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Mr. Eckhard

The Spectre

0 · 362 views · located in Digital Shorts

a character in “Digital Shorts”, as played by El_Gringo

Description



Name-Merek Eckhard

Age-Approximately 29

Appearance-Eckhard is a man of medium height and nondescript features. He could be called handsome, but nothing quite stands out. His face is compiled with a fair chin, upturned nose, and typically no facial hair other than a light mustache and soul patch. When not working, Eckhard wears casual clothes, typically sweatpants and hooded sweatshirts with a nice pair of combat boots to top it off. Merek actually creates and tailors many of his own clothes. Spiky hair adorns his head, when it isn't masked in disguise.

Wiry muscle is entwined throughout his body, a slim build but as thick as possible without hindering movement. Merek takes great pains to keep in top shape. His best friend and only family has a weakened condition, always creating a motivation to keep himself in check.

Augmentations- Merek has a variety of augmentations, the least of which is the communications:
----------------------
Arms & Legs: A prototype "Cheetah" model was used for his arms and legs. They are covered with synthetic skin, but appeared a bit unnatural until extra expenditures were made for cosmetics. A 5" blade can be extended from his elbows for a covert weapon. At full use, the limbs aligned with enhanced muscle could reach speeds slightly above 50 mph. This still doesn't rival the actual Earth animal, but it was a damn fine feat for technology. Extended use requires maintenance after long distance and should not be overused. The main purpose of the tech was not for jogging, but for advanced CQC response and enhanced speed in combat reflexes.

Eyes: Eileen brand eye augments were installed in his sockets, the model was jokingly referred to as the "Soulless" line, taking function over appearance. The eyes were nondescript, lacking a bit of life. They came with enhanced vision, alternate modes, and color change. Having pitch black eyes came in handy on a stealth mission. Net access is a must with these.

Functional: The bulk of the augment work was on the extremities and the eyes, with various other implants to help with general reactions suited for a combat nature.
----------------------

History- Eckhard was a child of Iazu [Born 2071] when the incident occurred. The Metcalfe family, a young couple and their 6 year old son, were set to perish in the collapse of the atmo ring. Representatives of the Godiva Augmentation Corporation were at the gates of the poor, offering to take children to safety if their parents would sign their guardianship over to Godiva Corp. His father Hank, desperate to not see his legacy and family line perish, signed the young boy over. The Metcalfe adults died when exposed to the harsh Mars Atmosphere, but the son of Iazu lived. His father's last words to him were not a loving thought, a calming prayer, but an accusation. He thought the failure of the atmo ring was sabotage. That is the only memory he has of Hank. All he remembered of his mother was the smell of jasmine.

Godiva Corp was branching into something highly illegal, but they had the paperwork to back their claim to the children they took that day if prying eyes cared to peek. While the augmentation had been implemented through physical means, Godiva was looking to a biochemical solution. What resulted was massive death and failure followed by destruction of any records proving the dead existed. He was saved from the experiments because an official high in the corporation found him to be cute, holding a perverted interest in children. Abuse aside, he was fed well and schooled. The few survivors of the experiments were kept with similar care even though it was an expense, Godiva saw it as a tribute to what happened on Iazu to care for them.

As Merek became an adult, the sexual interest from the Godiva Executive diminished. Godiva's records had been uncovered, those that still existed, and government officials kept a magnifying glass over the company. When he turned 17 and had matured for the most part, the corp saw their window diminishing to do something with him. Most augmentations focused on replacing a limb's function, or making it overall stronger and faster. A young experimenter at Godiva by the name of Eric Chung had a wider view of it. They replaced his arms and legs with augments of normal strength, but focusing on increased speed.

Art was of an interest to Eckhard, Earth or Mars, it did not matter. He had taken to creative writing, sewing, and other activities considered 'old' by many. Perhaps this had a little to do with the intense surveillance over him. With the new augmentations, Godiva had him trained by mercenaries from Academi. They hoped to coerce him into signing a contract with Academi to get a giant kickback for the augments placed on him. He signed, but with a caveat, his friend Ryia had to be cared for. While he went out on merc contracts, Ryia kept up his 'home'.

Merek worked for Academi for his 8 year contract. What happened during those years confused and sickened him, but was also scary because he enjoyed some of it. He did not know at the time of his signing, but Academi was notoriously dirty as a merc company. Ryia informed him that many of his missions were likely killing innocents for the rich in Kaiser, but it paid the bills. When he did not re-up on his contract, Academi merc's came to his apartment in an assassination attempt. They failed, but set the apartment on fire. The last man tried to knife Ryia in a vain attempt at accomplishment of some sort, but Merek snatched the knife away from him, severing the man's head from his body.

Ryia and Merek relocated to Cangwu, staying under the radar for a few years. They lived off the contract money from Academia, which was more than enough to live comfortably for a decade. He was restless and needed work where he could utilize his skills, but he did not want to murder. Red Sand Investigations weren't the most notable, but had a good reputation. Eckhard came and applied, his resume drawing the attention of Decker himself. Frank was ready to hate Eckhard, opening with, "RSI is not looking to employ murderers." Merek had to lay out his life story to even be considered. He got the job in the end, and that is what matters.

On a day-to-day work cycle, Eckhard typically wears a mask or face cover if he can get away with it. This is not only to avoid drawing any attention from Academi or Godiva, but to generally lay low. He likes to keep his work and personal life separate much of the time, hiding your identity can help. When he is out and about, typically in Cangwu, his everyman appearance helps him blend in. "Being paranoid is knowing all the facts," a quote dear to Merek's heart.

So begins...

Mr. Eckhard's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Anna Hassan Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard Character Portrait: Graham Case Character Portrait:
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

Counterfeit

Mars

Kaiser

RSI


Marcus had a sore neck as it was aching from the previous night. He knew he didn’t have a comfortable sleep as he was apparently out cold and he slept on his neck in an awkward position. He thought it would do some good if he slapped a chill patch on his neck to cool it down for a bit.

He stumbled through the door and into the ground floor at the office, struggling to roll up his arm sleeves, while his lips were sealed tightly on a cig to keep it from falling out of his mouth. His eyes were half awake, and his ruffled hair needed a comb. Jenks was there along with the Jeeves model synth.

“Good morning, Mr. Sun,” Rob buzzed.

Marcus rolled his sleepy eyes and exhaled a cloud of smoke, “Mr. Sun was my dad.”

It was the morning tango, every morning Rob would come across and say the greeting, and Marcus would respond in kind.

“Jenks,” Marcus nodded to the operative as he was approaching the stairs.

“Marcus,” Jenks replied with a terse nod as well before he went back to cleaning his rifle.

“Anyone here yet besides you?” Marcus puffed, the ember intensified at the tip of his cig.

Jenks looked up at Marcus with a raised eyebrow, “Uh…everybody?”

Marcus stopped mid puff, “Making me feel bad much?”

“Overslept?”

“Somethin’ like that. I got some neck pain,” he began to rub the chill patch.

“I can take care of that,” Jenks smiled and cracked his knuckles.

“Uh, you know what…I think it’s…better now,” Marcus smiled.

Jenks laughed.

Marcus found Merek checking his equipment locker as he walked by. Marcus stopped in front of the Spectre as his callsign was known. There was a moment of silence between the two, Merek looked at him, somewhat lost. Marcus stared into the Eileens before he instantly switched on the schemes of his Gemini implants, which danced all over the color spectrum.

“Woo, woo, woo, woo,” Marcus jested with a smile, his head bobbing, and his eyes blinking variations of colors afforded by the Gemini model.

“Comon’ man, why so serious?” he lightly jabbed the older man in the shoulder with his fist before he continued on walking and puffing.

“What happened to the smoke free environment?” a familiar voice called out.

“If you don’t like it, go get some lung augs,” Marcus turned to see a familiar face, “Oh it’s you blondie.”

Sami appeared as she shut her locker. She rolled her eyes slightly annoyed, “I have a name you know, and boss doesn’t like the smoke.”

“So turn on the filters.”

Sami looked to Merek to say something; the man just replied with a shrug.

“Put it out, we have some new jobs posted, and I want to finish them quickly,” Sami stated.

“Alright, calm down newbie; just give me some time to wake up.” Marcus puffed a last one, suffocated the embers with his shoe, and headed for the stairs.

“I’ll be waiting,” she said in a sarcastic sing-song voice.

Marcus could tell the girl was excited. This would make it her third or fourth job going solo in the field; he couldn’t remember.

-

Marcus continued along the second floor and reached the lunch room; the coffee maker was already finished with its brew. He shuffled over, poured himself a mug, and proceeded to take a sip.

The sip was followed by him spitting into the disposal drain, “Augh, shit. Okay who the fuck did the brew today?”

Graham stepped in with his mug; he was drinking casually, “Jeeves, boss likes his brews.”

“I don’t,” Marcus paused for a moment.

He glanced toward the vending machine, a thought crept in.

He approached the vending machine and slid his currency card across the scanner before selecting a bottle of M9 on the haptic pad. M9 was a premier brand of soft drink that started its life with medical purposes in mind. The refreshing effects turned the drink into a popular beverage, spawning a series composing a variety of flavors. The drink slid out before him, strawberry, freshly chilled and probably carbonated. He pressed the stay tab which was followed by a soft pop. Then he poured the carbonated sweet drink into his coffee. The two liquids mixed, the reaction was evident in the fizzing.

“What are you doing?” Graham asked as Marcus tossed the empty beverage can into a waste receptacle.

“Waking up,” then he quaffed the drink down.

He paused for a moment to let the drink settle, and then he shook his head in one full rotation like a wild dog.

“Let’s go to work,” Marcus said in a calm tone with relaxed demeanor.

He accessed the net and remotely activated his music player.

“Feelin’ Alright” by Joe Cocker started playing on full volume from his desk space, blasted so everyone down the hall could hear. Marcus had modified the file so that the fading out at the conclusion of the song was altered to allow for a continuous loop. It was an oldie, but definitely a goodie that Marcus had started to enjoy.

He grooved down the hall to his desk while Graham shook his head as he followed behind.

Just as Marcus was about to sit down he saw the boss lady step out of her office. Her head was cocked to the side with a certain look on her face. She said something that was not audible, not because of the music, but because she was mouthing the words. Marcus immediately dropped the music by fifteen decibels, a point where the music was only heard in his area. The boss lady sighed, shook her head, and went back inside.

Anna had started petitioning Decker for permission to soundproof her room ever since Marcus started working at RSI. The boss man didn't care much for his antics, as far as Marcus knew; he might have even welcomed it. Decker had said that she could do so, but had added that he felt no harm to having some music being played once in a while.

Or rather, every day.

“By the way, who is Merek’s techie?”

Graham peered from his area, “Hmm?”

