, removed.” Barry wandered over to another table where an assortment of augmentations and organs were placed, picking up the robotic liver. “This baby was pulled out...let me make myself clear, it wasn’t ripped out.”

“Meaning?”

“Surgical precision. Whoever did this had a great understanding of the cybernetic body to cut around and remove this liver without leaving a single scratch or damaging it in any way.” Barry pointed to a couple scrapes on the side. “These were made on re-entry.”

“Wait, so our killer removed his liver...then put it back in?”

“It would appear that way.” Wayne said, standing there in his not-cocky cocky way.

“For what reason?” Emmett asked, walking closer to inspect it, to which Barry simply shrugged.

“I have no idea. Aside from the evidence of movement, there’s nothing here to indicate tampering. Granted, I’m not the best at cybernetics, I do know a guy who could tear this thing apart and tell you what he had for breakfast five years ago though.”

“I’d have to get him clearance. Wayne, can’t you help in this regard?” Emmett asked, looking back at the android.

“While my knowledge of cybernetics is quite advanced, I am in the same situation as Dr. Mangle. I can’t seem to find any tampering on the device whatsoever.” Emmett put a hand up to his chin, giving it a slight rub.

“Alright, I’ll work on getting him some clearance, I need a name and contact information.”

“I’ll send you an email. Don’t worry, he may look...odd, but he’s trustworthy. I’ve worked with him before.” Barry stated, putting the liver back down on the table.

“Anything else?” Emmett asked, prompting Barry to return to the body.

“Same M.O. as before, definitely the same person.” Barry said, pointing to several slashing points. “Precision strikes followed by mutilation.”

“I don’t think this is mutilation.” Emmett said, prompting Barry to look up. “The couch he was on, aside from the blood and fluids, was untouched. I think this is camouflage.” Barry looked down and gave a nod.

“I could see it. If she really did take out the liver and put it back in, she could have done it to mask what she did with it.” Barry looked back up, switching between Wayne and Emmett. “Then why did she make such a mistake this time? There was no evidence of any tampering prior to this one.”

“If I may.” Wayne interjected, tracing his fingers along the wounds. “I apologize, I had been analyzing the wounds as if they were inflicted with reckless abandon, but if we are going with the assumption that they are instead calculated and, in their own way, precise, I have a observation to make.”

“Such as?” Emmett asked.

“If we compare the ‘mutilation’ wounds to the ‘precision’ wounds, it now becomes apparent that they were made with the same weapon. However, the precision wounds are clean, the slashes straight and narrow. There was no hesitation. The mutilation wounds are jagged, with slight striations in the tissue. Meaning she either hesitated…”

“Or she was in a hurry.” Emmett finished. “That could be the reason she stuck around. She was interrupted before the job could be completely finished, in her haste she did what she could and ‘disappeared’.”

“It would coincide with the evidence given.” Wayne stated, placing his hands behind his back again. “She may have been waiting for an opportunity to correct any mistakes she had made.”

“Until Yoon spotted her through the cloak.” Wayne gave a nod as Emmett started to piece things together. He reached into his jacket pocket, feeling a small cross and giving it a rub. “So someone or something forced her hand, she panicked and rushed a job. Unable or unwilling to allow the job to go unfinished, she waited at the scene of the crime to either finish what she started or destroy all the evidence. Instead, she’s spotted and forced to flee the scene, leaving whatever she messed up behind for us to find.” Emmett paused for a moment before reaching up to his cell phone. He tapped three times quickly, his preprogrammed signal to link directly to MCU HQ. “This is Emmett, I need armed guards equipped with armor piercing weaponry and infra-red goggles to the morgue. Essential Guard Duty, authorization 14G672J7.”

“What are you thinking Emmett?” Barry asked, concern growing on his face.

“If she was willing to risk running into the LCPD at the scene of the crime to fix her mistake…”

“She’d be willing to break into the MCU to correct it as well.” Wayne stated, giving a nod. “An astute observation Detective, if somewhat worrisome.”

“I could be wrong, it happens from time to time.” Emmett continued, peeking towards the hallway to expect Blues to appear at any moment. “But I’m not taking chances. Whatever is in that body, she didn’t want us to see.” Emmett paused for a moment, before snapping his fingers. “Bring back out Legrand’s body and check to see if any of his organs have actually been moved.”

“Can’t do that.” Barry said, but before Emmett could ask why, he continued. “Once the body was examined and we found nothing, it was turned over to his brother.”

“Mathieu Legrand.” Emmett said through an exasperated tone, rubbing his face as he did so. Barry gave a slight nod. “Alright, well I have a meeting with him this afternoon, hopefully I can talk him into releasing the body back to our custody.” Even as he said it, he didn’t believe it would happen. “In the meantime, I’m having guards assigned to you Barry. You may have become a target because of your involvement with this.”

“Oh fuck off.” Barry said, more in response to the situation than to Emmett.

“I’m sorry.” Emmett said, which just ended up with Barry slightly throwing his hands in the air.

“I knew something like this would happen if I worked with the MCU long enough, so I kinda expected it. Just, you know, from some gang banger, not a cyborg ninja.”

“We know what to expect from her now at least.” Emmett replied. “She showed a few of her cards when Yoon spotted her, so we have an idea as to her capabilities. You will be in safe hands. In the meantime, I need you to go over this body again, and make sure there’s absolutely nothing missing. I’ll get the authorization to get your friend in here to examine the liver and go talk to Legrand to get the body released back to us.”

“Good luck.” Barry said as Emmett turned and started walking out of the morgue. Luck? To get the body of a senior politician’s brother back into MCU custody so they could rip it open again? That would require a miracle.




Montiboum Cafe
2:30pm


Emmett had spent the better part of a couple hours arguing with the brass in order to get the cybernetics expert into the building, and his head was starting to pound. In the end, he had won because of the high profile nature of the case, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to come haunt him in some way down the line. Headaches were a common occurrence in a career such as this, but that didn’t make them any easier to handle. At the very least, he could grab a coffee or something with a jolt to get him going here.

The Montiboum Cafe, a high class, high end, high society joint. A couple of robots decked out in what could only butler-type outfits stood outside the glass doors. As Emmett approached, they held the door closed. “Reservation?” One of the robots asked. Not even letting people in the door without a reservation? Snotty assholes. Emmett thought to himself as he gave a sigh.

“Emmett Tigron, guest of Mathieu Legrand?” There was a moment as they seemed to check the list before the door swung open.

“Accepted.” Emmett nodded as he passed through. He was met with a fancy persian carpet scraping against his dirty runners, and immediately he knew he didn’t belong here. The entire area seemed to have some kind of sheen to it that made it appear like glitter had been thrown haphazardly on every piece of furniture. The chairs were made of wood, although the make he couldn’t quite tell, he bet it was rare though. Just by looking at them, he was worried that by sitting in one he was going to shatter it. A massive chandelier hung above the main dining area, which held an assortment of tables and people way too well dressed to be eating. Tuxedos, suits, and even the odd ‘flare’ man could be seen, you know, the one who decides everything needed to be embroidered in gold.

Crystalline stairs lead up to a second area that was just as immaculately put together. A soft classical tune from a violin filled the air as a woman in her late twenties approached Emmett. Immediately he knew she was augmented, even if she didn’t have any of the metallic protrusions that most had. Her eyes were blue, way too blue to be natural. They were intoxicating to look at though, most likely a result of the augmentation. Her hair was done up in a bun that was so tight not a single stray hair could be seen. Her figure was adorned with a single black skin tight dress that left nothing to the imagination yet was somehow incredibly sophisticated at the same time. When she smiled, with features that had to have gone under the knife several times, her teeth were white enough to outshine the glass decorations.

She would have been beautiful if Emmett wasn’t so damn analytical.

“Detective Tigron?” The woman asked, her voice so pleasantly smooth that it made Emmett wonder if there was a part of her that hadn’t been looked at by people in face masks. “Mr. Legrand is waiting for you. This way.” She turned around, revealing the fact that the dress was backless. Once again, Emmett was reminded of his inability to turn off his detective senses, and could see the nearly invisible scar line of a surgery once performed. He followed her to the stairs, climbing it to see Mathieu Legrand off to the side. Two burly bodyguards, decked out in automatic weapons and combat augmentations stood in front of him. The waitress walked him to the guards, bowed with a polite smile, and walked away. The guards stood in front of him, not letting him pass.

“Detective Tigron...of the MCU?” Emmett stated, showing his badge on his holster. The guards didn’t move.

“Let him pass.” Mathieu said in between bites from what appeared to be some kind of pork chop. The guards parted on command, allowing Emmett to walk up to the table and take a seat. He had seen Legrand before, on the television, advocating the research and usage of cloning technology, one of the very few not widely accepted forms of limb replacement. However, he wasn’t just advocating spawning a leg or an arm in a tube, he wanted full blown people. A controversial subject, as such projects before this point in time had lead to incidents that varied between morally upsetting and catastrophically disastrous.

Legrand himself was only a short bit older than his brother. At 35, he was one of the younger assembly members and managed to attain his position through shrewd political cunning and a charisma that others of his board simply didn’t share. Not to mention that he was classically handsome as well. Short brown hair that was almost perfectly done up, an unblemished face and athletic build, he looked like someone who was going in for a modeling gig rather than politics. The only thing that changed his look was the fact that his eyes were, instead of regular pupils, a series of 3 dots in a purple iris. He apparently picked that look himself, in order to keep his opponents off balance when they tried to knock him down through their stares or presence. “Can I get you something Detective? A cup of coffee? Maybe a meal?”

The offer of a meal suddenly reminded Emmett that he hadn’t eaten all day, and now that the shock of that was wearing off, he could feel his stomach churning itself trying to find nutrients wherever it could. Despite this, he was here on business and couldn’t allow himself to be distracted. “No thank you.” Emmett stated, placing his hands together on the table. Legrand shrugged.

“Your loss, the pork roast here is quite good. They use a blend of different secret sauces to make a signature flavor that has kept me coming back again and again. Personally, I think it’s quail.”

“Quail sauce?”

“Have you ever partaken?”

“Can’t say I have.”

“Shame, falls right off the bone even if lightly cooked. Some of the softest and juiciest meat you will ever digest.” Legrand continued, his hands working the utensils and cutting into the pork chop even as he talked. Emmett paused for a moment, unsure as to how to approach the situation before deeming the ‘blunt’ option to be his only true course of action.

“If you don’t mind sir. I would like to get right down to business.” Emmett stated, earning a slight pause from Legrand as he slowly placed his utensils down and grabbed a napkin. He dabbed his face as if he was some kind of Duke, before literally folding it placing it back where he picked it up from.

“Of course. What would you like to know.” Emmett took out his pad, made sure it was linked, and scratched his face with his thumb for a second.

“First, what was your relationship to your brother like.”

“Something of a public record really, comes with the job.” Legrand stated, his voice betraying no emotion. It was as if his own brother hadn’t actually been killed just the night prior. “He and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye. He was very much anti-augmentation, an evolutionary if I ever saw one. He believed we would naturally progress, where as I believed that us developing new augmentations and cloning techniques was ‘natural’. As such, we weren’t particularly close.” Legrand paused for a second, considering his words as was the way of politicians. “When he got into that accident of his, the Bamako issue, I was the one that turned him into what he ended up being.” Legrand clasped his hands together, looking down at them. “He hated me for that, and up to a few months ago, refused to even acknowledge me.”

“He got back in touch with you?”

“In a way, yes. He told me his 21st birthday was coming up, of which I knew of, and essentially told me…” Legrand paused for a moment once again before giving a sigh. “That he was going to get black out wasted, fuck something up, and let everyone know he was my brother.”

“He threatened you?”

“I would never call it that, more like acting out.” Legrand clarified. “He was very much filled with a rage that...I’m not entirely sure was justified but I never questioned. He was trying to threaten my image, attempt to make me look like some kind of joke to the rest of the assembly.”

“Were you angry at this?”

“Not in the way you would think.” Legrand said, with yet another heavy sigh. “I was angry at the fact that he was spending his 21st birthday trying to get back at me rather than enjoying it.” Legrand looked up at Emmett through his tri-pupilled eyes. “No matter what he said to me, he was still my little brother. I wouldn’t have gone through with that full body replacement surgery if I didn’t care about him.”

“That’s the last contact you had with him?” Legrand gave a nod. “Did your brother have any enemies?”

“Most of those could be attributed to trying to get to me through him, which he was more than capable of handling.” Legrand said. “A number of political rivals tried to use him as a rallying cry to get me ousted, but whether he meant to or not, he often defended me against them in his own, twisted way. I liked to think that, despite his hatred, he still viewed me as family.”

“So do you think there is anyone out there who would have the resources and will to go after your family like this?”

“The list is long Detective. My views aren’t necessarily popular at the moment, but they’re picking up steam and that makes people scared and reckless.”

“The human condition, to challenge change.”

“The human weakness.” Legrand corrected him. “Change has been nothing but beneficial to us, even the war could be seen as helpful in some ways.”

“I’m sorry?” Emmett asked, to which he immediately regretted pressing the issue.

“The world was suffering from overpopulation at the time of the war, not to mention corrupt governments and entire countries that were ready and willing to go to war at a moment’s notice. The strong people that survived the war formed these cities in which our technological growth has increased by a factor of 10. 50 years ago we didn’t even have the standard issue robot, now we have people with cybernetics that can jump 20 story buildings. Yes, many people died and we made a large chunk of the world uninhabitable, but for every bad thing there is a good thing.”

“A lot of people would disagree with you.” Emmett stated.

“Which is the point I’m getting at.” Legrand stated, suddenly brim with passion. “People view my idealism as blind optimism bordering on the callous and sociopathic. I’m simply trying to make the best of a horrible situation. I’m trying to make people’s lives better.”

“So why push the cloning bill forward? If overpopulation was one of the problems corrected by the war, why add more lives to the fire?”

“First off, clones aren’t people. Are you a Christian Detective?”

“Athiest.” Emmett replied, immediately regretting ever indulging this conversation. Legrand seemed to take that information in stride.

“To each their own, but as a devout Christian, I believe only God has the right to create life.”

“But you’re doing just that…”

“No Detective...I’m imitating it.” Legrand pointed a finger into the table. “Clones don’t have souls, they can’t have souls. They weren’t born, they were made just like an action figure or a plate or a machine.” Legrand leaned back slightly. “Yes, it’s true that my own, religiously speaking, are adamantly against what I’m doing, but you know how the saying goes. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

“So you’ve received death threats then?” Emmett asked, trying to steer the conversation back towards what he needed to know.

“Too many to ever read, I hired a security expert to filter through them for the serious ones.” Emmett made a note, right beside one that read ‘never bring up clones again’. “I’ll give you full access to them, as well as the list of people I believe might have the means and capability of striking out against me and mine in this way.”

“Appreciated.” Emmett stated, coming to the realization that he wasn’t going to get any useful information out of Legrand in this form. He simply had too many variables in play, if it was someone who was after him, they could hide in the numbers. Now came the hard part. “This next question I don’t ask lightly Mr. Legrand, but it is important...Would you release your brother back to MCU custody?”

“What?” Legrand sat up straight slowly, obviously taken back by the request. “Why?”

“We believe there is some evidence that we missed that might be vital to the case.”

“But, as I was told, you examined the body thoroughly and saw nothing.”

“New evidence has come to light.”

“Such as?”

“I’m afraid I can’t divulge that information.” Legrand shook his head, a twitch of a scowl appearing on his face.

“Even if I did want to give you back his body, which I don’t.” Legrand started off. “I can’t, I’ve already released his body to the church to prepare a funeral which will be taking place tomorrow.” Emmett raised an eyebrow to that statement.

“Tomorrow? Isn’t that a little quick?” Legrand stared through Emmett.

“I don’t have the luxury of time. The only reason we’re sitting here having this conversation is because I blew off 3 other dignitaries who are probably going to use this little meeting of ours as a point of attack in the next debate. While I would love to give my brother the time and attention he deserves, I simply don’t have the capacity to do so. A quick funeral with everyone who loved him tomorrow afternoon is the best I can do.”

“Noble.” Emmett stated dryly, earning more than a twinge of irritation from Legrand.

“If you have something to say Detective, say it.”

“Putting career before family seems to be the thing to do right now.” Emmett said, earning a glare from the man sitting across from him.

“I loved my brother. Why else would I basically rebuild him?”

“A multitude of reasons that I won’t get into right now, but keep in mind Mr. Legrand.” Emmett closed his pad, having figured out that all he was going to get out of Legrand from this point on was political rhetoric and passion towards his goals. “It’s my job to think the worst of people, as it’s your job to convince people to see your point of view. I thank you for your time, this has been enlightening.” Emmett stood from the table, pushing the chair in. “You have my word that I will find the person who killed your brother and they will face the full extent of the law.” Emmett turned to walk away, before stopping for a brief moment.

“Out of curiosity...if your clone bill were to pass, what would be the practical applications of such a feat?”

“Organ transplants, slave labor, body transferrals.”

“Body Transferrals?” Emmett asked, only having heard the term in passing.

“Essentially for people who abhor the use of cybernetics but are looking to live longer. We clone their body, make a map of their mind and imprint it into the clone. Their memories, personality and very being are passed onto the new host.”

“Huh...what will we think of next?”

“A dangerous question to think about Detective, the world is ripe with ideas.”

“So you’ve told me.” Emmett said, turning and walking away from the table.




MCU HQ
5:52 pm


Emmett was sitting at his desk on the main floor, files upon files from electronic pads littered his desk as if a dump truck had just unloaded onto him. His computer was open to news articles dating back several weeks, including some about the Nansoko incident. Yet even more were open to ‘surgical techniques’, ‘cybernetic re-enhancement’ and ‘combat surgeons’. He was doing his best to tie knots together from what essentially equalled out to a single string. “Link...link link link link…” Emmett repeated to himself like a mantra as he flipped through the pads like they were nothing, spilling a couple onto the floor. He looked at them slightly before giving a shrug and going back to work.

“Detective?” Emmett looked up to see a Blue standing before him. Young, clean shaven and his uniform was immaculate. Rookie, all the way. “There’s a...guuuuuy in the visitor center saying that he needs to see you and Dr. Mangle? Well, more like he was called here...to perform some cybernetic autopsy?” Emmett stood up.

“Well I was told Barry was bringing in a specialist.” Emmett said as he stood up, shutting down his desktop and pads before leaving for the visitor center.




The visitor room was a sequestered part of the MCU HQ used to house witness and victims to crimes. It was a comfy space, with a few food and drink dispensers, comfortable furniture, a couple of video games, books, tables, etc. It had all the amenities of a 3 star hotel room, save for the bed and that it was triple the size of one unit. When Emmett got there, he could see through the giant one way glass that Barry was already inside...with a guy?

Emmett opened the door, immediately grabbing Barry’s attention, who wandered between Emmett and...the guy? “Emmett.” Barry started. “This is Cory Torinson-”

“ALSO KNOWN AS THE SPIDER!” The man jumped up, all eight of his cybernetic extensions protruding from his back skittering akin to the arachnid form he had stated. The man was...a sight to behold for certain. Firstly, the man’s clothes were less than clean. They looked like he had been wearing them for days, not to mention the fact that his form looked less than human. Several cybernetics could be seen spouting all over his body to the point that, had this been a dark alley, Emmett might have legitimately thought he was a giant spider. His legs were replaced with bow transplants, backwards knees with grippers for feet. While he did wear his ragged clothes, several lights could be seen beneath the thick fabric of what was once a brown sweater. Both of his arms, while retaining flesh, were covered in tubing and wiring that Emmett couldn’t begin to fathom the use for.

Going further up was met with a literal iron jaw that was built with a underbite, which looked to be on purpose as it was fitted to look like jagged teeth. The man’s nose appeared to be human, but where his eyes were, it seemed like an overlarge pair of goggles spouting multiple optics. It definitely reinforced the man’s alias. The most obvious cybernetics though, were attached to his back. Several arms protruded from what appeared to be a backpack like attachment, and each was outfitted with a different ‘hand’. One appeared to be a soldering iron, another a literal hand, another one a saw. Taken a different way, this man could be a walking armory. The man’s smile, if it could be called that, was offputting as he struck a pose as if he was walking into a comic book about himself. Emmett took the necessary minute to process this, before turning to Barry.

“What the fuck.” Barry raised his hands in defense.

“Look, I know what it looks like but trust me, I’ve seen him work, he knows this shit inside and out.”

“And upside down, twisted around, backwards even. That last one was a doozy, I tell yah, was like trying to ring out an egg from a chicken before she laid one, you know?”

“No...I don’t.” Emmett said, his eyes glossing over as he contemplated becoming a grocery clerk at a supermarket. “Barry…”

“I know, I know. I thought the exact same thing as you, but...just trust me.”

“And me.” Cory stated, throwing his own thumb at himself in an exaggerated fashion. Emmett couldn’t tell if he was taking the shit, or was really that unaware of his own actions. Emmett pinched the bridge of his nose, exhaling sharply before throwing his other hand in the air.

“Fine, to the morgue, let’s go.”

“Alright, dead people!” Emmett looked back at the man, who shirked back as his extra limbs seemed to recoil behind him out of fear. “Oh, I mean...awww boo dead people.” Emmett leaned in close to Barry.

“If he does something stupid, I’m not covering your ass.”

“I doubled my insurance this morning.”




“Holy udder fuck of a cow milker.” Emmett didn’t bother to react at this point, knowing full well already that this guy was somewhat of a showboater/attention hog. “This is top of the line shit...like, this is golden shit, hell I’d even say platinum. Deady boy over there had some dosh, let me tell you.”

“We already know that.” Emmett stated, doing his best not to pinch his nose and break the bone. “We need to know if something has been tampered with it.” There was a whirring sound from him, either his gears were grinding or he was thinking, and honestly Emmett didn’t know what was worse.

“Well, these things are built to withstand punishment, in many ways they’re supposed to outlive the person they’re implanted into, so that they can be taken and given to someone else. Quality over quantity.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning this will take awhile.” One of the man’s eyes detached as it looked directly behind him at Emmett, making even the stalwart Detective step back from the surprising and, honestly, disgusting use of his optic nerve. “I have to crack open the casing, which has been designed so that only surgeons who are licensed with this company can open it. Then, I have to figure out what does and doesn’t belong.”

“Wait, you mean you don’t know how this thing is put together?” Emmett asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Hell no my detectiveron! Do I look like I have the money to lay down the knowledge smack on this kind of tech? I need to learn first, and when I finish learning, I will tell you what doesn’t belong in this guys liquor filter.” Emmett glared at Barry, who was already tapping his phone.

“I will stay with him...babysitter’s getting overtime.”

“You suggested him.”

“I know.”

“You said he could get the job done.”

“I know.”

“This isn’t on me.”

“I know damn it!” Barry finally stated, before someone picked up on the line and he wandered away While he was distracted, Emmett wandered up beside Cory, kind of off put by the guy’s bulky cybernetic frame yet somehow entranced by how delicately all his limbs touched at the augmentation.

“I think it should go without saying that this is a highly sensitive matter.”

“Tis why I signed the NDA before coming down here compadre!” Cory stated, giving a metal toothy smile at the Detective. “I may look like I’m coming apart, both literally and mentally, but when it comes to cybernetics, I’m your guy. Stop giving Beary Barry such a hard time, he’s placed his trust in me and I’m gonna prove him right.”

“Really.” Emmett stated, still not convinced.

“FOR I AM THE SPIDER!” Cory yelled, holding a hand and having one of his cybernetic limbs high five it, before sputtering and falling limp. Cory looked over at it, then back at Emmett. “I know what this looks like, and no it doesn’t happen all the time. I’ve just been so busy, then there was the issue with the drug dealers, and I’m so tired…”

“Just...get me what you can when you can.”

“Roger Captain Dodger.” Emmett pinched the bridge of his nose once more, a habit he had a hard time breaking. At the very least, they were on the trail...hopefully that robotic abomination of a nutcase wouldn’t screw it up.

Until then, he had put in enough hours today...it was time for a drink

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Luciana Chavez-Alesci Character Portrait: Vitali Zhang

0.00 INK

#, as written by Dae Mec
The Lady of War

By Haze and Dae Mec




Luciana stared at the after-mission briefing, uncertain whether she should be pleased or disappointed. On one hand, she’d captured her target and saved a hapless civilian. On the other, it was now obvious that the bastard terrorist Cael Meint had deliberately let her go. Damn, wasn’t that a blow to her ego? And Luciana had thought it’d been her fancy flying that saved the day, though it made sense in hindsight.

She scowled, sipping her cup of coffee, but perked up at the thought of her next job. Luciana had been assigned a mission to take down the mystery woman who she’d seen in the flower shop: Zora De Vries, the arms dealer from Tukana. Maybe she’d have some answers. Plus, beating up a bunch of nasty goons would be great stress relief. She just had to wait for her partner, the man who’d also been assigned to this. (What was his name again? Vitamin? She’d check her implant when he arrived.) Having only recently been transferred over to be a detective, Luciana still wasn’t familiar with everyone.




The call came through, a jingly chime drowned out by mechanical noises. Vitali answered it wordlessly, popping a face up on a screen in his cramped apartment with a small gesture. He didn’t have to look, he knew who it was. The little gasp that came after confirmed it. It sounded sore. Whoever it was had been crying, and was now inhaling to prepare for a rant. He knew that sound. He had heard it only once before, and it hadn’t been a pleasant experience. Vitali held up a hand to stop them, eyes fixed on his left arm.

“You’re going to tell me that I fucked up.” His voice was quiet, but cold. He felt bad for her, but he needed to focus. “It was not the plan, I want you to know. I did not mean for this to happen. I am sorry.”

“Vitali, you can put your arm down. It’s not doing anything.”

“What? Why?” Vitali turned his head to face her, confused. He saw Minna, gaze averted. Which was odd, because he still had his hand up.

“Because I can see through it, Vez. Christ, what did they do you down there?”

Vitali looked at the gaping holes blown through his arm, metal charred black where gauss slugs had punched through it. It moved, but the internals were slagged and he could see the fractures spread across the outer plating he hadn’t pried off.
“Oh. Yes. They had good weapons. Police issue. Most of my mods will have to come off. Sorry about the mess.”

Minna shook her head, forcing herself to look at Vitali. Fucking hell. “Look. It’s...It’s fine. We’ll talk later. Just get down to HQ when you’re ready. We’ve got another job. You know Luciana? She’s new, like you. I’ve got some info on her, but I think I would be best if you met in person.”

Vitali nodded, prying some sort of bolt out of one of his legs and dropping it in a bucket full of burnt electronics. “Give me an hour. I will be there. Why am I meeting this Luciana?”

“Oh, because you’ve been assigned to work with her. I recommended you get some team experience down. Sending you the mission details now.” Vitali turned his head, about to say something, before the call was cut and a ping came from his phone.
Damn. She had gotten him back. The enforced chuckled to himself, hauling over a box of armor plating. He’d get himself fixed up, read the dossier, then head down. Who knows? Maybe it might actually work out for him.

He hadn’t been to the station all that much, and it took a bit to get himself where he needed to be. The break room was simple, but nice. Empty, too, save for the woman he was going to meet. He didn’t know how he was supposed to introduce himself, so he walked up, hands in his jacket pockets. Vitali wasn’t trying to be rude, he just wasn’t one for ceremony.

“Agent Chavez-Alesci? Luciana? You’re the agent I’m meeting here, right?”

Luciana blinked, startled out of her perusal of the latest Mixed Martial Mech gossip. She dismissed the program and grinned at the man. Wow, he had some serious mods—his feet didn’t even seem to follow human anatomy—and weirdly enough, Luciana couldn't begin to place their origin.

“Sure am,” she said after a moment, realizing that she'd been staring at his kick-ass bird-feet. “And you're… uh,” Luciana double-checked his name, knowing that she would butcher it, “Vay-tah-lee?”

Vitali nodded. He didn’t blame her. He didn’t even know how his name was supposed to be pronounced. The original
Russian pronunciation had been lost after decades of linguistic rot. He had always just gone with ‘Vih-tah-lee’, but he had heard just about every way it could be said, and wasn’t in a hurry to correct anyone.

“Yes. That is close enough. You are Agent Sha-vez Aleshi? I do not know how I am supposed to say it. Is Mexican? Yes?” He hoped that wasn’t offensive. He had run through every culture he knew to be ‘Latin’. Other than the Spanish refugees from, well, Spain, he knew exactly one other.

Luciana grinned widely, stretching the skin around her cybernetic eye. “Wow, I didn't actually expect to get it right. Well, my name’s both Cuban and Italian, bit close enough.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Besides, I don't really care about formality. Lucy or Luciana is fine, but if you gotta call me by my last name, Chavez or Chav is good to. Whichever is easiest for you.” She'd heard his accent, and from her skimming of his file, he wasn't a native speaker. His English was still pretty damn good.

