|Cast (In Order of Appearance)|
Reclusive to the world since the collapse of GHOST, Ömer İşnan whiles away the days within his fortified lair turned home deep beneath the mountains of Greenland. However, after news reaches him of Commander Anderson’s death, he ventures out for the first time in years to search for answers.
Chapter 1 - Ömer İşnan
It seemed so long since I had last set eyes upon the man. I had vaguely hoped that it would not be under such dire circumstances that I would have to see him again. However, I had always known that this eventuality was the most likely one to come to pass as I zoomed in upon the image that had accompanied the news article that had reported his death.
Wanted Terrorist Damien Anderson Found Dead in Bangalore
From the state of the body, it appeared that he had only been dead for a couple of hours at most as it had not reached beyond rigor mortis. As I examined the image further I found myself drawn into deducting the manner my former associate had been murdered. The first feature to strike me as odd was the incision across his neck that seemed almost surgical in nature. It was barely noticeable upon the high resolution photograph but the blood stains across the wound had drawn my attention to the very thin line. It seemed so perfect that only a monomolecular strike could have performed it. I knew of elemental powers and refined blades that could achieve such a cut thus cutting down the number of suspects considerably. It was almost certainly an assassination. Whether it be by shadow or sword, I did not have the means to tell.
The second feature that struck me as rather off was that the incision did not seem to have been the killing blow as it was quite clear that the man's neck had also been snapped with it looking distinctly contorted in the photograph. Everything just seemed wrong about the entire situation. The body I saw before me upon a Liquid Crystal Display did not seem to be the man I had once known. This lifeless corpse was a broken man who must have been at the end of his tether; a man who had come to seek death itself and embrace it as an eventuality. It almost seemed as though the murderer had snapped his neck to ensure that the death was not misinterpreted as a suicide. For all hope seemed to be lost upon those eyes. This was not the man I had known. I refused to sully that man's name by attributing it to this lifeless shell.
Damien Anderson was a vengeful god with an ego that rivalled the immense power he wielded. He was a leader of men who had humbled the rich and the mighty in his quest to change the world; a force of nature that had seemed intent upon forging new enemies at every turn as he swore to extinguish any and all who dared to oppose him. That was why I could not grasp what kind of reasoning he could have forever venturing to such a far flung land on his own accord. India had ceased to welcome GHOST ever since the attack upon the Commonwealth Palace that had polarised the globe against us. So, one would have to wonder even more as to what possessed him to meet his end in an abandoned warehouse in Bangalore. I had always expected Damien Anderson to try and take the world with him. Instead he had gone out with less of a bang and more of a whimper. This made me wonder who exactly would have had the power to assassinate my old friend in such a bewildering manner.
Fortunately my position within the Secondary Division of GHOST allowed me access to both personnel and resources required to potentially gather the necessary intelligence that could help me solve this case. For in the time I had cut myself off from the Primary Division, I had been very busy indeed. I had raised two protégés that had been entrusted into my care at the insistence of Tertiary Division. I had every intent of latterly utilising these very same individuals for operations out in the field. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to put them to the test.
While I would have preferred to investigate in person, the small matter of being a wanted criminal in several continents made travelling problematic. It was for that very reason that I elected to summon my young associates to the monitoring centre in order to brief them of the current situation. With the click of a small button upon my control console, a message was sent to their headsets.
The first to arrive within the cramped poorly lit room was the young woman I had spent the last five years moulding to be a loyal soldier, Elise Räutenstrauch. I had taken every measure to ensure her dedication to both myself and the cause. I will be the first to admit that my methods were extreme, even unsavoury at times, but I could not afford to take any chances with uncertain values. Her conditioning had to be absolute. I took no enjoyment out of what I did to her delicate little frame. I merely did what I had to.
She stood to attention at the side of the doorway, outfitted in full GHOST uniform. Her red tailed rank slides were visible upon the shoulders of the black and grey jacket with a Secondary Division logo adorning the right sleeve. My eyes cast across her pastel white face as I traced over her pale pink lips up past her nose before resting on level with her magenta tinted eyes. She shuddered briefly as we made eye contact. I had found that this little nuance had been an unintended consequence of the conditioning process and was likely a holdover to when she took less kindly to it.
"At ease, Corporal Räutenstrauch," I commanded as she relaxed her figure. In this position she still stood resolutely still as I rose from my seat and walked over to where she was standing. Even as I brought my hand to her delicate little face to clear a strand of dyed blue hair away from it, she remained completely immobile. Her static state continued as I tilted her head upwards so that our eyes would meet again once more. I smiled at my achievement while her mouth remained expressionless and her eyes devoid of visible emotion.
"You truly are magnificent," I told her as her pupils dilated. This prompted another smile as I admired how my handiwork had brought her to associate that phrase with arousal. I relented from interfering with her personage further as I did not wish to risk contaminating my own programming of this quaint little weapon. I took some time to appreciate her slender figure once more and could not help myself from being proud of what I had achieved.
I glanced at my watch briefly and sighed before turning to face away from my precious little doll. I stepped quite deliberately towards my desk and clicked the same button I had used to summon Elise as her associate was running late. I bent over to view the screen again and brought up a security feed of his last known whereabouts. I scowled as I realised he was no longer there. As I initiated a scan for his tracking chip, I found myself staring at the plan of the very room in which I was standing and a flashing white marker that was approaching it at a relatively high speed.
As I turned around I suddenly found myself met with the still moving form of Daymon Hiruman for a brief moment before he subsequently collided with me. I grunted as I braced my position and attempted to prevent both of us from crashing to the ground.
"Sorry I'm late," he blustered. I merely sighed in response.
This was not the first time it happened. It was also unlikely to be the last. I grappled his shoulders tightly before dragging him off of the floor. Thankfully his elemental accelerator was not currently attached to his back so I did not have to risk having my arms amputated by it as I helped him to his feet. As he rose upwards, I noted a distinctively sheepish expression upon his face before he immediately stood to attention with less than an inch between us. I had to push him backwards slightly before considering my next course of action. As I looked at the black haired boy, I couldn't help but as to wonder if the universe was having some cruel joke at my expense. For as long as he had been in my care, Daymon had been a walking source of discord. From Elemental Accelerator tests gone horribly wrong to accidentally causing an avalanche during routine reactor maintenance, Hiruman just seemed to be almost completely oblivious to his surroundings. Whatever task he was focusing on would be fine and could be expected to be completed to the highest degree of professionalism. However everyone and anything in the immediate vicinity was suddenly at risk. I was relatively uncertain as to whether or not he would actually be capable of performing covert field work.
While I had successfully conditioned Elise into an obedient and conscientious soldier, Daymon had proven to be impossible. Admittedly, this was due to circumstances out with my own control. Tertiary Division had been very explicit in their instructions that I should under no circumstances make any attempts at conditioning him as that apparently ran the risk of affecting their own programming. In fact, had it not been an official mandate signed by Damien Anderson himself, I would have been tempted to let natural selection run its course with this careless creature.