“I asked ‘who is Merek’s techie?’ The guy’s been around for about a year now, and we haven’t seen his support person. Does he even have one?”

“Yeah, he does. His name’s Ryia. He doesn’t hang out here due to a chronic infectious disease that relapses from time to time. At least that’s what Anna said.”

“Really?”

“Mmhm. He stays plugged into the Net 24/7, I hear he’s going to go full-on.”

“That’s…wow,” Marcus was speechless for a brief moment before he refocused himself at his work.

It was a time for work not idle chatter and gossip.

“Okay what do we have today?”

His face glistened with the cyan glow of the holograms. He darted from panel to panel on the screen with his eyes until he reached the board that he wanted.

[From Anna Hassan]

The file was labeled ‘Counterfeit.’

He accessed the file and began reading, “Joseph Kahn, Juno Apartment Building, in the middle of the Q…”

“Anything?” a somewhat annoying voice interrupted his thoughts; it was Sami.

“I’m still doing some digging,” he replied.

“What’s the job?”

“We need to take down some guy named Joe Kahn. He’s been making bootleg Cangwu Slim. DoA, but you know the rules, dead is reduced. You’ll find him in the Juno Apartment Building, middle of the Q. We also gotta waste his files so that some other dope head won’t come along and try cooking. Oh, and trash the place.”

“Sounds like the usual, alright I’m on it.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow as if Sami was there in person beside him, “What would you know about the usual? Newbie?”

“Uh, a bit more than you. I’m a recovery agent.”

Marcus couldn’t really say anything.

”You know, I think that Graham guy is kinda cute.”

“What am I? Your girlfriend? I think you just said that on the main channel by the way," his eyes zipped to Graham, who was busy at his own console.

“Oh my god! What? Are you serious? Why didn’t you say something?”

“How was I supposed to know what you were going to say?” Marcus nonchalantly continued tapping away on the haptic interface, he knew Sami couldn't see him smiling.

He imagined her cheeks reddening as he tried suppressing his urge to laugh.

“Oh my god! Hey…wait a minute…oh you’re an asshole.

Marcus burst out laughing, “Consider that a warning. Next time you spill your beans, be sure you check your channel.”

”Fuck you.”

He stopped laughing and exhaled contentedly, “Let me access some feeds to find you a stakeout point.”

A map of the complexes was overlaid by blue markers that identified rooftop positions closest to the target’s apartment. He immediately tagged the file to Sami.

“Alright, take a look at those. The place is run by Juno Raiders. They’ll probably welcome you with guns.”

”Guns?”

Marcus sighed, he had been with her for a couple of months, and he learned that she had never used a firearm before. And situations that involved guns were not her strong suit, as it went against her personal philosophy which prohibited killing.

“Relax alright, I’m not gonna throw you in there. You’re gonna need to go spy mode on the guy. Can you do that blondie?”

”And how am I supposed to do that?”

Marcus shrugged, “Find something sexy.”

There was no response.

“His apartment is on the top floor, the twelfth,” Marcus had entered the apartment’s records.

“Can’t find any MSS drones in the area that I can proxy link into…” Marcus mumbled, “Looks like I’m going blind.”

At the same time he was inside the MSS database, which gave access to all contractor services like RSI, Interceptor, and so forth. He then shifted to a query for a ‘Joseph Kahn’ inside the archive. The name came up with a bounty sign blinking across his face in red, along with a full profile. The physical details were probably updated weeks ago. They managed to get a lead recently on his location. He had a number of aliases...Khan, Kahn, Papa Joe, Smokin' Joe, Iosef, Yusef.

“Kahn or Khan…really no difference…”

”Anything of relevance…please?”

-

Food Production Quarter

The quarter was marked by skyscrapers that stood in the ranges of ten to twenty stories high with plexi-glass windows. Most of the quarter looked like a slum hive with the exception of the middle of the quarter where most of the towers and hydro-farms were located.

The hydro-farms were incredible feats of engineering and agriculture, being only one sixth the size of the entire quarter, the farms practically fed the population of an area twelve times its size. The crops in the hydro-farms were bathed in nutrient rich compounds. They sat directly within chambers that received the right amount of the sun’s photons to allow them to grow.

The middle of the quarter was also marked off by holo-boards that were still advertising, unlike the other rundown panels that nobody bothered to repair. The sky of the dome was set to what would have been a normal sunny day on Earth before the place turned into a toxic hole covered by a blood orange sky that was the result of burning fossil fuels, or peak oil.

Sami made her way to the top of a tower that stood in the middle of the apartment complexes. It was probably among the tallest, standing at about fifteen stories. She perched from above and rolled the ocular goggles resting on her head down to her eyes, zooming in toward the Juno building that was diagonally across from the building she was on.

“You said twelfth floor right?” she tapped her communique.

“Yep. You’re lookin’ for a guy standing five feet eleven, maybe six feet. He’s got tear drop tats falling from his left eye; apparently, they’re glow in the dark.”

”He’s got dark brown skin and a mustache. He looks like he’s been packing some pounds, probably stuffing his face on Kaiser Wieners. His augments are both of his arms. You brought a pulse gun like I told you right?”

“What else would I bring?”

”Good point. And the ‘bug’?”

“That too.”

”Alright. His room is on the south west side of the building, last one down the hall. See it?”

“I think so. He’s got some plants baking in the sun…”

”Probably some Cangwrong cookin’ there too. See any openings?”

“Nope…nothing.”

”Give me a moment.”

Silence followed on the comm. Sami felt a gently breeze brush her face.

About five minutes later, she noticed some movement from where Kahn’s dwelling was. The balcony door slid open, and a man stepped out, apparently winded. The agent zoomed in to see the man wipe sweat from his head and exhale.

The man had dark skin as well as the mustache, spot on. He did pack on couple of pounds as compared to his profile mug shots.

”What about now?”

“Yeah. Target identified. What did you do?”

Sami saw Kahn fanning himself with his bionic hand, as he leaned against the railing, letting the air take him.

”Thermostat control. Call me your guardian angel.”

“Alright, I’m goin’ for it. Closing comm.”

She knew like Marcus knew that whenever she was doing her thing, she needed complete focus. Because on one occasion Marcus had chimed in unexpectedly, jarring her thoughts that almost sent her plummeting to a space in between two buildings as she was trying to track a perp. She had been lucky enough to catch herself in time. The scolding that followed ensured that Marcus would not interrupt her when she said ‘closing comm.’

Sami zoomed out of her goggles and looked for a way to reach the building. She searched for a feasible pass. Each of the apartment buildings were built fairly close to one another, which was expected when it came to urban development on Mars. Tightly packed and going up were the buzz words for buildings in order to spare as much land as possible for other uses. And it was very likely that the corporations had a hand in the planning of residential spaces for the masses.

Sami began to run toward the building on her right.

She vaulted across the gap between two buildings; the distance was short, as she landed on both feet in a crouched position on the roof.

A single exhale.

Tracing a path before her in her mind, she continued darting across the roof of the same building. In moments like these, it was just her and the world around her. No one else.

She felt in complete control of her body. Her breaths were the only thing she heard as she maintained focus.

She took a single breath just as she bridged a gap larger than the one before. Her feet landed on the vertical surface below, while her hands gripped a ledge above her.

Her right foot almost slipped. She gasped, realizing that she needed to act or she would lose momentum. In one smooth motion, she swung herself over the ledge, exerting the full strength of her arms.

She paused to exhale and reassess her momentary, and she would add literal, slip. At times like these, Sami was glad that she opted out of a heeled suit.

Her view returned to her destination, the balcony with the open door.

Two buildings closer now, she thought.

She slid down the roof that angled from the balcony she stood on. The smooth plexiglass panels provided little to no friction against her suit.

She landed on an uncovered balcony as her toes crawled along the walkway just several windows away from Kahn’s little condo in the slums.

Then she leapt down from the platform, landing directly on a pair of industrial pipes silently against the swift swoosh of the nearby maglev train that signaled the morning commute.

From there she tip toed along the pipe before she was a quarter of the distance from the building in front of her. She leapt, propelled by one foot, as the other grappled onto the ledge while her hands gripped the rail. Then she vaulted over, pivoting with one hand gripping the rail.

She was careful to avoid disturbing the residents by accidentally knocking something over.

She maintained firm control of herself as she faced Kahn’s balcony from the one she stood at.

In one quick motion, she crouched on the ledge of the balcony and sprung forward toward Kahn’s balcony. She jumped, her feet kicking nothing but the air below, trying to push her forward. Following a somersault, she landed on both of her feet as she craned her neck into the interior of the target’s apartment.

The place looked like a self-contained and independent operation; at least it appeared to be the case to the new recruit. There were caches of pills everywhere; the guy even had several chemical set ups with beakers and burners.

A couple of assault weapons, contraband, were littered on the floor. The MSS had placed a ban on high powered weapons in civilian hands. The only entities that were reserved the right to own and use such weapons were private military contractors, and the MSS. The term ‘private military contractors’ was a loose one, but corporations, mercenaries and bounty hunters were technically covered.

Corporations had private armies and security guards who were allowed to use such armaments. And although mercenaries worked defensively like corporation guards, they weren’t exclusive to any one corporation. Bounty hunters pretty much did the dirty work for the MSS.

Any other groups outside the umbrella were technically civilians in possession of these weapons, and therefore were breaking the law. Of course, bounty hunters could only be in so many places at one time to track criminals down.

Since you don’t have any perception augs, always turn on your goggles before you enter a place. HRV will keep newbies like you from getting roasted.

Sami remembered those words by Alessa. The older woman was an experienced fighter, and did well in the business. She was very much an informal mentor as Merek was. Both dropped advice every now and then outside of the range and practice zone.

She did not want to get roasted. The hyper reality vision was very much like an X-ray view of the entire apartment. The view went through entire walls, but only for a limited distance.

She gave the area one quick run through, sweeping through it with her HRV before she identified the target on her goggles as the one, and only, giant white blob in the middle of the digital violet render of the world before her.

The man was inside what appeared to be the lavatory. He was sitting on the toilet, taking his time with what appeared to be a magazine. She turned off the HRV.

The pulse gun was unholstered with a click, as she stepped through the bedraggled quarters that her quarry had chosen as his place of rest.

“Alright I’m in,” she whispered as she re-activated the comm.

Marcus buzzed over, ”Okay, lock the door. You don’t want any of his buddies to come help when he starts screaming for it. They’re all pretty good neighbors from what I hear.”

Sami nodded, as it made sense, walking past the bags filled with blue and yellow pills to the only exit in the cramped apartment.

Just as she was about to reach the door, she heard the sound of a flush and another door sliding open to her left.

She was startled to see Kahn’s face, tripping on a misplaced bottle. Up close she could see in detail the tear drop tattoos and mustache were definitely on his dark skin, if the word thug had an image, he would be it.