Vitali smiled slightly, exposing his too-white teeth. Obviously fake, gums too shiny. Dental hygiene, or any sort of hygiene, wasn’t his greatest concern. He wasn’t even sure he could still get infections. Still, he had at least made a token effort to appear somewhat presentable. His shower wasn’t all that bad, and he had actually made sure his augs weren’t dusty. He had learned pretty quickly that first impressions counted for a lot more in Lumaire than the Urals. There, it usually started and ended with gunfire. Here, it was just a likely possibility.

“Chavez. I can say this easier. If it was not obvious, I am not one for ceremony either. Is why Minna said I should work with you.” He paused, not sure how to continue. He didn’t want to seem unreliable, but his escapades in the 8th Arrondissement had already made the rounds at the station. Probably not the best idea to try and spin it into something positive. “She is very good at her job. Said you were excellent pilot.”

“Why, thank you!” Luciana paused at the unfamiliar name. “Is she your… supervisor or something?” she hedged. Back in the mech unit, the only person she worked under was good old Ioanna Nikos, so Luciana still wasn’t about the structure of the MCU. She raised her cold coffee to sip before blinking (or winking, since only one eye was capable of it). “Oh, right. Want some coffee?”

“Oh. Yes. Coffee would be good. Keeps the heart rate up.” He pulled one of the folding chairs ringing the table back and sat, mods whirring as the motors and drives spooled up. He had to break them in, given their age. As for his heart rate, it wasn’t the best model, some forgotten Czech biotech firm had churned them out before Prague got atomized. Sure, it was durable, but it needed a bit of a ‘higher charge’, so to speak. Coffee or light stimulants generally did the trick. Vitali was pretty sure he could replace his synthetic vitals with tech that didn’t require biological kickstarting, but he was perfectly fine with what he had. Besides, he hadn’t crawled through a Romanian drainage tunnel for nothing. “Is nice, coffee. Instant, mostly, for home. Tea most days, though, easier to get. Here, though, coffee is better, not old. Fresh beans.”

She moved to grab him a cup and top her own off. Unfortunately, the pot was a couple hours old, so it was likely lukewarm and too bitter. She held a styrofoam cup to him with wry smile. “Yeah, Lumaire gets pretty good coffee, but,” Luciana sipped hers and grimaced at the sour aftertaste of dirt, “the MCU doesn’t really get the good stuff. Or even the decent stuff. Though not as bad as instant,” she added in agreement.

Vitali accepted the cup, tentatively flexing his fingers before taking the coffee. No use crushing it by rushing things. As for the taste, it was somewhere between ground medication and burnt tree bark, but that suited the enforcer just fine. He took a large sip, settling into his seat. “Better than nothing. And instant. Definitely better than instant.” He smiled again, wolfish and seemingly devoid of mirth. He couldn’t really help it, not with that mug. “Minna is my supervisor. Handler, more like. She is new, like me, makes sure I do not fuck up too badly. Good at intel.”

“Been a lot of new people,” Luciana commented distantly, her focus entirely on his arm. What make was it? Part of it looked like old—well, all of it looked old, but it was a hodgepodge of what seemed like a partial old Russian casing and vaguely identifiable bits and pieces from other companies. A few sections had the dull silver sheen that suggested recent additions. Was it entirely custom? “Look, I know we should probably go over the case, but I gotta ask… where did you get your mods?”

There was a series of clicks as Vitali moved his arm to get a better look at it. It wasn’t easy to answer that question, seeing as he didn’t know that information himself, most of the time. But, he had just installed most of the pieces today, so it was still fresh in his mind. “Ah. Found, mostly. Red zone for the shell, Grom Vz. 4 Hydraulic Clamping Apparatus. Used in car factory, very strong. For rest of the parts, they come from many places. Kublai Assault Vehicle, from New Khanate. Kazakh Combat Endoskeleton. I do not know Japanese but some parts come from there. Most pieces are hand-filed. We make them from railroad ties from old Trans-Siberian line. Very good steel. Repair with what we have. It is our way.”

Luciana nodded along, also checking the ethernet for descriptions of each part.. (Weirdly enough, some people were incredibly secretive about their mods because they thought it was embarrassing or something to safeguard, though that never stopped Luciana from prying.)

“That’s… insane,” she said, admiration clearly present in her tone. “Talk about hardcore and long-lasting.” Luciana paused. “Wait, did you say a Grom Hydraulic Clamping Apparatus?” She remembered working on those old parts with her dad years ago. “Those are near unbreakable, but they tend gunk up and freeze, especially in smaller machinery. Seems like it’d be annoying. Why don’t you swap it out?”

Vitali chuckled, coarse and low, as his arm chose that exact moment to make a sickly grinding sound and fling open his hand. He felt a jolt somewhere along his spine as his reflex enhancers kicked on with an audible electric crackle, other arm blurring out to nab the cup before it could fall to the floor. “Yes. It has this problem. But, I do not remove it, because I can do this.”

Vitali set the cup down on the table, and curled his working arm into a fist, driving it into his other arm with a metallic crack. The twitching limb whined and lurched, before smoothly picking the cup back up. “I have survived many things because of that. The new limbs, they get bricked, are no good after that because they must use expensive tools to fix them. Not these.” It was true. His limbs, while functional, were almost entirely mechanical. Any electrical components could be bullied into some semblance of functionality through good old percussive maintenance. He had seen enough designer augs get their users killed to appreciate that.

She smirked. “All tech deserves to be smacked around sometimes, but some of the newer stuff can’t take it.” Before, when earth was still recovering, everything was substance over style. Nowadays, companies could afford to be pretty… even at the cost of functionality. Her stuff didn’t have that problem, of course, because besides being expensive and fancy, it had also undergone the Luciana Treatment. Speaking of which: “If you ever do want an upgrade or tune-up, I’d love to take a look.” Luciana cleared her throat, regretful. She could talk about mods and mechs all day. “Ah, right. The case. We should probably get to it.”

“Yes. I will accept this offer. I can only do so much with car repair kit.” Another smile, gone almost as fast as it came, replaced by his usual serious expression. Time to talk about work. “We are supposed to bring in the arms dealers? This De Vries and Ishimura. Selling a...hm.” He grimaced as he flipped through his dossier on his phone. He hadn’t even heard of that type of armor before. “A mech from South Africa. Z74, Milspec. I do not know about this.” He did recognize the weapons she sold though, serious kit, along with those disruptors. He had been hit by them before, and it wasn’t a pleasant sensation. “Ah. She is this one. With the disruptors that burn. I do not like this one.”

“Yeah, nasty things.” She’d been hit by disruptors before, and Luciana had to agree. She pulled up her file on the implant and looked over the briefing. “Hmm… De Vries is based in Tukana, somehow got here without detection, and—” Luciana cut herself off when she saw the specs of the hardsuit. “Oh, meirda, that’s some dangerous hardsuits right there. Armor rivaling some mechs, full stealth capacity, and shields that can withstand full-on assaults. And that’s not even mentioning the firepower.”

She shook her head. “Yeah, we gotta stop that sale. That could bring some serious mayhem. Apparently, the deal’s in an hour and twelve minutes by the docks, but I don’t doubt that they’ve got scouts and goonies. Those NT bastards that De Vries is in bed with are paranoid SOBs. How’re you thinking about approaching this?” Luciana asked. Sure, she was technically the one with seniority (ugh), but she was curious as to what he’d say.

Vitali leaned forward, one elbow on the table, looking as conspiratorial as any Bratva goon. He had been to these sorts of things before. Nothing as formal, sure, but the general idea was the same. “I think I do not want to fight this suit. I have a plan, but it depends on if it is an open market. If it is a private deal, we will have to go loud. I do not think this is good plan, if they can get to the suit. It is good item, but they will use it if they must. If anything, it will be a showcase, but with many dead.”

He scratched the back of his neck, thinking. This De Vries was no fool. She’d get more product, but that suit was valuable. No expense would be spared making sure that thing got to it’s buyer. But... “If it is an open auction, that is different. Many gang leaders, many big names, all coming for this suit. Much face to be gained from it, so they will bid like madmen. Great profits for De Vries, and she does great service to gang rich enough to buy. That means we have chance to ambush, play part of face-man for gang. I do not look like good man, I know this. Have done such trick before.” Vitali rolled his shoulder, which protested with a small whirring noise. “But, is just idea. We go loud, or no. You have any ideas?”

“See, the briefing suggests that it’d be a closed one, but…” Luciana scratched the metal part of her face out of habit, “I think an ambush would work great here, actually. They saw my mech, but they didn’t know who or what I worked for. I think we could get close enough to lower their guard, then bam!” She snapped her fingers. “And we’ve got enough fire between the both of us to turn the tables if things go south, especially since it’s a procurement of two. Not only that, the 2nd squad should be on standby in case things go really bad. Let’s try it.”




It was raining, at the docks. That wasn’t really surprising, given the climate of Lumaire, but it wasn’t a reassuring sign. It was dark, gloomy, little wisps of fog playing off of the gigantic hulls of space-age trawlers and massive barges. The docks were massive in their own right, created to moor ships capable of hauling a nation’s entire GDP in one trip. Vitali swore he saw shanties strung up in the massive poles holding the whole thing above the churning water, eyes darting behind barnacle-encrusted sheets of metal and plastic.

The whole place was oppressive, and Vitali felt his nerves harden as he looked for potential dangers. He was pretty sure he knew what to look for. He had seen these types of deals before, people in a forgotten place, crouching over crates or gazing up at massive mechs, all suits and spotlights. He had been on both ends, and he knew these things were low-key, but well-run. He’d know when they reached it, De Vries would have made sure of that. He just hoped they were prepared.

Vitali had attempted to look like a downtrodden refugee, which wasn’t very hard to do, given he really just had to put on a shittier jacket, but he had gone the extra step to look, well, like what he was. Teeth, odd bits of metal, scraps of cloth, strange relics hung from his clothes and augs. They all had purpose, a meaning, and Vitali could tell you the story behind any one of them as easily as he could say his own name. A tooth, allegedly ripped from the mouth of Lenin, a scrap of cloth taken from a tapestry hanging in a russian oligarch's mansion, a piece of shrapnel from the bomb that hit Moscow. They were trinkets born from a culture of desperation, one that spread across Europe and Asia after it all fell apart. It marked him as one of the fallen peoples, whose culture disappeared in a storm of fire and ash. As for his companion, she had her own plan.

Luciana had the easier part of the job; all she had to do was strap on her stealth mec and look intimidating. She doubted that the Yakuza would know who she was, but unless De Vries had short term memory loss, the arms dealer probably would recognize the person who’d burst into the meeting. Luciana, if she did have to speak, planned on playing the role of a converted merc—she’d never pass as someone native to the Red Zone, but she could be a fanatic bodyguard with ease. The rest of the 2nd squad, her old MGU buddies, were positioned all around the docks just in case. (Nikos had been a bit skeptical of the whole plan, but she’d been willing to give it a try if it meant a smoother capture.)

Luciana scanned the docks out of habit, feeling oddly nostalgic yet wary at the sight of the ocean. Any Nueva Miami girl would feel the same way—the ocean contained the worst debris from the war. Her interface pinged, and she let her other eye zoom into the relevant area. By the middle of the docks was an enormous, unmarked freighter, and she could see a couple people gathered. Her eye wasn’t strong enough to make out the faces, but Luciana would bet it was them. Quietly, she got Vitali’s attention and gestured to the group.

Vitali followed Luciana’s gesture, eyes narrowing as he saw the group. Oh yes. He could practically feel the raw, unfiltered, ego coming from that group. He made sure his own weapons were in working order, confident his fellow agent had done the same. It was poor form to come to these things unarmed. Trust was a sign of weakness, and it never hurt to let the others know you would shoot back if they pushed you. He walked up to the group, glancing up at the boat, unsurprised to see a line of people looking down back at him. He didn’t know what the NT image was, but he would guess it was whatever they were wearing. That, and the tank-busters they were hauling.

Vitali was stopped before he could reach a ring of people crowding around...something. Some giant Korean man with more muscles than a vat-grown cow was glowering at him. A guard? The enforcer nodded slowly, flicking his head to the ring of people. Wordlessly, the goon let him walk by, and they were in the crowd. He looked up, squinting in the glare of the floodlights. He swore he saw a figure standing up on the boat, vaguely feminine. Glancing at his companion, he quietly leaned his head towards her, and spoke, accent even thicker than normal. “You think safe? I not spend cash unless good deal.”

“Of course, boss,” she replied, the voice-distorter bringing her pitch two octaves lower and adding static. “Besides, they won’t drive off customers.” Luciana brought her arms up and crossed them, the mech humming in an implicit threat and promise of protection, as if to say, let them try.

At that, several of the goons raised their own weapons at that gesture.

“Hey,” snarled a scarred one, “isn’t that the mecha that broke in—”

“My, my,” a smooth, mellow voice interrupted him before he could continue. “Friend, do you really plan on running your mouth?” Cael Meint leaned over the railing of the ship’s lower deck, but his unmistakable voice carried all around. “See what I said, Zora? Let birds fly free, and they’ll come back home.” He chuckled. “We have our mysterious mech, and better yet, an additional friend. Now, perhaps you’ll be more willing to answer my questions. Who might you two be? And who works for who?”

Vitali stepped forward, eyes locked on Meint’s. He knew those eyes. They were like a shark, cold and dead and always looking for some blood. He had seen those eyes, aiming down sights and glowing in the light of burning buildings. On some dark nights, he could see them in a mirror. This man was not sane. In truth, neither was Vitali. When Vitali felt a grimy sense of kinship creep into his thoughts, he refused it, choosing to speak and drive that delusion from his mind.

Whatever language Vitali first started speaking in, it was wasn’t English. It was Russian strained through decades of rust and pain, crushed between every Slavic language one would care to name. Little snippets of Siberian tongues and Asian tones broke through, distorted with a structure and pace that shifted with every new word. It was the language of the Red Zone, a show of solidarity. It was proof of suffering. He doubted anyone here spoke it, and yet, when Meint’s head began to nod, he couldn’t help but feel a bit of respect worm it’s way into his heart. It was a hard thing, learning that tongue. You had to see why it was as rotten as it was first hand. If anyone would want to learn it, it was the mouthpiece of NT. There was a potential army of people willing to throw their very souls away to give their children a better life.

[“I am Fyodor Bryusov. I have sought your aid. Mine is the righteous cause of the ERL. We seek to show those who would look blindly to the stars that the very Earth they wish to abandon will not resign itself to rotting beneath their feet. The mech is my commissar. She is my protection and my guide in this city. She is bound to my word and will not act against you, provided you do not act against me. As for the flower girl, she was not loyal to the cause, and like all those who would turn their backs on their brothers was removed. I did not wish to cause any disruption to your organization, as we are armies of one flag. Have I answered your questions?”]

For a second, Meint’s smile became something thoughtful before returning to its former intensity. [“Indeed you have, comrade.”] From his careful look, it seemed like he understood the full significance of the last word. Meint enunciated like a true native, but in his perfectly modulated voice, the language almost sounded human. [“The flower girl was loyal to none, it seems. What in particular brings you here? You are rather far from home.”]

Luciana very carefully did not shift in place, instead standing as still and stiff as a professional guard. The build-in translation was doing a rather terrible job (she highly doubted they were talking about fish), but Luciana was able to get the gist of it. Despite the general lull in any action, she felt more tense now than she had when blasting out of the apartment. Being surrounded by criminals, especially Cael Meint, who’d apparently wanted them to return… it made her skin crawl. She eyed her partner with concern. He seemed to be handling it pretty well, but Vitali was a little hard to read. Besides, that sociopathic terrorist mouthpiece had a way of getting under people’s skin.

The enforcer stood unmoving, slowly bringing his gaze to the ship, before returning it back to Meint. There was something... wrong... with how he looked at the propagandist. Vitali, with all his talismans and makeshift augs, wouldn’t look out of place in some soup kitchen or aid station. Something was in his eyes, though, his features, that radiated an aura of survival. Vitali had seen what most would call Hell, and come out the other side carrying a piece of it with him. It gave people an uncomfortable feeling that he was about to attack them with his teeth. It wasn’t the Vez of the LSP standing on that dock, it was Vitali Zhang of the Ural Shanties. His voice was slow, deep, not the honey-sweet tones of Meint, but the lead-heavy growl of a warlord.

“War. War brings me here.”

The same curious expression flickered over Meint’s face. “You’re very far from home,” he repeated, “but war? Yes, war never changes.” He abruptly shifted back to the creole. [“Join me, and we will break bread and talk.”]

Luciana’s eyes widened, and boy, she was glad for the face-covering or else she’d be gawking her head off. Though Cael Meint had bought into the act (Probably? Who knew with that guy? He was hard to read when speaking in English, forget creoles) and invited them aboard, she was increasingly wary because, well… Cael Meint had invited them aboard. Besides, where was the Yakuza man that was supposed to show up? Punctuality was a must with these kind of deals, and the man was already late. Uneasy, she glanced back to Vitali. Luciana had a gut feeling that they were getting into something way too deep.
The sound of bullets confirmed her suspicions, and in an instant, Luciana had her shields up and in front of Vitali. Bullets ricocheted around, hitting some goons (no loss) and the thick hull of the ship.Staying down here would be too dangerous with all the potential collateral.

“Boss, we’d better get to high ground.” The boosters on her mech glowed a dull blue as power was diverted from the shields.
“Need a boost?”

Vitali felt the hum of the mech’s boosters kicking on, still looking up at Meint. He couldn’t see him anymore. Probably taken to somewhere safe by his guards, for however long that safe place lasted. Judging by the amount of guns Vitali could hear, it wouldn’t be for long.

The enforcer looked into the visor-covered face of Luciana, eyes like a wild animal. He was back in the Red Zone, now, at least in his head. His talons dug into the concrete of the dock as he hunched down, prepared to leap.

“I am fine. You go, secure what you can. I will meet you up there.”

There was a metallic screech as robotic claws dug into the reinforced hull of the ship, Vitali gripping the sides with his hands and feet. Luciana would be faster than him, he assumed. Those boosters were serious business. But, drawing the fire away from the terrified goons wasn’t the worst plan he had ever had. That’s what he told himself, anyway, as he heard the bullets cracking around him.

Luciana hesitated for only a moment before taking to the sky. He’d probably be fine; if he couldn’t handle it, then he wouldn’t have said so. (Or so she assumed. Maybe.) As with the last time she’d tangoed with these bastards, a jammer was in place preventing outside communication. They’d have to work separately from the MGU unit—another reason why Nikos hadn’t been too keen on this scheme. Her interface quickly identified the third party shooting at them… which was the Yakuza? Wait, wasn’t the deal with them? Akihiko Ishimura’s name popped up in her scanner, which only confused her further.

“Kobun wa, you fucking bastard!” screamed the Yakuza man in question, his voice echoing through the docs. Wow, he’d aug’ed his vocal folds? Talk about being extra. “You’re about to see what happens when you screw with my oyabun!” He sent a spray of metal bullets to emphasize his point.

Luciana returned fire, sending the yakuza into a momentary frenzy as they tried to figure out where she was. Once they looked up, the hail of bullets changed course, so Luciana beat a hasty retreat and landed on the deck of a ship with a metallic thud.

“What’s the plan, boss?” she said with a distorted voice. She hoped that Vitali understood the undercurrent of oh shit, this was not the plan—want to retreat? The modulator probably made it difficult, though. Even worse, the so-called Lady of War was nowhere to be seen; if she was smart, she probably had made a hasty retreat. Damn. Hopefully, the MGU squad would take care of Ishimura and the yakuza while they went inside to secure the contraband and look for De Vries.

Vitali hauled himself over the side of the ship, crouching behind the plated railing of the vessel. Robotic limbs smoothly drew his sidearm. He hoped he wouldn’t need that shotgun. He had faced full-on riots without wanting to resort to that thing. Besides, his revolver was massive enough to leave an impression.

Vitali blind-fired from over the top of his cover, hearing the thunderous report of his magnum. Vez was smiling like a shark. He heard something topple, something big and meaty and probably tattooed. Huh. Didn’t think he’d hit anyone. The gunfire temporarily faltered, and Vitali popped up from cover. Theatrics were needed. Had to stay in character.

“I am in no way fucking around!” He roared, letting out a torrent of swears in as many languages as he could remembered. He fired another shot, tagging a goon in the chest and nearly splitting him in half. That shark-smile remained as he broke from the gunfire to stand near Luciana. She seemed like she understood the situation and that maybe it was time to get serious. He had to agree. “We lock this down. Get what we can. If we need to, we run.”

“Got it.” Luciana gritted her teeth, and with a rough gesture, activated the big guns on her mech. The dual guns let a defining roar as they spit out bullet after bullet, though the yakuza seemed to have pretty competent armor. What the hell? Why did they switch to all-out combat? “Those hardsuits of there’s are pretty damn good, Vi—boss. We really should start moving out; one mech against them all isn’t going to do much, and the NT doesn’t seem willing to stay and fight.”

“This deal is off, yes? Goods are still here. That suit either leaves with us or not at all.” He aimed his revolver at the one with the best hardsuit and fired. Whatever that thing was, it only staggered before resuming fire. Shit. He had killed vehicles with this gun. “Time is not on our side. We hurry.”

“Agreed. Best find Meint, then. He’s probably further in the ship.” Luciana grinned, though of course her helmet kept anyone from seeing it. “Perhaps our lady is there, too.” Barely had she finished when the suited-Yakuza followed her example and lept onto the ship. The model they were using weren’t flight capable, but they could make really, really big jumps. Luciana fired at them as the duo retreated into the hallways of the ship. She just had to hope that her old squad could handle it by themselves.
The inside of the ship wasn’t much better. Some sort of running gunfight had taken place, likely between NT and whatever Yakuza had managed to board the ship. Shell casings and corpses littered the stairway down into the lower decks. Mostly, Vitali noted, NT corpses. Looks like they had done all they could to hold the line.

“Hope these men know what ricochet is. If not, very strong guns. Do not want a gunfight from more sides than one, yes?” Vital flicked open the chamber on his revolver. Three used, eight total. He closed it, reaching into a open pocket of his pack and pulling out the suppressor for his gun. “Do you have hearing protection? Will be like thunder, every time. Bright, if lights broken.”
She tapped her exoskeleton. “It’s built in. If not, I’d go deaf every time I shot one of the suit’s guns. You?” She could hear thunderous footsteps and shouted creole-Japanese as the Yakuza made their way further in—just as the goons decided that it was time to go face those intruders.

Vitali grunted in the affirmative, just in time about a dozen NT goons to rush past them. Looked like Meint managed to get the word out that the ERL was friendly. Might as well give them a hand, for appearance's sake. He turned and aimed up the stairs, suppressor forgotten. No point. Stealth was probably out of the window at this point, along with Zora, probably in that fucking suit. The revolver went off like a bomb, the muzzle flash nearly setting one of the closest goons clothes ablaze. The head of one of the more heavily-armored Yakuza exploded into a spray of sparks and blood. He collapsed, everything above the jaw painting however was behind him. “Right. We go deeper in the ship, then?”

Shield activated to avoid the blood-splatters, Luciana grimaced at the grisly sight. “Sure thing.” Her scanners were still mostly suppressed and thus inaccurate, but the readings suggested that there was a greater concentration of people down the left hallway. “That way,” she said.

Deeper they went. The sounds of pitched battle faded into echoing booms as Vitali wrenched the hatch closed. The hall was spartan but still well-lit. Vitali would guess this used to be a cargo vessel or a tanker of some sort. Nice and spacious, lots of places to store contraband. Without Luciana’s scanners, it could have taken hours to figure out where the goods were, but now, they had a target. That target wasn’t yet visible. Around a corner, likely making a beeline to the crates that were stacked up in the hall. Military crates, at least a dozen of them. Vitali was pretty sure what was inside. He kept his revolver trained on the approaching footsteps, slowly walking over to the boxes. “If not Meint, then...” He said, under his breath.

Luciana was glad to see the weapons they were supposed to acquire, but unfortunately, that also meant running into the psychopath-extraordinaire. The usually suave and flawless man, however, didn’t seem to be in as good shape. Meint’s smile was strained, and he clutched at his shoulder.

“Comrades,” he said, voice just a tad hoarse. “What a surprise to see you here.”

Just as Luciana wondered if Meint was alone (perhaps then giving them the opportunity to pull the old snatch-and-grab), two oversized aug’ed guards strolled in, one carrying a small syringe rather delicately in his hands.

“Quickly,” hissed Meint, and the guard plunged the needle into the terrorist leader’s shoulder. The tension abated from his shoulders, and after a moment, Meint stood straight and smiled. His eyes were unnaturally bright—well, brighter than usual—and his smile had an even sharper edge than before. “My apologies.” Gunfire echoed off the walls. “As you might have noticed, we’re in a rather tight spot. I didn’t expect to be double-crossed or abandoned.” His face twisted into something ugly for a brief second before smoothing out. “Again, that is.” Meint raised his eyebrows. “Did you come to take advantage of this?”

Vitali cocked an eyebrow, glancing back the the bulwark, circular window occasionally lit up by muzzle flashes. “I think not. I do not want this deal to be taken off of the table. You do not want to die. I see no reason for two men with goals such as ours to betray one another. We stand under the same flag, yes?” He lowered his revolver, gesturing it at the crates. “I see the guns. I do not see the suit. Is it with you?” He shot a small glance at Luciana, both for con and communication. It better fucking be.

Meint chuckled. “You’d be surprised at how common it is for people to spout empty words about flags and brotherhood… until it actually comes time to act.” He nodded at his two guards. The taller one went to the empty wall, or so it seemed. The second he touched it, the cloak faded away, revealing a tall, polished hardsuit. Unlike Luciana’s own matte-black mech (which was also a conglomerate of many different parts), the military grade hardsuit was polished, with a shimmering surface that hinted at its camouflage capabilities.

He continued, “Unfortunately, it seems like the suit might not be for sale at the moment. It should turn the tides, however. The rest of the crates… yes, why not? They’re certainly for sale.”

Vitali nodded, turning to look at his ‘bodyguard’. “Good. This one will be the transport. Very strong. As for price, I would say negotiations are open. At reduced price? Time is of essence, no?” He glanced back at the hatch, now obscured by a fresh spray of blood. “They may see use before the day is done.”

“You drive a hard bargain, hmm?” Despite the situation, Meint’s tone seemed almost playful. “Freya, if you will... “

The muscular—oh, so she was female—woman by the hardsuit gave a sharp nod before pressing her hand to the chestplate of the suit. It immediately opened up, and Freya turned around, letting the hardsuit meld and adjust itself to her body.
The camouflage on the suit flickered once… and a burst of electrostatic spasmed across the hardsuit. With a groan, the guard fell to the ground as the suit bricked and opened back up. Luciana tensed, expecting to feel her own suit and mods to give out—anything powerful enough to knock-out a topline hardsuit would definitely hit her as well—but nothing happened. The hell?

The problem with disrupters aimed at mechs and hardsuits is that they had to be incredibly strong… which meant that it led to a lot of collateral damage. Unless… oh, ¡vete a la mierda! Did this arms-dealer get her hands on focused, localized disrupters strong enough to do that? That was really, really worrying: yet more examples of top-grade military-grade tech in the hands of an amoral arms dealer.

Meint’s face twisted again. “Zora,” he hissed, before forcibly calming himself, returning his face to his trademark placid smile. “How unfortunate. It seems like the suit is out of commission. Abdu,” said the terrorist, turning to his other guard. “How much longer?”

“A few minutes, sir,” grunted the man in response.

“Very well. Now, Bryusov, as for the matter of price—”

Gunfire and shouted Japanese interrupted Meint as a dozen Yakuza burst in, weapons brandished. Immediately, Luciana turned and fired, talking out six with her modified mech-guns.

A growled curse and four gunshots came from Vitali. Five fell. One goon was skinny fellow, and the bullet just kept going into the unlucky bastard standing behind him. He snapped the cylinder open, dumping eight battery-sized casings into his palm. He swapped them for a speedloader somewhere in his jacket, and readied his revolver again.

“Perhaps we discuss this after you are not being fired upon? My brothers are men of their word. Payment will be given. For now, you must be safe, yes?”

There was, for a moment, a look of pure surprise on Meint’s face as he glanced from Luciana to Vitali and back again. Then, it rapidly changed into amusement. “Straight shooters!” He laughed, short and low. “Yes, we can certainly discuss this another time.”

Just as he finished, the reinforcements came… a little late. A dozen NT operatives came, decked out in a variety of rather nice gear and weapons.

“Sir!” One of the suited terrorists struck a salute, raising his clenched fist sharply. “We should probably leave. Unknown mechs have been sighted.”