However, as much as his major flaw was to be the living embodiment of an organisational nightmare, Daymon was surprisingly loyal and dutiful to the cause. This at least made him mildly tolerable. Coupled with his diverse range of elemental talents that had the potential to be used as a tactical weapon, I simply could not hate him. Nor, for that matter, quell my desire to develop his military application further.
"At ease, Private Hiruman," I said as he slumped into a far more relaxed position and started to fix his uniform jacket. I shot him an angry glance and he stopped fidgeting before back stepping to be in line with Elise.
"Today marks a stark change in your routines," I told them, "It marks the day when you will put what I have taught you into practice out in the field."
"Yes, sir," they replied back in unison.
"There is only so much that training can teach you," I continued, "So this will be your final test. I am aware that there will be risks but we can hide in the shadows no longer."
"Yes, sir," they echoed.
I brought over the data slate that had been attached to my keyboard and showed them the image I had previously analysed.
"The man in this photograph is Damien Anderson. Our Commander. I do not think I need to explain what has happened to him. An investigation into the scene of the crime and the potential retrieval of Tertiary Division records is required. I want a thorough analysis of the crime scene to be undertaken and these records retrieved. Private Hiruman, this will be your assignment"
"Yes, sir," he responded as I swiped the screen to show an image of a large white tower.
"This is the Guardian Tower. The former headquarters of our organisation. I believe that it contains vital information that may lead to us discovering who was responsible for the death of Commander Anderson. I want these documents returned to GHOST hands and the possible whereabouts of Primary Division to be investigated. Corporal Räutenstrauch, this will be your assignment."
"Yes, sir," she obediently shot back.
"Preparation time is one hour. I shall send you a full set of instructions within that time frame."
The pair of them exited the small room as I moved towards my desk once more to sit down and write up their individual briefs. I slotted the data slate back into its dock and fired up the other monitors that surrounded my chair. I clapped my hands together before setting my fingers down upon the raised keyboard.
The game was afoot.
Chapter 2 - Daymon Hiruman
I stepped out of Bangalore International airport while straightening my back from the hours I had spent in the uncomfortable seat, its cushions pressing into my elemental stabilizers and digging the entire device into my shoulder blades. As my feet left the air conditioned building I was struck by just how hot it was in comparison to my usual climate of frozen Greenland.
Shielding my eyes from the glaring sun and resisting the urge to use my talents to cool myself down, I hailed a taxi and got in.
As soon as I sat in the seat and put my bag on the chair next to me I got my map out, intent on finding the location of the warehouse and my eventual goal. it didn't take more than a second to my own senses.
"Destination?" The driver asked, his heavy Indian accent not quite masking his irritation. I frowned before realizing he must have asked while I was searching for the address, his own perception of time most likely faster than my own in my focused state.
"Uh, sorry. Can you take me to..." I quickly scanned the dataslate again. "The warehouse on Biocon Park, in the Bommasandra Industrial Area, please."
The driver grunted once and continued into the baking heat towards the destination; the site where Commander Anderson took his final breath.
The drive was uneventful and long, with most of it spent stuck in large traffic jams as the searing heat caused me to excessively persperate into the plain black shirt I had opted to wear, taking on the guise of a tourist and completing the disguise with the help of a pair of jeans, brown trainers, black sunglasses and a simple digital camera placed around my neck on a strap.
Bored and hoping to focus myself, I started to absent-mindedly replay my orders through my head, preparing to enact them to the best of my abilities and make Commander İşnan proud.
The assignment excited me and I was determined to see it completed competently for the good of GHOST, as I had with many other assignments I was ordered to perform. However, field work outside of the division was a first for me and, as Commander İşnan had informed me, would require a certain balance of focus.
Due to this fact, I was extremely nervous and worried about the possibility of failure. If everything headed south, it was very likely that I would be left to fend for myself in a country far away from the Second Division's headquarters.
Luckily, this mission was simply to gather intelligence on the death of Damien Anderson, nothing more, nothing less. In comparison to a more delicate operation such as reactor maintenance (an operation I sorely wished I would never be assigned to perform again), this was extremely easy and definitely played to my strengths.
That he was willing to trust me with a solo intel-gathering mission on Commander Anderson's death made my chest swell with pride just thinking about it. I hoped that my attempts to fine hone my expertise and increase productivity may have been noticed and praised, and this seemed like he trusted me to perform this task. This made me proud, and I swore that I wouldn't fail him, the mission would be completed.
This requires tact, focus and determination. You can do this. I told myself.
So lost in my own thoughts, I hadn't noticed that the car had stopped and that the driver had turned to me, his heavily tanned face twisting in anger. I shook my head and focused on what was going on.
"I'm sorry sir I...wasn't paying attention." I told him sheepishly. "How much do I owe you?"
"Eighty-six Rupees." He demanded. I quickly fished out the battered leather wallet I had picked up as part of my disguise and handed him a one-hundred Rupee note, telling him to keep the change and quickly getting out, throwing my grey rucksack over my shoulder and watching as he sped away, no doubt as annoyed by my absent mindedness.
As I walked the streets to Bangalore towards my eventual target, I removed my dataslate from the rucksack and fixed my attention on the interactive map, twisting and turning orientation as I made my way through the winding streets in my goal to get to the site, in several instances becoming so engrossed in the map that I bumped into bystanders that I didn't see. I collided with one man dressed in a black business suit, hearing him grunt in displeasure as I muttered something vaguely apologetic in response before arriving at the location that the map assured me was my objective.
The warehouse was a large, plain building, long since abandoned. It's interior was flame blackened in an old factory accident many years ago and left to the mercy of its environment, as it's smashed windows and graffiti-laden walls attested to. It had long since been forsaken by whoever had previously owned it, and, had it not have been for what had transpired here, nobody would bat an eyelid were I to trespass as part of my mission.
This however was not an option, because I wasn't the only one interested in gathering intel on the death of Commander Anderson. It seemed the Event Horizon Security Cartel, India's prime law enforcement agency, were intent on performing the same task, cordoning off the area from any and all civilians nearby. Bored guards patrolled the area and bright yellow tape cordoned every entrance of the building.
I quickly realized I would not be able to just stroll in and start taking pictures of the scene under the guise of a curious tourist, and so I had to be creative. I slid my rucksack off my shoulders, placing it upon the ground in front of me and opening the front zip pocket. A minute of frustrated rummaging later and I had what I needed to get past the guards.
Prior to my departure, Commander İşnan had furnished me with a set of forged papers that, I had been told, were indistinguishable from their genuine counterparts, he had created them specifically to allow me access in a situation such as this and should. Confident, I strode towards the scene with my papers firmly clutched in my hand, fast approaching one of the guards: an intently bored, pug-esque gentleman with a shaved head, sweating profusely into his uniform. I noticed sweat patches darkening his chest and armpits.