“What the…” Kahn opened his mouth as Sami fell backward.

Kahn tried to cover himself with his arms as the blue pulse washed over him in rippling waves that were visible to the naked eye for about five seconds.

His augments suddenly felt like they were giant bricks attached to his shoulders, and he flopped to the ground as his augs dragged him.

“Agh shit!” he landed on his stomach with a metallic thud as his arms clanged roughly against the floor like deadweight next to Sami, who breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hey who the fuck are you? Help! Help!” Kahn strained his neck as he tried pull himself up, but his shoulders were pretty much locked to the ground.

Sami searched frantically around the run down place until she found a bag of pills and gagged his mouth with it to temporarily silence him.

His muffled cries were met by a “Shut up.”

That didn’t stop him.

If you’re trying to keep the guy alive, but he’s annoying the crap out of you well, do this.

Merek’s words.

But that was pretty obvious in itself. The image went through her head of his demonstration.

Sami proceeded to smack the guy across the face with a swift kick that knocked him out. After she holstered the pulse gun, she exhaled and stood there, unsure of how to proceed.

“Okay, the guy’s pretty much out of it. Now what?”

”Good. Look for a tablet or something. He’s probably got the formula tucked away somewhere either on a personal file or on the Net.”

“Wait, if it’s on the Net, then how I supposed to find it?” she wandered through the apartment, rummaging for a device.

”Which is precisely the reason why I’m the brains…and you’re…whatever you are.”

“Get on with it,” Sami said, slightly annoyed, as she entered the bedroom.

She found the thin transparent tablet lying on top of the guy’s dresser along with his socks and a porno magazine. It seemed as though he had memorized the formula by heart and did not need it anymore for the actual cooking. Sami, for her part, was disgusted by the mag. He was probably reading the same filth while on the toilet when she turned on the HRV.

”The bug. Place it on top of a screen on the device. I’ll take care of the rest. Can you say ‘what would I ever do without you?’”

Sami sighed, “Ugh, you are so vain.”

She produced the ‘bug’ from one of her pockets. It was a small black device about the size of a fingertip. Despite its size, Marcus prided himself on the little toy; it was probably one of the most sophisticated weapons in his hacking arsenal.

She placed the bug on top of the tablet’s screen, “Alright. Bug planted.”

Perfectly straight lines of green immediately began to spread from the ‘bug’. The lines glowed as they spread, but stopped expanding after they reached about five centimeters in length. The glow continued and pervaded the transparent panel to bathe her hand in the eerie light.

“Whoa what-”

”Relax.”

Sami stood there, watching the bug glow. She had no idea, or no complete idea, as to what was going on. Then she remembered she had to trash the place. Damn, she thought, as she returned to the living room. She stared into the face of the mess, piles and piles of drugs in plastic bags and other containers.

”Alright all of the data and files have been wiped clean, but just in case...”

Sami understood. She retrieved the bug and placed it back into one of her pockets before flinging the tablet against a wall, the flat transparent device smashed to bits. It was probably one of the less durable models.

”’Atta girl.” Marcus had heard the glass shattering over the comm.

“How do I get rid of the rest?”

”Flush it down the toilet. I don’t know, go to town on the place. Maybe he has a vac somewhere.”

“A guy like this? He probably doesn’t even wash his clothes, let alone have a vac,” she stepped over Kahn’s body, grabbing several bags before entering the restroom.

She tore them open and let them pour into the toilet; the pills were buoyed by the water. It took several trips before every single plastic bag, container, and box was emptied of the stuff. She took one of the assault weapons and proceeded to smash apart the chemistry set up with the weapon’s stock, shards of glass shattered and fell to the ground in disparate shards. Liquids that were already in the beakers stained the carpet when they spilled.

She only made the mess worse, but she did her job. That’s all that mattered.

“Well, it’s the best I could do. Now what?”

”Alright, now take the guy to MSS Central Processing.”

“What?!”

There was silence on the other end before Marcus finally spoke, ”What?”

“You didn’t tell me that?”

”I thought you already knew… ‘Sides, I sent you the whole notice.”

“Well how the hell am I supposed to carry this fatass?”

”Oh.”

“Shit. Forgot about logistics.”


Sami could hear him chuckle on the other end.

”Well you could always…you know…kill him? And then get out.”

“No. Absolutely not. I haven’t killed anyone, and I’m not gonna start now. Damn it. You didn’t tell me that. If I knew, I probably would have…god I don’t even know how I would have gotten him out.”

”Well there’s nothing I can do now. Bounty’s DoA. Comon’ just get rid of him and get out, you did your job.”

Sami remained silent as she stared at the unconscious man. She had never killed anyone before. She stared at his back, as he was flopped on the floor. Was this going to be her first victim?

”What? You want to start a gunfight in the apartments? ‘Cause that’s what’s gonna happen if I call the MSS to show up on gang turf. Weigh it. One man dies…or twenty. Your call.”

Sami was silent still. She exhaled, somewhat torn. If she had to kill a man, give her a gun at least; it was a quicker way of handling things. She paced about, unsure what to do. She felt as though she had to get out of there, but she hadn’t finished the job.

She heard a sigh over the comm, ”I’m just fuckin’ with you blondie. I radioed the MSS to send a pick up team. That’s your ticket out. Bring the guy up to the roof; there should be an access way right outside his room.”

Sami closed her eyes as relief washed over her. She looked at the guy; he was probably heavy without the augmentations alone.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she opened the door and peered down the hallway to make sure no one was around.

Druggies and raiders usually operated in the night. They spent the day cooking or sleeping. She had to be sure though, in case she was caught off guard by a raider.

“You know, sooner or later you’re gonna have to kill. It’s a kill or be killed world out there. I’m just lookin’ out for you.”

“Have you ever killed someone before?”

She knew he had not, and she was not expecting an answer from him.

”Just get him onto the roof.”

She sighed, and proceeded to grab the guy by his bionic arms. Even though she was physically weaker in comparison to the other recovery agents, her muscle suit partially made up for the disparity.

Sami dragged the unconscious man out the door, pulling him toward the stairs. At times like these she would have preferred a lift. Unfortunately, in older run-down apartment complexes, the only lifts were the ones in the middle of the building for easy access by residents.

Meanwhile, obscure roof entrances were taken care of by stairs. Perhaps that was a safety measure, one of the oldest of its kind, as even lifts might accidentally malfunction for any number of reasons during an emergency situation.

In fact, that proved true as months ago, an apartment fire broke out on the sixth floor of an eight story, new model apartment, killing all the residents on the top three floors as they tried to exit the building via the lifts. The lifts failed to work, trapping residents in the suffocating smoke. Thirty three souls perished according to the investigators; they added that the lifts failed to work due to the power source being cut off and the machines therefore jammed.

Sami proceeded to pull the man up the stairs, but his weight and the steps resisted her efforts. She finally reached the roof entrance, where the door was locked via keypad.

“Another snag. The roof is locked.”

”The bug, put it on a screen.”

Sami retrieved the bug from her pocket and did as he told. Again the green lines formed on the keypad’s screen, sort of like branches or vines growing on a tree.

Within seconds, the red light that signaled a locked entrance switched into a lime green. Sami took the bug, and pressed the open key on the pad, the door hissed open.

The door then sealed shut behind them as Sami’s shadow loomed over the unconscious man on the roof. She looked around for any transport coming toward her amid all the other personal civilian transports buzzing about in the skyways.

Then she spotted one larger than the others, and it came toward her. She noted the dark grey coat and the large initials MSS painted on the side. The MSS agents waved at her from the open cabin doors, and she waved back.

The VTOL patrol unit’s nacelles turned vertical just above her, and it proceeded to descend with a hushed drone. The transport kept a position about one or two feet from the roof, hovering quietly.

The two officers stepped down and checked the unconscious man. One of the two officers pulled out a palm device and identified his face.

“Yep. That’s him.”

He pressed his ear communicator piece, “We got him. We got papa Joe-”

He turned to Sami who replied, “RSI.”

“Thanks to RSI,” he smiled.

The two officers helped Sami lug the guy aboard. She climbed in after them and took a seat, latching herself in with a U-shaped restraint bar.

“You tucked in tight miss?” said the pilot from the cockpit.

“Yeah,” she nodded, as the ocular goggles retracted above her hairline.

The transport dusted off, the thrusters whipping the wind as it ascended.

”Status newbie?”

“I’m hitching a ride with these guys. I’ll probably take a cab once I’m out of MSS Processing.”

”Copy that. All in a good day’s work, blondie. Over and out.”

Sami shook her head, her light scoff melted into a smile as the comm terminated.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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KEEP YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL
if you want to be loved


Mars

Cangwu

Ivarest Apartments


Iazu, the place of Merek Eckhard's birth. Not to mention Ry, born two years after Merek at the Iazu General Hospital. Today would be a return visit, as the target they had taken was rumored to be there. Many of the former Iazu returned once the city was back up and running; years after the incident. Neither of the RSI employees cared to rejoin their old stomping grounds, the sky there a reminder of the failing atmosphere. It was easy to forget how hostile Mars would be without the atmo-tech, sitting safe underneath a protective canopy.

Hot water, almost to the point of scalding, sprayed across Merek's back from the shower head. He turned to face the nozzle, leaning his head down into the stream. Water engulfed his hair, dripping down his face, the stream and hydrated environment made breathing a much more pleasurable experience. Hair damp, he lathered it with a shampoo claiming to have actual Martian minerals in it.

Merek finished shampooing and rinsed again, stepping out of the shower. Air streams hit him from the sides of the walls. Grabbing a towel, he used it to expedite the drying process, walking out of the bathroom through the common area in the nude. Ry was on the couch, engrossed in the net. He wasn't fully jacked in, but he might as well have been with the glazed look in his eyes. The mouth cover he wore much of the time was not on, no coughing symptoms had shown themselves recently. Ryia having a contagious disease was a risk at times for Eckhard, but the risk was one he willingly underwent. They were brothers in all but blood. He passed Ry and entered his room on the far side of the apartment.

Ivarest Apartments, a location for those who wanted to go unnoticed. On the outside it appeared to be an abandoned church in one of the more destitute areas of Cangwu. Cangwu was a place of extravagance, not leaving much room for religion. There were certainly plenty of cults for each vice strewn about the neon lit streets. People passed the church without much thought, unaware that inside the building had been retrofitted to fit 10 apartments. Most of the occupants of Ivarest kept to themselves. Their neighbor was a dominatrix of sorts, occasionally they got to hear her flogging and cutting Johns, all the while yelling at them about their small penis and how stupid they were. It was and entertaining auditory display.