“Mechs?” mused Meint. “Hm, perhaps the LE has finally arrived. Or maybe the Yakuza are more armed than expected. No matter.” He murmured something to one of the other operatives, who pulled out a thick, blocky cellphone. After taking it from his underling, Meint held it out to Vitali. “This encrypted phone is a direct line to the NT. Have no worry; it’s nigh untraceable from either side. At the moment, we can’t take these goods with us—but if you can manage it, feel free to… ah, appropriate them. We can discuss the price afterwards as mutual men of honor.” His eyes turned as cold as winter though his smile remained, reminding everyone that this was the man who’d orchestrated innocent deaths without blinking. “I’m sure Zora won’t mind if you put these to good use.”

Vitali solemnly took the phone and handed it to Luciana. “Of course. The ERL thanks you for your cooperation, comrade.” He holstered his revolver and shrugged his shotgun off of his back. The enforcer clicked a knob on the side of the stubby black weapon, which began to give off a worrying hum. “These weapons will likely see use tonight, no? We will see if they are what was promised.” He smiled, nodding to himself as he ran his gaze over the crates. “Saints below, we will see.” He looked back at Meint and his new entourage. “But, you should not. Do not let the cause die here.”

“Neither should you.” Meint gave a sharp nod. “Come out of this alive, comrade. We have much to discuss.” With that, the remaining NT members made an efficient retreat.

The two MCU members were left alone, surrounded by crates of weaponry and carnage. The empty, disabled mechsuit lay on the floor, unscathed but with bloodstains on its back.

“Well,” said Luciana finally, looking down at the blocky phone that Meint had handed. “That was certainly something.”
Vitali stared at the phone, realizing the significance of what he was holding. NT and Meint on speed-dial. Shit. Minna was going to go insane. “Yes. It was. We did not fuck up. We did good, yes?” He turned, going to unlock the now severely managed hatch.

The stairway was an abattoir. World War 4 had happened in a cramped stairwell, and it took him a few minutes to work his way past the corpses and battle damage. The smell was amazing. He made it to the top, blinded by light as he emerged. He drew his gun on reflex, but lowered it almost immediately. He knew those lights. Backup was here.




The 2nd squad had wrapped up their side quite neatly; Ishimura had been captured and bound, and the rest of the invading force of Yakuza had been taken out of commission, permanently or not. Sure, the question of how they had all the tech in the first place was concerning, but in the light of their success, Luciana wasn’t too concerned about that.

“Lieu’!” she said brightly. Nikos, somehow, managed to glare at Luciana through the tinted shield of her mech. “Seems like you did pretty well for yourself! The Yakuza didn’t stand a chance against our combined might, huh?”

“Pretty much,” Farwell replied belatedly when it was clear that Nikos wouldn’t respond. “Got to see a lot of action. That was nice. From what I saw, it seemed like you two had your fair share as well.”

“Did you manage to secure De Vries?” Nikos had turned off the voice modulator, but her flat tone was no less intimidating.

“Well, ah… no, but we did get all the weapons.” Luciana glanced at Vitali and the phone she had kept a careful hold on. “And, well…”

“A line. To NT. Meint believes we are friendly.” Vitali spoke up from the crates he was hauling up the steps, quietly returning to his work.

“What.” Nikos’ intonation made it clear that it wasn’t a question but a command. Farewell’s muttered “what the fuck?” and Marat’s gentle query for more information immediately followed their boss’s response.

“Alright, so. We pretended to be terrorists, right? Like I told you? But it worked, like way better than we thought it would. Meint seemed to totally buy it. So when the Yakuza came in, Vitali freaking climbed up the side of the ship with his kick-ass chicken feet, and I…” Luciana continued explaining what happened this manner, “until we found Meint in the center of the ship. And he was injured, I think he’d got shot or something and took some stims, and I was so maldito ready to shoot the bastard, but then, Yakuza burst in. So we like shot them, and Meint gave us this phone for saving his life. But before I could unsave his life, his reinforcements showed up and they retreated.”

Luciana blinked, realizing that she’d forgotten a major part. “Oh, right. De Vries escaped, and I think she completely left the NT out to dry. She also had some serious military-tech disrupters on her abandoned product—the kind that could take out a mech with no leakage. It totally fried the tech.”

She looked back at her partner, wondering if he had anything to add.

“Oh. Woman is still in suit. Very confused. Put in empty crate.” Vitali plunked another box onto the deck, and went back below. A small groan came from inside the crate.

Luciana cracked up, her laughter echoing oddly through her mechsuit. “Yeah, NT left a goon behind. They probably thought she was dead, but I guess not?” She shrugged. “But that’s the gist of it. We should probably help Vitali unload the rest of the crates. There’s a shit-ton.”

Nikos sighed, one that distinctly had the tint of, I am not going to fucking deal with this right now. “Let’s secure the rest of the weapons. HQ can sort out the rest.”

"Alright, lieu." Luciana grinned back. “Sounds good to me!”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron Character Portrait: Luciana Chavez-Alesci Character Portrait: Vitali Zhang

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August 8th, 2075

11 AM

Lumaire General


The beeping cut through his sleep like the leaky faucet in his apartment, but Coen lay on a bed he was unfamiliar with. He opened his eyes to see the familiar half-ring scanners above him. The neo carbon rings surrounded his bed at intervals like a partial cocoon that monitored his vital signs, which in turn appeared on a set of bedside monitors. He took a breath and felt a sharp pain pull through his right shoulder and his stomach.

His head felt uneven as though most of the weight had shifted to his crown and it would tip over and snap his neck. He pulled himself up in his bed, and, as he did so, the half-rings began to readjust their positioning to conform to his new posture. Coen could see he was in one of the inpatient wards for the trauma center at Lumaire General Hospital. He felt the shift in perspective to be refreshing and strange. He often found himself looking at a patient sitting up from a bed, and not actually being the patient himself.

He grunted when he tried to inhale. He remembered why he was in the hospital. He remembered he was pursuing the Nansoko’ suspected assassin through the penthouse bedroom. None of the images sifted into his mind even as he suspected that he fell victim to the assassin’s bullets. Something about his shoulder wound bothered him.

“Oh, you’re awake,” a voice startled him, Coen looked up to see a woman in a white lab coat.

A cyan visor covered her eyes, and she had a transparent tablet in her hand. A single keystroke and her credentials and identification projected right in front of Coen. She was Dr. Kelsey Holden, a trauma specialist. She had shoulder-length jet black hair, and her small nose winked up. Her eyes were grey, but they shone with the reflection of the light from her tablet. Her lips were imperfect when she smiled, despite the whiteness of her teeth which was the result of premium dental work. She was pretty because of the crooked smile, he thought.

“You took quite the hit, Mr. Yoon. Those bullets went right through you. HV bullets have high impact. You’re lucky they weren’t clawed, otherwise they could have shredded your inner organs.”

Coen exhaled, a bit of the tightness he felt in his abdomen loosened, but would return with each inhale.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Could be better.”

“We removed the bullets, but those wounds will take a few days to heal up. You’ll stay here until they do.”

“I kind of have to get back to work,” Coen said.

Dr. Holden smiled the imperfect smile, “Your superior, a Captain Mountbatten, seemed pleasantly agreeable to the idea of you remaining a few days longer.”

Coen nodded and reclined, another pain jumped in his stomach and forced him to gasp.

Holden sifted through her tablet, “Says here you’re a smoker, were you planning on getting in line for a lung replacement?”

“I’m not sure if you know doc, but I don’t make that kind of money on a detective’s salary. I enjoy smoking anyway.”

Dr. Holden smiled again, “In a couple of years you won’t, but lungs aren’t as expensive as they used to be. In the meantime, help yourself to something to eat. You’ve been out for…” she glanced at the time, “…a little over a day. Don’t struggle too much or force yourself out of bed. Take it easy for now.”

She walked out the door as Coen turned on his contacts. The hospital menu immediately materialized in his augmented reality vision along with unread messages and news updates. His stomach rumbled.

One message caught his eye, it was from Jen. He had not thought of that name in a long time.

“Hey, I heard about what happened. I hope you’re doing well. We haven’t talked in-” Coen cut the message short.

He ordered a chicken tikka masala and leaned back with a grunt as the pain ripped into him again.

- - - -


2PM

LSP Headquarters


Mountbatten stepped into the dimly lit interrogation room and shut the door behind him. A single light hung overhead while smaller lights ran along the walls closer to the floor. Dull grey permeated the room’s walls and floors. There was a table in the middle, and a girl slouching, despite her cuffed hands, in her seat opposite of Mountbatten. Her augmentations had been disabled to keep her from manually picking the locks on the cuffs.

Mountbatten sat down and began, “What do you know about NTS?”

Naima Khedira lounged in her seat. Her eyes traversed the length of the walls, but never once did they look directly at the android. Captain Mountbatten clasped his hands before him on the interrogation table. He glanced at the girl with the purple hair.

Naima laughed as she stared at the overhead light, “Is this where you pull the good cop, bad cop routine? Where’s your partner Candy?”

Mountbatten cleared his throat when he heard the term.

He looked around, “Nope, it’s just me. Now be a dear and answer the question. There’s no use in denying it. We have security footage of NTS members going in and out of your warehouse. We also know that you’ve been giving away a fraction of the credits you steal to them.”

“Piss off.”

“Let’s make a deal.”

Naima’s brow raised, “A deal? What kind of deal?”

“You’re only in here because of larceny charges, that’s true. So, you’re looking at four years maximum. If you tell us something we find useful, we might cut that down to a year’s worth of community service since you’re a young woman with an upstanding floral business that’s bound to generate the kind of revenue you could retire on.”

Mountbatten paused, “However, since we also have evidence of your affiliation with a terrorist organization, that might mean we also get to charge you with murder and terrorism, which could bump your sentence up a few years. By that point, don’t even think about life outside of bars ever again.”

Mountbatten paused to watch her reaction. Naima stared at the Captain for a long time.

“Do you know what they do to girls like you?” Mountbatten’s voice lowered as he leaned in, “It’s a grinder in there. Every. Single. Day. There aren’t any flowers in there, darling. They’ve all been stepped on,” the captain chuckled.

The captain liked the fact that his accent coupled with his outward appearance made him appear more threatening than he really was. Mountbatten noticed that Naima began to sit a little straighter in her seat. He began to get up and leave.

“Wait.”

Mountbatten noticed that Naima spoke in a slower and softer tone than usual, the result of forfeiting, “I’ll talk.”

- -


4 PM

“Good work Agents Chavez and Zhang, you’re dismissed,” Chief Kyung gestured the two junior agents to leave her office.

Lieutenants Nikos and Paris, Captain Mountbatten, and Tia remained behind in Chief Kyung’s office for a debrief regarding the sting operation on the thwarted arms sale.

Once Chavez and Zhang left, Kyung shook her head, “A missed opportunity.”

She stood up and looked out the window where it still rained outside, “We missed an opportunity to take him out for good.”

“Well, we did manage to secure the weapons,” Tia noted, “About one hundred and sixty million credits worth was found on the ship. However, according to agents Chavez and Zhang, they saw no sign of De Vries.”

“Maybe she knew,” Kyung observed, “About everything, the yakuza’s betrayal, our appearance.”

Tia nodded, “Unfortunately, the military grade mech was compromised during the operation. The two agents noted that one of Meint’s associates, the woman named Freya in our custody, attempted to use the mech after the yakuza began attacking. De Vries left a localized disruptor that tasered Freya and destroyed the unit’s control systems when she tried to power it. It’s useless now.”

“How did Meint slip away?”

Mountbatten looked at Nikos, who spoke, “The ship was, again, a comm dead zone. He and his people probably had a VTOL awaiting to get off.”

“And you didn’t think to secure the fly zone around the ship?”

Nikos cleared her throat, “That…was an oversight on our part.”

Tia felt the pause and spoke, “From the report, the two field agents acquired Meint’s trust by impersonating as members of the ERL. They managed to secure a direct line with him.”

Kyung’s brow raised, perplexed, she turned away from the incessant downpour in front of her. Nikos retrieved the old phone and placed it on the chief’s desk.

“Is this, is this a cellphone?” Kyung picked up the device.

“It’s encrypted, and, Zhang and Chavez note that Meint told them, verbatim, it has a direct line to NT.”

“An encrypted direct?” Kyung glanced at Tia who replied with a single nod, “We should have learned from our previous encounter with Meint and should have been prepared for the comm lock. We could have sent those two into a death trap.”

“Their quick thinking saved them,” Mountbatten offered.

Kyung’s eyes shifted to Mountbatten, “Quick thinking should be a last resort only after all the prepared options have been exhausted. It’s clear that we didn’t plan this out too well.”

“But we don’t have much to spare given the continued riots in the east side,” Alexandra said.

“What about the Ishimuras? Is it safe to assume that she has crossed them off her list of clients?” Mountbatten asked.

“She won’t. She’s a profiteer,” Kyung replied, “When Akihiko double crossed the other two, he was representing himself, not Masumi. Masumi must have already removed Akihiko from the family already.”

“Any reason Akihiko would go rogue?” Alexandra asked.

“We can find out,” Kyung paused, “When dealing with the criminal underworld, all factors are variable. I thought that all of you would know that by now."

She glanced at each of them, “Zhang is keeping that phone, he’s to maintain a line with NT and report constantly to whoever is handling him about the next operation or sale. We need details so we can prepare accordingly this time. I’ll divert resources the next time Meint shows up. For now, Zhang is to keep this cover until it’s blown. Miss St. Cloud, see if you and the other specialists can’t find a way to trace the phone.”

Tia nodded.

“Back to work people,” Kyung resumed her place at her desk, “Captain Mountbatten, I need to speak with you.”

Mountbatten stayed behind as everyone left.

“Yes, Chief?”

“I have a person that I want you to look into. One of our agents working undercover for the Jade Tigers triad has gone silent. I need you to have somebody look into that.”

“You don’t think this might be related to the Bernard Choi case, do you?”

“Most likely, we’ve learned that Choi was heavily involved with the gangers in the east side. One of the sections of the Jade Tigers was probably working with him to distribute the YX7.”

“I’ll have someone on it then,” Mountbatten said.

“I’ll send you and Tia the files.”

- -


8 PM

Mountbatten sat in his office with a cup of tea as he reviewed the assessments pouring in regarding the Nansoko and Legrand murders on his paper-thin monitor. He activated his augmented reality systems to extrapolate the screen to the side and began sifting through what Emmett wrote. The fact that the two high-profile murders could be conjoined made him pause on his next sip of tea. He would have massaged his forehead but massaging chrome did no good for anyone.

Alexandra walked in just as he felt the need to shut off the screens.

“Have you seen that guy?” she asked.

“Which one?” Mountbatten perked up, he set the tea aside to let it cool, not that it mattered.

“Mangle’s friend. He’s down at the morgue along with Wayne and Barry. The one with the eight arms that looks he’s been scavenging from the East Side or even in the Red Zones.”

“Ah yes, Mr. Torinson. An amiable chap. He’s a civilian specialist brought in to assist with Detective Tigron’s investigation into the Legrand murder,” Mountbatten paused before he added, “He’s rather knowledgeable at what he does, but, yes, they’re a rather odd family. Something unappealing about the metal jaw though…”

“Wait ‘till the baby showers.”

“Indeed, I was told that Mr. Legrand refused the detective’s request for access to his brother’s body. Though I believe Miss St. Cloud will have already received a warrant from the court and sent it to Tigron.”

“You think Legrand could be a suspect?”

“Possibly. Though, he seems hardly the type to waste millions on a full-body replacement only to let it go to waste. I wouldn’t consider myself too premature to say there was some semblance of family there.”

“And the Nansoko lead?”

“Thanks to C.K. We know the assassin is female.”

“The younger brother of a politician and the heir to a megacorporation fortune. Seems rather…coincidental. You think it’s by the same person?”

“Tia believes so, given the timespans. The murderer may have struck Legrand first before moving to the penthouse. We’ve seen that our suspect has more than enough at her disposal to elude capture. If that’s true, then we can bet that she was able to cover that distance in a short amount of time.”

Alexandra nodded and began to leave.

“Also, I’ve been told that the coffee we get is shit,” Mountbatten added just as she walked out.

“The coffee we get is always shit,” Alexandra returned, “But you never drink it, so what’s it to you?”

“Do you drink it?”

Alexandra laughed at the comment as she left. Mountbatten ‘blinked.’

- - - -


10 PM

Cael Meint reclined in the cabin of an unmarked VTOL that would head out into the Pacific before circling back around onto the West Coast to avoid pursuit by any police or military forces of Lumaire. The sale was neutral territory for all underground organizations. He often expressed the fact that NTS was an organization that only sought to promote Earth’s interests peacefully, and that it was in no way criminal. Yet, sometimes words needed the backing of guns to be heard. NTS had no issues with the yakuza, each group took care of their own territory, yakuza was interested in business and NTS was in politics. Both needed weapons, so the sudden attack forced him to probe into their relationship with yakuza.

He glanced at his shoulder where he’d been shot and scoffed. He stretched his neck and heard a few pops. One of his henchmen offered him a flask, which he took a swig from without refusal. Another NT henchmen then came across the cabin with a phone. Meint barely noticed it vibrating due to the rain outside, but he grabbed it and opened it.

“Hello?”

“Cael,” a voice, smooth like leather, reached his ear.

“Zora,” he grunted, “That was a compelling stunt you pulled back there.”

“Which part darling? The mech or the yakuza?”

Meint remained silent before responding, “Give me one fucking reason I shouldn’t come blow your brains out now.”

“You’ll need to find me first.”

“I’ll torch your operations then. Those aren’t too hard to find. I’ve got people in Tukana ready at a moment’s notice.”

“Cael darling, I promise you that I had no idea that Akihiko would try something like that.”

“Empty promises. Several of my people died protecting your merchandise, and this entire time you were nowhere to be found. Explain to me how the fuck that works,” Meint paused, “You knew, didn’t you?”

“Not about Akihiko, nobody did, but I knew about the LSP.”

“LSP?”

“Somebody tipped them off to our little sale. At least, that’s what a birdie told me. You can understand why I had to leave. They’ve confiscated a lot of my stuff, so we’ve both lost some assets today.”

Meint remained silent, “You didn’t bother telling me?”

“I had other business to take care of, and I’m sure my precious Cael Meint had already planned a way out for himself. Besides, I’m still willing to sell to you. As far as I know, Masumi Ishimura has cut Akihiko out of the picture.”

“Really? What the fuck is the situation there?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. Can we just all pretend that we’re still on relatively good terms…?”

Meint laughed, “I’ll consider it.”

“I was also going to ask about those two uninvited guests…”

Meint had forgotten about his new ‘friends’. He closed the phone.

He looked at one of his subordinates, “So they captured Freya huh?”

The underling nodded. Meint took a deep breath and then screamed and slammed a fist into a bulkhead.

Then he inhaled again and spoke in a calm voice that registered just above a whisper, “Get me an ID on that Fyodor Bryusov character, I want to know for sure if he’s actually ERL. I want to know who his brothers and sisters are. I want to know who his parents are. I want to know if he has parents. I want to know if he has friends. I want to know every fuckin’ thing there is to know about comrade Fyodor,” Meint paused to take a breath, “And I want to know who the fuck is our in-person with the LSP.”

- - - -


August 9th, 2075

12 AM

East Side


The east and north-east side of Lumaire were formerly large residential and business districts. When the massive acid rain storm hit in 2067, rendering most of the city damaged and in need of reconstruction, megacorporations Nansoko and Hayworth stepped in and funded reconstruction. They practically rebuilt the city with their own personnel, equipment, and capital in exchange for a hand in leading the city. Five out of the twenty-five Lumaire assembly members were former board members in both conglomerates, while another thirteen members were in their pockets.

Eight years later, the east and north east remain a large stack of black skyscrapers as construction slowed down. Husks of buildings littered the landscape that, from a bird’s eye view, looked like a trashed silicone chip. It resembled a town just a year into the Great War with its many empty sidewalks and abandoned restaurants. It would be several more years before this part of Lumaire would see peopled sidewalks and lights again. Bits and scraps of paper and metal scattered across the ground.

Scavengers still ventured into the old city in search of goods hoping they could refurbish and spin on the market for a price higher than the actual value. Only a few knew that the old city was a playground for the corporations.

An LSP squad car sat at one of the old street corners.

“Dispatch to B-2, are you in position?”

“This is B-2 to dispatch, in position…and bored,” Corporal Gafarov remarked over the comms chatter.

He reclined his head and popped a mint as the rain tapped the windows.

“Just hold position.”

“This night shift is killin’…shit, the sarge chewed my ass over that fragged Nansoko.”

“Count the stars that you’re not the one makin’ a deposit at the body bank.”

“Heh.”

After a long time, “Hey Nico.”

“What?”

“What did the boss say about the drugs?”

The dispatcher’s voice lowered, “I heard MCU staged a raid on the YX7 lab. We’re startin’ from scratch now since they captured Choi.”

“Who’s Choi again?”

“The cooker. Until we can find another guy, we gotta be selling this shit for higher.”

“It’s jus-” Gafarov noticed some cars and bikes pull up next to his, “Oh, I think they’re here.”

Their low beam lights lanced through the rain, but several of the doors popped open. An assortment of tattooed and augmented men and women stepped out from the cars or off their bikes.

Gafarov stepped out of his squad car, and he approached who he assumed to be the leader. The Asian man had thick eyebrows. His facial hair consisted of a groomed goatee and a mustache that looked like a pair of toothpicks. He wore a wife beater and many tiger tattoos ran across his neck and bare forearms, which were no doubt augmented with nano-fibre muscle grafts. His left eye had been replaced by a white ball. He stood at the front of the group and narrowed his eyes at Gafarov as he approached him.

“Are you, are you Lucky Lin?” Gafarov asked.

“Where’s Nico?”

“Nico couldn’t make it here tonight. I’m takin’ his place. The name’s Ivan,” Gafarov extended his hand.

Lin glanced at the hand and walked past Gafarov to the car, “Where the drugs, gaijin?”

Gafarov nodded to his car, “In the trunk.”

Lin’s brow raised, he glanced back at one of his underlings. The man pulled up a submachine gun and pointed it at Gafarov, who shot his hands up in the air. The man was a bigger Asian, he probably could have been a sumo fighter in one of the Diamond boulevard casinos.

“Whoa hey man, I’m just tryin’ to make some money.”

“’Make some money,’” Lin mocked and he looked at the others and laughed.

His underlings laughed with him.

“If you wanna talk to Nico, he’s on the line,” Gafarov pointed into his car’s comm unit.

Lin glanced at Gafarov and shook his head at his underling aiming the submachine gun at Gafarov’s temple. The cop went inside the car and tapped several keys.

“Hey Nico, it’s me, is this a secure channel?”

A brief pause on the other end, “Yeah.”

“Hey, Lucky Lin’s here,” Gafarov gestured for the ganger to come.

“Lucky Lin? You there?” Nico asked.

“Nico?” Lin gave Gafarov the glaring side-eye.

“Lin, buddy, how’s it goin’ man?”

“I don’t got time for this ji-ral man. What’s the deal lettin’ this kid come into our business?”

“He’s a protégé Lin, take it easy on him.”

“Protégé? Ain’t that fancy. A’ight how much you got?” Lin glanced at Gafarov.

Gafarov cleared his throat, “Forty-five kilos, tell him Nico.”

“Listen Lin, you heard about the shit that happened with Choi. This is the last batch of YX7. He got it out before they arrested him.”

“Yeah I heard. Word on the street the LSP sent some gato to clean out the place. Burned it to the ground. You wanna tell me why we didn’t get a heads up on that?”

“I’m little lower on the pole man. What do you want me to say?”

“I want you to fuckin’ tell me why the fuck Bakhtin is dead.”

“Bakhtin’s dead…?”

Gafarov looked at Lucky Lin who still glared at him. He wanted to know who Bakthin was, why he was dead, and what that meant for him. If they killed him here, no one would know. He felt in over his head.

Nico spoke after a long awkward silence, “Jesus…look man, I had no idea who they were gonna send, but I know it was some guy from the MCU.”

“So, the les keufs want to start a war with the gangs. That’s fine. They about to get burnt.”

“I don’t know what to tell you man.”

Lin let out a long sigh and looked at his fellow gangers then at the Lumaire skyline in the distance beyond the dump of the east side then he turned to Gafarov, “A’ight, how much you sellin’ for?”

- - - -


8:15 AM

LSP Headquarters


Tia floated in midair as she watched the waterfall flow upward. The droplets congealed in mercury and started to form blobs and spheres and the flow soon stopped. She sat within an empty room except for a few masked geishas that came in and out to serve tasteless tea. Before her she scrolled down a list of screens until she reached the room she needed to be in. She entered a given passcode.

Upon entry, a familiar face greeted her.

“Elise?” Tia’s voice curved upward.

The familiar face belonged to a person, a woman, named Elise, whom Tia had met on the Net years ago. They used to work together as hackers even though neither had met the other personally. They had a certain kind of friendship that only existed on the Net. Tia’s familiarity rested with Elise’s avatar, a blue geisha with blue hair that flowed upward like the water. Tia’s own avatar resembled a woman in skin tight black leather and a pair of mirror shades over her eyes.

“It’s been awhile Tia. How’s it going girl?”

“Good. I’m doing…good.”

Neither ever tried to breach the other’s systems to reveal their identity. At least, that was their unspoken agreement for a long time.

“I see you’ve done some reforming. Servant of the public good now. Impressive. Never thought I’d see the day.”

Tia chuckled, “Neither did I. I thought we agreed to never…”

“I know,” Elise paused, “Things are changing on my end too. I guess…”

“Yeah? Like what?”

“I’ve retired from that life as well. Sometimes it makes me wonder what’s real and what’s not. I haven’t been part of the world in such a long time,” Elise paused, “It’s nice seeing you again Tia. I’m sure this isn’t the last time. You might be seeing me more often, actually.”

“Why’s-”

“Tia?”

A voice interrupted Tia’s concentration, and then she realized Elise had logged. Tia decided to jack herself out of the system. She looked up at Alexandra with a pair of doe eyes.

“I know you were having a little moment there, but we need to get this morning briefing under way.”

“Yes ma’am.”

She looked back at the screen and sighed.

- -


A moment later in Mountbatten’s office, Tia stood with an array of screens before her while Mountbatten and Alexandra watched.

“We’re waiting on what Emmett finds at the morgue. Apparently, there’s a piece of Sans Limites hardware that was found in one of the bodies. It might be something since neither Legrand nor the Nansoko’s bodies were manufactured by SL.”

“Send that to Detective Tigron,” Mountbatten ordered.

“Benny and Cha Cha are still on the loose, but beyond that, things are quiet except for the riots.”

“And also the undercover?”

“Right,” Tia had almost forgotten.

Alexandra’s eyes darted between the two of them, “Undercover?”

“For months now, Chief Kyung has had an officer, Tycho Ren, infiltrate the Jade Tigers triad. He’s gone dark.”

- - - -



Omega41 187: Dead Rich Boys (Cont.)


The investigation into the Damien Legrand murder continues, but has expanded to incorporate the recent Abikiwe Nansoko homicide as well. Things will certainly get dicey with these politics. Regardless, you must continue as you have. While I am inclined to believe that the female cyborg assassin is our best suspect, I understand that you are approaching the investigation from another angle. Barry has informed me of a possible connection to Sans Limites. Continue as you have Detective Tigron and continue to update us on your progress.

- Mountbatten


Contact

Target – Tycho Ren

Information –

For a long time, maybe the span of three months, we’ve had an undercover agent embedded with the Jade Tigers triad.

The Jade Tigers are just one among the many prominent triad organizations operating in Lumaire. Their main is in Xin Aomen, but they’ve got branches throughout the world. They deal in many illegal activities from arms trafficking to prostitution to drugs. Sometimes, they work with the other triads, which turns things very ugly, sometimes.

Our man on the inside is a Tycho Ren, who goes by the alias of Serpent. His familiarity with the Tigers and his middle of the road appearance allowed him to blend in. Problem is he’s gone dark. No status reports in over a month. Undercovers are very unique people because of their situation. The chief fears that he might have embraced the criminal lifestyle since it leads to sex, money, and cars as opposed to being, well, an upright officer.

Now, Tycho’s a bit of a hot-shot, but this isn’t his first rodeo. He also underwent a rigorous series of psych evals and investigations before he started. He’s shown that he’s a stable, self-aware guy, who’s not out of his depth, yet.

It’s possible that his situation has turned very delicate right now, which is why he can’t have a direct contact with us. So that means we need to come to him.

The Jade Tigers operate near the port district, where they have a few warehouses. That’s where you’ll most likely find Tycho.

Recommended Agents – 1.

- Tia Marie St. Cloud


Dynamic Duo

Target – Benny and Cha Cha Dominguez

Information –

Benny and Cha Cha Dominguez are wanted for murder. The cameras pretty much caught all the action in the south-east side when they gunned down a man named Danny Leitch. They didn’t even bother hiding it, but they quickly figured out the deep shit they were in. They head a small gang in the 8th’s southerly neighborhoods called the Rabbits. They’ve been at this since they were in their teens. Their gang runs a protection racketeer on the residents living in that area.