"Yes?" He asked in a gravelly voice.
"Uh, sorry." I began, fumbling to take the papers from their envelope. "I'm the crime scene photographer."
"Photographer?" he raised an eyebrow quizzically. "We've already had someone over to photograph."
"Really?" I started to panic, this was to be expected, however I had to be careful and improvise my next move as to not arouse suspicion.
"Yeah, we're literally here waiting for forensics to take their sweet time so we an all go home, bloody lazy bastards." He grumbled.
"Oh, well they phoned me in as they thought the other guy was incompetent. Apparently half the shots came out of blurry and illegible." I lied on the spot, unconvincingly, I might add, hoping my previous curiosity wouldn't tip him off.
"Ah" he nodded in understanding, his jowls wobbling at the head movement. "I did think that kid they'd sent in was a bit of a fumbling arse. Just seemed to stare at the body as if in disbelief, barely took more than a couple shots. Wouldn't have surprised me if he was a bloody GHOST sympathizer."
"Fair enough." I replied, suppressing a smile at the irony. "Sorry about the other guy, but Event Horizon has requested a thorough documentation of the undisturbed scene before they pick up the body. So, I'll try to be out of your hair as soon as I can."
"Very funny". He laughed. "Be on your way kid." He smiled as and I passed through, jamming my papers into my pockets and clutching my digital camera in my hands.
The scene was pretty unchanged from the pictures Commander İşnan had showed me prior to my departure, with the only big differences being the absence of Commander Anderson's body. The interior was even more smoke and fire damaged than the outside, with half of the walls char-blackened, most likely from an earlier industrial accident. Scattered intermittently, the signs of occupation by the dregs of humanity were visible. Here, in the corner, an old, stained mattress. There, a hollowed oil drum with the ashen remains of firewood still inside. Even the remains of dirty needles from the occupant's unsavoury habits were left to lay upon the ground where they were abandoned, the Forensics team unwilling to touch anything before the scene was fully catalogued.
Dismissing the pointless details, I observed the useful notes; windows smashed from the outside, unlocked or opened doors swinging on their rusted hinges, a communications cell, one that likely belonged to the commander himself at one point, mangled by the correct application of pressure from a leather-shod foot and left in the half encrusted, dried pool of deep crimson blood.
Focusing at the task at hand, I took a multitude of concise shots of the red stain, the destroyed phone and several pictures of the surrounding area, including any and all possible entrances or exits that could be utilized by the kind of man who did this. I wanted to ensure that not only I looked the part, but that I obtained enough valuable data to keep Ömar happy. If I was really lucky, it might help take his mind off of the whole reactor incident. I kept getting the feeling that he hadn't quite forgiven me for that yet.
Searching through the multiple shots, I was satisfied that they were all clear enough, and capturing the right details, that I had finished my assignment, and so I promptly evacuated the scene at a brisk pace. I casually waved at the corpulent guard I had passed before before leaving through the same way I got in. Walking back out of the shaded warehouse made me remember how hot and stiflingly humid the climate was, and I decided to sit down on a nearby bench to open my pack, rummaging to find the water bottle I had purchased at the airport.
"Makes you think, doesn't it?" said a rueful voice beside me, and I startled at the unexpected presence. His clipped, sharp syllables marked him out as a foreigner in these lands and I realized he was from the People's Republic of Asia, though which province escaped me.
Turning sharply, I was confronted by a young man wearing a hoodie, its plain grey finish complimented with a stripe of bright red. His face was lost in the shadows of his baggy hood and any other discernible features were further obscured as his black hair covered what could be seen of his face.
"What do you mean?" I asked, suspicious of this mysterious newcomer, it was possible that he was an agent attempting to find me.
"How the mighty can fall so far." He sighed. "Damien Anderson was said to have been capable of levelling mountains on a whim, he had brought entire cities to ruin with a snap of his fingers." He clicked, as if to demonstrate his power. "He was a man who held the power of a God in the palm of his hand."
I could tell he was trying to sound casual, but the undertones of sycophancy were still there as he continued. "Just...his death, it's said that his throat was slit like a pig for slaughter. It feels...pathetic for someone like that."
"You think he should of gone out with a 'bigger' bang?" I asked rhetorically, still not knowing what to make of the Asian youth. He probably wasn't a spy, but Ömer had been insistent on his instruction:
"Trust no one."
"Not with a bang as such," he continued, "just a more dramatic end. I'd always imagined someone like that meeting his end tearing apart the world in an attempt to rid it of evil."
"If you say so." I neutrally responded. "It just sounds like egomania to have him literally rip the world apart as his final act. Less of a glorious final attempt, and more of a... 'I'm taking you all with me' statement," I added, as a memory of an old friend who was no longer with us came to mind. They gave their lives in order to stop something from completely destroying Tertiary Division... while taking most, if not all of the foes there at the time out. I still couldn't remember anything significant about them; their face, name and even their gender escaped me - my mind was still foggy about it, and possibly wouldn't clear up any time soon.
He gave a noncommittal grunt and shortly afterwards walked away. As he did so I decided to rezip my pack and return to the crime scene in time to see a lone officer leaving the cordoned area and beginning to traverse down the street in long, powerful strides.
Keeping a low profile, I began to follow him, my curiosity piqued.
Chapter 3 - Elise Thurston
I glanced up at the beautiful ivory tower that loomed over me, like the way a surgeon might loom over a patient. The white building which once served as the headquarters of the Global Honoured Organization of Specialized Tasks was now bare of any former allegiance to the organization; instead the words Calypso Industries were finely painted upon a large, silver plaque above the entrance in English.
How much has Primary Division lost over the years? I thought to myself before making my way up the stone steps that led to the tower.
Entering through the front entrance would have been foolish, for I would stick out like a sore thumb in the crowd. I was just glad that I had been given permission to dress in something other than my Secondary Division uniform. Perhaps in a different time wearing my uniform would have struck fear and respect into the masses, now adorning this uniform is worse than Hiruman exposing his elemental accelerator in public. Instead, I had elected to wear an old, long sleeved magnolia blouse that I had bought in Berlin, along with a pair of charcoal-black shoes, wide leg pants, and finally a leather crossbody bag.
I pulled out a small, ash gray data-slate from the bag, before typing in the four number password – 3948 – to unlock the device, I opened a tab which kept a variety of notes and scrolled through until I found what I was looking for: The override codes for the secondary entrance.
Coming up on the entrance, I noticed the security panel affixed to the door just above the handle. The words Password Mandatory flashed in bright, neon green just above the number keys. Instead of typing in the designated password I plugged in my data-slate with a cord that plugged into a slot located at the bottom of the panel, and typed in the following via my data-slate.
Duty, Strength, Honor, Destiny.