Before dressing, Merek extended each 5" blade from his elbows, sharpening them with the electric sharpener inlaid in the wall next to his sleeping chamber. Next he donned his clothes: leather pants, combat boots, long-sleeved fishnet tee, and a purple hooded sweatshirt. He grabbed one of his headgear pieces, the one with the skull on the front. It would stay off until he arrived in Iazu, but once gametime started, it would go on and stay on unless he needed to appear as a citizen. After throwing a bit of gel in his hair and spiking it up, Merek was good to go.

He walked back out into the living room, sleek, gray and blue surfaces lined the walls and ceiling. Ry was no longer on the couch, apparently awoken from his conscious slumber by Merek. The floor had tiling with a spiral pattern, starting wide at the edges of the room, and coming to a swirling close at the center where the net hardjack lay. Wifi access through augmentation was ideal for quick access, but Ry had the hardjack because a direct connection gave you the ultimate speed and processing, a head-jack at the base of the skull. Though Merek was far more augmented than Ry, he had no interest in regularly shoving a piece of tech in and out of his head on a daily basis. The thought made him cringe.

Fiber optic lighting adorned the walls, criss-crossing in a grid along the room's borders in a white-blue shade. Merek sat in the spot Ry had vacated, turning on the general feed. A Martian politician was currently on trial for taking bribes. It was hilarious to watch his peers tear him apart, as the world secretly knew almost all of them took bribes as well. If you got caught and couldn't cover your ass, you went down in flames on Mars. Ryia entered the room from the kitchen, two mugs in his grasp. He passed one to Merek as he sat on the sofa with him.

"Protein?" Merek asked.

"A multivitamin blend with proteins, amino acids, and all the balanced ingredients needed to fuel a modern Martian." Ry took a drink with a smirk, his half-balaclava pulled down from his mouth, hanging from his neck. He was in the noncontagious phase of his disease, but he kept the cover handy. Typically he had a 10 to 15 minute warning window as symptoms would begin to show the contagious mode coming. It became apparent with a light fever, chest pain, weakness, and limited appetite. All in all an enjoyable time!

"Ry, when you're noncontagious you should go into the office sometime, work at a terminal. Why have co-workers with no co-op? I'm starting to actually warm up to a few of them."

"Oh, so you might say more than three words to them someday?"

"Come on, you know how it is. We're cynical, paranoid bastards. It takes a bit of time to let someone in." Unless it was a random hook-up at a Cangwu Club that is. Merek took a deep swig of the drink, tasting of apricots. Ry knew that Merek preferred physical food, but on a busy day like today, getting a quick, healthy cocktail was an apt solution to saving time.

"I found an interesting fact about target Jessie Waylan that seems to be held back from the general public." Ry liked teasing details he dug out of the net instead of coming right out with them. He had woken Merek earlier that morning with the mission details, but he was ignored as The Spectre went back to sleep.

"Oh?"

"Well, in addition to her thrice operated fake tits, and the rest of the cosmetic bullshit, she has an augmented vagina. I don't know all the details but I imagine she can contract and extend muscle there on a conscious basis."

"Really? I don't fancy the idea of someone digging in my nether regions." Some people took augmentation too far. Had Merek not been a ward of Godiva Corp growing up, he may not have partaken in any augmentation. A product of the culture he was raised in, he had been forced under the knife to a certain degree.

"Her whole vaginal wall, fully augmented! That must be pretty damn crazy. In addition to trying to get her through the black market, I've got a string of clubs she has been seen at on the security cameras I hacked into. The feed was limited but her face popped up at a couple." While Cangwu specialized in the party life, it did not mean the other cities were bereft of it. Merek had gone back to his home city before, but he was so young when Godiva tore him from his parents, that he hardly even had time to form nostalgia. Many of the other surviving Godiva Corp children had returned and did live there. A couple of visits may be in order if he had the time after the mission.

Finishing the drink, Merek stood up from the couch. "Time to stop by RSI and gear up, keep on the feed and we'll stay in touch."

"Why not keep your RSI gear here?"

"And be a total shut-in? I think not."

Mars

Kaiser

RSI


Eckhard had strode into RSI HQ without notice, walking into the locker room to get his gear. Killing people was an option at all times in his duties, but he preferred to go nonlethal. All the nonlethal gear was kept here, because if he was on personal business, you could bet there would be blood. As he dug around and holstered his tazer, one of the techs walked up to him. Marcus was a hard man to read, and a bit of a goofball to boot. He reminded Eckhard of Jules, who died from chem-poisoning back in the Godiva labs as a child.

Eckhard sized him up with his eyes, unsure of what to expect.

“Woo, woo, woo, woo,” the man sounded like a carnival alarm, jerking his head around as his eyes changed color.

“Comon’ man, why so serious?” Merek felt the jab in the shoulder, fighting the old augment programming to immediately grab the tech's arm. He knew Marcus was kidding around, but he was getting into game mode. The blonde agent, Sami, entered the room. She and Marcus had a good rapport from what he had observed. Merek was surprised to find out she had was from Earth. Eckhard was actually one of the only Martian agents of RSI in active rotation. Sami also had no augmentations, causing him to wonder what that would feel like. He rubbed his wholly augmented arm as he looked at her natural figure, then turned back to his locker.

Marcus had left the room, leaving him alone with the girl. He jumped, grabbing a bar on the ceiling, and did a set of pull-ups to test the lubricant in his augmented joints. They were supposed to self-maintain, but after one incident where his leg had locked up a few years back, Merek made sure to test everything before field work. His legs checked out, jogging to RSI HQ from the VTOL on arrival. "Happy hunting Sami," he called out as he left, walking by her. He was more and more conscious of the fact that he needed to make more of an effort with these people. He had heard some of the whispers around RSI. A damn fine agent but weird. Merek was weird, but in a good way. Right now some of his team viewed him as a bad weird.

Mars

The Net


Ry hovered in the air six inches above the ground in his kimono, white and pink cherry blossom petals scattered throughout the grove. The Hawkin's roots traced back to Earth's Japan, these Japanese trees represented the fragility and beauty of life. He didn't know about that significance, but they sure were pretty.

A human figure slowly approached from the east, a black mass of smoothness. No eyes, fingers, toes, or any details shaped the being. It was a body masked.

"You really need to work on that customization Joe. You can be anything on here." In a flashy show, one of Ry's arms turned into a serpent, flowing loosely from his torso. Joseph Schlager was one of the surviving children of Godiva along with Merek and Ry. The experiments had caused Schalger to lose all body hair, all of it from head to toe. He was a bit prickly about his appearance.

"I full aug on the net for enhanced performance, not for showing off." The voice emanated from the figure.

Ry floated over to the black mass, arm returning to natural shape. "Did you get me the codes?" He had already hacked into the general Iazu camera feeds to get a pattern recognition for Jessica Waylan's face, but he wanted into more. Joe worked for shadowy figures in the underworld back in Iazu, people who forced their thugs to go under the knife for augs, many times they were cheap. With the right codes a tech could hack right into someone's eyes.

A black hand reached out with a file. Ry grabbed the file and watched as it sank into his hand as though in quicksand. The data burst in his mind in a kaleidascope of numbers.

"Thanks Joe." Schlager was already gone, never one for idle chatter.

Mars

Iazu

Slums


Merek had stepped of a VTOL fifteen minutes ago, preferring to walk through the world of human wreckage that laid about in the Iazu slums. He imagined the ground beneath his feet at this moment holding piles of bones and bodily remains decades ago, all doomed to asphyxiation from the atmo failure. Dingy buildings and drab colors, the place could be mistaken for Earth from the photos he had seen.

"Anything, Ry?"

"I'm cycling through these eyes. A whole lot of nothing so far. There are no lack of thugs with cheap gear in the area." There had been a posting in the underbelly of the net about a data sale. It was left vague, but with the not so cryptic hint of, "With the new wave approaching, welcome all data with open arms . . .", blah blah blah. The message had open and wave in it, almost having to be a connection to Open Wave.

"I'm in." He was looking through a man's eyes sitting at a bench. The visuals were great but it was only a sight jacking, no audio to be found. Around him were other benches, filled with men dressed in drab gray and black colors. Well, one in the corner had a neon green jump suit and a crystal cane. "What an attention whore." He muttered.

"What was that Ry?"

"Nothing, just some up-jumped pimp." What was of real note was on the stage in front of them, a hooded figure with locks of blonde hair flowing from out under. A burly black man stood next to her, menacing with his shotgun hanging over his shoulder. He appeared to have an augmented head, as half his face was encased in a silver metal.

"I can't confirm identity yet but this may be our girl. Four blocks east of your current location, the room is down a stairwell off of Anderson Synthfabs." The hooded figure turned to face the crowd, but the man whose eyes he had jacked into turned to face the man sitting next to him, looking into a weathered face with a long scar down one cheek. The face leaned in close. They must be whispering to one another Ry assumed.

Merek was silent, and patient, as he always was when Ryia did the groundwork. The eyes turned back to the woman on stage as she dropped her hood. It looked like it was Jessica Waylon. Similar height, similar weight, and the face was about spot on. Ry strained to make out her lips as they moved. "Time to . . . . the goods." Auction the goods? Sell the goods? It didn't matter, it was go time.

"Our girl is there. Move on in and position."

A ping sounded in Ry's ears, one of his alarms had set off. He backed out of the man's head, pulling open the alarm file. A camera outside one of Iazu's clubs had caught the imaging pattern he set off. Jessica Waylon was entering right now, with another burly figure. This guy looked a bit more fit than the black man.

Merek was on a fast walk, halfway toward the target location. Ry jacked back into the man's eyes as a stun blast shot from a bench, hitting the black man in the chest and knocking him backward. A tall, slender female with red hair leapt on stage, turning to face the crowd with what looked to be one of the largest disruptors Ry had ever seen. He whistled at it, and noted the giant D emblazoned on the front of her shirt.

The mob dispersed, no doubt confident they could take Red, but since most of them were augmented to some extent they didn't want to find out the power of that disruptor. His eyes were still watching as the blonde figure was yelling out some explanation, and ripped synthetic skin from her face. It wasn't Waylon of course, it was a surrogate.

"Fall back Merek, make for the Chino Club. Two miles Northwest, you might want to put those legs to use because Dynamo is on this hunt as well."

"What the hell happened in there?"

"It doesn't matter right now, make for the club."

Mars

Iazu

Chino Club


Eckhard finished his sprint, coming to a stop halfway down the street from Chino. His running had attracted some stares, so he slipped into an alley, dumping his hooded sweatshirt in a bin. He took his mask off and folded it up, placing it in his pocket. Circling back around into the street again from another location, he started walking toward the club. The fishnet tee would fit in just fine. His torso was sleek with sweat from the jog up, heart rate finally going down as he approached the doors of Chino.