We put up a warrant for their arrest and a small private recovery firm, aka bounty hunters, called Pfeiffer’s Seven managed to arrest the two. Unfortunately, the Dominguez siblings didn’t remain in their custody for long. While the bounty hunters were waiting for an LSP extraction veet to take Benny and Cha Cha in for processing, the Rabbits struck and killed several of the recovery agents. Benny and Cha Cha escaped and went into hiding.

So now they’re wanted for more than just one count of murder.

You’ll know it’s them when you see the colorful attire and hair, that’s just how they roll. Bring in Benny and Cha Cha alive.

Recommended Agents – 1.

- Tia Marie St. Cloud

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Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron

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5487 Anderson Street, #32

kzzt-hsss-pop

“-plosions and gunfire man! It was like nothing I hadn’t seen...well since the red zone anyways.”

“I know the situation must have been terrifying, but were you able to get a closer look at any of the combatants?”

“Fuck that man! You hear gunfire, you run in the opposite direction. Curiosity kills man, that’s why I don’t ask questions.”

“Fair enough, we thank you for the limited information you’ve been able to grant us today caller. For those of you just tuning in, just a heads up to stay away from the Port District if you can. We’re getting several reports of mass gunfire, explosions, and more than enough criminal activity to make even the hardiest people second guess going there. This is Ricky Two Fingers, talking your way through the morning.”

Yet another morning, yet another routine, yet another gaze out of his balcony over the sprawling landscape of Lumaire City. Despite things being the same, Emmett had noticeable bags under his eyes and a distinct slump to his usual posture. He was tired, he had spent a good portion of last night looking over everything he could about the case, including the murders from before Legrand and Nansoko. As he peered back in at his coffee table, the news detailing even more information about the Port District operation, it was covered in electronic pads and even old fashioned paper. He was scrounging, and he hated it when he started to scrounge. He needed to take a step back, needed to understand something. He knew the information was there, there was a link, but where was it?

“Messages?” Emmett asked as he wandered back into his apartment.

“Personal: 0. Business 8, 1 High Priority.” Emmett took another sip of his coffee as he listened to his answering machine VI.

“Read the High Priority.” Upon hearing the contents, Emmett immediately chastized himself for being so focused and completely useless last night that he didn’t pick up on this. Not even bothering to put away his coffee, he dropped it where he stood and bolted for his coat and gear. Even as he did so, he could hear a portion of the wall open up for the little cleaning bots to exit and get to work. He had to move fast, Mathieu Legrand was influential, and if a warrant went through the system, he would know about it. Which means Emmett had to move fast enough to grab the body before Mathieu could do something to stop him.

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck!” Emmett yelled as he nearly broke his door down, still struggling to get his shoe on as he half ran, half stumbled to the elevator.




7:39 am
The House of God, The Ulan Cathedral


After a quick info session with Tia, and more than enough traffic issues to take ten years off of Emmett’s life, he arrived at his destination. Even as he approached, his energy started to leave him as he couldn’t find a parking spot. Limo after Limo, sports car after sports car littered every available space in front of the Church. Was he too late? “God Fuck...Fuck it!” Emmett stated, slamming on the brakes and parking in the middle of the street, his windshields broadcasting ‘Police Emergency’ in bright red letters. He pulled out his phone, making sure the warrant was clear and visible on the screen before running up the steps to the church.

The building itself was an impressive feat of engineering, easily 4 stories tall, although there weren't 4 floors if Emmett's memory served him right, and reminiscent of the gothic architecture used in the middle ages. Everything, of course, was made of gleaming metal. Not necessarily gold, but it was polished to such a high degree that looking at it from a certain angle lended one to believe that it was. Towers and arches decorated the entire frontal frame of the building, and even the stairs leading up to the door had been painted. Granted, they were painted to represent the souls of the damned, so that the true and pious would step upon them to elevate to the level of Heaven, but they were still done with an artistic vision that was impressive to behold.

The door was massive, trying to capture even a minor piece of what the gates of St. Peter would look like, even if these metal constructs were more of a barricade than any kind of gate that Emmett could think of. In front of the door were 4 security bots, decked out to shine as bright as the sun and armed with retractable blades instead of outwardly visible weapons. Windows on either side of the door, painted glass, displayed images of Jesus’s sacrifice, Abraham and his son and many other stories from the coveted bible. Granted, these were all simply for aesthetic, as behind them were metal shutters that could effectively turn this entire building into a bunker.

To top it all off, the Church had nearly a block of private property, with a long driveway and well kept grounds. Gates, fences, and secretly armed security bots patrolled the perimeter. In many ways, they were more military than the Lumaire armed forces, they just had a nicer lawn. As Emmett continued to stew on the hypocrisy of the entire place, the two security bots guarding the door stepped forward. They were donned in ceremonial robes that hid everything but their elongated heads.

“Are you lost my child?” One of the robots asked, it’s voice and speech patterns configured to sound like preachers. This was one of the few times that Emmett tapped his wrist and revealed his electronic badge as opposed to his more physical one. While the LCPD bots were configured to recognize both, not all models did. The bots stopped for a second, almost like they were asking permission from someone. “Detective Emmett Tigron, MCU. You have been granted access.”

The massive doors opened slowly, much too slowly for Emmett who sneaked inside as soon as the room allowed. Inside was even a gaudier display than outside. Murals covered every visible area, admittedly painted with a skill that far surpassed anything Emmett could hope to do in ten lifetimes, but they all represented the same thing. A fealty to the Almighty, praise for the faithful and damnation for the sinners. Massive stone columns supported the arching roof as the immediate entrance lead to another set of doors. From that door, two hallways split off to each side, most likely leading to the Priest and Preacher quarters, and the other...maybe some kind of confessional? The big doors going straight though, that was where the ceremony was taking place.

In front of the door, replacing the security bots outside, were two rather big looking men donned in black clothing with white collars. White cufflinks adorned their wrists, and a cross tattoo was placed on the front of their throats.

*Confessioners.

Men who had done wrong in their life, vowed to find god and redeem themselves, they have since dedicated themselves to the service of the Church and their faithful. It also meant that the Church employed criminals by “trying to help them find God”. Emmett wandered forward, and as expected, was stopped at the door by one of the bulky men. Now that he was closer, Emmett saw a very visible size difference of at least a head. They didn’t appear to be augmented, so he had to assume some kind of steroid or genetic modification. Their grey eyes and shaved heads did not give the impression of the kind church experience the Pope often tried to convey to the masses.

“Detective.” One of the Confessioners stated. “State your business.” Emmett grabbed his phone, shoving it forward so that the guard could see it.

“I have a warrant for Damien Legrand’s body. It is to be released into my custody now.” The Confessioner read the warrant slightly before bringing two meaty fingers up to his throat. So there were a couple of augmentations at least. He spoke without any volume, but the way those radios worked was by translating the vibrations caused in the throat via the act, or in this case, the pretense of speaking. They allowed one to convey a message without any volume, good for having private conversations or remaining concealed.

“One moment Detective, Father Kannan and Mr. Legrand are coming to meet you now.” Emmett grimaced as he realized what was going on. Naturally, he would have thought about this if he hadn’t rushed here so fast as to nearly forget his own damn underwear. The doors opened behind the Confessioners, and from the glimpse that Emmett managed to glean from the opening, the entire area was packed with people talking in hushed whispers. It seemed like he had managed to beat the start of the event.

Father Kannan exited the room, donned in his ceremonial robes and massive pointy hat. White with gold trim and a fake, or at the very least Emmett hoped it was fake, ruby dead center in the middle of his hat. Kannan himself was older, at the very least late sixties, with graying hair easily seen under the folds of his extravagant head piece. His face was clean shaven and clear of any augmentations. He strode forward with a purpose and determination that bordered on arrogance as his eyes pierced through Emmett as if he wasn’t even there. Behind him walked Mathieu Legrand, looking as suave as always save that he now wore a black suit most likely custom made for the occasion. Honestly, Emmett had a hard time not launching into a tirade of how gaudy and hypocritical this entire thing was, but right now he needed that body.

“Detective Tigron.” Mathieu started, his voice light and indicating a sense of ‘victory’ even if his lips didn’t curl into a smile. “I understand you have a warrant for my brother’s body?” It was phrased like a question, but Emmett could read between the lines. Mathieu had found out about it, and had moved up the procession to block Emmett’s access.

“As I understood it, your brother’s funeral wasn’t for a few days yet.” Emmett stated, calling Mathieu out on his little sly action. “Why move it up so quickly?”

“Changing circumstances required my schedule accommodate a...new variable.” Mathieu stated, his hands clasped behind him as his augmented eyes whizzed in and out like they were contracting.

“It just means that I’ll have to take your brother’s body in front of all these grieving people Mr. Legrand.” Emmett stated, holding up the phone so that they could both read it. Instead, neither Mathieu or Father Kannan looked at it.

“Detective, I’m sure you’re aware of the Religious Bastion act, passed by the Assembly with the consideration of Church and State?” Father Kannan stated, and immediately Emmett paused.

He had been so worried about getting here before the procession started that he made a fatal mistake.

Religious buildings were considered embassies of their respective organizations. Essentially, that meant that Holy Ground doubled as new territory. It meant that Emmett had no power here, it meant that the warrant had no power here. He needed a new strategy, he needed a better way to handle this. God damn it, how could he have made such a rookie mistake?! FUCK!

“Judging by your silence, I assumed you just remembered it, correct?” Father Kannan continued. His voice was smooth, most likely from years of practice, and rolled off his tongue like freshly melted butter. “It means that Damien Legrand, a brother of the faithful and son of God shall be put to rest as our customs demand.”

Emmett lowered his phone, his eyes darting back and forth as he attempted to piece something together, slowly coming up with a plan as he took a deep breath. “I am aware of the Religious Bastion act Father.” Emmett stated, his eyes peering both into the religious figurehead and the Assembly member who adamantly stood in his way. “I am also aware that your territorial and religious freedom doesn’t make you exempt from Lumaire’s law.”

“The wording states that we cannot willingly and knowingly harbor a criminal of Lumaire city.” Father Kannan continued. “Nor can any criminal acts that would fall under Lumaire City’s laws be committed in the House of our Lord. There are many other snippets I could paraphrase for you Detective, but ultimately a warrant asking for a dead body who has already been prepared and is minutes away from saying goodbye to his loved ones for the last time doesn’t fall under any obligations that we have to fulfill.”

The Priest had him over a barrel.

“You’re right.” Emmett stated, realizing that he was going to have to get dirty for this one. “And I have no jurisdiction under this roof or on your grounds.” Emmett replaced his phone into his pocket, pulling out his electronic pad. “That being said…” Emmett started flicking through some records on his tablet, tapping it a couple of times. “Cooperating with the MCU would be in your best interest.”

“How so?” Kannan asked, his eyebrow raised.

“Well, I realize that you like to keep a clean neighborhood, and ultimately since your security bots started patrolling the streets around your cathedral, crime in this area has gone down.” Emmett looked up. “But that’s not the only thing keeping the dirt and grime of this city away from the sparkling jewel that you call God’s house.” Emmett flicked through some more records.

“According to this, there are two gangs near here that are currently in a ceasefire agreement over a territorial dispute...If they were to suddenly start shooting up the place, the bloodshed would easily make its way here.”

“Our security would make short work of them.” Father Kannan stated, earning a ‘tsk tsk tsk’ from Emmett.

“Your security isn’t allowed to do a damn thing unless they either directly attack one of your own or move the fighting onto your territory. They could literally be shooting at each other across the street, and any engagement from your forces would nullify your territorial status.” Emmett looked up, his face made of stone and his gaze cold. “It would be very hard for your faithful to get to church through the middle of a gang war.”

“But they’re in a ceasefire, are you saying you plan to instigate a war just to get a body?” Kannan spoke, but Emmett could see the vein starting to pulse in Mathieu’s jaw.

“No, I would never do something like that, but I would pull the blues from the area to a more...suitable position.” Emmett tapped his pad a second time. “I should mention that the only reason that they even agreed to a ceasefire is because we upped the police presence in this sector.”

“You’re bluffing.” Mathieu stated, his eyes trying to tear Emmett apart in every way possible. Emmett gave a shrug.

“Maybe I am, or maybe I know how to manipulate my system...just like you know how to manipulate yours.” Emmett said, putting away his tablet and clasping his hands in front of him. Honestly, he didn’t like to resort to what was essentially ‘bullying’ to get his way. It never created lasting relationships with potential information sources, and typically only ever worked once. If he was to catch this cybernetic assassin though, he would need all the information he could get. Father Kannan glared at Emmett.

“Threatening people of faith Detective? Isn’t that a little low, even for the esteemed MCU?”

“Not particularly.” Emmett said rather flatly, giving a shrug as he did so. There was a moment of silence between them before Father Kannan relented.

“You may have the body.” He stated, holding up a finger to silence both Emmett and Mathieu. “After the ceremony. These people are here to say their goodbyes and I will not take that from them.” Emmett realized that this was as close as he was going to get. Even at that though, Mathieu turned to the Priest.

“Father, you can’t be serious. What he’d be doing is essentially desecration, especially after the ceremony.”

“As influential and powerful as you are son…” Father Kannan stated. “I did not get here because I blindly followed faith, it guided me but I made my own decisions. This is not a battle I wish to wage, for there would be no winners.” The Priest was right about this one. Emmett didn’t want to make the call to basically allow a gang war to happen, and to be honest, he doubted he could have done it. Luckily the Priest didn’t seem to understand how little pull Emmett had at the office. Father Kannan continued, looking back over at Emmett. “The entire ceremony will take 4 hours. You may return at the end to collect Damien.”

“Much appreciated Father.” Emmett gave a small bow. He was going to have to wait, but ultimately in this situation, the Priest trumped the Assembly member. Father Kannan gave a small bow and turned on his heel to enter the hall once more. Mathieu waited for the Priest to leave before stepping in closer to Emmett, his face slowly filling with rage.

“I didn’t rebuild my brother and watch him die twice just so you could carve him up like a turkey.” Mathieu stated, his teeth grating against each other. “The MCU didn’t do a good enough job the first time, so now my brother’s eternal soul has to pay the price? You may not have done anything ‘wrong’ in the grand scheme of Lumaire’s judicial system Detective, but I guarantee that you made a powerful enemy here today.”

“Funny.” Emmett stated, taking a step back so he wasn’t in kissing distance of the man. “Here I thought you would be more concerned about catching whoever did this to your brother, and less worried about how his death would look on paper or a tombstone.” Emmett said coldly before grabbing his jacket and giving it a slight fluff. “Besides Mr. Legrand, I’m paid to catch criminals, not make friends. If you want to be my enemy, that’s fine by me, you can get behind the rapists, murderers, drug dealers and gang bangers.” Having said that, he turned on his heel and exited the church. He had won this round, barely and with more than a few metaphorical scratches. Not to mention that after this, unless he caught the killer quickly and brought them down hard, Legrand would make his life a living hell. He had enough connections to catch the warrant in transit and start the funeral before he got there. Emmett rubbed his face, realizing he was suffering from a massive coffee deficiency as he got back into his car.




8:02am
The Lumaire 12th Intercity Highway


A soft tune played over the radio as the car automatically followed the path assigned to it over the highway, blazing past the scenery at well over eighty miles an hour. Emmett sat slightly reclined in the driver’s seat, although calling it that at this point was a bit of a misnomer. When all he required was simple transit such as this, the automatic systems built into all the cars and the arterial streets through Lumaire was enough to get by. A hot cup of coffee was held in one hand while his windshield displayed more information about the murders he had been investigating. A possible Sans Limites connection? The fact that it was found in only one of the bodies lead Emmett to believe that it may be just a coincidence, but still, he would have to check it out further still. For the moment, the drive to his office was more than enough time to run through his notes once again, even if he felt like surveying them felt like drilling nine inch screws into his eyes.

At least he had managed to stop for coffee, his little piece of bliss in an otherwise cruel world that tried to rob him of the small joys in life. He took a sip from it, and enjoyed the molten liquid far more than any man really had the liberty to do. He flicked through a couple of the files again, reading the same lines that he had read nights before, that had made him pass out at home just the previous one. Even with the caffeine kicking into his system, he could feel his attention starting to drift. Whatever the connection was, he couldn’t see it.

It was around this time that his phone started going off. The windshield reflected the caller; Barry Mangle. Emmett sat up, placing his coffee in a cup holder and tapping the earpiece on the side of his face. “This is Emmett, you have something for me?”

“Tell me you have the body!”

“Damien? No, the Church stonewalled me, but I managed to ta-”

“The Church has it?! Emmett, you need to get that body or those people out of there now!” Emmett sat up a bit straighter.

“Barry, what is it?”

“The liver...Cory believes it was meant to be a bomb. She didn’t manage to finish it, but if he’s right…” Emmett didn’t bother saying anything to the rhetorical drop off question as he grabbed manual control of his car. He flipped a switch which turned on the sirens for his vehicle as he slammed on the brakes and twisted his car around, forcing it into the opposing lane.

“Stay on the line Barry.” Emmett stated as he tapped his phone twice. “Call Dispatch.”

“Dispatch.”

“Badge number 14G672J7, Detective Tigron.” Emmett started. “I need Tactical, Bomb Squad and Medical to the Ulan Cathedral on 42nd and Janice Street. 10-45*, potential casualties ranging into the hundreds. Alert Captain Mountbatten. I’m on my way, ETA 5 minutes”

“Affirmative Detective, proper channels have been contacted. ETA...10 minutes.” Emmett cut the call, switching back over to Barry.

“Tell me everything you were able to figure out.” This time, it was the Spider who answered.

“Detective! Cool, we got you!” There was a slight cough followed by whirring sounds and some hushed whispers, as if he was trying to squeeze by something. “So, here’s what the sitch is, whatever your girly was trying to do, it wasn’t pleasant. I could tell the moment I got inside that the liver was no longer a liver, in fact it seems like its been gutted and all the components switched out.”

“So she replaced the insides?”

“Correct, a standard examiner wouldn’t bother opening the casing, they would simply see the label and who made it, make an educated guess and keep moving on...especially if they already knew what the cause of death was.”

“What does this mean? How do you know it’s a bomb?”

“Well, let me put it this way Detective...I’ve done a few...things I’m not necessarily proud of.” Emmett didn’t have time for this.

“This is a private call, I promise on my name that everything you say to me is confidential.” There was a brief pause before a sigh could be heard.

“I used to make mines and explosives for radicals out in the red zones, it’s how I managed to get my cybernetics. Long story short, the wiring, proper casing and combination of materials is the perfect amalgamation for making a bomb.”

“Are you in danger?”

“From this little thing? Nah, she never finished. The materials are there, but there’s no trigger. I’ve disabled everything just to be safe.”

“What kind of bomb are w-” Emmett cut himself off as he drove past a couple of people who didn’t understand what a fucking siren meant, wanting to flip them off but not having enough time as he took an off ramp to get back into the main city. “What kind of bomb are we talking about? Clean? Dirty? Shrapnel?”

“Hard to tell, it seems like it was made with the body in mind as opposed to just the actual mechanism. It appears like it would use a concussive force amplified by what appears to be radioactive isotopes to then magnify an explosive force capable of not only shattering the body it’s in, but everything around it.”

“A block Spider? A building? A phone booth?! Talk to me!”

“A building, easy...maybe more if it managed to find more condensed materials to explode outwards, it’s essentially like a pressure cooker.” Emmett’s face went white.

“What about a coffin…”

“Oh...Oh shit, yeah that would do it. Those things are sealed up tight, undoubtedly amplifying the explosion by a factor of…” There was a brief pause as Cory seemed to do the math. “Five? Maybe six?” Emmett’s car drifted around the entrance to the Ulan Cathedral’s grounds, coming to a skidding halt as he barely managed to place it in park before jumping out of the car, the phone call automatically following his ear piece.

“Alright, I’ll take it from here. Make sure your little piece of death is diffused.”

“You go-” Emmett cut off the call, placing another one immediately.

“Tia St. Cloud.” Tia’s voice rang out, professional and somewhat bored sounding.

“Tia, I’m going to need you to hack into something for me in a sec.”

“Uh sure Detective, but what am-”

“Detective.” One of the security bots came forward, placing a hand outwards. “Unfortunately the ceremony has already started and no outside intrusion is allowed. You may come back when the procession is over.”

“Sorry, don’t have time.” Emmett stated as he pulled his pistol and pumped four rounds into the security bot. Before the other one could move, Emmett switched targets and dropped it with another four rounds. Emmett walked to the closer robot, looking over to see the other security bots starting to converge on his location. Instead he holstered his pistol and took out his electronic note pad, pulling a cord from the device and ripping the robes off the robot. With a practiced hand that had dealt with such a situation before, he found the access port and plugged in. “Tia, shut down security.”

“Is this a ch-”

“TIA!” Emmett yelled, knowing that Tia would figure out the urgency if Emmett, of all people, was yelling at her. There was a bit of clicking from her keyboard, and just as the security bots got within fifteen feet of Emmett, they all shut down.

“I’m in. What am I doing?” She asked, her voice calculated as she finally clued in as to the seriousness.

“Opening all the doors, get me inside and let people out.” There was a bit more clicking from her side before the main doors opened.

“Done. Now can I know what this is about?”

“Stay on the line Tia, I might still need your help. You got a feed on me?”

“Cameras, nearest one top right.” Emmett walked inside and looked up, seeing the camera track his movement. “You do realize I’m going to jail for hacking into a religiously protected network, right?”

“And I’m going to jail for assaulting a religious bastion. Just pay attention.” The Confessioners inside appeared to be confused as they looked at Emmett just stroll through the main gate. They started to approach, but suddenly grasped at their throats as small sparks of electricity coursed through their necks. “Appreciated.” Emmett stated as he strolled by into the massive hall.

Pews covered the entire hall, row upon row of people sat in them and all of them were slowly starting to realize the interruption to the ceremony. At the front was an elevated podium that looked more at home in an assembly hall than a Church. At the top stood Father Kannan, who stopped mid-sentence to glare at the Detective with an anger and fury usually reserved for drugged up desperate assholes. “Detective…” Father Kannan managed to get out, still standing in front of everyone. “How...DARE YOU! Do you realize what you’ve done! You yourself have broken half a dozen laws just walking in here the way you ha-”

“Right, and I wouldn’t do that unless I was desperate.” Emmett stated, tapping his wrist and showing his badge to the entire congregation. “Detective Tigron of the MCU, there is a bomb in this building and I need you to evacuate immediately.”

“No!” Mathieu Legrand stated, standing up from his position at the front of the hall, in one of the first pews before the podium. “You seriously couldn’t wait four hours to get at my brother?! You’re going to pull this stunt! I will see you fired! No, I will see you destroyed! Your entire life is going to go up in flames for this!”

“We’re all going up in flames unless you get the fuck out!” Emmett stated, looking at the coffin and noticing the closed hatch. The mutilation, it served a double purpose, camouflage and planned placement of the explosive, it ensured a closed casket funeral...a massive pressure cooker. Everyone seemed to stare at each other, and while Mathieu seemed to be so filled with anger that he wanted to stay no matter what, Father Kannan looked at Emmett for a second before softening his posture.

“My children, please, leave your seats and exit the building.”

“Father!” Mathieu exclaimed, looking back at the Priest.

“If he’s wrong, then he will be judged and found wanting.” Father Kannan stated, stepping down from his elevated position. “But if he is right, I will not meet our creator having died from the sin of pride and arrogance.” Father Kannan stepped up to Mathieu, placing a hand on his shoulder to which he was promptly brushed off.

“No! I...I can’t! I will not let my brother burn a third time! This is a hoax, and he…” Mathieu pointed back at Emmett...but Emmett wasn’t there any more. “Where…?” Suddenly Mathieu’s body started to convulse before he fell limp, caught by Emmett who quickly placed the taser into his pocket.

“Sorry Father, but I really don’t have time for this. EVERYONE! MOVE!” Father Kannan glanced once more at Mathieu before giving a nod running after everyone else. Emmett struggled to carry the weight of the rather hefty Assembly Member, but was making good progress as he double checked to make sure he wasn’t missing anyone. An alarm was sounding...how long had that been going on? Emmett didn’t even remember it starting, but Tia must have triggered it after his little speech. Father Kannan managed to get the Confessioners up and out of the building, as well as a couple more people who had been in other areas of the Church. Emmett got to the front door just as Mathieu seemed to regain consciousness. It wasn’t like the movies, any more time than that and Emmett would have been afraid he had seriously damaged Mathieu’s brain...although the way he was acting would make it seem like Emmett was too late for that.

“What…” Mathieu stated weakly, blinking to regain his sight as Emmett carried him down the stairs. “No, my b-” Before the words could escape his throat, an explosion rang out behind them and threw both Emmett and Mathieu like rag dolls, landing hard on the pavement and going deaf for a couple of seconds. Emmett felt his face against the gravel, grimacing at the scraping as he tried to lift himself off the ground. He could feel the hot blood already starting to drip down his face, undoubtedly from a new gash on his forehead. He looked over through blurred vision to see that Mathieu was also struggling to get to his feet, a little bit of blood also starting to cover him from where his body contacted the ground.

Ringing resounded through Emmett’s ears as he got to all fours and looked back. Sure enough, fire sprouted from several places from what he could see. The windows had all been shattered and black soot covered the outermost edges of the door. From what he could see, the explosion shot out from the door and they had come in just under it. If they had been standing in the door, they would have been engulfed in flames. They were lucky that the Church essentially doubled as a bunker, made with sturdy enough materials to withstand an all out assault. It was probably the only reason the building was still standing. It was only a couple seconds later that an entire fleet of LCPD vehicles showed up, their sirens blaring, or at least that’s what Emmett assumed. His hearing was slowly coming back to him as he managed to get to his feet.

Father Kannan pushed his way to the front of the crowd, his mouth agape and his eyes witnessing what could only be a horrible omen from his point of view. “We have been condemned…” He whispered to himself, his knees starting to shake beneath his robes.

“If that were true, you’d be dead right now.” Emmett stated, standing full only to double over once again as pain shot through his body. Already, EMT’s, LCPD SWAT and Bomb Squad were rushing over to the civilians. A couple of officers ran up to him, recognizing him as the Detective who called in bomb threat.

“Sir, are you ok?”

“Yeah, just a couple scrapes, secure the Church and make sure everyone’s ok.” They both nodded, moving to comply with the orders. Emmett finally managed to stand fully without wanting to double over when his ear filled with enough static to make him twitch to the side.

“EMMETT!” Tia’s voice rang out, causing a brief moment of pain from the volume alone. Emmett held a hand to his ear, even as he subconsciously knew it wouldn’t do anything.

“I’m here.”

“I know that!” Tia stated, obviously not worried about Emmett’s state of being at all. “The bomb, I got something.”

“Such as?”

“It was remotely triggered, I can’t tell the location but it was a short wave transmitter. The suspect has to be within a couple blocks of you right now.” Emmett didn’t waste any time.

“Tactical!” Emmett yelled, grabbing a couple of the officer’s attention as they looked over at him. “I want a 3 block radius locked down! Get me VTOLS, Infra-red and Electromagnetic scans! MOVE! Target may already be on the move!” They gave a quick nod as they set about making calls to get the entire sector locked down. Emmett made to move for the *Oracle before being roughly grabbed from behind.

Upon spinning around, he was met face to face with Mathieu Legrand. “Detective.” There were tears in his eyes as he gripped Emmett’s jacket. “What...the fuck just happened...My little brother…”

“I understand that you’re confused and hurt right now Mr. Legrand.” Emmett stated calmly, now that he had a bit of time to compose himself. “But I can’t help you at the moment, I believe the killer may still be in the vicinity.”

“Killer?!” Mathieu exclaimed, tightening his grip on Emmett. “That Killer murdered...trapped...and then BLEW UP MY BROTHER! FOR WHAT?! TO KILL ME!? TO KILL US!?”

“Mr. Legrand, I have a job to do.” Emmett said, grunting as he tried to get the man to release his hold. The Assembly member was quickly losing whatever clout he had with these people.

“I WANT ANSWERS DETECTIVE!”

“And I want to be able to move!” Emmett said, finally releasing Mathieu’s grip and shoving him away. As soon as he did, he heard something that sounded akin to a ‘click’ and a flash of hot air passed by his face. Emmett looked over to see a small hole with smoke still rising from it. A glimpse later gave him the view of a mangled bullet. “Sniper!” Emmett stated as he tackled Mathieu to the ground, another ‘Click’ ringing out as he felt the heat from the round pass over his back. Emmett pulled Mathieu up and forced him back towards the Church, the closest cover, hearing another click and watching a chunk of the stairs evaporate into rubble. Within a few seconds, he had Mathieu in the cover of the Church as everyone else screamed and ran for cover. Emmett tapped his earpiece once more.

“Tactical! Tell me you have eyes on the shooter.”

“Searching!”
“Negative”
“No sightings!”
“Contact! Fourth floor, third window from the left, apartment building.”
“All units converge!”