A bright red light flashed upon the security panel with the words Access Denied printed upon the screen. A brief sigh fled my lips; I had hoped it would not have to come to this. I unplugged my data-slate from the security panel before rolling up my blouse’s sleeve up to my elbow. Concentrating, I felt my forearm burn to life as I used my elemental abilities to cloak it in plasma. I then balled my hand into a fist before punching through the security panel to disable it and unlock the door. I withdrew my hand from the now destroyed security system and rattled at the doorknob until the door finally opened.
The inside of the Guardian Tower was as crisp and clean as the outside, with pearl-white walls stretching down the corridor, and slate black floors complimenting the walls nicely. The ceiling itself was one large, rectangular mirror with circular lights lining up perfectly with one another.
I smiled, not because of how the corridor was designed, but because of how it was completely empty. I stepped out into the hallway, before leering down at my data-pad once more, flipping through more tabs until I found a layout of the Guardian Tower’s floors. My objective was located upon the thirty fifth floor, which housed some of the many offices within the former headquarters of GHOST. A stairwell was located at the end of the hallway I was currently standing in, but to climb thirty five flights of stairs would take time, something that could ill afford to waste.
Instead, I decided upon taking the elevator, the entrance of which was the third door to my left. I walked towards the designated door and pressed down on the button to call the lift down. After a few moments of waiting, I heard a small chirp from the door as it opened. Inside the lift I was greeted by the faces of three other individuals; two men and one woman. One of them, a large man wearing a black suit, gave me a small smile.
“Which floor, madam?” He asked me.
“Thirty five, please.” I responded warmly.
He nodded, before pressing down on the button that would lead to said floor. I stepped into the elevator before taking my place near the back. The lift itself had dark, brick red carpet furnished into the flooring, with mahogany wood poles drilled into the walls, which were in turn made out entirely of mirrors. As I continued to examine the elevator, it slowed down before coming to a halt. The doors slid open, and the woman who had been standing in front of stepped out. The doors closed again before the lift began to ascend yet again.
It was then that one of men turned and looked at me with scrutinizing eyes. I tilted my head slightly before giving a slight smile.
“Is something the matter?” I asked innocently.
“Forgive me madam, it’s just that I’ve never seen you here before. Are you new here?” He asked, a hint of suspicion in his tone of voice.
“Yes,” I replied. “I just started working here, hmm…two days ago, now?”
The man nodded slightly, before looking downwards. “If I may ask, where might your identification be?” He pressed for more information.
“I’m sorry?” I queried, stalling for time.
He responded by pulling out a small, laminated card which was slung around his neck with a red ribbon. “Your ID, madam. Where might it be?”
I dug through my pockets before pulling out the fake ID that Ömer had made for me, and showed it to the man. He took it out of my hands and briefly examined it, before handing it back to me.
“My humblest of apologies madam…it’s just that we had a security breach within the facility a few weeks ago and everyone is on very high alert.” He spoke before giving a bow.
“I…was not aware of this, I’m sorry to have worried you.” I smiled.
He nodded once more, before the lift came to a halt. The doors slid open, and the man exited the lift with the other gentleman who had stayed out of the conversation. The doors slid shut, and I let out a large sigh. That had been too close, but I knew that taking the lift instead of the stairs would result in much more contact with other people. I was just content that I had made it out of that encounter without much trouble.
After a few, lengthy moments of silence the elevator finally came to halt, with the number thirty five projected upon the small counter placed just above the door. I stepped out of the lift before looking around.
The new hallway I was standing in was similar to that of the one on the first floor, with ivory walls and a mirror ceiling. The main difference was how the floor was that of a forest-green carpet, and how a large abundance of black doors were suited on either side of the hallway. I pulled out my data-slate yet again and looked at the layout of the floor. The room I was looking for was the eighth door to the right of the lift, on the left side of the hall.
I made my way down the hall quickly and quietly, making sure that I wouldn’t disturb those who were currently working in their offices, lest I draw more unneeded attention to myself. I soon found myself standing in front of the door that my data-slate had directed me towards. Upon the black door was a small plaque which read Mr. Nwosu.
Slowly, I opened the door and peering into the room. A rather tall, African man hunched over a desk of oak wood, staring into a computer monitor and typing furiously upon the keyboard in front of him. Thankfully his back was to the door, so it wouldn’t be any trouble sneaking up on him.
I quickened my pace and opened the door fully, before stepping into the room while rolling up my sleeve yet again. I quietly closed the door behind me, before activating my elemental abilities. By now, the man who had originally been unaware of my presence spun around in his chair. He stared at me in disbelief, before trying to stand up.
I didn’t give him the chance. Instead, I lunged forwards and punched a hole in the poor man’s chest. He tried to scream, but the sound was drowned out by the blood that was now bubbling in his throat. Tears ran down his cheeks as he stared into my eyes as he grasped my arm. His grip loosened and his arms fell limp, before any attempt to scream slowly died away.
I pulled my forearm out of his chest, before waiting for any blood that would have stained my arm to vaporize. After a few seconds, I deactivated my abilities. My arm suddenly cramped up and I was struck with a massive sense of pain before my vision blurred. I stumbled back slightly before placing my hand against the wall closest to me to stabilize myself.
I had been careless, and had used my powers irresponsibly. The result was slight case of elemental sickness. A few hours of rest would cure me of any pain, and I made a mental note to refrain from using my elemental abilities for the rest of the mission unless absolutely necessary. My vision returned to me and I quickly bent down to the now bleeding corpse of Mr. Nwosu. His dust coloured eyes stared aimlessly towards the ceiling, and a small stream of blood poured from his mouth to his chin.
I brought my hand up to his eyes and closed them, before laying down his body. I then stood up and examined the room in hopes of finding what I was looking for. The slate grey walls were a far drearier sight than the bright ivory of the hallways and tower itself. A large window gave view to the streets down below and the buildings further down. Three large, steel filling cabinets (each with three drawers) sat against the wall to the left of the entrance, while the large desk that once served Mr. Nwosu was off to the right. A once dark green carpet identical to the one out in the hall was now stained blood red where the office’s worker lay.
Looking at the filing cabinets, I decided that they were my best bet to finding the information I needed, before stumbling towards them, still slightly shaken from the sudden nausea caused by the overuse of my element.
Grabbing hold of the first filing cabinet, I opened the drawer closest to the floor to make sure that it would balance out and avoid falling. Sorting through the files, I found personnel files on a great many soldiers within GHOST. Eventually I found my way to a file that was labelled – Damien Anderson, before opening it.
Inside I found a full detailing of the now deceased commander’s history within the organization. It detailed how the commander had been found at the age of ten after his powers suddenly manifested, leveling his entire neighbourhood. It then described how he had left the organization to join the public security force of Sector I at the age of sixteen, before finally returning after attending the funeral of his former mentor.