The bouncer was in an argument with a couple as Merek slipped past him through the door. He walked by the hostess and the coat booth, entering the main floor. It was a large, expansive room swirling with lights and energy. The bar was nearest to the door with the rest of the room a gigantic, multi-leveled dance floor. The first was ground level, with the next three feet up on a small set of stairs. Another five or six dance floors varied in level as their turf's cycled through different neon colors. False fireworks and starlight shined from above, the ceiling high like an auditorium.

"In the club now."

"I see that. We don't know if she has been alerted to the deal going bad. I listened in on Dynamo's comms, that red headed girl is pretty pissed off the target had a patsy. They didn't recover the data, so it is either with Jessica or hidden digitally somewhere. Given their stance on interpersonal relations with other collections agencies, we want to make this quick in case they slip back into the camera feed. Frank wouldn't like us getting RSI into the war between Dynamo and SI." They were bound to become involved at some point, but Merek was likely the worst to start the clash. Where other agents may show restraint to stem damages, he would not.

Ry couldn't hack into all these random civs eyes, it was up to Merek to scope the floors and find her.

"You focus on outside threats for me, I'll focus on getting this bitch and her merc."

To look natural Merek danced his way across the room, grabbing a drink off a waiter's tray as he passed, sipping it. He let the beat of the music take over his body's sways and thrusts. A buxom brunette approached him, moving in unison. She turned her back to him and writhed against his navel, pressing her ass back into his groin. His hands slid over her hips followed with a slight thrust, parting while her eyes were occupied elsewhere. He managed to lose her in the crowd, catching a glimpse of her searching for him.

He glimpsed Jessica Waylon on the third floor up from the bar, a pulsing purple floor below her white skirt. No lack of dance suitors in her area, Merek moved closer. Waylon's bodyguard leaned against the wall with shades over his eyes, standing next to a door labelled "PRIVATE" in bold, neon green.

"Those doors are private rooms for guests to use. If you can get Waylon inside, that's a start Merek."

Two men were vying for her attention; a young, skinny tan fellow and a middle-aged man with a receding hairline, but in good shape. Jessica had the two of them dancing with each other. Merek slowly made his way over, not wanting to catch the attention of the guard by moving too quick. He was within earshot over the dance music now.

"I tell you what boys. If you two kiss, I'll take you both in that room back there and we'll have a grand time!" She was almost yelling it, words slurring from the vodka tonic in her hand, certainly not the first drink she had consumed in Chino on this day. Like Face reddening and tensed with hostility, the middle aged guy backed off. "I'm not into that shit." Waylon dismissed him quickly with her eyes. Sensing an opportunity, Merek slid inbetween the two males as the angry one began to storm off, angling his face in toward the tan man's face, lips touching. Locking his lips onto the man's lower lip, he swept his tongue over it, inviting him in. Eager, the man tried to take the french kiss further but Merek pulled back. He offered up a teasing smile to Waylon, practically ignoring the guy.

Jessica applauded, slopping some of her drink on the floor. "Well come on!" She walked to the door and opened it, likely having it reserved, and whispered in the guard's ear. He nodded and gave both of her suitors a lingering glare.

"I think he's trying to scare you Merek. By the way, I thought you weren't into that either?"

"I'm not, but you do what you have to do to complete the mission."

Inside the room, the beats and flows from the dance floor could hardly be heard, noise suppression in the walls. Merek was third in, Jessica's back still facing them as she swayed her way toward a plush, round bed at the end of the room with a sofa next to it. Two quick hits to the back of the suitor's head sent him deep into an unconscious state. Quickly he closed the distance between himself and Waylon right as she turned, eyes widening.

His hand closed over her mouth, the other clamping her wrist with the drink so it couldn't be thrown. "Jessica Waylon. I'm here to collect the data you took from Openwave. This can end without you having a scratch, or it can get ugly for that fabricated face of yours." The door opened behind him, she must have told the guard to check in frequently. Merek socked her in the gut, doubling her over, and turned to face the man. Door shut behind the guard, he pulled out a silenced Beretta from his inner jacket. One round sizzled past his face, clipping his ear. The second sailed wide over his head as he slightly crouched, then pounced toward the man.

As they came into contact Merek extended the blade from his right elbow, stabbing it into the man's gun arm, pinning it to the wall. The man lost his grip on the weapon. Needing to move quick, he headbutted the guard, fleshy nose exploding in a red mist. Blood got into Merek's eyes, but they were designed to work under those conditions. A few knees to the body and the guard was done for the time. This was no high dollar merc. A merc could be found on any street corner, it took research to get quality. Research or a small fortune that is.

Merek scooped the gun out of the air before it fell, leaving the man in a pile against the wall. A quick one-eighty degree turn revealed Waylon laid out on the bed, digging into her honey pot. She certainly couldn't be pleasuring herself given the situation. Merek was slightly confused until she pulled a small weapon out, firing a three-round burst at him. Her gun had no silencer, and the rounds tore through high through the door out into the dance floor. Eyes and hands coming together through his internal aug, he fired a shot into one of her hands, gun falling from her grip.

In a second he was on top of her. "Your deal went South. You can either cough it up to me, or let Dynamo find you. Newflash by the way, Dynamo will kill you. I don't have to." All this time Ry was silent, knowing that Merek preferred action with no voices in his head, unless there was an unknown threat. Being held down not killing her will, she spit up into his face. Half of it came back down onto her own cheek.

"Gunshots reported to the MSS. No casualties, the bullets went high. You've got security on you in 20 seconds."

On a hunch, Merek roughly dug one hand into her vaginal cavity, no time for easing in. She screamed, likely a bit of pain and pleasure, though he assumed a bit more of the former given his bedside manner.

"15 seconds."

Moving his fingers deftly around he found an inner wall lining, likely to a compartment where her tiny little gun had come from. He punched his fingers through it and grasped a small data drive, ripping his hand out of her in a sloppy smack. He let her go, as she bundled up in the fetal position, groaning.

"Sorry love, but if you manage to stay out of prison and alive, I'm sure you have the money to repair that." There was a chance it wasn't what he needed, but he didn't have the time to consider otherwise.

"3 seconds!"
One hand dripping with blood, fluid, and a data drive and the other his RSI badge, he greeted the club's security force. "Gentleman," One of them was a female,"And lady," He nodded to her, "RSI collection agency. A bounty has been placed on this woman, a Jessica Waylon. She dug into the honey jar a few times too many." The group stared at him, stun batons in hand, itching for an excuse to try and beat him half to death.

"It will all check out if you net search it real quick. Besides, I've got to get moving before any of my competitors show up." He slipped the data drive into his pocket, flicking his hand clean onto the shag carpet floor. "Send his medical bill to RSI and I will gladly cover it," He said, pointing to the tan man, who upon closer expectation had likely slipped into the club with a fake ID.

"As for that prick, well, it is a job risk he took." The guard was getting back up to his feet, then made a move to attack Eckhard. The club security found what they needed and started to beat and stun the guy into oblivion. One of the guards wasn't joining in, it looked like he was on the net.

"You check out; free to go." Merek slid past him and made for the exit.

"A VTOL can ship you to Openwave, unless you want to jog. 77th and Metcalfe, they're holding for pedestrians for five minutes."

"I'll go retrieve my hoodie and make it there."

Mars

VTOL Transport

Returning to Cangwu


He had delivered the package to Openwave. Ry called the MSS, who were there waiting at the entrance. It was likely a good move because Red had been there. The Dynamo agent may have tried to ambush him if she thought he was delivering the goods and the MSS weren't there. Merek wished he had his mask in place when he met her, now she could recognize him out and about. It had checked out, the data file was what they needed. The MSS had Waylon in custody, interrogating her to make sure no backup files were uploaded on the net or stored in any other orifices. Merek stared out the VTOL window up into the sky at the moon Phobos, setting to the East. As he thought back on the beating he dished out to the merc guard, he remembered the tazer he had packed. Old ways die hard.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins Character Portrait: Alex Hanzo Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Cangwu

Ivarest Apartments

Night


Merek was asleep in his secure pod, ambient music resembling waterfalls and chirping birds played at a low volume. His eyes shot open as he received an emergency call on his internal aug comm, a number only a few knew. The inside of the pod was pitch black, so even with his eyes open, he could tell no difference. A check on the data trace showed the caller to be Joseph Schlager, Ry and Merek's ever vigilant friend from the underworld. He accepted the call.

"Merek?" Schlager was always matter of fact with no emotion.

"Yeah Schlage, what's up?"

"Did you happen to attack a member of Godiva recently? Perhaps one you used to have a certain . . . attachment too?" Merek paused, Joseph knew her name was Mizaki Gono. He was fairly certain that he could trust Schlager, but one never knew how far a man would bend to exist in the underworld.

"I don't know what you're talking about." There was a short pause on Joseph's end as he contemplated the evasiveness.

"Regardless, Godiva Corp. had an attack on one of their executives. I'll assume you remember Her." Of course Merek remembered the woman, and he had been the one who accosted her, finding a pre-teen boy in her bedroom red and sweaty, as naked as the day he was born. Gono liked to rape little boys. To top it off, she was a hermaphrodite, which led to even sicker abuse and confusion for a child. "They investigated all pathways and came up with placing the blame on one of Us, the surviving Godiva Children. Don't be surprised if net searches start going out on you and Ry, they want to keep tabs on us."

"Just tabs?"

"We'll have to wait and see. When you are a company as powerful as them looking to rise all the time, eliminating loose strings from the past can only tighten your security. When the Martian Government first found out about us, it ensured we got out. Time has passed and people don't care too much anymore. Iazu is back up and running, why drag up ghosts of the past? Just a tip. And don't forget one day, I may have a favor to ask of you." Schlager hung up.
Academi had left him alone for years, shortly after trying to assassinate him, they went through a change in leadership. There were still a few mercs who would try to kill him on sight, but nothing he couldn't handle. Sneaking into the executives house had been mildy challenging and he left no trail, he hadn't accounted for the paranoia of Godiva Corp.
-------
Ryia woke up in a cold sweat, reaching out into the air above him, fingertips hitting a glass encasing. He slept inside a tube that had a climate simulator, this way he could adjust it to help with his condition. It also meant that he didn't have to worry about having a coughing fit while in bed and spreading airborne pathogens. There was never a one-hundred-percent guarantee that his mouth cover would stay in place.

He had dreamed of Iazu. Ry was really too young to remember anything, but in his recurring nightmare, Godiva mercs scoured the land his family owned. Doing the history he had found that his father, Dearl Hawkins, was an upstart computer tech. He was trying to start his own company out of their storage space. Speculation at the time of the Iazu Incident was that Dearl could be the next big thing for cybertech. Godiva shot his father down outside the home, then ripped him from his mothers arms inside the house, as he reached out to her. Then a montage of the experiments that had been done on him played. At the end, it came back to an image of his mother, reaching out to him. Then he awoke.