“Do not let her escape but proceed with caution.” Emmett said, peering around the corner to see all the SWAT members running towards a particular building. “Suspect is a heavily augmented, heavily armed individual! Take her alive if possible, dead if necessary.”

“Suspect is rabbiting!”

“Do not let her get away!” Emmett yelled as he broke cover for the Oracle. Pushing aside people as he bulldozed his way to the truck, slamming open the doors and closing behind them. Inside were a series of computers and screens as a couple of techs rapidly typed out orders and situational awareness notifications. The screens detailed the point of view of over a dozen officers and they rapidly tried to lock down the suspect. Emmett grinded his teeth, these guys weren’t geared to take on a cyborg of her advancement, they would need mechs for this.

Almost on cue, a VTOL appeared on one of the screens and out jumped 4 MG’s, all boosting in the direction of the target. “This is MG 4th Squadron, Sergeant Tomson reporting. We are Oscar Mike to suspect location.”

“4th Squadron, this is Detective Tigron assuming tactical command from Oracle.” Emmett stated, making sure to establish his authority before they could even bother to ask. “Be advised, suspect is known to have cloaking and EMP producing capabilities.”

“Affirmative Oracle, initiating EMP countermeasures.” Emmett tapped one of the techs on the shoulder, who got the unsaid message. Immediately he synced up 4 of the screens with the cameras from the MG units. They were all practically flying around the blocks, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, scaring the odd civilian who happened to be up there.

“This is Carnigan!” One of the MG units said. “Target located, initiating pursuit.” Emmett looked at Carnigan’s view, and sure enough the assassin could be seen darting through windows of the building.

“Hold position and don’t lose her Carnigan.” Emmett stated. “Tomson, converge your team. You are not to engage her individually, do you understand.”

“Affirmative sir, team is en route.” Within a couple of seconds they had pinned the assassin into a five story building, every way out at the very least being watched by the MG team. They were out of EMP striking range, and had infra-red. If the assassin tried to run, they would know. Emmett immediately went about trying to coordinate some sort of assault, even though this wasn’t exactly his forte. He was the ranking officer in the area, and he had the most knowledge on the suspect. He quickly noted that the VTOL’s callsign was ‘PrimeTime’ before launching into his orders.

“Tac 1 and 2, get into position and lockdown the building. Tac 3, you’re on crowd control. PrimeTime, I need you nearby in case we need to extract wounded. Everyone else, breach and clear. Remember, if possible, I need her alive.” A chorus of ‘Affirmatives’ sounded as each team went about their respective duties. The MG units each took a different floor as a couple of Tac teams breached in from the ground floor. Immediately a sweep started taking place as doors were kicked in and the civilians inside were sent into a panic. Even though the addition of random bystanders getting in the way slowed them down, with the amount of troops Emmett was throwing at it, it didn’t take long to spot the target.

“This is Jorus!” MG unit 3, his screen flashing for a brief moment. “Target attempted EMP, grounded the bitch! She’s on the move for the stairs!” Sure enough, the lithe mechanical figure, caught all in varying shades of red and yellow darted past the unit as he stopped himself to prevent the EMP from shutting down the systems. Grounding was a good tactic in most cases to ensure you remained operational, but it came with the downside of essentially having to act like a statue for a good minute as the electronics in the suit shunted the excess power into the feet and out through the ground, as well as having prior knowledge of the incoming EMP. As she darted into the shaft where the stairs were, she was met with two other units from the MG squad who immediately started following her and firing taser rounds at her. She returned fire in kind, her automatic pistol spewing HV rounds as all three of them fell to the ground floor.

One of the MG units grunted as she twisted backwards, hitting one of the railings and spinning before landing hard on the ground. “Carnigan’s down!” Emmett heard one of the units say as Tomson continued his pursuit of the suspect. She looked as if she was going to run out the front door, where an entire Tac squad sat ready with taser rounds, waiting for a chance to put her down. Instead, she twisted to her right, lowered her shoulder, and completely decimated a wall.

“Target is bulldozing!” Tomson stated as he pushed the jets on his mech to keep up. The assassin’s augments made her fast and incredibly strong it seemed. Emmett could see from Tomson’s cam that she continued her destructive escape by going through the next building, and the next.

“Keep on her Tomson.” Emmett stated. “Jorus, McKenzie, move to intercept.”

“Already on it Oracle.” Jorus replied, a cocky undertone to his voice cutting through the somewhat professional statement.

“This is McKenzie, permission to go tactical?” Emmett looked over at her screen and saw her charging for a wall.

“Permission granted McKenzie.” Emmett stated, knowing he was going to be in so much shit for all this collateral damage. McKenzie charged full speed for the wall and Emmett switched to watching Tomson’s view. From his perspective, Agent McKenzie burst through the wall, stiff arming the assassin to the ground and rolling to a stop several feet away. Almost immediately the assassin was moving as the gun she had in her hand slid away from her grasp. Jorus followed Tomson, running in behind him as they tried to catch up to the group. Suddenly the assassin started pulsing.

“EMP!” McKenzie yelled, causing Tomson and Jorus to stop.

“Ground it!” Tomson yelled as both he and Jorus locked their suits down just as the wave crashed into their systems. McKenzie wasn’t as lucky, considering she was trying to tackle the woman to the ground. Her entire suit started to fail, and even though they had standard EMP protection, this woman was using some kind of powerful omnidirectional reachout system. McKenzie seethed in her suit as essentially she was burned inside her own suit. In an act of either courage or luck, McKenzie fell on top of the assassin, adding roughly half a ton of metal to pin her down. The assassin managed to get her one arm free though, and gripping one of the blades on her back and using flexibility that only augmentations could grant, she sliced off McKenzie’s arm in the middle of her forearm.

Her screams cut into the mic before Tomson cut off her communications himself, pushing his mech to move before the grounding process was complete. Grunts of pain could be heard as his video screen produced a slight amount of static, but the worst of the effect was over as the assassin managed to get free of McKenzie and continue her escape. Tomson bolted past McKenzie in pursuit as Jorus stopped near her. “It’s an aug, go...FUCK!” She shouted. Despite the arm being cybernetic, certain nerve endings needed to be connected to ensure that the limb worked properly. In other words, having it cleaved in half still hurt.

“This isn’t getting us anywhere, her augmentations outpace the mechs.” Emmett whispered to himself. “PrimeTime, pick up Tac-1, marking a location on your map.” Emmett stated, connecting his pad to the Oracle computers, pulling up a map and picking a spot on the map. “4th squad, corral target to marked location.” Affirmatives once again filled his ears as he watched Tomson do a remarkable job of keeping up with the assassin. Despite her agility and speed, Tomson had experience and tenacity. Every shortcut she tried to take, Tomson was a step ahead of her and right on her heels.

“This is PrimeTime.” The pilot interjected Emmett’s thoughts. “Tac-1 is on board and we’re Oscar Mike to location.”

“Affirmative PrimeTime. Tac-1, prep for *heavy metal, how copy?”

“Good Copy Oracle, Tac-1 going heavy metal.” Emmett watched Tomson’s screen once again, witnessing Jorus come flying in from above and nearly tackle the assassin into the ground. He missed, but it served it’s purpose, in order to avoid him she was forced into going towards the Tac-1 team.

“ETA 30 seconds!” Tomson stated, keeping his sights on the assassin. Jorus continued to fire from his wrist mounted machine gun, a couple of the bullets pinging off of the assassin’s armor. Within a few seconds, they entered a small basketball court. It was an open area, and unfortunately would allow the assassin to pick her escape route, luckily that was not the case.

“Tac-1 going heavy metal.” The radio blurted as Emmett saw PrimeTime fly in, true to his namesake. Immediately 4 SWAT members dropped from the VTOL on cords, holding large rods. The assassin looked up, and in the second it took her to register what was happening, it was too late. Tac-1 hit the ground and the rods implanted into the cement. Immediately a blue barrier formed around them. The assassin seemed to know that she was defeated, because her last action before she was blasted with EMP and electricity was to drop her sword. Lightning coursed inside the box, phasing through her as she convulsed and eventually dropped.

“This is Tac-1.” The radio picked up again. “Target is down, I repeat, target is down.” Emmett could see the officers lift up the rods as Tomson quickly ran in and slammed a controller around her neck. Essentially it was like a stylized choker that prevented any electric signals or neural impulses from reaching the suspect’s limbs. It paralyzed them completely, and rendered any and all augmentations useless...if they relied on the user’s conscious input. Emmett let out a sigh as he looked through the rest of the cameras.

“Good work people. Status on Carnigan and McKenzie?”

“Carnigan’s pretty messed up sir, she’s going to need a hospital.” One of the other SWAT members stated, his camera showing her wounds. Her mech suit had taken a large chunk of the damage, but the HV rounds shot right through the armor and blood was flowing freely.

“McKenzie’s fine sir, nothing a little trip to the aug store won’t fix.” Another officer replied, showing McKenzie more pissed off that her limb was cut in half than in actual pain. The benefits of having robotic limbs it seemed. Emmett gave another sigh, this was more excitement than he was used to, being a detective and all, and he was glad it was over.

“Good work people, get the suspect loaded up and back to the MCU. Secure the area and make sure we’re clear of civilian contacts. There was a lot of damage out there, so let’s try to keep any accidental injuries or deaths out of the papers, shall we?” Once again Emmett was met with a chorus of ‘Affirmatives’ as he took his electronic pad back and placed it in his jacket. Emmett took one last look at the screens before walking out of the Oracle. Almost immediately he was assaulted by several people looking for answers, with Mathieu and Father Kannan at the forefront.

“What happened...did you get him?” Mathieu asked, his entire suit dirtied and bloodied from the double attempted homicide on his person. Father Kannan simply looked shocked and unable to process what had happened to his beloved church. Emmett pulled on his jacket a little bit, cracking his neck and being sharply reminded that he was still slightly injured.

“For the moment, you’re safe. The suspect has been apprehended.” Emmett stated, walking over to his car as Mathieu attempted to stop him and ask more questions, along with everyone else it seemed.

“Who was it? I need to know...I want to know!” Emmett stopped at his car, pulling open the door and looking at Mathieu from across the top of it.

“All of this could have been avoided had you just cooperated with me Mr. Legrand.” Emmett stated coldly. “You want answers, well that’s a shame because I’m marking this case as classified.”

“Are you being petty Detective?” Mathieu asked, his face filled with incredulous shock. Emmett paused for a second before giving a smirk and wiping a bit of the blood off of his face.

“Yeah, I guess I am.”




11:28am
MCU Headquarters


Already this was turning into an extremely long day.

Emmett returned to the office after being checked out by a couple of certified doctors who stated he needed a few days of bedrest. To which he promptly and silently told them to fuck off as he walked to his desk. Already the cuts on his head had a couple stitches in them, and his one arm was covered in nano-bandages. Apparently he had fractured it tackling the Assembly Member to the ground, but shock and adrenaline are great painkillers. Considering he hadn’t managed to have a shower yet, he still looked very much like death warmed over as dust still covered his clothes and blazer, not to mention a couple of smudges still smeared his face. He stopped at his desk long enough to dump his blazer off before turning around and being met face to face with the Spider.

“Fu-” Emmett stated, reaching for his gun before remembering who it was and giving an aggravated sigh.

“Sorry Muchacho!” Cory said, backing up slightly as he gave a smile...or a snarl, hard to tell really. His limbs all seemed to be acting independently as they twitched and moved around him. “Did I scare ye? You look like shit...bomb stuff?”

“Well, I guess I do prefer honesty to empty lies.” Emmett said, releasing his grip on his pistol as Barry wandered past Cory, pushing him out of the way.

“Jesus Emmett...you alright?” The concern on his face and voice quite evident as Barry made to inspect a couple of the wounds. Emmett brushed off his hands.

“Survived a bomb and a cybernetic assassin...I got off easy.” Emmett said, brushing off white white shirt a bit, which was now more like a grey one.

“Well at least you finally caught her, huh?” Emmett gave a nod.

“Wouldn’t have happened without you guys. Honestly, you both did good.” Emmett looked to Cory, holding out a hand. “I had my reservations, and still do, but without you a whole lot of people would be dead right now. Thank you for your service.” Cory gave a big toothy smile, grasping Emmett’s outstretched hand with both of his and giving a hearty shake.

“Oh you are most welcome my good suh! I’m just doing what I’m great at! Breaking things apart and telling people about it!” Emmett gave a small smirk as Cory released his hand.

“Well I’m glad you feel that way, because I may have reason to call upon you again in the future. For now, I’ve already worked out the compensation for your services with accounting. If you see the Sergeant at the front desk, you’ll be given your pay for your duty.” Cory seemed to pause for a second, looking between Barry and Emmett.

“Wait...I get paid?” Emmett seemed confused by this as he looked to Barry.

“Well...yes. You’re an outside consultant who helped shut down a serial killer...I would assume that paying you is the least we can do.” Cory seemed to smile before glaring slightly at Barry.

“You never pay me Beary Barry.” Barry scratched the back of his head.

“I don’t have the money...I have kids to look after.” Cory’s limbs seemed to shake as he raised his arms high.

“Do you think maintenance is easy on these things! They’re like children, except if they fail or die, part of me dies too!”

“I don’t think you understand the attachment a father has with his kids!”

“Damn straight I don’t, but I do know my cybernetics are awesome! I will require pay when I work for you next Barry...or ice cream. I don’t get enough of that stuff.”

“Sure thing Cory, I will get you ice cream next time you help me.” Barry said, his shoulder slumping as a sign of resignation. Cory smiled, giving himself a fist pump.

“Score! Well, till next time fellas! Try not to get blown up without me!” Cory turned on his heel and practically skipped to the front desk. Emmett gave a small wave as Barry turned and glared at him.

“Great, now I have to start paying him.”

“You weren’t before?”

“No! He was happy enough to tinker with the cybernetics!” Emmett smiled and shook his head.

“That’s called ‘taking advantage’. At least you didn’t roofie him.”

“If you weren’t injured, I would slug you.” Emmett shrugged as he sat at his desk and started sorting through all the files on the rich boy murders again. Barry stared down at the tablets, one of his eyebrows raised. “Why are you looking through those again...you have the murderer.”

“Yep.” Emmett said, continuing to read through them again. “In fact, she’s in an interrogation room right now.”

“Then why…”

“Something still doesn’t add up.” Emmett said, putting down the tablets and motioning for Barry to sit down, to which he complied. “When Yoon found her and engaged in that small battle, she was willing to risk everything to fix her mistake.” Emmett stated, pulling up the datapad that contained the details of that night in front of Barry. “She could have left and we would have missed several key details about that night, namely a description of her. If we didn’t have that, even had she been among the congregation, we never would have known.”

“Right, but she needed to hide what she did to the body.” Barry responded.

“Which shows either a perfectionist attitude...or blind ambitious vengeance.”

“Vengeance? You think she’s after these people for revenge.” Emmett shrugged again, pulling forward a number of datapads.

“I can’t say for sure, I haven’t even talked to her yet.” Emmett said. “But take today for example. The bomb went off when it did most likely because she was unaware of the funeral change until the last minute, like I was. Mr. Legrand kept it out of public channels, which means by the time she was there and could trigger the explosive, I had just emptied the church.”

“But she triggered the explosive anyways…Why would she do that? Everyone was already out.”

“Except me and Mathieu, we were still walking out the door, and had I not gotten to the stairs, well within the blast radius.” Emmett pointed to a datapad that had Mathieu Legrand’s picture on it. “Which means that while her initial target may have been everyone at the funeral, she was wanting Mathieu dead at the very least.”

“But if she wanted him dead...why not go after him like everyone else?”

“This is my theory.” Emmett said, spinning his chair so he was squarely focusing on Barry. “She killed Mathieu’s brother because she wanted him to suffer...and implanted the explosive to kill him and everyone who supported him during their most vulnerable moment. She was trying to take out everyone, even though Mathieu was her real target. It’s why she tried to kill him with a sniper afterwards instead of just running from the scene of the crime. Had she decided then to simply escape, we never would have caught her.”

“But that doesn’t explain the previous murders, or the Nansoko case.” Barry stated.

“The early ones...practice. Same MO’s, but honestly there wasn’t enough people who cared about those victims to host a proper funeral.” Emmett stated, pulling up Akibiwe’s murder. “Akibiwe was intended to be the same thing I think. After his death, his father lost a lot of clout and his company’s stock took a hit. Had she not been interrupted while implanting the bomb, we would be dealing with the same thing for them as what happened to Mathieu Legrand.”

“So Mathieu wasn’t her only target…”

“But he was the closest she was going to get with the time she had.” Emmett said, scanning through the datapads again.

“So what’s the plan going forward?” Barry asked, absentmindedly picking up one of the pads and scanning the contents.

“I still don’t know the why, or where she got her augmentations. Military grade, powerful enough to contend with MCU forces. Someone supplied her, and we need to find out who.” Barry put the pad down, clasping his hands together.

“Should we deal with the devil we have right now?”

“I don’t think you get it.” Emmett said, looking Barry in the eyes. “Someone who could supply someone like our killer down there could start a war given the right type of people. Imagine if there were even two of these ladies out there. It took a combined effort of SWAT and mech units to take her down, and even then we took casualties.” Barry nodded.

“Yes, but right now we have to focus on the murders at hand. We can go after the supplier once everything is solidified.” Emmett grabbed his chin in his right hand, and his left hand went into his pocket and started rubbing the little silver cross.

“I suppose...regardless, I’m not going to get answers until I go down there and ask some questions.” Emmett stood up, walking past Barry and dropping a few bucks in front of him. “I know you get paid by the station, but here’s a few more...grab yourself a cup of coffee or something...you look like shit.” Barry looked down at the money, then at Emmett’s retreating form.

“Are you serious?! You survived an explosion!”




Interrogation room #1

Emmett walked into the observation area for the interrogation room. One way mirrors were old tech, but reliable...especially when they were reinforced with so many different shieldings that no amount of scans or penetrating visions could get through. A couple of officers stood in the room, looking through the glass at the assassin. Her mask had been removed but her head was against the table and covered by her arms. A collar around her neck prevented the user of any of her augmentations past basic limb manipulation so she could move. None of her military cybernetics would work, and in the case she found a workaround, the collar could paralyze her instantly. Emmett looked through the glass as well, standing beside one of the officers. “Did we get an ID yet?” Emmett asked. The officer shook his head.

“We got some DNA off of her, but from what I’m being told, the boys in forensics are having a bit of trouble. It seems to have been either tampered with or genetically modified in some way.” Emmett nodded, not really surprised with that. With the amount of augmentations she was sporting, the normal human body would have likely collapsed under the strain.

“She say anything? Do anything?”

“Not since they brought her in.” The officer responded, looking over to the other cop in the room who was manning the security camera and system. “She’s been quiet, been ducking her head into her arms ever since we took off her mask.” The officer reached past the cop on the system, hitting a button and sending the tape to rewind to the moment they took off her mask. She seemed to struggle as best she could, but with everything she had completely hampered, there was nothing she could do. Emmett watched as the mask was removed, and his eyes went wide.

It was the waitress from the restaurant!

No...that was impossible. That dress she had been wearing showed no signs of augmentation on her person. At most, it showed cosmetic surgery, so it couldn’t be her. Yet, as the screen paused to show her face, it was undoubtedly the same person. Emmett stared at the screen, then at the woman in the interrogation room. The officer seemed to notice this, looking at Emmett. “Something wrong Detective?”

“Yeah...that’s impossible...unless…” Emmett tapped the cop sitting at the security station to get out of his chair. Emmett took an image of the woman’s face, running it through facial recognition based off his own investigation. Specifically, he passed it against the waitress at the cafe, and sure enough it was a 90% match. He took the picture and forwarded it to dispatch. Once that was done, he tapped his earpiece. “Dispatch, Detective Tigron, Badge Number 14G672J7. I need a unit sent to the Montiboum Cafe. They are to retrieve this woman and bring her back for questioning.”

“Reasoning Detective?” The voice replied.

“She is involved in Case #2134.” There was a moment as Dispatch looked up the case number and assigned it to the ticket.

“Affirmative Detective, units have been dispatched to retrieve the person of interest.”

“Appreciated.” Emmett cut the call, leaving the officer confused as to what was going on as he made his way into the actual interrogation room. Upon his entry, the assassin didn’t even move. Getting a better look at her, he had a hard time believing she was even human. Save for her head, her entire body appeared to be metallic in nature. Her arms were a sleek black, with barely any creases appearing to indicate joints or points of flexibility. Subtle lines along her torso pulsated with a very soft green glow, brief glares of power flowing through them. She was wearing clothes, but he doubted she needed them anymore. He doubted she had any sexual organs left, with the way her body was now, her entire body had been converted into a weapon. She still had hair though, which was something that Emmett thought was odd, as the brown hair covered her scalp and was long enough to flow over her arms and onto the table.

Emmett took a seat across from her, leaning back and rubbing his face. He felt the stubble from not shaving that morning, and wondered if it made him look rugged or disheveled. Considering he still wore the stains from diving into the dirt earlier, probably the latter. Emmett sat there for a good few minutes, waiting to see if the assassin would even register his presence. When that didn’t seem to work, Emmett leaned forward. “I’m Detective Tigron.” Emmett started, to which was responded with silence. “I believe you tried to kill me earlier today.” Emmett continued, once again the assassin refused to move. “Not even going to say you’re sorry?” Emmett asked, once again met with silence. Emmett sighed, tapping the table and remembering that he forgot to bring his pads in with him. It was alright, he still had his glasses if he needed to reference any material.

“You’ve come a long way since waiting tables.” Emmett said, once again met with no movement or acknowledgement. This woman seemed either incapable or unwilling to have anything to do with the MCU. Seeing as this wasn’t going to get him anywhere without some kind of trump card, Emmett took out his phone and started playing a game on it. The sounds of lasers and explosions could be heared as he slid the chair back and placed his feet up on the table. There he sat for another twenty minutes, playing his game and making no attempt to interrogate the woman further. The assassin didn’t move a muscle during the entire time. It wasn’t until his phone rang with a call routed through Dispatch.

“Go for Emmett.” He said once he tapped his earpiece.

“Detective Tigron? This is Officer Stradford. We have the woman in question and are heading back to the MCU.”

“Affirmative Officer, can I get a name please?” There was a moment of silence.

“A Ms. Lacy Turinou.” Emmett nodded, giving a smirk to himself.

“Thank you, when you get here, place her in Interrogation room two.”

“Yes sir.” The Officer responded right before Emmett cut the call. He placed his phone back into his pocket and put his feet back down on the table. Clasping his hands together, he smacked his lips a bit. He was tired, aching, and honestly wanted this case to end. Naturally, it should have ended with the Assassin’s capture, but too many things weren’t adding up. With the inclusion that the woman he thought this Assassin was being brought in separately by Blues, that meant there was something deeper and darker going on.

“Ms. Lacy Turinou.” Emmett stated bluntly, watching as, for the first time, the Assassin twitched. “Do you want to tell me how you can be in two places as the same time?” The woman slowly raised her head, her eyes now peering over top of her arms. They were black, with a yellow iris. Augmented, naturally. Most likely with a whole suite of vision modes and calculation programs. She was probably trying to figure out a way to kill him, but he had dealt with that enough times that it didn’t phase him. She didn’t verbally respond though, so Emmett continued. “Lacy Turinou...that is your name, isn’t it?” There was a long silence as she stared at him, long enough that Emmett was about to continue when she finally responded.

“No.”

“No?” Emmett asked, giving off a fake puzzled look. “But you look just like her, and chances are your DNA is going to match against hers...so if you’re not her...who are you?”

“No one.”

“What is your name.” Emmett asked, leaning forward.

“I don’t have one.” She answered, her voice barely above a whisper. Emmett stared at her.

“Everyone has a name.” Emmett stated, not letting her get away with that answer so easily.

“No...they don’t.” She answered. Emmett reclined back into his seat, already he could tell there was something damaging this woman. The fact that she acted with such fearlessness, hostility and yet calculating precision meant she had power and knew it, yet she was talking like she was a child backed into a corner.

“Fine, then for the sake of this conversation, you are Lacy.”

“I am not Lacy.” The woman stated again, adamantly refusing the name.

“Then give me a name to call you.” Emmett said, his eyes narrowing.

“I am not Lacy.” She stated once more, starting to sit up into a proper seated position. Her face showcased wiring where cybernetic enhancements had been implanted beneath the skin. To be honest, she would have been pretty had she not gone out of her way to attach every kind of augmentation possible to her body.

“A name.” Emmett asked again, not letting her take control of the conversation.

“I AM NOT LACY!” The woman smashed her hands against the table, immediately earning her a shock from the collar around her neck. She grasped at it slightly as she slumped back down into her chair. Emmett didn’t move, noticing the slight indents in the table from her strike. Emmett peered back towards the observation mirror.

“Let’s tone down her augmentations a bit more, shall we?” There was a slight buzz from the collar as her augmentations were further limited. Emmett smoothed his hands against the table, giving it a slight rub as he peered over at the woman. “Fine, I’ll call you ‘Assassin’ for the time being, that have a better ring to it?” She didn’t say anything as she still held a hand to the collar around her neck. “Let’s start with a simple broad question...Why did you kill those people.”

Assassin didn’t respond, her eyes burning holes through Emmett. Emmett continued on. “Why did you stay after the bomb went off in the Church?” Once again, he was met with silence. “Why did you set the bomb in the first place?” Silence. “Who is your supplier?” Silence. Emmett stared at her for a moment, before getting up and walking behind her. She spun to face him, but he placed a hand on her shoulder and forced her forward. She seethed and attempted to free herself, but with the collar restricting her abilities, she was as weak as a child now. Emmett stared at her back, where the augmentations connected, where the creases fit, and all the power lines coursing inside that created a soft greenish glow against the blackened metal. This was top tier work, evidence of a master cybernetics expert. Emmett released his grip on the woman, slowly making his way back to his seat but not sitting down. “You’re caught.” Emmett started. “We have you pegged for multiple murders, assault of an officer, injury to an officer, not to mention attempted mass murder and assault of a religious bastion.” Emmett looked at her. “The fact is...you’re most likely facing execution...unless you help me out.” Emmett leaned over the table. “There’s no way that you did all this on your own...give me your supplier and conspirators...I may be able to reduce the sentencing.”

Silence.

Emmett stood back to his full height. He wasn’t going to get anything else without another trump card, with something to force her hand. “Have it your way.” He stated, making his way out of the interrogation room. He would wait for Lacy Turinou to arrive, and then he would see if his suspicions were correct.




12:30pm
Interrogation Room #2


“Ms. Lacy Turinou?” Emmett said as soon as he entered the room. Sure enough, there sat the woman he had met at the cafe where he had met Mathieu Legrand. She sat there, doe eyed and looking to Emmett with unfiltered curiosity.

“Yes?” She stated, she was completely unaware as to why she was here. “Wait...aren’t you the Detective that was at the cafe the other day.”

“Yes I was.” Emmett responded, holding open the door as Barry entered the room. “I’m Detective Tigron, and this is Dr. Mangle. He’ll be performing some tests as I ask you some questions. You’ve consented to this, correct?” She nodded, having signed the permission form when she was first brought to the station.

“Of course Detective, although I am confused as to why I was brought here.”

“To be honest, your very presence here is to answer a couple of questions I have without even having to ask them.” Emmett stated, before shaking his head and having a seat. “Sorry, I’m being cryptic for the sake of being cryptic. Needless to say, seeing you here has...opened my mind a bit.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“That’s perfectly fine. If everything goes accordingly, we should have you out of here in the hour. Dr. Mangle?” Barry gave a nod, pulling out a rod looking device as he walked over to Lacy.

“I’ll need you to stand up for this, if you don’t mind.” She gave a slight nod, brushing down her knee length skirt slightly as she moved to accommodate his request. Once she was standing, Barry went to work scanning her from head to toe.

“Ms. Lacy, how long have you been working at the Montiboum Cafe?” Emmett started, pulling out his pad and writing down notes.

“Roughly...4 years?” She answered, and sure enough her answer lined up with her records. Emmett gave a nod.

“Have you always been a waitress there? Or were there any other positions that you were placed in?” Her eyes stared at the ceiling for a second as she seemed to recall everything.

“I originally was trying to be a chef for the cafe. I have my bachelor’s degree in gourmet cuisine, but they turned down my application. They later contacted me for the position I hold now.”

“From chef to waitress? Isn’t that a step down.”

“One would think.” She answered, her voice level as she continued the conversation. “However, to compensate, they offered me double what I would make as a chef.”

“Double for a simple waitress?” Emmett asked, earning a small smile from Lacy.

“There’s nothing simple about it Detective. To be honest, the waitressing is quite a bit more stressful than simply preparing food.” Barry asked her to raise her arms, and she did so. “Montiboum is a high class establishment meant to hold dignitaries and high profile CEO’s of powerful companies. As a waitress, every movement I make, everything I say is highly scrutinized. Even my looks had to undergo refinement.”