I continued to read through the commander’s folder until I came across a file titled “High Priority Targets”, which quickly piqued my interest. Perhaps in reading this, my comrades within Secondary Division and I could see those who would dare oppose GHOST exterminated. With this in mind, I cracked the file open and read through the names listed.
The first name – which I noted to be typed in bold italic text – was that of Claude Lasi-Faité, the global terrorist which GHOST as a whole was all too familiar with.
The second name written down on the list read Agent 01 – the infamous leader of the international terrorist organization known as the International Workers Union.
The list went on as I read out the names of other individuals of little renown in my eyes. From some man named Jeoffery DeMandra to another named Mitchell Ochoa. I began to hasten through the list as my interest in it slowly died, gliding my finger through the list. I was about to finish reading it and throw it into my bag before I came to halt, my eyes staring in disbelief at one name on the list.
Without another thought, I quickly slotted the commander’s file into my crossbody bag and closed the filing cabinet, before standing up, quickly leaving the room and heading down towards the elevator, all the while trying to understand the commander’s reasoning for placing my sergeant on his list of high priority targets.
Chapter 4 - Sasha Vlahovic
From my quiet, idyllic apartment, I stared out at the street below me. Today was the anniversary of the South American Revolutionary War, and despite the current conflict with the south and bomb threats by terrorists, a massed military parade filled the streets. Infantry goose-stepped in almost-perfect formation displaying appropriate revolutionary elan, armoured vehicles rumbled by as their commanders saluted the crowds of people who allowed them to reach victory and screaming jets left coloured trails that turned the sky itself as red as the flags fluttering in the breeze, or performed death-defying stunts to the cheers of the masses. Though South America remained divided, the people knew that they were all equal, and for whatever wounds the Motherland bore, whatever scars he showed, the people today united together in support of our American dream. The people were the vanguard of the global revolution and they knew it. Today, every South American walked a little prouder. History has thrown her weight behind us.
The feeling was infectious as the overwhelmingly jingoistic sentiment of the People's South American Republic swept over me. Earlier in the day, I had even gone so far as to allow myself a private toast to the occasion with a generous measure of Baltic Tea.
Our armies were united in friendship and labour, driven to undo the errors of the past and give a reactionary breakaway sector rule by the people, instead of the elite. The international community told a thousand tales of the war, and every tale condemned us for a villain. Even the Euro Zone, our supposed ally, condemned us as communist murderers. A bitter joke of a friendship if there ever was one. Our farmers in Colombia produced the goods they so desired and they gave us necessary supplies. Trading drugs for guns. The history of Colombia in a nutshell. At the rate of growth, it might even become our national business. The thought disgusted me. To think that the cause of worker’s liberation could be laid so low as to service the corrupt desires of an aristocratic regime founded upon the dreams of a power-hungry madwoman. The only saving virtue of the Euro Zone was that is was not as interested in crushing the proletariat’s revolution as the North Americans.
North America. The reason we've got to lead the workers, the titan we've got to defeat, one for whom we need all the workers united. Religious nuts at the head of a superpower. Dreams of a being that never existed encouraging them to stamp upon the face of anyone of a different skin colour or religion, the sole exception of Greater Israel only making them seem worse. Their domineering crusader complex was nearly as bad as the god complex of the Archenemy, Claude.
Claude Lasi-Faité. The demon wearing the mask of a hero. The whole world it painted him red, while he was a deviant capitalist epitomising the very worst traits humanity may possess. Every man has his own flaws, but Claude’s greed is enough for all of South America. The man biting at the world. Carving out bits that the workers need and lining his own pockets. There were no words in any language spoken under the sun that could possibly describe the man. Were I to find his location, I would have raised every willing man and woman and stormed it, be damned the cost. If a thousand good humans were to pay the ultimate price in a struggle to bring that one man down, the world would still receive a net shift towards goodness. Also his taste in hats is hideous.
But though my eyes were fixed upon the fervent legion marching below, my heart and mind turned direction and fixed upon a broken communications device laying upon the floor where I had dropped it in shock. That jolted me back to the present. A dead man running operations in Greenland. Ömer Isnan. Every sector, every organisation from the American Confederation to the League for the Decentralisation of Nations was after that man. Some wanted to bring him to justice, others sought out his incredible scientific abilities, particularly in regards to fissile materials. Still, I wouldn't put faking his death past him. It wouldn't be the first time a supposedly dead figure turned up alive and well.
I winced momentarily at that thought. Agent 01’s thorough dressing-down of his leadership was a memory I did not wish to keep. Even though he had specifically exempted me from his verbal assault on account of my unquestionable loyalty, he had for that torturous hour become a fiend possessed of wrath so intense it burned away his audience until nothing remained but abject terror of the fury that their foolishness had wrought. And the aftermath, the industrial meat grinder. I would never look at a hamburger the same way again. For one of many times I wondered whether I had chosen the wrong career, but now I had stepped so deep into the river of blood that trying to return would be more treacherous than wading onwards. Still, the knowledge that I was the last remnant of the old administration hung above me like a guillotine, a constant reminder of the penalty of disloyalty.
So deep was I in my own thoughts that I didn't even notice a Worker move behind me until he announced a call from Agent 01 himself. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Speak of the devil…
"Comrade Nineteen," the fedora-wearing man stated, "Comrade One has an urgent call from you."
At this, my pet goat bleated before deciding to snack upon the potted plants. I took the device and held it close as the Worker whirled around and goose-stepped out of the room.
"Worker Nineteen," the device crackled with a tinge of disappointment, "Try not to break this one."
"Comrade," I replied. It seemed the only thing that could be said.
"As I was saying, we've located the dead man."
"We need you to capture him, or if that proves impossible, kill him."
"Doubtless he'll have his own elite guard."
"Prepare for anything."
"And stop fucking calling me 'comrade'."
"To aid against any possible GHOST presence, I've allocated the Blessed Worker's Elemental Group to you. This will prove an excellent opportunity to execute Plan Uriah. Do you understand?"
"Good. See to it. Isnan must not escape alive."
The device went dead.
My mind still occupied by the recent orders, my eyes flicked around the apartment that was my temporary home, and rested upon a screen on the wall. A local news station had taken a break from reporting on the celebrations for a special report on a chemical weapon attack on Aomori. Chinese officials were claiming it was an attack by the RWA, while the insurgents claim China fabricated the event to justify further military intervention.
I turned the pest off. A radicalised insurgent force whose tendrils snake around the globe dreaming of world domination under a regime that made Imperial Japan look like a bastion of humane treatment fighting against an imperialist regime who might even have created the insurgents to justify an ethnic cleansing campaign. A pity both sides can’t lose.