Harsh coughing followed his awakening, leaving him short on breath. Blood had flaked out into the glass of the chamber and onto his clothing. Ry grabbed sanitation wipes that he always had nearby, cleaning the mess up. Then he got out of bed, stripped off the cheap robe, and exited their apartment with some kerosene and a projectile lighter. Walking to the alley behind the church, he found a dump bin, tossed the robe inside, and burned it. The cough had not been too severe, it was a lighter one. It would get worse in the coming hours. Working with his disease is something he had accomplished before, but he always feared it would be a liability.

Maybe he would have to talk Merek into getting a new tech. He had tried once before, and Merek had none of it. If there ever came a time where he had a coughing fit and Merek almost died because of it . . . he could never forgive himself. Under those conditions, he would finish the suicide attempt he tried as a teenager. Realizing he forgot to bring a mouth cover out, he rushed back into the church and into his apartment.

Eckhard, as they called him in the Red Sands HQ, wanted Ry to go in and work with some of the other techs for once. It certainly wouldn't be today. Entering the apartment, Merek was waiting for him. The living area glowed a pale forest green for the fiber optic lighting.

"Schlager called me. Godiva did some digging and is blaming one of their former wards for the accident." Merek's eyes were heavy, only halfway through his sleep. "No guarantee they want to off us but we'll have to keep an eye out."
"I warned you about pulling that stunt you did, putting the knife to her throat! It would have been better to have ended her then and there for the things she did to you. To me. To all of us." Ryia grabbed one of his spare covers out of a drawer in the kitchen table, wrapping it around his lower face in time before the next coughing fit started.

Merek took the disease symptoms easy, he was used to seeing his friend cough up his own blood. "Well, we might still have to do that. This mission today, it i big time. Frank is counting on me here."

"Then go get your fucking sleep, I could pull an all nighter and still op on the net, you're the hunk of meat that does the heavy lifting." Merek didn't argue, trotting off into his room. Ryia returned to his room, rummaging in his nightstand for the pills he took. The drugs suppressed his tuberculosis, but the persistent viral strain still got out on occasion.

Iazu

Slums - Likely Target Coordinates


The coordinates for the mission came down from the boss-man himself, though there was no guarantee that they were correct. Frank did not give much away, only that he had been attacked by forces and the target may have some answers. The fact that a rival, but friendly, apprehension company currently held custody of the target was a complicating factor. No one dead, and minimal harm. This was the sort of mission that Academi would scoff at one of their trained killers taking on. They would go in guns blazing, even if it meant taking a limb off the target. If they could still speak, all was well! Eckhard crouched in an alley across from the building, lighting a cigarette under the cover of his hand.

What's up Merek? Trapped in your own thoughts again?

Hard to describe it as "trapped," when someone elses' voice is inside with me though, hmm? How are you feeling? Is it bad this time? Merek was referring to his tuberculosis.

Never better! I feel as right as the Iazu Atmo Ring right about now. They both had a little laugh at that to break the tension. From what Merek had described to Ry, this mission was penultimate to Red Sands Investigations immediate future. Merek had never belonged to an organization that he felt was doing the right thing until he had joined RSI. He didn't want to disappoint Frank.

Crouched in the alleyway across from his target building, Merek inhaled Red Sands brand smokes from deep into his lungs. The company was no relation to RSI of course, with a planet full of red sands, the phrase was popular. He crouched next to a disposal bin. A synthetic arm lay half out, robot thrown inside like a hunk of junk. Its headpiece was battered and crushed in resemblance of a tin can. Someone seemed to have treated it like a spouse they were angry at, and they could get away with it; Synth's were not considered people. He took another drag on the cigarette.

You know that shit will kill you Mere.

If an atmo ring can fail, what's the point of being so careful? Merek did not smoke too often, but this mission had him a little stressed. They were back in Iazu, one could say the two of them took a special interest in missions that were located there. He crushed the cigarette up and put it in his pocket. No DNA could be left behind.
Sami Rouvelle was on standby with a VTOL nearby. She was capable of much more than being a driver, but Eckhard had needed someone to drive that he didn't have to worry about talking. That meant almost anyone from RSI, and Sami was the agent he had muttered words to most frequently. She insisted on being a part of the comm-line for the mission, but they kept her at bay.

Iazu

Inside Building Coordinates


Dyson walked down his hall, on a routine patrol. He was bored, walking back and forth, forth and back. Several guards were in this building. He didn't even recognize half of them, the team must have been thrown together quick. Some tough guys were on the second floor, higher level guards. Still, not the best the company had to offer. Rumors were that they were holding one of their own employees hostage, maybe a turncoat, but he was too low on the totem pole to have any real information.

A thump sounded above him. He looked up and around, seeing nothing.

"Time for a break, I'm starting to imagine things here." He and Thomas in the next corridor were waiting to be replaced by a couple of the guys so they could eat. The building was in the Iazu dumps, the odds of anyone finding it, let alone breaking in, were low in his estimation. The rest of the guards seemed to agree, leaving a skeleton crew in the hall. Everyone was sure the outside team would alert them first if a snatch was attempted. He walked past the part of the hall where he had heard the noise. Five paces later her felt a sharp sting in the back of his neck, falling to his face on the ground.

Merek was hanging out of the ceiling from the ventilation shaft, one hand still holding firm. The other held a tranquilizer pistol. He scanned the hall for cameras, seeing one in the far corner. Dropping from the vent in a silent crouch, he drew another weapon. Disruptors weren't made to only target augments, as Eckhard carefully aimed a red laser into the lens of the camera, effectively cutting off two minutes prior recording and the next two minutes. The only way of detection was if someone had been watching live. It was a chance he would have to take.

"While I was busting my ass finding a way into this ventilation, did you find me the blueprints?"

No answer from Ry. He was either taking his time or hacking out his liver.

"What the fuck Ry? I don't have all day here!

Hang on Merek, just hang on a second. Yes, I have them! A friend of mine who is obsessed with the Iazu buildings no longer under use since the Incident had a ton of files. I had to sift through. Merek moved down the hall, peeking around the corner. A second guard was coming his way, with another camera at the far corner of the hall.

I need some ideas here on what room to check. There were tons of doors.

Well, it is a three story building, but the top is an attic with a low roof, I doubt Mags will be there. Both weapons were now hooked back on his utility belt. Ry uploaded the schematic blueprint of the building into their comm link, all through data. His internal aug computed it, giving him a general feel for the structure of the building.

If she is even here in the first place.

Lets assume she is. The building used to be a small apartment complex. The first floor is one-room apartments. The second floor is a little more extravagant. If you're going to have a guest in here, forced or willingly, why not use the presidential room? Well it was actually the super's room but you get where I'm going." Merek picked the baton out of the fallen guards belt, rapping it on the wall to draw the other guards attention.

His augmented ears allowed him to hear the man's footfalls as he slowly approached the corner. Merek hugged the wall as closely as he could. The second man turned the corner, seeing his fallen comrade first. He rushed in to check on his health, catching a glimpse of Merek right as he passed.

A little bit of brute force was necessary here. Merek didn't go for a technical move, he reached his left arm out, gripping the far side of the man's neck and pulling him into a headlock. They struggled, hitting into the wall. Luckily the distance was only a few inches so it wasn't too loud. He gripped his hands together, transitioning the headlock into a bulldog choke. The man gurgled and gasped for a few seconds until he lost consciousness. Merek held on to the choke a bit too long to ensure he was out, but not long enough to deprive the man's brain of oxygen. He shot the second guard with a tranquilizer in case he planned on making a quick recovery, sheathing it back behind his right side.

"Past that second guard is one of the stairwells. Merek grabbed the tech disruptor, ready to spring into action.

"But," Ry chimed in again, "I would recommend the dilapidated elevator shaft."

"Who the hell puts an elevator in a two story building?"

"Three stories Mere, three. It was for the rolling tables to carry food from the gourmet kitchen up. Who the hell wants to carry plates and trays when you can take the whole damn thing in one go?"

Sounds like a bunch of spoiled assholes lived here to me. He leaned out from the corner again, aiming the laser at the camera down the hall. After disabling it he waited a few moments, satisfied that there was no response yet.
Inching his way down the hall, he heard sounds of laughter and conversation. It sounded like a large group of men and women, well over 5 people. He was closing in at the end of the hall. Straight across from him was the door to the stairwell. On the left sat the elevator shaft, while a pair of double doors sat on the right with the sign, "KITCHEN," in empty glass tubing. Must have ran out of juice. Merek thought.

Pausing by the double doors, he glanced in the right window pane of the door. The guards were using the room as its original intended use, they were splayed about a couple of dusty old tables, chinese takeout littering the room. Entering the ventilation system he had to sneak past approximately 12 guards outside. Taking out these two in the halls, he must have lucked out on his timing, because from the looks of it each hall would hold at least 4 or 5 at a time.

That is the thing about the working man, they'll take long breaks if they think they can get away with it. "You see what I see Ry?" Of course he already knew the answer.

"Get in that damn shaft before they finish their chow mein."

Ducking low enough to be below the door windows, he strafed over to the elevator. Getting a bit of leverage with both hands into the door, he started tugging. Even for his slightly enhanced strenght, it was a tough pull. A pop noise sounded through the air as he broke the seal that had formed for 20 or so years. One of the guards must have told a hell of a joke, because roaring laughter sounded at the same time. Merek stepped into the elevator, full of dust and mold, shutting the door as best he could. There was a slight crack, it wouldn't close completely. Hopefully none of those guards had augmented eyes.

Quickly, he opened the hatch of the elevator and climbed on top, grabbing the cables and shimmying toward the second floor. When he reached the right height, he jumped toward the door, fingertips holding on to the edges of the outside border. Now came the hard part.

Nothing I can do if there are guards in here, I'm going to have to go all out.

Do what you have to do, Frank just doesn't want anyone knowing who is doing the taking. They're going to know when they lose their goods." Eckhard opened the elevator door, but this one wasn't as forgiving. A long, screeching noise lit through the shaft. He could only imagine how loud it must have been in the hallway. Giving in to indiscretion, he wrenched it open.

Four guards were staring him down, from the direction of the "presidential room. A large man, half-muscle half-fat, stood at the forefront. All of them held stun batons, as well as weapons at their belts. It seemed like lethality wasn't a priority for them. Behind fatty stood a short-female with a pink mohawk. A Martian-baked skin tan man, a horrendous look that turned your skin into pleather, stood on the other side. Behind those three stood an imposing figure at nearly seven feet.

"Holy shit Merek. Can you do this without killing anyone?"