“Can you define ‘refinement’?” Emmett asked.

“Certainly. Basically speaking, there is a standard for all waitresses at Montiboum, and while I met the minimum requirements due to simple genetics and a healthy lifestyle, they prefered to enhance what they could.”

“And you were ok with this?” Emmett asked as he scrawled down notes, Barry continued with his scans.

“At first I was hesitant, but the cafe offered to pay for all the surgeries. Essentially I was being cosmetically ‘upgraded’ for free, from my perspective.” She replied, a kind smile on her face as she did so.

“Was there ever a time where you believe they did anything...more than just ‘upgrade’ your looks?” Lacy blinked, confusion evident on her face.

“Can’t say that I have Detective, I was always warned ahead of time as to what they were working on. At the end of the day, those were the results I was presented with.” She looked over at Barry, who seemed to finish up his scans. He gave a nod to both Lacy and Emmett before motioning that she could sit again and walked out of the room. “Is there something I should be made aware of Detective?”

“Simply trying to rule certain things out Ms. Turinou.” Emmett stated, watching as Barry exited the room. “Now let’s get to the boring questions...where were you on…”




1:23pm
MCU Morgue


Emmett wandered into the Morgue where Barry was busy staring at a holographic display of Lacy Turinou’s body, currently resting on a metal table. The scan he had taken earlier allowed him to learn everything there was about her body. Granted, actually getting in there with his real hands would have given him more information, but for obvious reasons that avenue of approach was off the table. “Emmett.” Barry said in response to Emmett walking up to him.

“Please tell me you have something, and you’re not staring at this hologram due to some sick fantasy.”

“Why haven’t you had a shower yet?” Barry asked in response to the snarky comment.

“I like the smell of near death and manly musk.” Emmett responded, staring at the hologram as Barry shook his head.

“Well it looks like your hunch was correct.” Barry used his hands to manipulate the hologram and highlight the points of cosmetic surgery. “Yes, she had a ton of cosmetic surgery, probably to the point that her own mother doesn’t recognize her, but every single entry there’s something else.” A second highlight of a different color marked several spots on her body. “Every point, there’s...something that doesn’t make sense for a cosmetic upgrade. These cuts and incisions…” Barry pointed to the markers. “Have no purpose for this kind of operation…”

“So what kind of operation do they make sense for?” Emmett asked as he walked around the hologram.

“Off the top of my head, and based off of your hunch, I would say genetic sampling.” Barry pointed to several points. “Skin flakes, bone marrow, blood, you name it. Each one of these operations would have access to a different kind of DNA marker that would give them further and further detail about her body and genetics.”

“So you’re saying I’m right.”

“I’m saying it’s a 90% probability.” Barry nodded, placing his hands in his pockets. “Poor girl, she has no idea.”

“An invasion of privacy...I got a warrant to check the Montiboum records and book keeping. I’ll be double checking everything that went through that cafe tonight.”

“What about the clone?” Barry asked as Emmett turned away. Emmett shrugged.

“What about her? She’s locked up and can’t hurt anyone right now...For the moment, the bigger fish is finding the people who decided cloning people without their knowledge was a good idea.”




The next day, 5:33 pm
Assembly Hall


“-and while I believe that it is against human nature for such a radical change to take place over night, I would like to point out that, at one point, augmentations were viewed in the same light!” Mathieu Legrand spoke from his podium in the Assembly Hall. Multiple cameras from different news stations broadcasted his speech for the masses to see as nearly every seat in the room was filled with politicians of varying power. Mathieu himself was dressed well, with only a few reminders of the previous day’s near death event. He stood tall, his chest out as the people below him and undoubtedly those watching him were filled with confidence from his words. “Someone struck out against me, and while I can’t attest as to their motives, I can make an educated guess that this is against their beliefs and wills! I have never, and will never be cowed by the whims of weaker men who would resort to such ill gotten methods of fighting back!” Mathieu continued, gripping the podium. “I stand before you, as a man who has seen the face and death, stronger than ever. My will has not been shaken, my faith undisturbed, and while I can’t say that I am the same person…” There was a brief moment as he seemed to remember what the method of attack on him was. “I can say that my intention is the same. The betterment of humanity, the advancement of our race, and the safety of our people. I don’t ask for your blind allegiance, I advise you to do your research or, best of all, ask me questions. I will answer to the best of my capability. Let us pass this cloning bill together, let us advance as one.” There was a series of nods and clapping that continued through the building, to which Mathieu let die down before he continued. “I will now field questions.” Immediately a number of hands shot up, and he picked one at seemingly random.

“Is it true that your own brother was used as a way to assassinate you?” Mathieu paused for a second as a couple of people stared at the reporter, more out of anger than shock. News of the attack had spread like wildfire just minutes after the Assassin had been caught. There were too many influential people present to stop it. Mathieu closed his eyes, taking a deep breath for a moment.

“While it was no secret that my brother and I didn’t always see eye to eye, I loved him. He was my family and he was taken from me not once, not even twice, but three times.” Mathieu stated, peering out among the masses. “The person who attempted to kill not only me, but all of those who were there to pay their respects was caught at the scene of the crime by the excellent forces of this great city, the LCPD. With their professional conduct and expertise, they were able to bring about an end to this Killer’s reign of terror.” Mathieu took a moment once again. “If the cloning bill were to have been already passed, I wouldn’t be mourning the passing of my brother. Instead, he would be standing beside me. Yes, you can argue that they would not be the same person, but with integrated technology that passes on memories and experiences, there would be no differences.”

“Imagine if loss was not something we had to deal with anymore?” Mathieu continued. “A beloved friend or family member, maybe even the man or woman you love, forever immortalized...This is the reality I bring to you. This is the gift that I give to you...this i-”

The doors at the end of the Assembly Hall opened to reveal a small force of LCPD marching down the middle. At the front was Detective Tigron, his eyes glued to Mathieu Legrand as he strode forward. Mathieu stared at the Detective, surprised at his sudden entrance, but taking it in stride. “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you the Detective that brought down the Assassin who tried to have myself and hundreds of others killed. Detective Tigron of the MCU.” There was a polite wave of applause as Emmett didn’t even register the other people there.

“Mr. Legrand, I require a moment.” Mathieu peered down at the Detective, a slight cough escaping his throat.

“Surely this can wait until the end of the Assembly?”

“You don’t want me to walk up there.” Emmett stated flatly, to which Mathieu’s response was a curt sniff as he looked among the rest of the people in the Hall. He looked down at his podium, looking back up at the cameras as he seemed to contemplate something.

“I would like to state, for the record, that everything I did was simply to better the human race. To give us something that would propel us forward, an honest to god measurement of success.” As he talked Emmett shook his head and strode forward, climbing the steps to the podium. “I never meant for things to turn out the way they did, nor was it my intention to hurt anyone. I...I was trying to do something good. Don’t condemn me for the results, praise me for the ine-”

Emmett finally reached the podium, ripping the microphone out of the stand and cutting Mathieu off mid sentence. Everyone immediately started whispering and talking to each other as Emmett took a pair of cuffs off his belt. “Mathieu Legrand, you are under arrest for genetic tampering, cloning of a known individual, illegal cybernetic augmentation, and basic human rights violation.” As he lead Mathieu off the stage, Emmett continued saying his part. “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will provided for you. You have the right-” Emmett continued dragging Mathieu out of the Assembly hall in cuffs as the rest of the Assembly continued to watch.




7:02 pm
Interrogation Room #1


Emmett walked into the room, prompting the Assassin to look up from her usual position of face down on the table. Emmett carried with him several pads filled with information as he slowly closed the door behind him. He sat down, all the pads piled up neatly in front of him. He stared at the woman, who stared back him with bared teeth and angry eyes. “Number thirty nine.” Emmett stated flatly, earning a shocked look from the woman. “That was the title given to you...Number Thirty Nine.” Emmett said again, as he did so sliding across a tablet so that she could view it. On it was the evidence of her creation. She slowly started reading through it as Emmett grabbed another pad and slid it across to her. “You were cloned from a woman named Lacy Turinou. An unwitting part of this entire process.”

Thirty Nine looked at the image of Lacy, before her surgery. She very much had a ‘girl next door’ look to her, with a number of imperfections such as a bit of acne, high eyebrows and overly pronounced cheekbones. Despite this, Emmett much prefered this picture. It was the real her, not the manufactured her. Thirty Nine stared at the image, running a finger along it. Emmett continued passing relevant pads towards Thirty Nine as he continued his story.

“The moment I saw your face, my assumption started to form. You were the waitress from the Montiboum Cafe, yet your augmentations were too pronounced. You couldn’t have been the same person, I would have noticed all the military upgrades.” Emmett stated flatly. “Upon hearing your reaction to the name, it became a bit easier as to guess to your motives, and ultimately your goal. After scanning and inspecting Ms. Turinou, it became evident that she had been an unaware pawn in a genetics screening scheme, of which she was not the first, but she had something that many of the other ‘subjects’ didn’t...a malleable DNA strand.” Emmett produced a pad that was filled with science jargon forward.

“Essentially, from my very basic understanding, she had a single marker that allowed her DNA to easily adapt to other bits of organic code that were either inserted or taken out. She was the perfect subject.” Emmett paused for a second, watching as Thirty Nine continued to stare at all the information. “After looking through all of Montiboum’s records, including the ones that weren’t readily available thanks to some top notch cyber warriors here at the MCU, I found out she had been collected through the hiring process at the Cafe, which doubled as a screening for proper applicants. Now what happened when they found one?” Emmett passed yet another pad forward. “They were brought here, a lab where they would undergo ‘cosmetic’ surgery. It was done as a cover up, to mask their true intentions. From there, they would get all the samples they would need to make…”

Emmett passed forward a picture of several dozen ‘Lacy’ clones in giant vats. “You.” Emmett stated. “Once I figured out it was a clone that got loose and started killing people, I started piecing things together quite quickly. You set about on a warpath. Those initial people you killed that we thought were practice?” Emmett tossed a couple more pads forwards. “Off the books researchers for the labs. Inhuman garbage as far as I’m concerned, once I learned what they had done. Although it did allow you to hone your knowledge and go in for the kill.” Emmett tapped his nose for a second.

“Granted, Akibiwe’s death didn’t make much sense, considering there was no records of him ever being a part of this. A little digging brought something to light though, he was very much in support of this cloning bill that Mathieu Legrand was trying to push forward. His intentions were...less than pure.” Emmett tossed forward several pictures of Akibiwe attending several pro-cloning rallies. “Which meant that Akibiwe was a bonus, that your true targets were dealt with and now you were trying to strike against anyone who promoted cloning. So that left…”

Emmett produced a picture of Mathieu Legrand. “This man, the one behind it all. The money behind the operation, not to mention the motivator. A major stockholder for the Montiboum Cafe, he’s the one who set it up as a screening process, he’s the one that started the cloning lab, and he’s the one who ultimately was behind the person sitting in front of me.” Thirty Nine said nothing through this all, her fists shaking with either rage or sadness, honestly Emmett couldn’t tell.

“I’m less than a year old.” Thirty nine stated, her hands balled into fists. Emmett sat there, his hands in his lap as he reclined slightly. “Less than a year old.” She repeated. “And several months of that time is filled with torture...as they ripped me apart and put me back together again.” She looked up at Emmett, tears streaming from her eyes, but they weren’t of sadness. This was angry crying. “I wasn’t the only one they did that too...I’m just the only one to survive. Every time I woke up, they would be cutting into me, ripping into me, tearing into me, somehow pumping me with...something that would keep me conscious the entire time.” She looked down at the pads with the scientists on them.

“It was to test my pain reflexes while doing other things...at least that’s what I heard them say. Checking two things at once...and every time that was done, they would stroll me by a pile of other ‘me’s’. Just...sitting there, discarded and bloody...failures.” Thirty Nine tossed the pad off the table. “We weren’t human to them, we were just products.”

Emmett recalled his earlier conversation with Mathieu about how Clones weren’t human because they lacked a soul, and could easily see that as a way to rationalize this type of treatment. “I got out.” Thirty Nine stated, her voice becoming slightly calmer. “When they placed me back into my tube, I was more conscious than normal...I don’t know if they lowered the dose or if my tolerance built up. When they went to put me back, I broke free...I don’t remember how I managed to get into the city…” Emmett looked down at another pad, one that featured her escape. She had managed to deck the scientists, while naked, and fight her way through half a dozen security bots. According to the files, they were experimenting with supplementing her body with augmentations that would allow her body to live longer while not being entirely evident, even from an autopsy point of view. Unfortunately for them, it enhanced her physical capabilities while they were unaware.

“I woke up in...a building somewhere.” She continued. “I wandered for...I don’t know. It felt like days, it could have been days...I didn’t know where I was, who I was, or what the point of it all was. All I knew were the faces of the people who did this to me, and the urge to see them suffer.” She looked up at Emmett. “That’s when he found me, the man who did this.” She held out her arms, obviously pointing to her augmentations.

“My missing puzzle piece.” Emmett said, leaning forward. “Give me a name.”

“I don’t have one.” She answered. “He approached me by proxy, a simple server bot that was out of place considering where I was. He told me that...I looked like a woman scorned. From there, he proceeded to help me. He fed me, clothed me, taught me things...eventually he gave me all these cybernetics.” Emmett pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Can you tell me anything about him? Anything at all?”

“Even if I did know something, I wouldn’t tell you.” She said, her teeth gritted in defiance. “He did everything by proxy, never giving his name or coming to me in person, but he was the only friend I knew. He gave me information on my targets, gave me ideas on how to deal with them, how to perform the surgery to make their organs into bombs, how to hide what I did…”

“He turned you into a weapon.”

“He gave me direction!” She answered loudly, standing up. “I wanted them dead! I wanted them all dead and he helped me! He understood me!”

Emmett rubbed his temple, looking up at Thirty Nine. “If he truly understood you, and if he was truly your friend, he would have told you his name.” Emmett stated, looking at her. “He would have approached you personally, he would have helped you get adjusted and he would have brought you here. Your account of the incident, not to mention the knowledge you presented could have shut down Legrand and his operation without any deaths.” Thirty Nine stood there. “Instead, he took a vulnerable girl filled with rage and fire...and poured gasoline on it. Not only that, he then somehow gave the fire guns...and knives...and knowledge of how to kill people in horrific ways.”

Emmett stood, pulling down his jacket as he did so. “Now half a dozen people are dead, an Assembly Member is behind bars so thick he’ll never see daylight again, with potentially hundreds more injured or killed had your plan actually worked.” Emmett stared directly at Thirty Nine, his eyes conveying a very simple message that he put into words. “You may have started as a victim, but you ended up a monster.” Thirty Nine stood there, her shoulders slumped but her will still strong. This was the posture of someone who had been defeated, not someone who was repetent.

“What happens to me now.” She asked.

“You’re the illegal clone of a living person, a serial killer, and an attempted mass murder.” Emmett gathered up the pads, stacking them together and placing them under his arm. “Not to mention filled with illegal military grade modifications. You are to be destroyed.” She took the news well considering, and slowly sat back down.

“So after everything…”

“You didn’t start off this way.” Emmett said, glaring down at the woman. All remorse and empathy for the woman nowhere to be found. “But you chose to take the darker of two paths. You chose to kill those people, you chose to try and kill many more.” Emmett said, making for the door. “That’s it, game over.” Emmett looked over at her one last time as she simply stared at the table. Her hands were clasped together and finally he felt one iota of pity for her. Whoever her supplier was had corrupted her and turned her into a force of destruction. He didn’t know why, but sometimes people just liked the events that unfolded because of things like this. Either way, with someone who could take desperate souls and make killers out of them, he had to find this man. For now...there was nothing he could for Thirty Nine.

With that thought...Emmett needed a drink.



*Confessioners: Reformed Criminals who now work as enforcers for religious organizations
*10-45: Bomb Threat
*Oracle: A command and control vehicle for LCPD's tactical units
*Heavy Metal: A LCPD combat technique usually reserved for taking out heavily mechanized units through the use of electric and electromagnetic forces

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron Character Portrait: Luciana Chavez-Alesci Character Portrait: Vitali Zhang Character Portrait: Justin Case

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August 9th, 2075

8:10 AM

MCU Headquarters: Mountbatten’s Office


Mountbatten sat in his office reviewing some briefs before an urgent message came from the central dispatch.

“LSP Officer Badge number 14G672J7, Detective Emmett Tigron, has called for Tactical, Bomb Squad and Medical to location. Alert issued to Captain Niles Mountbatten, Major Crimes Unit. Purpose: potential casualties ranging into the hundreds. Please advise?”

“Authorized,” he responded.

Mountbatten paused for a moment as he scanned over the data. The call was made for units to converge on Ulan Cathedral, which meant there could be a legal nightmare concerning the Religious Bastion act. However, he thought the purpose seemed rather dire, and Mountbatten trusted the detective’s instincts.

He muttered to himself, “Bloody hell…” as he sprung from his seat.

Just as he left his office, Alexandra intercepted him, “I just received a notification from central dispatch.”

Mountbatten nodded, “I’ve authorized,” he looked at all of the in-house support and tech agents, “Alright ladies and gents, we need eyes and ears on the ground. Someone alert an MG unit to the scene A.S.A.P.”

Alexandra pointed out five agents, “You five will deploy with Oracle.”

“Lieutenant, you’re in charge here while I’m gone.”

“Gone?”

“To the front.”

Alexandra nodded and returned to her office. Mountbatten glanced at Tia, who sat in a space enclosed by plexiglass windows that loomed overhead all the support desks. He knew she was plugged into something already, but she would catch up to the speed of things as soon as she stepped out.

Then the Captain made his way to the LSP armory and stepped aboard an awaiting VTOL, which lifted into the air and sailed out of the hangar following behind several others.

- -


8:25 AM

MCU Headquarters


Once again, they met in the room of the upward flowing streams. It was a third-party server with double blind security protocols. Surveillance and records for the meeting would be deleted by the system.

“I have information that you might like,” Elise said

“Okay,” Tia said as she waited to hear what her friend had to say.

“It pertains the Nansoko murd-“ before Elise could finish, Tia’s communicator issued pings that pulled her from the matrix.

She saw the image of Emmett Tigron on the contact, “What the-“

“I might have to cut this chat short Elise, I think something just came up.”

The blue geisha responded with a curt nod, “I understand, but this is very important. I’ll be here whenever, just make sure you come and find me.”

Tia nodded, the room faded away. She answered the call, “Tia St. Cloud.”

“Tia, I’m going to need you to hack into something for me in a sec.”

Tia’s face contorted, “Uh sure Detective, but what am I hacking?” Tia asked, but she knew the answer once she heard the gunfire crackle over the line.

Seconds later Emmett responded, “Tia, shut down security.”

Tia’s brow raised, “Is this a ch-”

“TIA!” he screamed, she dialed down the volume in the audio channel.

She had no idea his voice could still crack, and set to work on his request. Her hands pulled apart into numerous metallic micro tendrils heightening her keystrokes because they could cycle through the haptic interface keypad several hundred times over in seconds. Her eyes glowed blue as her opticals activated.

Tia called back, “I’m in. What am I doing?”

“Opening all the doors, get me inside and let people out,” the detective responded.

Tia finished some keystrokes, “Done. Now can I know what this is about?”

“Stay on the line Tia, I might still need your help. You got a feed on me?”

She entered the system feeds of the Ulan Cathedral, which was no small feat, but she made it seem like her every day task. It felt second nature to her like having a glass of water every morning, even though she was breaking more rules than the number of mechanical tendrils she had tapping away on keys. She reminded herself to clean any trace of her appearance in the system once this little errand finished.

“Cameras, nearest one top right,” she responded as she saw him look up directly into her sight, she added, “You do realize I’m going to jail for hacking into a religiously protected network, right?”

The mention was not true because Tia knew that enough legal, not to mention digital, firewalls protected her from any sort of retaliation by church of religious organizations. She felt it was needed to curb any more recklessness from the detective.

“And I’m going to jail for assaulting a religious bastion. Just pay attention.”

She saw the incoming cathedral guards, and, before they could touch him, she activated an update sequence that set them into sleep mode.

“Appreciated,” she heard from the other end.

Tia shook her head and smirked. She watched the events unfold, and, at the immediate mention of bomb, she bypassed the locks of the main security system and activated the alarms. She received a ping from Mountbatten’s line.

“Captain?” as she asked this, one of her system’s passive subroutines caught a short-wave transmitter.

“I am headed to the scene. ETA in six.”

“There’s a bomb threat in Ulan,” she said as she tried to pin point the transmitter signal.

“Dear god.”

“I’ve already activated the alarms. I’ve got eyes on the feeds, Tigron is getting people ou-“ as she said this the cathedral exploded.

All her feeds into the interior of the complex went dark. She then tapped into nearby cameras as she observed a large cloud of black smoke exhale and consume the front face of the structure along with the transmitter signal. A large amount of debris and smoke scattered and blotted her screens despite overlapping fields of vision granted by separate cameras.

“Emmett,” she called out.

No response, maybe he was deaf from the explosions, brief tinnitus perhaps.

“Emmett, are you there?” she repeated, “Emmett!”

“I’m here,” he responded.

“I know that!” Tia stated, she exhaled before speaking, “The bomb, I got something.”

“Such as?”

“It was remotely triggered, I can’t tell the location but it was a short wave transmitter. The suspect has to be within a couple blocks of you right now.”

Despite his lack of response, Tia observed that his heartrate and vitals monitors seemed steady, which meant he was focusing on capturing the suspect, who was hopefully still within the vicinity. The rest was up to him now.

- -


12:30 PM

LSP Headquarters: Gretien’s Office


Titus Gretien stood at the center of his room as he spoke to the crowd of reporters on a livestream conference, “We have apprehended the suspect who is responsible for the bomb threat at the Ulan Cathedral. Unfortunately, other details in the investigation are still pending.”

One of the reporters asked, “Is it possible that the suspect is connected with the murder of Damien Legrand, considering that the bomb threat took place during his funeral procession?”

“That we can confirm. The suspect may be responsible for the murder of Damien Legrand, but as I have said, details are still pending.”

“We also had reports of sniper fire aimed at Mathieu Legrand himself. Was the bomb threat part of an attempted assassination on Legrand?”

“We can’t confirm nor deny that just yet.”

“The murder, the sniper fire, the bomb, it seems that these events are targeting Mr. Mathieu Legrand, do you care to comment.”

“No, I have no comment on that matter.”

“Do you think that this is in anyway related to Legrand’s recent proposals for pushing the cloning bill?”

“All the conversation regarding his political position is pure speculation at best.”

“What about the Nansoko’s murder?”

“What about it?”

“Well, we have reports that suggest that the Legrand and Nansoko murders are connected. Not to mention the fact that Nansoko Corp has been a proponent of assemblyman Legrand’s position as well as a large donor to his campaigns.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t work in the realm of conspiracy theories,” Gretien chided.

He earned a few chuckles from reporters, and on one screen he saw Kelly Pahlavi’s smirk followed by a shaking of her head.

Another reporter spoke, “Do you think the suspect may have had ties with larger, more vocal anti-augmentation groups like the Legion of Purity?”

“We are always on alert when it comes to extremist groups within Lumaire. The LSP does not tolerate any kind of non-authorized sectarian or militant violence. Lumaire has always been a city of diverse views, and I believe that resorting to violence is in no way a meaningful contribution to any kind of dialogue regarding the advancement of mankind. Now, I cannot take any further questions, if you’ll excuse me, I have other matters to attend to. Thank you for joining me on this conference.”

One by one the screens disappeared, even Kelly’s screen. It seemed to Titus that she wanted to wait a little longer before pressing him for anything.

- -


6 PM

LSP Headquarters: Chief’s Office


“A clone?” Chief Kyung had her hands balled in front of her, her expression darkened when she heard of the word.

“That’s all we know right now regarding the suspect,” Captain Mountbatten replied.

Her eyes stared off as though they looked a vast distance beyond the immediate present of her room. It seemed for a time that even the captain’s own presence seemed to vanish from her mind.

“That information stays here. Do you understand?”

“And Detective Tigron?”

“You will inform him of that. The public must not know.”

“Will we be pursuing a follow-up investigation?”

“We’ll wait and see first.”

- - - -


August 10th, 2075

2:30 PM

MCU Headquarters


Tia was on the line with agent Patel.

“He’s out sick,” Patel said, “Something about needing to get a diagnostic check on some internals.”

“So he’s not coming in today?” Tia asked.

“No,” Patel shook her head.

Tia could tell the woman had just awoken.

Tia’s lips pursed, “Alright, fine. Give yourself a day off then. See if I care.”

Patel’s face flushed, “We’re not…”

“I’m messing with you. Look just let Zhang know he’s needed back ASAP.”

Patel nodded.

- - - -


5:30 PM

The pilot of an LSP VTOL spoke into his comm from the cockpit, “Falcon Actual maintaining altitude at 1000 feet.”

Mountbatten stood in the cabin of the VTOL that held a steady position just miles away from the area of operation. He held a tablet screen with a direct feed of the heads up display of one of the boots on the ground.

Mountbatten turned to one of the techs who sat with a tablet in hand, “Commence.”

The tech nodded in response, “This is Actual to all units, you are go.”

The evidence was undeniable by this point. Mathieu Legrand had ordered the murder of his own brother and authorized the illegal cloning of an innocent individual.

Mountbatten watched the feed as Detective Tigron hauled the implicated assembly member out of the pearly double doors. Blips of cyan lights appeared on the flanks of the aisles as people began recording on their personal devices an angel fallen from grace. Though, Legrand was no angel. His face remained stringent with chiseled lines. His lips remained sealed as he was taken down the steps. He still impressed a certain air of superiority even as an officer shoved his head into the cabin of a waiting VTOL.

The Captain knew the footage would be played over dozens of media outlets over and over until the point had been missed. Not that he killed his brother, though he did, but that there was a greater conflict between those who wanted to push further into realms of technology not yet fully-understood and those who fought back against this advance. Mountbatten nodded to the pilot, who keyed into the VTOL’s control systems. The nacelles rotated and the thrust activated. The VTOL embarked on its return to headquarters.

- - - -


7:28 PM

LSP Headquarters: Interrogation Room #1


Alexandra reclined in her seat behind the two-way mirror as she watched Tigron continue his interrogation of the prisoner. The details surrounding the woman known as Subject Thirty-Nine were a revelation. Lacy Turinou would never know what Mathieu Legrand had done to her, one of his own constituents. She would never know that her DNA had been used to create a clone of herself. An exact replica, a copy of herself, down to the finest details. Her hair, her eyes, her face, Thirty-Nine could easily pass as Turinou if there ever came such a day.

Mountbatten strolled into the unlit observation room behind Alexandra, who was the only one as the other officers had left to get some coffee.

They watched on as though it were a film and they were cinemagoers.

“I feel bad for her,” Alexandra spoke up after a long time.

Mountbatten glanced at Alexandra whose eyes and face still pointed to the woman, the girl. Thirty-Nine knew nothing of life to be called a woman. She was a child of unfavorable circumstances. Mountbatten had not known of the feeling of compassion in a long time. While the frame of chrome, steel, neo-carbon encased his wired brain, he no longer possessed an actual beating heart. He wondered if such a feeling was generated from one’s heart or one’s brain. Were the feelings a result of chemical reactions as scientists were apt to reach for as an explanation?

Or was there something more?

“I was going to ask you what you found from the Khedira girl,” Alexandra turned to Mountbatten.

The Captain swallowed, “Girl claims complete ignorance. She was only funding the organization because she slept with Meint.”

“So she was close to him?”

“I’d hardly call a one night stand close.”

“I’d call it closer than most.”

They both returned to the interrogation.

Alexandra spoke after a long time, “I wonder what it was like to be her. Growing up, having been experimented on, having been turned into a weapon.”

Mountbatten remained silent at this.

- - - -



11 PM

Myong-Hauser Corporation

42nd Floor


Sean Bishop walked into a board room with covered windows. Two black suits closed the doors behind him. A large empty screen took up the opposite wall until the face of a blonde-haired woman appeared. He took a seat in front of the screen. He pulled out a bright cigar in one hand and flicked open a lighter in another. The orange flame lit his face against the screen light.

The woman looked surprised, “Who are you? Where is Director Foiritan?”

Bishop spoke, “I am Director Bishop, Director Foiritan is no longer available. We parted with him over creative differences. I must extend apologies for not notifying you sooner.”

“Change in leadership means a change in direction,” the woman paused.

Bishop saw she was looking at his guards, “Quiet guns. Can I say the same about your wires hooked into this uplink? But I digress. Our original objectives still remain.”

“Indeed? What of Mr. Legrand? The LSP has Subject Thirty-Nine in their custody. How can you still maintain that? Has this not already been compromised?