Chapter 5 - Elise Thurston
As the elevator opened I found myself within the throes of a large crowd of businessmen and women swarming through the main hall. I ran my hand through my hair in frustration before falling in line with the herd, slowly but surely making my way to the exit. On multiple occasions, an unsuspecting individual bumped into me, before pardoning themselves and continuing to trek through the sea of people. I tightened my grip on my bag’s strap, my mind still racing from the sick revelation I had just uncovered. My commander had always been sketchy about his past beyond official records and arrest warrants. What little he had told me I recall as having been entirely off the books. Bedtime stories he used to tell me when I couldn’t sleep. Tales of mad men and monsters. Atomic wars and wonderweapons. Over time I had come to realise that these stories were more truth than fiction. Perhaps, even, a reflection of the tormented soul who had borne witness to them. With all of this in mind, I couldn’t wrap my head around why Commander Anderson would list my mentor as a priority target. Ömer was a good man. A loyal soldier, and an honourable leader. It defied belief that the man he had trusted to protect him would have him marked as an enemy of the very organisation he had sworn to defend.
I soon came upon the exit, and stepped out of the Guardian Tower. Immediately, I yearned for the cold, air-conditioned hallways of the building. The years in Greenland had lead to me adapt to far more cooler climes to the extent that the blistering African heat hit me with a sharp slap across the face. I began to rush down the marble steps, checking my data slate in the process. Remaining here any longer would have been an unwise decision, as someone was bound to discover Mr. Nwosu’s body sooner than later, and I didn’t want to be around when the authorities arrived on scene.
I scrolled through a list of flights back to Greenland, to confirm that the next one wouldn't be due to depart until two o'clock the following afternoon. Fortunately I had already found somewhere to stay the night. I brought up another tab and read the address of the hotel. I had chosen a rather discriminate venue that was in close proximity to the airport while putting reasonable distance between myself and the Guardian Tower. I needed to optimize my time to the fullest. As Ömer would have wanted me to.
Confident that I had memorized the route, I shut my data-slate off as I began to make a long trek towards the hotel I would be staying at. I walked for a good five minutes before I needed to take a sharp left into a more dilapidated area of the city. I mused over how long it would take for someone to discover the body of the late Mr. Nwosu. As it seemed to be a rather secluded office devoid of discernible monitoring equipment, I figured it would not be until the end of the working day that somebody may notice. I was jolted back to reality when I heard a loud bleating noise. It seemed that while I had been ruminating that I had wandered into a street market. I turned around to find the source of the noise, only to be greeted by a rather disheveled looking man standing behind a counter with three goats tied to a wooden pole. I made eye contact briefly before continuing on my way.
The streets of Cairo themselves were rather rundown and poorly maintained compared to my usual sight of the sleek silver buildings and great golden hawks that doted the Nuuk landscape. Cairo reminded me more of the extensive warehouses that our Greenland complex supported. A large urban sprawl of sheet metal, where clothes were hung over balcony fences, and black and grey smog lay like a blanket of despair. It was a constant reminder of the biofuel industry. I found this strange land to be a very different sight from the main street where the Guardian Tower was located.
I continued to walk through the ruined streets until my eyes rested upon the building I was looking for. Two words in Arabic were crudely painted upon a billboard weighed against a brick wall next to the hotel.
I read the words and quickly translated them into Hotel Tranquility, and hated to admit to myself that this is where I would be spending the next three days of my life. The hotel itself was made out of red bricks, which were quickly falling apart. The windows were shattered, and I hoped that the black material digging into the wooden door wasn't asbestos.
As I opened the door, I was hit by a wave of nausea and nearly gripped my stomach in pain. A quick look around didn't make me feel any better. The floors were rotting, and the walls were as black as the spots forming on the main door. A young woman who wore a white over-the-nose respirator mask stood behind a maple wood desk, which was the only piece of furniture that wasn't rotting. She looked at me and quickly pointed to a trash can full of respirator masks still into their packages, gesturing for me to take one.
I complied and quickly snatched one of them before stepping outside to take it out of the plastic before throwing it over my nose and mouth, tossing the plastic onto the road before stepping back inside. I walked up to the woman, who was quietly taking out a notepad which listed a variety of names in Arabic, before pulling out a pen from her pocket and smiling, "Ahlan wa sahlan!"
“I would like to book a room for this evening.” were the muffled words that left my mouth.
“lā afham?” She asked in a heavy accent as it dawned on me that she may not be fluent in English and that my Arabic had little use beyond ordering food in a restaurant.
"Wahid room?" I queried, while making a pointing gesture towards the back of her abode.
"Ah, wahid room?" she piped up and started scribbling on her pad of paper. She brought it over to me and pointed at it. I brought my eyes down a list of seven names before noticing a vacant point besides the number one.
"Alice Mera ismee," I spoke clearly and she noted the name down next to the annotation, "Bikam hādihi?
"Mi'ah Capitals," was the response given. I fished into my pocket and withdraw a one hundred African Capitals note.
"Shukran," she smiled as she brought the money towards her desk and shoved it into a drawer. The woman then proceeded to open another drawer and withdrew a single key. It was quite a quaint site to see. As she shuffled over to hand me it, she stumbled and fell backwards. Worried about the safety of the old woman, I rushed to her aid in order to try and help her up.
As I knelt down to tend to her, I started to feel uneasy. It could have just been an ill fated coincidence, but it seemed a bit strange for the woman to suddenly collapse. The soldier in me was screaming at me that it could be a trap. I was supposed to always be prepared for danger. I brought myself closer to the woman and noticed that red liquid was beginning to stain her black gown. Alarm bells suddenly started ringing.
I turned around quickly in an attempt to discern the location of the assailant and my heart sank as I saw a masked man.
Fury built up in my very being at the audacity of this interloper. What was he? A thief? An assassin? I noticed that I was shaking slightly.
I motioned to activate my power but I lost focus as I felt a sharp impact upon my shoulder. The pain reverberated throughout my body and I emitted a sharp gasp. I wasn't to show pain. Ömer would have never allowed it. All he had done was make me angry.
I abandoned my previous plan to engage him in ranged combat and lunged towards his position before he could make another attempt to take an accurate shot at me. Unfortunately, he must have been expecting this ploy as he made a hasty retreat out of the door.
Unwilling to let him get away, I gave chase and ran after him out of the building. He didn't get far before I caught him up and tackled him. The man's gun went flying as he impacted the concrete pavement. Unfortunately, I found my own momentum caused me to soon follow suit and I found myself in the same predicament. Albeit, with my arms wrapped around his legs.
Now was the perfect opportunity. I couldn't fail. This was what my years of training had prepared me for. I'd incapacitate him before conducting a thorough interrogation. I would find out why this man had seen fit to kill that woman. As I attempted to stand up, I felt a sudden force yank upon my body and I found a bag forcing itself over my head. My arms were forced behind my back and I felt a pair of handcuffs lock them in place as one of my assailants began to laugh.
In the heat of the moment I had left myself unguarded. It had been a trap all along. I realised that I couldn't use my elemental gifts either. The handcuffs were also been elemental suppressors.