Only one way to find out. He had not reloaded the tranq gun. It was top of the line, and as such, it was quality over quantity. It only held four shots too a clip. Two had been expended on the first floor. This team of guards seemed a bit more clued in than the ones below, without speaking they started moving in.

"They must all be on an internal aug line."

[i]"Quiet Ry."
He had to make this quick, the guards from below could be well on their way.
Merek walked toward them, baring his fists to give the impression he was about to brawl. Mohawk smiled at him, seemingly in pleasure at the idea of fisticuffs. He used his heightened speed to quickly draw the tranq gun from the small of his right back. In quick succession he shot Sun-Tan Man and Mohawk, both dropping to the ground. The Fat Man seemed unfazed, still walking forward. Merek took three lunging steps toward him, then stepped into a superman punch, cracking the man in the jaw. He stumbled backward, stunned, and slipped to a knee. A roundhouse kick to the jaw stunned him further, but he was still rising. The Tall Man started striding toward them.

In reaction to the Tall Man, Merek lunged back several feet, grabbing for a tranq clip and quickly reloading. He fired all four shots into the Fat Man. The quality of the chemical he was sure of, but a man that big could take one hell of a dose. The large man managed to take a couple of steps toward him before his eyes rolled back and he fell to the ground in a heap, rattling the floor and shaking the walls. His baton fell out of his grip, rolling toward Eckhard.

He managed to grab the baton and bring it in close right as the Tall Man moved in with a left straight that he avoided, the man was a southpaw. Merek bobbed and weaved past two more jabs, then felt a solid hook collide into his gut. He brought the baton up into the Tall Man's neck, pulling the trigger. A jolt of energy hit the man and knocked him back an inch, but a straight left came right down the pipe, smashing into Merek's left eye socket. There was a crunched as his orbital bone gave way and his vision was clouded with blood. His nervous system let a bit of morphine out into his blood to calm the pain the instance the break was detected.

This guy definitely had a strength augment.

Sliding through his legs, Merek rolled and picked up Mohawk's baton, pressing both up to full charge. Noting this, the Tall Man reached for the firearm at his side. Closing the distance between them as quickly as possible, he stepped into the Tall Man before his hand even made contact with the handle of the weapon, blasting him with both batons in the chest. The man whimpered and Merek drove him toward the elevator shaft, knocking him off into the black space. Hell, it was only a one story drop. An augment should survive that just fine.

Yells could be heard from the floor below. A door slammed against a wall from the direction of the stairwell, likely the first level door.

"Move quick Mere."

"Get Sami to move a little closer Ry, half the distance! I'd like her six blocks here to the Northwest, in run-down park."

"Done, she is moving. " As they spoke he ran toward the stairwell door with the industrial strength batons, sliding them in the outward facing doorhandles. The batons would likely buy him an extra 10 seconds. He turned and sprinted across the hall toward the room, never bothering to check for the cameras since stealth time was up. Merek was masked enough to avoid being identified on clip.

After reloading the tranq gun with the third of four clips, Merek sprinted toward the presidential door, drop-kicking it
with both feet. Whatever locks may have been in place shattered and the door broke off all its hinges but the top one, dangling in place.

The hard part of the job must have been over, because the target Mags sat in a wooden chair in the center of the room. Her mouth was covered in tape, skirt hiked up so high he could see the crotch of her black laced teddy under her outerwear. The girl didn't seem to get outside much by how pale her inner thighs were. She definitely didn't hang out with the Sun-Tan Man. The target stared at him through a pair of glasses.

"Target confirmed Ry." An unecessary comment with Ry in on his feed, but it felt fulfilling nonetheless.

It was a trend for some to wear glasses for show, something set in the 22nd Century by some obnoxious sport athletes. While some people still let their eyesight go with no augs and needed real prescriptions, the target seemed to be in great health. There was a window three paces behind her chair, boarded up with planks of wood. "Now that is old school." They must have moved the target quickly, no time to weld the room shut quite yet. His augmentations could take the strain of a two story drop no problem, breaking through the planks would rough him up a bit, but it was nothing that a little RSI maintenance couldn't fix.

The rest of the room was a large mass darker than black. There appeared to be a side door that likely housed a full-sized restroom. To the right, a small kitchen with inset appliances in the walls. He already passed what he took for the master bedroom back by the front door. The living room had a mass of furniture housed under plastic covers, likely luxurious pieces. A bit of fur stuck out under one of the covers. The only uncovered piece was a small wooden table with a suitcase on it. Mags started struggling with her bonds, attempting to speak through the tape.

Hang on one sec, 'bout to have a freaking attack here. Ry cut the line audio during his coughing.

"Lets make this easy Mags." Merek steadily aimed the tranq at her and shot, the dart piercing her high in the left breast. A rustle sounded to the left, in the peripheral of his vison he saw the wallpaper move in the shape of a human.
Ry came back in on the other line, DOWN MEREK!. He was a bit too late. Merek held no anger toward him, this mission was in a dark zone, the net couldn't help much beyond plain research.

A disruptor blast momentarily deafened him, flowing through every fiber of his being. Having only been disrupted a few times, it was exceedingly painful. Merek screamed as all his joints, bones, and muscle were set afire. His brain felt like it was about to melt as he fell on his back. The shape stood over him, camo-cloak switching to off. He recognized the figuret as Frank's friend Alex, and why the mission was supposed to be carried out undetected made a hell of a lot of more sense.

"Don't worry yourself, you'll recover in seconds. Unfortunately, you appeared to have riled the whole house up." Alex checked on Mags, ensuring she was out. While Merek was stunned, she ripped his mask up, taking a quick look at his face to ensure she knew who she was speaking to. She dropped it back into place as he felt his muscles begin to recover, but still incapable of movement. Whatever kind of disruptor this was didn't do any damage it seemed, but it was an inhibitor of some sort.

"Frank will join me against Dynamo sooner or later. I think that him getting ahold of Mags will expedite this process. Maybe Dynamo weren't even behind it. The point is, whatever information Frank gets out of Mags will get him involved in the game. That, and other than myself, I trust him to do right by what he finds." Or so I hope, he heard her whisper to herself. She placed her heel on his chest, looking down at him and reaching a hand out to help him up. Alex timed it perfectly as he felt well enough to reach out and take her offer, standing on his feet.

"You do NOT tell Frank I know that he has Mags. He needs to think this mission went off without anyone clued in to who did it. If I brutally tortured my own girl, traitor or not, it looks bad on the inside. People can lose morale. If she is taken elsewhere my employees can hold out hope that she didn't sell us out, and that she has been taken away to be silenced or used as a pawn by Dynamo. I'll spin it however I can." Alex exchanged the disruptor for a pistol, talking quickly as they both heard the crack of the batons he had placed snap. He attempted to contact Ry but his comm aug was down.

"I have to make it look real." She stepped back behind him a few feet, giving him space. Merek didn't question what that mean, tearing Mags from the chair and throwing her over his left shoulder. Screaming guards were hurtling down the hall as he turned his head and saw Alex clubbed herself in the face with an object, blood bursting out her lip.

"Get the hell out of here." She said, seemingly able to yell with a whisper. Eckhard drove himself into the thick window and boards, breaking through it in a waterfall of glass and splinters. Alex fired twice at him, bullets tearing through the shoulder opposite Mags. He could hear the rumbling footsteps of men enterting the room as he vaulted out. More blasts of gunfire flew out into the night over his head. It seemed like an eternity, but he came down to the street, landing on his left foot, right knee, and right fist. Pain shot up through his right arm up to the gunshot wounds, body kicking more morphine in as the fall rattled him enough for the eye pain to resurge. The rest of his body absorbed the trauma relatively well. A few gun shots littered the ground around his feet as he rose, Another one tearing across his right thigh in a burning flesh wound.

He sprinted away, a slow sprint for him. If he ran too quickly it would be easier for outside eyes to determine what augment had visited this night. Once he was far enough from the building, he turned into a side alley and went full on speed, zig-zagging through the maze of dark corridors and neon lighting.

Cangwu

Ivarest Apartments


Ry had been unable to reach Merek for almost two minutes now. He double and triple checked his gear around the sofa, checking for malfunctions, ignoring what he knew was a disruptor blast that had hit his agent. A few tears trickled down his face, it could only mean his friend had been caught. His mind turned to death as a result instead of capture. Another coughing fit set in, an ounce of blood projected from his mouth into the face cover. Closing his eyes in mental and physical pain, Ry slammed his fists into the coffee table.

He received a call from the other line; Sami. Ry hadn't bothered telling her the comm link had went out.

"I got Merek and the target. He looks frickin' battered...mask is still intact. He needs medical attention. Why didn't you let me know he was out?"

"Sorry, I had some technical difficulties. Merek's line was buzzing back in.

"Difficulties might be an understatement. But...Merek and the target are alive at least." Sami spoke across the comm.

One second Sami. She seemed frustrated but let him go without any more hassle.

He activated Mere's line, putting Sami on hold. "Ry, does Sami know the comms went black?"

"I didn't have time to tell her, I was too busy thinking you were dead. It had been an emotional reaction, one he realized could have actually lead to Merek's death. Sami would be fully capable of attempting a rescue."[/i]

"Good. Don't mention it."

"Anything you want to let me in on?"

"I will say that this is the one time not working through HQ benefits us. Later." Ry wasn't used to the silent treatment. Something had gone horribly wrong in that building.

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Iazu

Monsoon Cuisine


Merek chewed a piece of chicken tiki masala, an Indian inspired dish from back on Earth. The place was rather tasty altogether. It was midafternoon and they had the buffet running. Everything had a ton of spice in it, giving a kickstart to his system.

You're never going to believe this Merek.

What's up? He scooped up plain white rice with the masala sauce, putting it in his mouth. One of the far overlooked benefits of an internal aug was that eating and talking came from different places. It made multitasking convenient.

An easy payday just got easier. Merek had been chilling in Iazu, laying low for Ry to get a bead on their target. Benny Z was to be delivered to Miss Chow. It sounded simple enough.

How's that?

He has quite a little entourage. Apparently one of his girls wanted exclusive rights to him and he threw her out on the street. She is giving up his location for 10% of the take.

Fuck that, get the location and we'll stiff her. He knew Ry could find a crack somewhere and locate Ben, it was a matter of time.

Merek. She already gave the location up to Dynamo and they took the deal, funds transferred up front. I tried cracking the comm but it was rather well protected, one of their pros must be signing up for this one. Take the deal or lose it. Now that was a complication, Merek thought. He couldn't let Dynamo get the jump.

Alright . . . send the damn money from the slush fund, I imagine Interceptor will be on the run for it soon as well, then this little bitch makes out with what is really 30% for no work.

Smart girl if you ask me.