The man glanced at his un-puffed cigar, watching the smoke billow, “The HOUND program will continue along smoothly. While Mr. Legrand’s recent circumstances are rather unfortunate, he knew the risks, and he played his hand. We must do the same. As for Subject Thirty-Nine, we’ve already destroyed all her records within our systems. Her DNA samples will be transferred to a black-site.”

The woman seemed satisfied, “Then what is the status of the program?”

“We’ve commenced the next phase. Trials have been initiated, and our people are observing the results as we speak.”

“And you guarantee no civilian casualties?”

“While Foiritan may have naively suggested that to be the case, I will make no such guarantees. By this point, you should be aware of what we’re dealing with here.”

The woman remained silent for a moment before speaking, “We agreed on the old city. I don’t want this to appear on the news.”

“Yes, bad publicity is the last thing we all need. We’ll be sure to remind the subjects that there are certain parameters to abide by. I have no control beyond that,” Bishop shrugged, “Besides, they’re human, they have choices.”

“Choices? Don’t give me that free will bullshit. This is a closed experiment. Foiritan would never have permitted such reckless-”

“Which is why he is not here anymore. The measure of a man or woman is in their ability to take calculated risks.” Bishop smiled and pressed his cigar into the empty ashtray in his armrest.

The woman grunted, “Report the results to us as soon as possible.”

“Noted.”

The screen went black briefly before the Myong-Hauser logo appeared. The blinds on the windows rolled away as he looked out into the Lumaire night time skyline.

Bishop glanced over at the guards, “You can say it. I hate that bitch too.”

- - - -


August 11th, 2075

9 AM

LSP Headquarters: Chief’s Office


Chief Kyung sat in her office reviewing some reports while watching riot footage when Captain Mountbatten strolled in. She closed all her available screens, which turned her face from cyan to a pale tone as all the projector and LED lights blinked off. The Captain stood at attention and saluted Kyung.

“You wanted to speak with me ma’am?” Mountbatten asked.

Chief Kyung nodded, she tapped a key on her console. The doors to her room shut automatically.

“I sent you a message regarding Agent Case’s assignment. What do you have to report Captain?”

Mountbatten cleared his throat, paused for a moment before he began, “Unfortunately, we’re at a loss. We don’t have any leads regarding Laitinen. We have yet to identify the abductor as well.”

The chief remained silent. Her shoulders hunched as she leaned on her desk.

“It’s as if they vanished and ceased existing,” Mountbatten continued.

“They’re still alive, but whoever has him, knows how to hide very well," Kyung inhaled, “Very well, that is all I wanted to see you about.”

Mountbatten nodded, saluted, and then turned to leave.

“Ms. Helene Laurent believes that there is a mole in MCU,” Kyung said.

Mountbatten stopped before he turned around where he met her blank stare. He turned around again and continued out the door.

- -


11 AM

MCU Headquarters: Mountbatten’s Office


Beethoven’s moonlight sonata played in the background from one of Mountbatten’s consoles as he hummed after the triplets. The sound of even-keeled boots walking into his office alerted him to the presence of a familiar face.

“C.K.?”

Coen grinned at the Captain.

“What in bloody hell are you doing out of the hospital this early?” Mountbatten demanded.

“Doctor says he’ll let me out tomorrow,” Coen smirked.

The sergeant moved with ease as though he had not been shot as many times as he had been by Subject Thirty-Nine. He took a seat in front of Mountbatten’s desk.

“Well, I order you to stay a few more days,” Mountbatten demanded.

“Easy Captain, I’ll take my rest.”

“You’re damned right you will. It’s a little too early to be back,” Mountbatten put a pause on his attempt at rapport, “We caught your shooter.”

“So I’ve heard.”

Mountbatten continued, “It’s been quiet since Legrand was arrested. Nansoko has stayed silent about things.”

“What’s Titus’s analysis?”

“Even he doesn’t know what that means.”

Coen nodded.

“Glad to see you’re still moving,” Mountbatten chuckled, “Did anyone visit you? I would have but…”

“It’s okay,” Coen shrugged, then he exhaled and stood up and began to leave, “Getting back to work will take my mind off some things.”

Mountbatten watched as the sergeant left.

- - - -


7 PM

5th Avenue Express Station


The maglev lines of the afternoon schedule churned in and out of the station. The LR line pulled into the station and would resume a return to Lumaire Central Station. It seemed the bowels of the maglev cabins had flushed out onto the concourse and platforms as sliding doors opened. Throngs of passengers disembarked and flooded the station as they came home from work.

Earlier that day, an individual had bypassed the security system and carried a hostage with him. The man muffled his hostage’s screams with a thick wad of cloth, and when that did not deter the hostage from muffled screams, he put him to sleep with a soporific solution similar to a previous encounter.
The individual then locked the hostage down within a storage compartment located in the center of one of the cabins. He also latched a timed high-intensity explosive device onto the floor of the compartment. The time readout displayed “18:00:00.”

Then he exited the maglev train dressed like one of the metro transit employees. The cameras had been fed a looping video.

The maglev train began its run back to Lumaire Central Station.

- - - -


7 PM

South East Side


Rain poured over Lumaire. The blare of sirens echoed in the distance shrouded by the black static sky over the cyan city lights. Captain Niles Mountbatten sat inside of a food tent where a one-eyed synth vendor cooked noodles in a giant pot. The synth had a flesh arm and a nakedly wired one. Other patrons sat on stools surrounding the stove.

Mountbatten tapped the counter.

“Yes?” the vendor asked.

“Can I get-“

“-two bowls.” Alexandra Paris finished his sentence as she slipped in through the tent’s opening.

“Lieutenant Paris,” the captain turned around.

She took a seat, “What a surprise captain, I didn’t peg you as the type for street food.”

“Actually, it was a recommendation from one of the officers in the break room.”

“Officers in the break room?”

“Yes, I set them straight rather quickly with beat duty.”

“Quite the disciplinarian, so, what’s the special occasion?”

“Whatever do you mean?”

The reporter continued, “…nanite clean up at the Bantamsklip Nuclear Center in South Africa continues slowly after its main reactor went critical days ago…”

The vendor served them their bowls. Alexandra cracked a pair of chopsticks and set about hers as Mountbatten stared at his own.

“It’s not often that my CO invites me for street soba.”

The android hesitated, “Yes, well…”

Alexandra tapped the counter and raised two fingers, “Two shot glasses.”

The chef nodded.

“I don’t drink, lieutenant.”

“They were for me. Soba tastes better with beer.”

The captain looked at his bowl and cracked a pair of chopsticks with some reservation.

“What did you want to talk about? Actually, let’s enjoy the food before we talk business. I want to be able to vomit in case something shocking happens.”

After Alexandra had gone through half of her bowl and Mountbatten through none of his, they spoke.

“I just wanted to enjoy the company of my XO is all,” Mountbatten said.

Alexandra rolled her eyes, “If I had a nickel…but seriously captain…we’re not at HQ anymore…”

“Lieutenant I’m not a people person and I’m sure my appearance has already made that point for me….” Mountbatten paused.

The vendor delivered two shot glasses.

“The officers on break didn’t lie to you,” Alexandra downed one glass, “Sorry to interrupt, you were saying?”

“Yes well, we both know how relatively new I am to this position,” Mountbatten paused, “May I ask how does it feel to be the XO to the first android Captain of the MCU?”

“The pay could be better…” Alexandra smiled.

Mountbatten imitated a chuckle and then fell quiet.

After a while, the bot began, “I’m not sure if Chief Kyung expects me to be the bastion against the rising tide of anti-bot extremism.”

“Better timing wasn’t possible without precision instruments.”

“That is, what we might call, irony. Or perhaps better fit, tragedy.”

Alexandra raised the other shot glass, “That’s what this is for.”

“Quite. Truth be told, I’m beginning to think that ‘Captain’ is merely a title.”

“But I’m a lieutenant, doesn’t that mean something?”

“Perhaps not.”

“Well, fuck me…”

“I would but I’m waiting on a certain upgrade.”

“Aren’t you cheeky.”

“It comes with the accent lieutenant, but, as I have said, I feel ill-equipped to handle this.”

“Look, I’ve been comfortable doing most of the talking, at least to our subordinates, but you’re still our leader. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re an android or a human, at the end of the day, you’re still LSP, and that’s all there is to it.”

Mountbatten looked at Alexandra for a long time, “Thank you lieutenant.”

“No, thank you captain for dinner. You’re paying, right?”

Mountbatten turned to see the vendor waiting for him.

- -


Alexandra and Mountbatten exited the food tent. In the night, a visual array of orange, yellow, and pink lights formed from the various holo-displays and LED screens blinking in the night as a soft drizzle poured in Lumaire. The sky was the color of a television screen, static gray. The night time throng pushed along on the sidewalks while spinners and VTOLs whirred by above them.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Captain,” the lieutenant waved.

Mountbatten watched as Alexandra slipped into her car parked on the curb. Her tail lights left streaks of orange in the rain. He pulled his overcoat in tighter, but a ping alerted him.

“Miss St. Cloud?”

“Captain you need to see this,” she said.

His DNI relayed the footage which displayed the LR Line of the Lumaire metropolitan transit system exploding.

“Get me anyone who is available this instant Miss St. Cloud. Let them know whoever is closest should make for the Lumaire Central Station.”

“Chief already sent in several blues to help secure an orderly evacuation. Fire squads, the trauma unit, and other emergency medical teams are on the way.”

“Keep me updated, I’m heading back to HQ.”

“Yes sir, Tia out.”

Mountbatten rang up Alexandra and informed her of the situation.

- - - -

Assignments


As of 9:35 PM August 11th, 2075:

LR Line Bomb

Information –

A bomb detonated on the LR Line, information is still coming in. We need as many officers on hand to facilitate evacuation and help survivors. It’s a fucking mess down there…

- Tia Marie St. Cloud

Contact

Target – Tycho Ren

Information –

For a long time, maybe the span of three months, we’ve had an undercover agent embedded with the Jade Tigers triad.

The Jade Tigers are just one among the many prominent triad organizations operating in Lumaire. Their main is in Xin Aomen, but they’ve got branches throughout the world. They deal in many illegal activities from arms trafficking to prostitution to drugs. Sometimes, they work with the other triads, which turns things very ugly, sometimes.

Our man on the inside is a Tycho Ren, who goes by the alias of Serpent. His familiarity with the Tigers and his middle of the road appearance allowed him to blend in. Problem is he’s gone dark. No status reports in over a month. Undercovers are very unique people because of their situation. The chief fears that he might have embraced the criminal lifestyle since it leads to sex, money, and cars as opposed to being, well, an upright officer.

Now, Tycho’s a bit of a hot-shot, but this isn’t his first rodeo. He also underwent a rigorous series of psych evals and investigations before he started. He’s shown that he’s a stable, self-aware guy, who’s not out of his depth, yet.

It’s possible that his situation has turned very delicate right now, which is why he can’t have a direct contact with us. So that means we need to come to him.

The Jade Tigers operate near the port district, where they have a few warehouses. That’s where you’ll most likely find Tycho.

Recommended Agents – 1.

- Tia Marie St. Cloud


Dynamic Duo

Target – Benny and Cha Cha Dominguez

Information –

Benny and Cha Cha Dominguez are wanted for murder. The cameras pretty much caught all the action in the south-east side when they gunned down a man named Danny Leitch. They didn’t even bother hiding it, but they quickly figured out the deep shit they were in. They head a small gang in the 8th’s southerly neighborhoods called the Rabbits. They’ve been at this since they were in their teens. Their gang runs a protection racketeer on the residents living in that area.

We put up a warrant for their arrest and a small private recovery firm, aka bounty hunters, called Pfeiffer’s Seven managed to arrest the two. Unfortunately, the Dominguez siblings didn’t remain in their custody for long. While the bounty hunters were waiting for an LSP extraction veet to take Benny and Cha Cha in for processing, the Rabbits struck and killed several of the recovery agents. Benny and Cha Cha escaped and went into hiding.

So now they’re wanted for more than just one count of murder.

You’ll know it’s them when you see the colorful attire and hair, that’s just how they roll. Bring in Benny and Cha Cha alive.

Recommended Agents – 1.

- Tia Marie St. Cloud

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Emmett Tigron

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9:30 pm
5487 Anderson Street, #32

Emmett lay on his couch, his head slightly turned towards the tv as the rerun of the gravity ball* game continued disappoint him. His team, the New Edo Wildcats were floundering hard as the Onaro Rollers managed to score yet another point. Essentially football with zero gravity and complete 360 degree movement in a nearly empty area, gravity ball was actually pretty entertaining to watch. Granted, the only thing that was making this game even slightly bearable was the fact that Emmett was about 4 beers into the match. His skin still ached slightly, and reporters had been hounding him ever since he marched Mathieu off to prison. He absent mindedly brought his hand up to his stitches on his forehead, rubbing them as if that was going to make the reminder go away.

At least he was home. Here, he was topless, wearing ragged shorts and drinking his fifth beer. Yeah, maybe not exactly the most pleasant of images, but who cares? He was at home, and if he couldn’t be completely comfortable here, where could he? A few bruises littered his skin as well, yet another painful reminder of the bomb he nearly avoided, but they would go away in a few days...hopefully. As the Rollers managed to score yet another point in just a few minutes, Emmett threw his hands up yet his expression didn’t change. Ultimately, it was a very lazy gesture. “C’mon...you guys have been practicing for this. Don’t make me switch to the Lumaire Lights. I will be very disappointed in all of you.” Emmett stated with practically no energy to his voice, barely managing to stifle a yawn.

“Police Alert.” Emmett slowly looked up at the ceiling. His personal VI in the apartment, which really was nothing more than a glorified answering machine, was also connected to intercept and relay any known police emergencies which would require the direction/aid of a MCU Detective. “The LR line of the Lumaire Metropolitan transit system has been targeted by an explosive attack. All operatives and units in the area are to respond to the crisis.” The LR Line? That was only ten minutes away from where Emmett lived. He gave an exasperated sigh as he slowly got up from the couch. He stumbled slightly as he felt light headed. Luckily vehicles nowadays were mostly automated so drinking and driving was rarely a thing anymore. Still, it would be best to not show up with liquor on his breath, even if he hadn’t planned on doing anything tonight.

Not like that was any different from any other night though.

Walking into his room and changing into something more befitting of a MCU detective, namely his clothes he had picked for tomorrow, he walked back out into his kitchen and dug into the cupboards. There he found a few pill bottles, caffeine supplements. These would hopefully jump start his system and get the blood flowing so his alcohol blood content wouldn’t be nearly as bad. Next, he wandered into the bathroom and quickly swished around some mouthwash. Smelling his own breath and deeming it...somewhat acceptable, he grabbed his gear and stepped out of his apartment.




9:50 pm
LR Line, Metropolitan Transit System

Emmett drove to the entrance of the Lumaire City Central Station, finding plenty of parking due to the entire area being cordoned off and emergency vehicles from nearly every single department being present. Police, Bomb Squad, Fire, Medical, even a contingent of VTOL pilots were flying overhead to keep an eye on things and maybe spot any suspicious individuals. Emmett pulled over to the side of the road, his lights flashing but no siren actually sounding as he stepped out of his car. While a number of techs and officers were milling around outside, most tending to the wounded, Emmett stared at the entrance to the Central Station. Black scorch marks could be seen on the stairs leading in, but if that was from the bomb or from the subsequent fires he couldn’t tell. Sure, it was made of metal and concrete, but Emmett knew better than anyone that there were substances out there capable of burning anything.

More than a few tarps were laid out, filled with bodies...or at the very least, enough body parts to frankenstein back into a body. Emmett already didn’t like the numbers, easily into the double digits. The bomber had hit during the evening rush hour. When people working the evening shifts were just getting off and heading home, and people working the night shifts were heading into their jobs. Whoever planted the bomb knew this, although that information wasn’t exactly classified. A simple single day of recon would have provided that knowledge, and while this place was meant to withstand some extreme punishment, people were not. He gave a sigh to himself, not sure if he wanted to subject himself to potentially more explosions so soon after his church stunt, but a job was a job.

With little flair, Emmett made his way towards the Central Station, flashing his badge to anyone who looked ready to stop him. One of the perks and downsides of a Detective, unless they were famous, they rarely looked like they belonged at a crime scene. As his feet made their way down the stairs, the crunch of hardened ash and blasted tile assailed his ears. The smell of smoke, burning flesh and hair, plus a number of unknown scents filled his nostrils. He had to brace himself to not gag from the array of different things that ultimately formed something that could be equated to puke or rancid dog shit. He waved a hand in front of his nose slightly, as if that would somehow magically make everything better while his face scrunched into that of disgust.

Upon getting to the bottom of the stairs and entering the station proper, he was met with the true force of the LSPD Law and Rescue teams. The Central Station itself was fairly large, basically one open area with multiple lines running in from all over the city. From here, one could get to any end of the city in about fifteen minutes, and the licenses required to ride were fairly cheap. What that meant was that a lot of lower middle class families used the lines as their main modes of transportation. All in all, there were 6 lines, and on one of them the train had been completely flipped over and demolished. Emmett was still a fair distance away, but even he could see the bodies still sticking out of the wreckage, unmoving and undoubtedly dead.

The number continued to climb.

Stairways ran over these lines, above the trains as they came in, allowing people to get past the trains and onto the one that actually took them where they were heading. A number of these bypasses were crumbled and shattered, littering the tracks and open area with debris. Benches were completely destroyed, pillars that supported the roof had been shattered but, thankfully, the LSPD fire department had already set up emergency supports to make sure the roof of the Metro wouldn’t cave. A number of small boxes, which used to house the Mag Line workers in charge of tickets and keeping track of the trains, were also complete wrecks. Emmett was able to figure out what general direction the bomb had exploded from due to the amount of wreckage, scorch marks, and bodies. Whoever did this knew their stuff, knew where to do the most damage, and worst of all, didn’t care about collateral damage.

Or maybe that was their goal?

Rescue crews were hard at work trying to make sure structural integrity was solid, and recover bodies of those unfortunate enough to be close enough to the blast zone. A number of the bodies along the outer edge still groaned with pain, but the EMT’s were already trying to do their magic on them. Further away from the blast zone, one could say on the opposite end of ground zero, there was a temporary command zone set up with a member from each of the respective departments standing around it. The LSPD Blues, the police and SWAT of the area. Not necessarily MCU but they were the people called in when something required an immediate response or just a presence, and not the skill of the MCU detective’s logical thinking. The LSPD Whites, EMT’s and doctors out to save lives and do what they could for the injured. Typically speaking, Emmett had a great deal of respect for these individuals because their line of work didn’t allow for much exposure or gratitude. The high priced doctors and people who made way too much money for an individual were the ones who were often on the receiving end of the praise. Yet despite this, Emmett had yet to meet an EMT complain about recognition. These were the people who truly wanted to help others. Finally there were the LSPD Reds, the fire and rescue department. Men, women and bots whose sole job was to put out fires and pull people from dangerous situations. Often times the Blues and Reds conflicted on just who should have operational command, and more often than not, these two factions failed to come to a decent compromise. While Emmett could say that the Reds were some of the bravest sons of bitches he had ever known, he didn’t know if he could chalk that up to actual courage or insanity. A number of them were adrenaline junkies simply funnelling their need for a thrill into something that helped other people in the process. While a part of Emmett could get behind that, he knew that saving people wasn’t their ultimate goal. That isn’t to say they were all like that, but Emmett could say with a 90% certainty that a good chunk of them were.

Emmett started to approach the table, nodding to the emergency crews as he walked by. Once he got closer, he could hear the debate going on between the powers that be.

“We could have people still trapped underneath the debris, we should prioritize figuring out how to get them out.”

“We’ve already performed the scans, we’ve marked who’s alive. You know who those people are, for right now, we need resources into making sure that the rest of this station isn’t going to come down on our heads.”

“We’ve already seen to that.”

“Well would you mind explaining the creaking?”

“Your old legs betraying you?”

“Fuck off, now’s not the time for jokes.”

“I wasn’t joking, maybe you should leave such matters to those of us with some youth left in our system.”

“Are you fu…” Emmett strode up to the table, looking at the papers and datapads that littered the surface. Everyone stopped to stare at him as he picked up a couple of the pads, sifting through the information presented. Most of it was general statistics on the casualty rates, possible solutions to digging out the deceased currently underneath the overturned train, and there was even a section on how to announce this publicly. They may have been arguing, but there was still enough information here to indicate they had had some sort of plan ahead of Emmett getting here.

There was a long pause, as if the crew around Emmett were waiting for him to introduce himself. Instead, he continued looking through the information until finally the Police Lieutenant spoke up first, clearing his throat. “Excuse me...who are you?” Emmett peered up from the datapad he had been reading.

“Oh don’t mind me, I’m just waiting for your little spat to be done with so we can really get to work.” Emmett said, waving a hand slightly to get them to continue. When they started looking at each other, not saying a word, Emmett took a breath. “You’re done? Good, because the worst part of my job is managing insignificant arguments between people who should have enough common sense to know now is not the time for a pissing contest.”

“You didn’t answer the question.” The Fire Captain stated, his eyes narrowing at Emmett. Emmett shrugged, tapping his wrist to bring up his official MCU badge for them to see. A brief look of ‘Oh Shit’ came across their faces as they realized what had just happened.

“I believe that will suffice.” Emmett stated, knowing full well he was essentially living up to the stereotype that MCU Detectives were condescending assholes, but right now he was tired, hyped up on caffeine, several beers into his night AND missing a gravity ball game. He was in no mood for games or dick measuring competitions. “As of this moment, the MCU is assuming tactical command of this operation.”

“With all due respect Detective...do you even have the first clue as how First Responders work? Have you been a part of secure and rescue operations?” This time it was the Fire Captain that spoke up, he was a young one and his voice was filled with an exuberant condescension. He believed himself to be king shit, and Emmett wasn’t about to let that fly.

“First off, let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves. I’ll start: I’m Emmett Tigron.” Emmett pointed to the Police Lieutenant.

“Lieutenant Tyler Kang.” The Lieutenant was older, most likely into his late forties, but still held the bulk of someone half his age. Normally Lieutenants were relegated to desk duty and delegation, so he was most likely here due to the severity of the situation and the timing. While there were no obvious cybernetics, but a couple scars along his weathered face indicated some form of bone or muscle grafts in his face. Nerve damage? Broken cheek bones? Emmett doubted it was cosmetic, seeing as the scar would be practically invisible if that was the case. The Lieutenant was freshly shaven though, obviously having taken the time to make sure he was presentable before showing up here, a couple of nicks on his chin told Emmett that he had rushed through it. The man had grey eyes, an oddity and normally prone to the ‘dead’ look that one would expect from a corpse, yet there was fire there. This man took his job seriously and expected others to do the same. His uniform, while not immaculate, showed signs of maintenance. He wore no helmet, allowing his short brown and gray hair to be seen by those around him. All in all, he looked like a no nonsense man who preferred to speak less and act more.

“Captain Mitchell Produn.” The Fire Captain spoke up next, his chest puffing with the enunciation of his name. There was no doubt as to how this man got his command, it was through his actions rather than his mouth or even air of command. The man didn’t seem to hold any clout with the other ranking members of the LSPD first responders, meaning he was new. He wore the standard issue Captain’s Firefighter garb, which looked more akin to combat armor than anyone would like to admit. His helmet sat off to one side of the table, essentially a clear visor wrapping around the head but reinforced to withstand extreme heat and pressure. Scuff marks on his armor, including black scorch marks and dent indicated that not only was this guy an ‘act first, think later’ kind of person, but that he had used that exact mentality here. Still, the fact that the supports were in place, many injured people had been hauled out onto the road above them and a number of firefighters were still trying to get to others told Emmett that, even if he didn’t necessarily have the air of a leader about him, the other Reds respected him enough to follow his commands and do as they were told. Age wise, he looked to be about the same age as Emmett, in his late twenties. Subtle green lines ran along his jaw, indicating some form of cybernetics, most likely used to increase his resistance to heat and fire. His eyes glowed green, another cybernetic that was most likely used to increase his job efficiency. His chin was unshaved though, sporting what looked like a styled 5 o’clock shadow. It meant he kept the stubble on purpose, preferring it to the clean shaven look and cementing Emmett’s idea of the man being a wannabe bad boy.

“Emily Mann.” The EMT in charge of saving these people from their injuries and the only woman currently at the table. Once again, she looked to be around Emmett’s age, although probably a few years older, putting her in her early 30’s. She wore what looked to be a utilitarian garb, or at the very least, not something you would expect someone of a leadership role to be wearing. Her attire was the same as the other EMT’s, with the exception of some yellow bars on her utility straps. A white pressed shirt filled to the brim with pockets sporting anything from syringes to pills to nanites complimented her black slacks that had more straps attached to them than a busy night at the BDSM house. Every single one of them held, at minimum, two different things that Emmett couldn’t even guess to their function. They all looked alien to him, but obviously she could tell what each one did. Her hands were placed on the table, and judging by the dirt, grime and dried blood, she had been tending to the wounded before being pulled over here. Her face, while she tried to hide it, was contorted into an expression of impatience. She wasn’t one to talk things through with others, she was here simply to fix people and save them if she could. Her matte black hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, but the one thing that seemed to set her apart from the others at the table was the fact that she had an honest to god patch over her eye. Much like the pirates of old, it was a jarring addition to an otherwise stereotypical ‘busy nurse’ persona she was giving off. By the way she was moving her head slightly more towards whoever was speaking, Emmett could say with a fair amount of confidence that she simply didn’t have an eye in that socket. She was so used to it that her movements betrayed her rather lazy attempt to hide it. Along with that, seeing as the sleeves or her shirt were rolled up to her elbows, several scars could be seen lining her skin. Unlike cybernetic implant markers though, these were jagged and rough, most likely from some form of attack or even self harm.

Just like that, Emmett had more than enough information to start dealing with the people around the table, even if this wasn’t his own comfort zone, the MCU held authority over every Law and Rescue faction, save for the military. While they had access there, they couldn’t order any soldiers around unless they were given express permission from the commanding officer or had a government issued decree. “There, now at least I can put faces to names.” Emmett placed his hands in his pockets, showing a display of casual confidence that he was positive irked the team to no end. After all, he looked young and now acted like it, much in the same way that Produn was doing. “To answer your question Captain, no I can’t say I have much experience in the way of dealing with search and rescue operations.” Emmett started, looking over at Produn. “That being said, I have plenty of experience in dealing with people, getting things that need to be done, done, and, when push comes to shove, figuring out how to bury those who get in my way.”

“Are you threatening us Detective?” Mann asked, her eye narrowing at him once again.

“Yes.” Emmett stated so flatly that the others actually flinched. “I’m here, after I’ve already put in 10 hours at work, pulled from my couch where I was enjoying a gravity ball game and ushered here. Not to mention that I’m not too keen on dealing with another bomber after I was nearly killed a couple of days ago from one.” Emmett looked around the table at the people. “The last couple of days, for me, have been a bit of a shit show. What that means for you people, is that I will not tolerate egos or bullshit. Captain Produn…”

“Yeah?” He answered.

“If I hear a comment like what you said to Lieutenant Kang, I will personally crush your professional career before it can start. Lieutenant Kang offers something that you can’t possibly give us at this exact moment...and that is experience.” Emmett looked over at Kang, who seemed to start beaming at the unexpected defense of his person. “And Lieutenant Kang, you need to get off your high horse and realize that you are not the young buck that you used to be. While I can look at you and say that you’ve taken care of yourself, your lack of cybernetics leaves you at a disadvantage that Produn can easily take care of. So stop playing the role of crotchety old man and start playing the role of mentor.”

Emmett finally turned to Emily. “And Dr. Mann, if you don’t stop glaring at me with your one good eye in an attempt to mentally turn my brain into mush, I will grab another EMT who’s easier to work with and make them the operational lead of the EMT’s...do I make myself clear?”

“You can’t do that…” She stated, seemingly faltering on her words as she wasn’t sure that he could. She played her hand, because honestly, Emmett couldn’t.

“I can, and will. So stop making wrinkles on your face and start helping with a bigger game plan.” Emmett flipped a couple of datapads on the table. “Now, if we’re done trying to have a fourway with each other, can we get down to business?” Emmett looked to Produn. “I assume the Reds were first on the scene, what can you tell me about the initial minutes.” Produn seemed to shift in his place, but quickly settled into just playing along.

“When we got here, the bomb seemed to have some kind of incendiary component. Flames were pouring out of the mouth of the entrance. Attempts to quell it with standard water wasn’t working, so we sent in some bots equipped with neutralizer and had them start spraying everything down. It took us several minutes before we could begin to send in anyone else.”

“When did Bomb Squad show up?” Emmett asked, looking over at Kang.

“Shortly after the Reds had managed to get their people into the station. I had them push up behind the Reds in case there was another explosive down here waiting to go off.”

“I’m assuming there wasn’t?” Emmett asked, to which Kang simply shook his head.

“Nah, we swept the whole building and found no traces. They found the ground zero of the explosive in their search though and they’re analyzing it as we speak.”