"The target is secured," one of the men spoke.
There was a brief pause and I could fell my heart beating against my chest. My world seemed to be closing in around me. I was blind to it now. A prisoner of an unknown force.
"Understood Comrade," he replied, before I felt another hand grapple my shoulder. I tried to kick and scream but my struggle against my captors was fruitless. The grip across my waist merely tightened as I felt myself being dragged away from the area I had been ambushed.
I heard a door hastily slide open before finding myself thrown against a cold metallic surface. Footsteps resounded before the door slid shut. I felt cold fingers grip my neck before I was dragged across the floor and prompted up onto a smooth surface. I felt leather straps wrap around my upper body and legs, before my kidnappers took off the bag that had been thrown over my face.
My eyes were quickly blinded by a light that loomed over my face, before it was quickly dimmed ever so slightly to a point where I could see three silhouettes standing around my body.
"What is your name?" the first voice – which I quickly noted to be incredibly muffled – asked me.
I didn’t respond, and for the next few moments not a single sound was made. I could discern that a conversation was taking place but they seemed to be speaking in a foreign language.
"What is your name?" the voice queried once more as another silhouette drew closer and forced his hand around my wrist.
I remained tight lipped. Ömer had trained me thoroughly for this very eventuality.
“What is your name?” My kidnapper spoke slowly.
Suddenly I felt a sharp pain applied to my pinkie.
"What is your name?" his voice suddenly took a far more malevolent tone.
I bit at my lower lip, before giving a response. “Alice Mera ismee.”
The silhouette turned and looked at what appeared to be a clipboard, before nodding, "That isn't what it says on your passport, Miss Räutenstrauch."
"Then why are you asking me!?" I roared back out of frustration.
"We had to be sure if you were going to be honest with us," the man spoke softly.
I screamed out in pain as the pressure upon my finger increased until there was no sensation in the appendage.
My interrogator placed out his hand and I gasped out of horror at what I saw his accomplice place into it.
"Every time you lie, Miss Räutenstrauch, you will lose a finger," he decreed as he brought my severed pinkie up to eye level. My kidnapper leaned in closer, before I could see a pair of - bloodshot - hazel eyes staring at me. "Now, tell me your real name, girl."
"Elise Räutenstrauch," I spat in his face, and my kidnapper quickly stepped back, before wiping his face clean with a handkerchief.
"What business did you have in the Guardian Tower?" he whispered as his accomplice forced his metallic device onto my ring finger.
I was not going to be intimidated by the threat of force and I refused to answer.
"What business did you have in Guardian Tower?"
As the pressure upon my finger increased, it dawned on me that if they had found my passport then they would have already discovered the GHOST records I had taken from the building.
"Stealing GHOST records," I responded and I felt the grip upon my finger loosen.
The man nodded in agreement before opening his mouth again, "Who sent you to steal them?"
I froze. I couldn't tell them. Ömer was dead in the eyes of the world. If word got out that he was still alive, there would be manhunts. I had to think of another organisation that would be interested in seizing GHOST records. A convincing lie that would fool them into looking the wrong way.
"The International Worker's Union," I said with false remorse.
My interrogator began to laugh. It was a distressing laugh that was punctuated with a sharp pain shooting through my ring finger. This time I didn't scream. I held in the urge to as the shock surged through me. I could feel tears forming in my eyes. The human body was so pitiful.
"Looks like we have a comedienne here, Worker 4124849," the man who had severed my finger chuckled, "It never gets old when people tell us that."
I smiled at their reaction. The drop of their own guard and the unprofessional conduct that had followed now served to confirm exactly who they were. Now that I knew the identity of my kidnappers, it was time to make my escape.
My interrogator drew closer once more and whispered, "Who sent you?"
I forced by head upwards and headbutted him. He stumbled backwards before hitting the floor with a satisfying clunk. I struggled against my restraints before I felt a distinctive clicking noise.
Worker 4124849's accomplice was now towering over me with a gun aimed directly at my head.
"Who sent you?" he said.
I roared at him defiantly. It was as if a primal rage within me had unleashed itself. I was helpless. I started to struggle as I saw him place the bolt cutters he had been using to severe my fingers on top of my stomach and my eyes widened as he unsheathed a serrated knife from his belt.
"Who sent you?" he asked me as I felt his free hand grip my pelvis.
I refused to give him the gratification of a response.
"Who sent you?" his voice dripped with venom as he drew his blade down my pants. He tore at them viciously, leaving me completely exposed and I felt the cold metal singe my flesh as he increased the pressure upon my stomach.
"You see, little girl, everyone has a breaking point," he lectured, "and discovering this breaking point has always been a quaint little hobby of mine."
Chapter 6 - Ömer İşnan
I jumped slightly as a sharp noise perforated my eardrum.
It assaulted me for a second time as I brought my hand up towards my ear in order to shut it off.
It was hard to refrain myself from sighing as I forced myself to gratify the intrusion with a rehearsed response, "Omega one, confirmed."
"Epsilon one, confirmed," were the words that surprised me. This level of unprofessional conduct was always more in keeping with Daymon's approach to protocol. I moved to link up my personal comm with my base of operations and hurriedly ran a security check upon the status of the call.
"Link traceable," I said, "You have thirty seconds."
As the device went silent, I sorely hoped my top agent would have the sense to hang up. I had to suppress the automatic response to sigh once more as the silence was interrupted by a noise that was almost akin to a dog whimpering.
"Epsilon one, respond," I barked aloud.
"Mission aborted," was the barely coherent reply I received, "position compromised."
I immediately dropped the call at those words.
"FUCKING CUNT ON A GOAT FUCKING STICK" I screamed out to the empty room as my fists hit the table with a loud thump. I could feel the pain coursing through my hands as the force reverberated up into my body but I disregarded it and slammed the table for a second time. Everything had been ruined.
This was just unacceptable. In fact, it was beyond unacceptable. It should have been impossible. She was the careful one. She was the prepared one. She was the perfect agent.
I took a deep breath. I had to regain my focus. Anger was my enemy. It would just lead to further mistakes. I had to be calm. I didn't have all the facts. There was a dead operation in need of salvage. There was an active agent out in the field.
I exhaled and tapped the nearest monitor. If Elise had been compromised, I wanted to see what bastards had been responsible for it. It wasn't difficult to bring up a live feed of the Guardian Tower. The hard part would be unearthing the recorded files. Fortunately, the system wasn't very secure as the software priortised convenience over counter measures and it was easily overcome after a thorough application of the Sleeping Teledu Security Program.
I opened up my facial recognition software and immediately set to work on verifying the visual data with the footage I had unearthed. Setting it to run on automatic so that it would periodically run through the identifiable faces.
Without a moment wasted I transitioned into performing a forced access into the Cairo branch of the Upper African security network in order to cross reference Elise's physical description with all incident reports that had been submitted over the last six hours.