Merek smirked. She was greedy, that's for damn sure.
------------
Benny was running the table. Texas Hold'em poker was the game, 10,000 credit buy in was the stake for each man. Winner takes 40k; loser doubles their money with 20k. It started with six of them, he'd taken two out already an hour and a half in. His chip stack dwarfed the competition. Taking into account his internal augs that helped with variables and probability, and you could give the 40k to him already. It was a nice, lower-stakes friendly game of poker among fellow scumbags.

The game was taking place in the Kennison family basement. It was a high class neighborhood, the Kennison's were money launderers and accountants. Gambling without a license was illegal, as well as the drugs at the table.

"Come here girl!" Benny called out to one of his two female companions on the side. Natasha came swaying over, wide hips bouncing side to side. When she reached him he threw her torso on top the table lightly, spanking her on the ass. She yelped in delight and he squeezed hard.

"Before the next hand, who wants to do a line of Vizz off Nat here?" None of the guys seemed to mine. He lined up the Vizz, one hell of a stimulant, on her lower back and ass. They all took turns snorting and turned back to the game. Benny sent Nat back with a kiss and thumbed her nose.

Gretchen had been his favorite, despite her horrible name. She was the youngest of them all, barely legal if he recalled right. The girl had fallen for him and gave an ultimatum before they came in the Kennison house. If she couldn't have him to herself, she was out.

Well, the bitch was out. Benny laughed, wondering what she was doing after getting thrown out on the street. Other than the players and their ladies, the rest of the players' entrouages were waiting out in the first room. Hell, there was something like a total of 14 bodyguards chilling. The two losers sat at the bar off to the side, chatting with Donald Kennison, heir to the family throne if his ancient father ever died. Rumor was Ted Kennison had a state of the art longevity aug that helped keep the body running.

The dealer dealt the next hand. Benny got pocket aces, the odds went through the roof. Time to take someone else out.
------------------
Merek pulled up in a taxi, money transferring to the cabbie as he got out, down the street from the Kennison household. As he started strolling toward the family home, another taxi pulled up. Out of it stepped a long-legged, graceful redhead.
The same one that had watched him pull a bounty a few months back, leaving the threat of a future meeting. She saw him as she got out of the vehicle, smiling. Luckily she did not have her gigantic disruptor with her. After the disaster that happened at his last mission, the last thing he wanted was a nerve-rattling blast to his augs.

"Fancy meeting you here." Her hand was at her hip, caressing the holster of her weapon.

Merek smiled at her. "You know I'm quicker than you."

Her eyes twinkled back at him, "Quicker maybe, but more accurate? Maybe we should find out?" Neither of them brought an arsenal to this job. Both had small caliber handguns, different versions of grenades and flashbangs, as well as some melee weapons. She had a damn mace hanging from her belt. He had brought a collapsable metal rod with him.

A third vehicle showed up, dropping another figure off. He was a thinner man, hair graying at the temples. He only half stepped out of the vehicle, waiting.

The woman from Dynamo turned to him, "Who the hell are you with?"

"Interceptor Solutions. Name is Wyatt."

"Well fuck me." Merek said.

He and the woman prepared to draw on each other and fire, until Wyatt raised a hand, meter still running on the taxi. "I have a proposal."

They turned to him.

"We all have the same tip. Who the hell knows if some smaller collection agency may head here too. There's 60k of unlicensed gambling money in their right now, if Gretchen is to be believed. The payday from Ms. Chow is what, 25k? We all help each other, one of us gets to take the perp in, the other two get money from the table. All three parties win."

"You think this wildcat is going to take that deal?" Merek interjected. A long pause followed.

"I think I can take that deal. I get the Chow delivery though." She frowned, "And I get 3k or so from the poker take. Just to be fair." Astute, the Dynamo girl didn't want to be shorted on any end.

"And how the hell don't we know you're going to just shoot us in the back? You work for Dynamo after all." Merek shot at her.

Wyatt brows went taught, waiting for her response.

"Boys, I march to the beat of my own drum. Dynamo is damn lucky to have me, and if they want to keep it that way, I can do what I want."

What is going on here Merek? Pretty risky if you ask me.

Ry, I don't think I'll be needing much more from you on this. Keep my head empty unless it is an emergency.
-------------------------------------
Carl sat on the plush sofa, sipping at his Long Island. Martian Soccer was on TV. The bodyguards had placed bets on the game, no lack of gambling anywhere on the premises. He was here as a guard for Mr. Martin Kasdale, a B movie actor in Martian cinema. He had once been A-List until his drug abuse sent him down to B-level, now he enjoyed having a guard to crush the paparazzi.

Then he saw the object come flying through the air down into the middle of the room.

Most of the hooligans stared at it in curiosity. Carl had served in the Martian Militia, graduating with high honors. It was a fucking stun bomb, one that assaulted the ears and eyes with a bright flash and one hell of a concussion blast. He dove over the back of the sofa, covering his ears as it went off. Even with his ears protected his ears were ringing.

He rose, seeing half of the guys collapsed to the ground, others dazed. One of the serving girls was caught in the middle of the blast, unconscious on the ground. A small man turned to him and smiled from the stairway, obviously having an aug that helped him resist the blast. Then his smile dropped as three figures descended down the stairs.

If only one of them had come down the room, they would have gotten swarmed, even with the flash bang. A lot of the guards had risen, though weakened, but the figures mowed through them. A female had a large mace in her hands, clubbing men unconcious or liquidating their knees. The thin guy of the group, who looked like anyone's grandpa, shot tranq darts into as many guards as he could in rapid succession. The third figure hopped down the stairs with a mask that had a skull painted on it, catching the small man in the face with a rod, splitting his nose and sending him into the carpet.

The Kennison's had taken all their firearms and locked them up. Carl, he had other plans. He pressed a button on the outside of his left calf, as a crater sized hole opened up on his thigh. The pistol inside was something of his own creation, holding a toxin inside that would seize the heart up.

Halfway through the crowd of men, with bones shattering and skin shredding, the last half were less affected by the blast. All the men could do was earn their money and hopefully give their employers enough time to flee out the back door. The guy who had been sitting next to him, Orson, landed a solid hook to the thin man's face, knocking him over a chair. The skull faced figure brought the rod up between Orson's legs, likley bursting a testicle from the horrendous roar that came out.

Carl raised the pistol and fired, hitting the red-headed woman in the chest. He saw the skull turn to him, and in what he swore was less than a second he was staring right into the man's gray, lifeless eyes. A blade had pierced him through the chest. Carl looked down and saw the enemy's elbow digging deep into his chest. The man drew the blade out and Carl fell to the ground, bleeding out.
----------------------------------
After stabbing the bearded man through the heart, Merek turned to see a man bringing his foot down toward the female's face in a stomp. He drew his pistol and blew the man's foot off, a spray of blood showering her face and the ground below as the target fell to the ground, clutching his leg. They had been going non-lethal through this mission, the bearded man broke that pact. The remaining men surrendered, falling to their knees and placing their hands on their head.

Wyatt looked to the door, "The target!"

"You go." Merek walked over to the woman, seeing her face contort in pain as her chest spasmed.

"What are you doing man? Dynamo isn't beyond killing us for one cred. She knew the risks."

"Get the fucking target Wyatt, what the hell are you waiting for." The cycle of violence had to stop somewhere. He saw Wyatt run into the next room, his tranq gun going off. Merek grabbed the woman by the back of the head, rising it off the ground and putting his face in front of hers.

"If your internal aug is giving you any information, now would be the time to let me know if I can help you."

"Ov . . . . ose."

"What?"

"Over . . . dose." He grabbed the gun from the dead man's hand, checking the rounds out. It looked like they were laced with drugs inside. An overdose. He smiled down at her. "This isn't 100% to work, but I might be able to save you." He reached into his utility belt for one of his adrenaline refills, stabbing the needle down into her heart, releasing the rush.
She seized up again and he held her down. One of the men who had surrendered ran for the door, Merek let him go. The rest of the guys who weren't too beaten to get up on their own kept running.

The guy on the floor, bleeding out of his footless leg, called out. "You going to help me too man?"

"Go fuck yourself." The Dynamo agent seemed to be recovering.

Merek rose, joining Wyatt in the next room. A face he recognized as the owner of the home, Donald Kennison, sat at the table, tranquilized along with a few others.

"A few of them made it out the back exit, Benny Z nowhere to be found. Chalk it up as a loss, we'll get another shot at him." Wyatt reloaded his weapon. "The girl dead?"

"I think she'll be okay." Through the backdoor was a long hallway, leading to a staircase that went up into the backyard. There were a few doors to rooms before the stairs.

"Wyatt, come here." The older man joined him in the hall.

"Benny Z is a gambler by heart, and he knows the odds. But, he still gets into deep shit betting when he wouldn't. That means he likes to go against the odds."

"And?"

"Odds are we would come running out here and chasing whatever fucks ran out the back door. A gambling man might be in one of these bedrooms." Footsteps sounded behind them, as the Dynamo agent was back on her feet, though visibly worn.

"Kick these doors down then." She said.

Benny Z was in the third room they checked, clenching a woman's mouth so hard to keep her quiet it appeared as if he suffocated her.

Merek turned to the woman, "All yours."

"Please guys, I've got 60k in winnings out there, it is yours if you let me go."

Wyatt chuckled. "It is already ours son." He shot the man with the tranquilizer, nodding to the woman. He went and retrieved his take, leaving.

Merek watched her try to lift the man over her shoulder, but she was too exhausted. "Need some help with that?" She glared back.

He helped her by carrying the guy to the transport her tech had waiting for her outside. Similarly, Ry had one waiting for him.

"Don't expect me to say thanks."

"Damn, that's fucked up." He laughed at her stubborness, "At least a name?"

"Claire." She threw the body into the back of the vehicle. "But, at least I won't kill you in the future. Plus, Red Sands is okay in my book." She stared off in the direction that Wyatt's transport had gone. "I would have let you die, you know."
He let it sink in for her. "I'm a killer, have been all my life. I'd say I know damn well better than you how to kill." Claire offered no argument. "But giving life, now that is a real thrill. Killing deadens me, ironically enough." He walked over to his transport, hearing her rush up behind him.

Merek turned quickly, anticipating an attack. She laughed. "Take this." It was the brown bag that held her 5k from the gambling fund. She found a nonverbal way to say thanks.

Claire left in her transport as Merek got into his, motioning the pilot to fly him back to Cangwu.

What was that? Got a little romance brewing?

I'm not the romantic type Ry. If I ever do have a serious relationship, it would have to be with someone from the same lifestyle. I can't see myself dating a businesswoman or a single mom. He thought about it a moment. She reminds me of what a grown up Eron would look like.

Eron was one of the first children who died in the Godiva experients, also a red-head.

You and that redhead weakness. That woman is dangerous.

Look at my dossier and tell me that Interceptor and Dynamo don't think the same thing of me.