“Good work, and good call with the supports Captain.” Emmett pointed at the makeshift supports implemented by the Reds. “Doctor, what can you tell me about the wounded, specifically, was there anything out of the ordinary regarding their injuries that you wouldn’t normally associate to a bombing?”

“None that I could tell, but that’s just an initial and hurried assessment.” Emily stated, crossing her arms in front of her. “I was too busy trying to save lives...something I could be doing right now.”

“How many are we looking at right now?” Emmett asked, bypassing the passive aggressiveness altogether.

“At least 30 dead, triple that number wounded...many of the wounded won’t make it to morning. My best, and honestly, most conservative estimate of total dead ends around 50.”

“50 dead…” Emmett stated, stepping back from the table and placing a hand on his chin. “Do we have any idea how many people are still trapped or waiting for rescue?”

“We’re still pulling people from the debris, but the Blues are slowing us down while their bomb squad checks pretty much every single fucking rock.” Captain Produn stated, glaring over at Kang. Before the Lieutenant could respond, Emmett did it for him.

“Tell me Produn, would you prefer to come across another explosive face first, or with someone else attempting to disarm it before it kills you and about two dozen others?”

“Uhhh...well the second option obviously…”

“Then stop your bitching.” Emmett said, once again earning a flinching movement from the Captain. “The Bomb Squad has their job just as you do yours. Yes, it will slow things down but it’s the difference between a couple more people losing their lives, or the rest of us should the bomber have thought about this particular avenue.” Emmett looked over at Kang. “That being said, we do have lives on the line either way, is there any way that we could speed up the process?”

“I could bring in a specialized sensor and set up shop down here, but that would require clearance on a level I simply can’t authorize, not to mention the liability should it get damaged.” Emmett pulled up his phone and, with a few taps, had Kang’s number. Life was made easier when the MCU had access to all records of the people connected to the LSPD infrastructure.

“Done, if something happens they can rip me a new one, but get it in here.” Kang looked ready to move before Emmett snapped his fingers. “Also Lieutenant, you’re on crowd control. Reporters are already clammering around the line, get out there and make a statement, calm them down and keep this as low level as you can make it.”

“Calm the media down after an explosion at the LR Central Station...How?”

“You have a mouth, you know how to talk? Figure something out Lieutenant, you should have enough years on the force to know how to quell the media by this point.” Kang stiffened as he realized that his previous strength was now being used as a target by the very person who had brought it up. His pride was at stake, and Emmett was banking on that. From the short time he had analyzed Kang, he knew that he wasn’t someone to back down from a challenge, especially if that challenge was also against his very person.

“I’ll get it done.” Kang stated, making his way to the stairs while pulling out his own phone to call in for the sensor.

“Captain Produn, I have nothing to give you aside from continuing what you’re doing. Once the sensor is in place, you and Dr. Mann will work together to figure out the worst possible cases that are in need of dire rescue and prioritize them, in the meantime, continue as you were.”

“Got it.” Produn stated, grabbing his helmet and donning it before running off to a group of Reds who were trying to get through some rubble.

“As for you Doctor, I need a list of the wounded who can be airlifted out of here. I want them walked to the VTOL’s if possible.”

“What purpose could that possibly serve?” She asked, although Emmett could tell it was taking her just a little bit of effort to not just outright deny him.

“Media is already on site, and at the moment, they need some form of reassurance. Seeing people walk out of such a situation, even if they need help, gives the people watching at home that this incident isn’t as bad as it really is.”

“So it’s political.”

“Of course it’s political. Do you want people to be sitting at home, scared of taking any of the Mag Trains anywhere? Scared of walking down the streets? We need to reassure them, comfort them, hell tuck them in and read them a bedtime story if necessary.”

“This feels scummy.” Emily said, looking at Emmett who pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Of course it is, I’m telling you to lie to the public.” Emmett said, looking over at her. “I’m doing it so that when it comes out that I’m the MCU Agent in charge of this operation, I’m not bogged down by unanswerable questions and cameras while I try to figure out who caused this mess.” Emmett looked up at her. “I’m asking for your help, you can either give it and make my life easier, or you don’t, at which point it takes me longer to find the bomber who may decide to strike again. At that point, you’re not saving lives, you’re causing death.”

“Trying to pin your potential failure on me?” Emily asked, defenses going up once again.

“If that’s what it fucking takes.” Emmett said, walking around the table and standing in front of her at his full height. “I’m not here to make friends or be nice Doctor, I will do whatever it takes to find the assholes who think it’s a fucking game to disrupt the city I love with death and carnage. If you don’t want to help me, then move aside but so help me God I will not tolerate you deliberately getting in my way...am I clear?” Just like that, he had called her bluff. Her entire appearance was one of defiance, but it was a shield. Emmett hated doing this, but he didn’t have time to work around the issue.

Emily shrinked and revealed who she really was, before whatever event had happened to leave her in such a scarred state. “Of course Detective, I will get right on that.” Her voice was softer, lighter, held back. Chances are the only reason she had gotten this sort of command was because her wounds had given her this shield of defiant absolution. She turned quickly, walking around Emmett to get to the wounded and start her task. Who would have thought that the person giving him the least trouble would be the Fire Captain? Emmett shook his head, realizing that he may have cemented a very harsh image of himself in that Doctor’s mind, not to mention Kang and Produn, but at the moment he had more important things to get to.

Emmett wandered around the ruined station, watching as every single person down here either had a person, or was so injured that moving them was dangerous in its own right. It took him a few moments before he managed to catch sight of the Bomb Squad’s logo currently mixed in with the destruction of the train that littered the station. As Emmett got closer to the train, noticing that the damage did seem to indicate that the bomb exploded from the particular section they were standing in, he could hear the conversation going on between a number of the techs.

“This is a weird one, the metal shape of the cabin is bent both outwards...and inwards.”

“Any ideas as to what could have caused this? Maybe some sort of implosion device?”

“That doesn’t explain how the carnage managed to make it all the way to the stairs of the station though, implosions, regardless of power, tend to be small and controlled.”

“Right, not to mention that they’re relatively clean. Are we barking up the wrong tree here?”

“Maybe, get me some metal scrapings from the side of the train, I’m going to talk to the Detective over there.” Emmett paused, he hadn’t even realized that they had noticed his presence. Granted, these guys were sticklers for details, considering their line of work. It was only natural that they could split their focus like that. With that line being said, one of the technicians got up from his crouched position, crossed the wreckage of the train, and joined Emmett on the platform. Once he was up, he offered a small smile and his hand.

“Sergeant Ivan Serge.” Emmett took his hand and gave it a firm shake.

“Detective Emmett Tigron...and I’m sorry, Serge?” The man gave a short laugh.

“My real last name and a bit of a running joke around here. Shall we?” Ivan motioned them away from the detonation site so they could talk a bit. Once they were far enough away, Emmett took a moment to gain a mental image of the man.

He wore the standard issue uniform of a Bomb Squad technician, which was essentially a Blue uniform with extra explosive padding. It limited movement but in a pinch could take a frag grenade directly to the chest. Normally these guys weren’t in the thick of a fight anyways. He didn’t wear his helmet, which unlike the Blue uniform, included a whole suite of bomb disarming software that assisted the user in life or death situations when dealing with something that could end your life in a fiery flash. The man was older, closer to Lieutenant Kang’s age actually, and it looked like he was a lifelong Sergeant. Some people simply preferred things that way, not wanting to get bogged down in politics and instead sticking to the field. He had a very full beard that was completely dark with black hair, not a single streak of gray to it. This is what offset Emmett so much, as his hair on top of his head was nearly completely white. He most likely colored it, or had some rare genetic condition that just made that happen. Wrinkles lined his face but he didn’t appear to be slowed by age as his green eyes pulsed with an energy and alertness that one would find in a rookie looking to prove himself. Subtle veins could be seen on his right temple, where veins shouldn’t bulge, meaning there was some form of cybernetic connected to his optic nerve. Most likely some kind of virtual interface or overlay.

“Start from the top.” Emmett said, looking slightly past him towards where the rest of the bomb squad was still gathered. Ivan looked back at the train, took a moment to collect his thoughts, then started.

“Well it appears from our investigation that the bomb was transported with the train into Central Station, where it then exploded. We can’t tell if it was timed or triggered yet, although we’re leaning towards the former due to the construction and make of materials that make up the station.” Ivan pointed up at the ceiling. “While not necessarily meant to block signals, since people get mighty upset when they can’t use their phones, it does make any radio broadcasts difficult. A point to point transmitter would also be useless, considering the bomber would have had to be in the blast zone. A timer makes the most sense.”

“Seems reasonable.” Emmett chimed in, before allowing Ivan to continue.

“The issue we’re having with the bomb...well is the nature of the explosion.” Ivan pointed to the train and traced the fractured metal with his finger. “While the metal is bent outwards now, indicating a standard explosive of impressive proportions, a quick look see showed that it had actually bent inwards first, not only that but there are ripples.”

“Ripples?” Emmett asked, gaining a nod from Ivan.

“Like you would see on a body of water, the metal of the train was either forced into such movements or heated to a degree as to become malleable for a few moments before the blast.”

“Do you have any idea what could cause this?” Ivan shook his head.

“We’ve been on top of the black market in the city for some time now, but the explosives they have, while dangerous in their own right, don’t match this pattern. In fact, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

“Sounds like an implosion device to me.” Emmett stated, earning a nod from Ivan.

“Right, and that was our initial assumption as well. The issue with that theory is that we have a catalogue of all known implosion devices and none of them match this signature. Not to mention that implosion devices are used to actually prevent collateral damage, not cause it. They are inherently small explosions with a more deadly ‘core’ for lack of a better word.”

“So if it was a true implosion device, the train would be decimated…”

“But the rest of the station would have been only minimally damaged, maybe from a bit of debris, but that’s it.”

“So what I’m getting here is that this explosive isn’t something being mass produced or using blueprints from previous designs.”

“No...we’re dealing with a homebrew here, at least that’s my assumption.” Emmett reached into his jacket pocket, feeling the tiny little silver cross that he kept in there and giving it a rub.

“That makes whoever did this more dangerous than the average chaos provider.”

“We’re still collecting samples, some odd things about those but I can’t go into details until I get the CSI’s to look at them. Sorry I don’t have more Detective.”

“It’s fine Sergeant. Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll do what I do.” Emmett said, watching as Ivan gave a nod and walked back to where the rest of his crew was. A homebrew device aboard a train in one of the most condensed and populated areas of the city. To be honest, they were lucky there weren’t more casualties, but chances are this was a test. The bomb could have failed to live up to expectations, or the bomber could have made a mistake in terms of placement or calculations. One way or another, Emmett didn’t think this was the end of this particular little adventure.

For now, he had to do the rest of the boring detective stuff.




3:30 am
MCU HeadQuarters

Life was Hell.

Emmett sat at his desk combing through security footage and witness reports with all the enthusiasm of a zombie. He had spent the better part of 6 hours coordinating the mess that was Central Station, getting people in and out of the area and making sure the press only saw what he wanted them to see. He wanted to believe he handled it well, but the media was extremely good at what they did and they always found something they weren’t supposed to. On Emmett’s desk sat five different cups that were all a quarter filled with black sludge that was once coffee. Emmett himself looked like death warmed over, as the bags under his eyes were black enough to make people think he had gotten into a fight. His eyelids were constantly half closed and his entire body moved with all the enthusiasm of a plague victim.

The tapes held nothing of interest. It got up to the point the train pulled into the station, then they all went to static as the train exploded. Emmett got nothing of value from any of them, including no sign of a triggerman. Meaning that Ivan’s theory of a timed explosive seemed to be correct. If someone had pushed a button somewhere, or looked like they were waiting for the train to arrive, Emmett liked to believe that he would have found it.

Then again, he had caught himself staring at a single panel on a wall for ten minutes because it happened to be slightly skewed to the left.

Emmett reached over for one of the cups, grabbing it and slamming it back only to nearly gag and spit it up all over the floor. He looked into the cup and saw that he had grabbed one of the old ones, which had congealed into something that looked like the Blob but with mixed parentage. Just as he thought about getting up to grab another cup of coffee, his computer dinged with two separate emails. One was from Wayne down in the morgue with the bodies of those who had perished during the explosion, and another was from a Doctor Mikhail Ludvanna from the CSI team. They both wanted him to go to their respective departments, but considering that Emmett was having a very hard time moving his body, he sent an email to Mikhail to meet him in the morgue. Whatever he had to say could be done in the presence of the fallen...and also without having Emmett move more than he had to.




MCU Morgue

“Wayne.” Emmett said as he walked through the doors into the morgue once more. He spent way too much time down here where all the people reminded him of his current state.

“Detective.” The cyborg stated, giving Emmett a cursory glance over. “Are you doing alright?”

“Long night...is Dr. Mi-” Nearly on cue, the door behind Emmett opened to reveal an aging man. Bald, eyes pulsating with several glowing lights and his left arm was obviously augmented. His white lab coat was completely pristine without a single wrinkle to it, and his posture was immaculate. Already Emmett could feel his hackles rising, this guy thought himself above the average pleb and wasn’t afraid to let others know it. His eyes locked onto the detective, his wrinkly face giving a frown as he saw who he was dealing with.

“Detective Tigron.” Mikhail stated, his voice containing a light accent of what sounded like Serbian and Russian. “You look like shit.” Emmett gave a sigh, running a hand through his hair. Emmett hadn’t had the personal pleasure of dealing with Mikhail, but he had heard about him from other detectives. Intelligent, intuitive and extremely good at what he did...also arrogant, rude, crass, and pompous. The winning combination of smarts and mouth that earned him a wide birth from most of the others working in the MCU.

“Yep...a long night will do that to you.” Mikhail gave a smug smirk, tapping a finger against his temple.

“Then might I suggest a cerebral adrenaline implant? Keeps one mentally alert for long periods of time if in need, much better than the amount of coffee I believe you’ve digested?”

“Breath analyzer implanted in there too?” Emmett asked.

“No, you just reek of old coffee.” Emmett bit the inside of his cheek. This was going to be fun to trudge through.

“Let’s...just get down to business.” Emmett stated, beckoning Mikhail over to where Wayne was waiting patiently over one of the bodies. This one appeared to be shredded, obviously closer to the explosion when it happened. “Anything out of the ordinary?”

“Most of the injuries correlate to blunt force trauma that one would expect from an explosion of this magnitude, not to mention the second and third degree burns.” Wayne stated, pointing to various points over the body. “This individual seemed to be on the platform the train arrived at, but was shielded from vaporization due to the metal container of the locomotive itself. The reason I called you down here though, is due to one specific injury.”

Wayne walked to his desk, collected a couple of data pads, and handed them to Emmett and Mikhail. “This individual, a David Call, had no prior history of arthritis or any degenerative bone disease, but as you can see from these scans, it appears as if his bones have suffered extreme wear and tear similar to those of long time diseases such as the ones I mentioned.”

“Wear and tear? Any idea what could cause this?” Mikhail cleared his throat as Emmett finished his sentence.

“If I may Detective, I believe this could fold into my hypothesis.” Mikhail produced his own datapad, handing it over to Emmett. “The Bomb Squad sent over their findings to us late last night and since then my team and I have spent hours searching through everything. What we found has us a little...disturbed.” Emmett stared at the datapad, but Mikhail had done nothing to dumb down the terminology for him. He could barely understand what was written in front of him, let alone the point that Mikhail was trying to make. Emmett handed the pad over to Wayne.

“Which would be?” Mikhail looked at Emmett as if he was stupid, after all, he had just handed him the datapad with all the information on it.

“Dark Matter?” Wayne asked, looking up from the pad in front of him. Mikhail gave a smile of relief, before it quickly turned to arrogance.

“Well at least the Cyborg gets it. Yes, Dark Matter. Not something you would find in your run of the mill bomb, or anything that your typical terrorist or thug could get a hold of.”

“Wayne has a name, I suggest you start using it.” Emmett said, immediately moving to rectify the already prevalent problem and potential racism from the CSI tech. Mikhail seemed to move past it, brushing it off.

“We’re not here to talk semantics about social etiquette Detective. Anyways, Dark Matter is used in a number of practical and experimental applications. If we are to use the evidence gathered here by the cy...Wayne...then I feel safe in hypothesizing the cause of such injuries.” Emmett waited for an answer, but Mikhail seemed perfectly content waiting for Emmett to ask, a slight power play on his part. Luckily, Wayne answered first.

“A black hole.” Mikhail glared at Wayne for less than a second before flying past it and nodding.

“Yes, more or less. While not the same as a naturally occurring black hole, which requires a star reaching critical mass and collapsing in on itself, the same effect can be achieved through the manipulation of Dark Matter’s molecular structure.”

“I’ve heard of this kind of tech before.” Emmett stated, looking between the two of them. “From what I understand, not only is it not publically accessible, it’s also highly unstable, incredibly dangerous and years if not decades from perfection.”

“All very true points Detective.” Wayne said, placing the pad down on the table. “However, the injuries would fall in line with a sudden shift in gravitational pull, not to mention it would explain how the train itself ended up in it’s current state. The black hole bomb would have pulled everything towards it first, then exploded outwards. Judging by the amount of damage to the train and this man’s bones, I can calculate that there was a 10x increase in gravitation pressure.”

“Ten times? Yes, that would be roughly what one would need in order to do this kind of damage in seconds.” Mikhail said, rubbing his chin and looking at the corpse. “Considering his placement, the train’s exterior and the lack of other residue, do you feel comfortable in agreeing with me that this bomb probably took anywhere between 5 and 15 seconds to fully detonate?” Wayne paused for a moment before nodding.

“The calculations check out.” Emmett held up a finger for a moment while the other hand rubbed his forehead.

“So, just so I have a complete picture here...we’re talking about a black hole bomb using materials not accessible to the public and enough power to nearly completely destroy Central Station?”

“Yes Detective, do try to keep up.” Mikhail stated, stepping back from the corpse. Emmett resisted the urge to shoot this man in the kneecap.

“Did the bomb squad give you an indication of size?” Emmett asked, to which Mikhail shook his head.

“No, but judging by the amount of dark matter they managed to seize, it couldn’t have been larger than a fist.”

“A bomb the size of a fist took out an entire station?” Emmett asked, his eyebrow raised.

“Yes, after all Black Holes are some of the most destructive and powerful phenomenons we’ve ever recorded. The power they can take and produce simply can’t be measured.”

“I would like to add…” Wayne spoke up. “That while this is a very real possibility, we don’t have any concrete proof that this is what happened.”

“I’ve worked with less.” Emmett said, staring at the body. “Doctor, I need a list of anyone and everyone who would have access to Dark Matter. Wayne, let me know if anything else crops up.” Emmett paused for a second, taking a breath and making sure he could form words properly considering how much caffeine was no longer flowing through his body. “You’ve both given me your thoughts and ideas, which are much appreciated. Here’s mine...this was a test. They struck a highly condensed and populated area at a time they knew would contain as many people as possible, not to mention the underground nature of the target. My guess is they wanted to see how much damage a single bomb could do, especially against a hardened target such as a subway, which might as well be a bunker. Whoever did this will be looking at this event with an analytical eye and figuring out how to improve.”

“We don’t know their motives or agenda.” Emmett continued. “Which means we’re working with next to nothing in terms of who or what is doing this. I’m going to go through the footage and witness reports again, see if I missed something. In the meantime, you two have your tasks. We good?”

“I would very much like to see who managed to weaponize such a device in this fashion. You’ll have your list before the morning is over Detective.” Mikhail stated, giving a nod and wandered out of the room. Emmett looked to Wayne, who gave nod.

“As always Detective, I will perform as requested.”

“Knew you would, also if Mikhail starts giving you shit again, let me know.” Wayne tilted his head slightly.

“I don’t understand. Was he insulting me?” Emmett started to say something but cut himself off.

“No, nevermind Wayne. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll be at my desk.” Emmett had a lead now, and a renewed sense of investigation. Black hole bombs? Cmon, what was the world coming to. Still, science begged for innovation, good or bad.

It was Emmett’s job to catch the bad ones, and he wouldn’t rest until they were caught.




6:54 am
MCU Headquarters, Detective Tigron’s desk.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz




*Gravity Ball: A form of football played in zero gravity

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lumaire Nights NPCs Character Portrait: Luciana Chavez-Alesci

0.00 INK

#, as written by Dae Mec
Luciana fist-bumped her nephew as she took off her helmet.

“Hey, it’s my favorite Achy-Breaky!”

“Don’t call me that,” complained Akio, but he was still grinning at the old nickname. “Got any cool stories from your work?”

“Hi, Auntie. Are you staying for lunch?” Kee, her niece, looked up from her laptop. “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, it has. Sorry ‘bout that. Work has been so loco you wouldn’t believe it.”

Kee scoffed. “Um, I’ve been reading the news. I can definitely believe it.”

“As have I.” Luciana’s sister, the beautiful and cultured Maria Furukawa (née Chavez-Alesci) glided down the stairs. “Have you been careful?”

“Yeah, sure.” Luciana scratched her cheek even though she couldn’t feel much through the silicon covering. Really, she hated wearing this thing.

“Fine, fine. I know you well enough to know you’re lying.” Maria gave her a hug and a peck on her (real) cheek. “It’s good to see you.” She smiled, sly but still elegant. “I made troccoli.”

“Okay, you’re my favorite sister ever.”

“Oh, hush.”

The low hum of the security door opening alerted them to the entrance of another person. Maria immediately frowned. “But Yoshiro wasn’t supposed to come in for another few hours,” she murmured to her younger sister. Immediately, Luciana’s hand slid to her gun and as stepped in front of her family.

“I’m home,” said a deep, familiar voice. Yoshiro. She reduced her guard just a little bit. “I brought company. I hope you don’t mind, dear.”

Maria glanced at her younger sister. “No, of course not, love. Ah, Luciana’s also here.”

“I see.” Yoshino, a tall man whose bearing screamed more-upper-class-than-your-daddy’s-dreams, adjusted his cufflinks. “Well, may I introduce my new partners?” A man and a woman, both ethnically ambiguous but so similar they had to be related, followed in. Their suits were expensive-looking as her brother in law’s. “Idris and Naomi Eun.”

“Nice to meet you,” mumbled Luciana as the others gave more polished, proper greetings. Out of habit, she scanned their faces with her cyber-eye and tucked away the information for later. “Well, I gotta go. Good to… uh, see you.” She ducked backwards, ignoring the protests of Maria. Yoshino only looked blanked-faced as usual, and his guests only took a bare-minimum notice of her. No matter what, there was no way she was going to sit through a formal “luncheon.”

“HQ,” she hissed as she went out the back, “I know it’s my day off, but you got anything I can handle? Like, legit, anything?”

The low, grumbling voice of the current operator crackled online. He sounded exhausted, and surprisingly—for the immaculate operators—completely unprofessional. “You were already briefed about the Dominguez brothers, right?”

“Yeah, those petty thieves.” Luciana had considered taking their case before, but other stuff kept coming up.

“With all the shit going down on the LR line—”

“Wait, what?”

“How the fuck did you not hear?” Woah, another curse-word. Things were intense in there.

“I’ve been offline for the last couple hours,” she said sheepishly. Luciana had taken the opportunity to shut everything off and just work on her bike while blasting the newest synthcrunk album from D-E-Cita. Then, she’d gone straight to her sister’s—and Maria was not a fan of people being uplinked in her house.

“There was a bomb on the line. It’s pure chaos. We’re doing our best to clean it up, all hands on deck.”

“Oh, merda. I sure picked the wrong day to take a break.”

“Yeah, well, you can help things by taking on the Dominguez brothers, lighten the load for the rest of us. Knowing them, they’re probably taking advantage of the mayhem. These geniuses were last seen in their usual spot, 8th district’s southern areas. Check there? You’ll be suitless, so getting a firefight would be stupid, but finding them would be a big help anyway.”

“Sure, wilco.”

“HQ, out.”

[hr]/[hr]

All Luciana had to do was follow the music. With her newly amped motorcycle, she roared down the streets towards the direction of the obnoxious Latin re-disco. Screams and laughter mingled with drunken Spanish shouts.

She turned the corner and rain right into the gang of Rabbits, the two brothers, and a whole pack of hanger-ons, JoyGirls, and rimbos. All were packing heat—as HQ said, a straight-on confrontation might not be the best way to do it. Empty beer cans were being thrown around, and not-empty beer cans were being dumped on the JoyGirls (and the occasional JoyBoy). Judging by the pile of cans covering the street, it seemed like the party was about to wrap up.

So much for the borthers laying low. With more flare than necessary, Luciana parked the bike and took off her helmet, flipping her hair. Cat-calls followed.

“¿Eres la Rimbo?” shouted one, a man with a rainbow-mohawk and a sólo Dios puede juzgarme tattoo scrawled across his neck. The older one—Benny.

Really, they thought she was the Rimbo? Half her face was… oh, right. She still had the silicon cover from the visit to her sister’s. Luciana was pretty sure she sucked at undercover crap—even though the last case had been an undercover one— but she could probably use this to her advantage. She pursed her lips, pretended the man was attractive, and gave her best sex-bunny impression.

“Si, si, vine por ti, jefe.”

“Oooh!” The other brother, with long and equally gaudy hair, slapped Benny on the back. “This chica has some Nuevo Miami chispa, eh? I can tell that accent from a mile away!”

“Oh yeah, their chiquitas are the hottest. Remember Camila?”

“How could I forget those knockers? This one don’t got those, but man, those legs stretch forever. Bro, can I have her?”

Benny threw an empty can at the wall. “Yeah, sure, knock yourself out.”

Cha Cha gestured towards her with his middle finger. “Come ‘ere, zorra! We gonna have some fun.”

Luciana sauntered towards them, smiling even as every other part of her tensed. When she came into grabbing range, Cha Cha did just that, pulling her onto his lap after giving her butt a loud smack. Luciana did her absolute best not to tear his head off, instead laughing and slinging an arm around his shoulder.

“Ay, what’s your name, girl?”

She drew a blank and said the first name that popped into her head, “Maria,” and gave a silent apology to her sister.

Benny snorted. “Yeah, yeah, you’re all Marias, sure. You’re real late, too, you know.”

“Yeah,” said Cha Cha loudly, clearly beyond sobriety, unlike his brother. “We got a super lucky break, man, and this is our goin’ away party! We’re about to leave for—”

“Callate, Cha Cha.” Benny’s glower shut his brother up in his tracks. “And if you want to get freaky with this Rimbo here then you better hurry the fuck up.”

“Why rush, bro? You go on ahead. We’re gonna split up, anyway, righ—”

“Callate, you donkey mother fucker.” Still, the thought gave him pause. After a second of deliberation, Benny nodded. “Ok, fine. I’ll take the boys. She’s not just a JoyGirl but a Rimbo, too, right? So you’ll probably be safe. I’ll leave Rico and Pom Pom with you, just in case. Hurry up, okay?”

“Oh, you know I can’t, brother!”

With a roll of his eyes, Benny crushed a stray beer can under his foot.




For a gang of wannabe mobsters, they cleaned up real quick. Under Benny’s watchful eyes, the JoyGirls and hanger-ons and regular gangmembers disappeared, leaving no trace but the horde of cans and dripping alcohol. Rico, a blue-haired, short man and Pom Pom, a muscular man with an afro, were the two who were left to linger by the walls.

“Let’s go inside, chica,” Cha Cha whispered in her ear, his breath smelling of cheap alcohol. “This’ll take a long time, boys!”

Both men gave a half-hearted catcall as Luciana allowed herself be led inside one of the shacks.

“Baby, give me—"

The second they were out of sight, Luciana smacked him on the back of his head, knocking him out almost immediately. He slimped to the floor, and after waiting for a couple moments, Luciana dragged him out.

“Sorry, boys, he had a little too much to drink.” Luciana gave them a coy smile as they both groaned and shook their heads.

“Great,” said Pom Pom. “Now we gotta drag his fat ass to the docks.”

“I could drive him,” she offered immediately. “I got my bike.”

They gave each other looks. “Ah, what the hell.” Rico shrugged, picking up a half-full beer can from the ground. “He’s always a whiny bitch when he wakes up. Might as well let the Rimbo deal with it.”

“Where do I gotta to go?”

“The docks, on the east side.”

“Thanks, boys.” With a smile, Luciana drew her gun and shot two shock-darts (non-lethal, of course) at each one. Her aim was spot on, and she watched with satisfaction as they fell to the floor. With a blink of her eye, she connected to HQ.

“What?” crackled the voice.

“I got Cha Cha boys and two gangbangers. I could probably manage to get them both on my bike, but
think Benny is planning on fleeing via the eastern docks. Dunno if I can drop of the boys and make it in
time. Think I could get an extract for them or something?”

“I’ll see what I can do, Hammer. Maybe I can spare an MGU, though I doubt it. Well, at least you got one of them. Bring who you have in. Clear?”

“Roger, HQ. Hammer, out.”

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