I briefly considered contacting the Primary Division headquarters before realising the inherent risks involved far outweighed any potential benefits they could provide. With their leader dead, I did not have much faith in their internal structure being at its most stable.
I finally felt like I was back in my element. Living a life of isolation had made me complacent, but now that my very life was potentially on the line, I was completely focused upon the task at hand.
As the programmes ran in the background I drew up a list of active personnel and assets available to Secondary Division. Running operations from such an isolated location had lead to a limited liason with the local populace of a nearby mining village in order to facilitate the acquisition of vital goods. Most of the villagers were unwitting collaborators, but a few had shown themselves to be sympathetic to the pro-elemental cause. Primarily these individuals were those gifted with such talents who but there were also many more who had been lured by the promise of money. By my own reckoning, the majority of the town council were likely conspirators. I guess that was one of the perks of European society, everyone is willing to look the other way if money is involved.
Of course, I had never dealt with any of these people in person. It had always been the job of my loyal pawns. Elise, who I had tutored in the art of willful manipulation, had done a good job at getting to the children of the town. From there, she had gained valuable information about their parents that was vital for pressing the right buttons in future negotiations. Daymon, on the other hand, had played it straight as an awkward child who had managed to play upon the sympathies of the townsfolk in a most admirable manner due to his general ineptness and harmless persona. I had been pleasantly surprised by how much he'd achieved by just being himself.
I was shaken from my recollections when my headset started to make an incessant pinging noise at the exact same moment that one of the screens started flashed repeatedly. A match had been found to correlate with an incident report that included a time stamp: 1231.
Now I just had to contact Elise and I'd be able to make use of this data.
The communicator had barely even managed to ring before it was picked up.
"Thirty seconds," I said, "What time did you leave Guardian Tower?"
"Ömer!" I heard Elise mewl like a wounded cat, she was most likely crying, "Oh thank God you phoned. I-"
"Twenty seconds," I cut her off, "What time did you leave Guardian Tower?"
"PLEASE ÖMER!" she screamed, "PLEASE! IF YOU-"
I sighed at her dramatics. She'd probably just been tortured and was reacting unprofessionally to it.
"Ten seconds," I kept my patience, "I need a time so that I can help you."
"Twelve hundred hours," was the barely audible response I was given.
I hung up.
That entire call had been a huge risk.
I wasted no time in restricting the facial recognition software to only search the footage between 1200 and 1231. I had already known the route she was going to take as I had found the hotel for her as it seemed suitably off the grid. In hindsight, I should have banked on her being followed and taken extra precautions with her safety. However, short of arming her more thoroughly, the greatest asset she had was personal awareness. Had she been more alert, she may have noticed someone tailing her before it was too late.
I exhaled deeply. This had been an extraneous variable. I couldn't think of where the room for error had been. Then it dawned on me. Elise hadn't used the main entrance. It was ultimately my fault. I should never have instructed her to use an alternative route to allow for easier access to the building. I should have prepared her to use the main entrance and coached her in a cover story. That way nothing would have seen off to an outside observer. I should have considered that our enemies maintained a watchful eye over our old headquarters. That was the fatal flaw. I diverted my attention away from internal rumination and towards my command desk.
The third monitor flickered with each new scan as the software went through every single frame looking for a match. Knowing Elise, she would have instinctively made a conscious effort to avoid looking at cameras. Exactly as I had trained her. I was reliant upon a lapse in poise she may have made combined with the invasive nature of the security cameras that plagued the area. She must have slipped up and failed to notice one.
For some reason, Daymon suddenly crossed my mind. He was potentially at risk. If one agent had been compromised, then surely my incompetent ward was a prime target. If there were enemy agents watching the Guardian Tower, what was to stop them from being stationed near the final resting place of their greatest enemy?
I swiped the nearest screen and brought up his profile. I wanted to send him a message now, warning him of the potential danger he was in. Yet, at the same time, I did not want to withhold valuable information from him, since Daymon was useless when it came to understanding vague concepts. If he was to be properly prepared, I'd need to give him the precise details of a tangible entity.
It frustrated me that I was currently reliant upon luck at this current moment in time. I could potentially look through the individual frames myself to look for a distinctive item of clothing, but that would take hours if not days to complete. There were just too many cameras to look through with no guarantee of them having an image of Elise in their memory. It annoyed me further that my own careful planning had been a leading cause for the incident. I'd sent my agent into a dangerous area of the city that was largely off the grid so that it would be harder to trace her back to any potential incidents at the Guardian Tower. Perhaps, if I had sent her to stay at a monitored hotel, things would have been different. Of course, different may not have meant better, but at least I would have been able to trace her.
I tapped at my watch. I'd been waiting for the best part of fifteen minutes now and I was starting to resign myself to the possibility that I would have to go through all of the images myself and just call Daymon to inform him that his life was at risk. That'd be plain enough terms for him to be more careful. Although, making Daymon paranoid could prove to be even more disastrous. I was at an impasse. Whether to be patient or pragmatic.
The second monitor suddenly froze. For a moment my heart sank as I thought the thing had gone bust. I could hear my own heartbeat from the tension as I found that I could zoom in. It was working. I looked at the focal point of the picture. It was Elise.
The time stamp was 1216. It was a still of footage taken from a camera four streets away from the hotel. She probably didn't even notice it was there. I could only assume that it had been extremely well hidden. I scanned the image and noticed something wasn't quite right with the crowd. Another man appeared to not belong there. Like Elise, he stood out as a foreigner. It could have just been a tourist, but I highly doubted it. Now that I had found the still, I elected to play the rest of the footage.
It was brief, only showing Elise walking down the street towards the hotel before she disappeared from view as a man remained a fixed distance behind her and made almost exactly the same motions. I'd found my man.
Now that I had discerned the means that had lead to the mission being compromised, I just had to work out who had done it. The nature of the abduction now ruled our seven potential candidates that I had on my list as they tended to lack the finesse required for such an operation.
I was willing to bet my life on it that it wasn't them. No, this was the work of more refined criminals. The International Worker's Union.
It was a long shot, but Elise could potentially confirm it to me. I would not even be annoyed at her for withholding this sensitive information from me as we were using an unsecured line. The message would have to be in code.
The communications device rung again.
"Epsilon one, confirmed," I heard a more composed voice respond.
"Omega one, confirmed," I said, "What colour was the cat?"
"It was a ginger tom," she spoke.
"Understood, Epsilon one" I replied, "await further instructions."
I cut the link at the last possible second. I still had one other variable to deal with.
Chapter 7 - Daymon Hiruman
I fixated on the strange officer while trying to look like a standard tourist, trying to keep several steps behind, vary my approach and take several snaps of buildings that may have been quaint or impressive to a tourist from either the European Commonwealth or The Central Asian Zone (both of which I could easily pose as if the situation required). I was being more careful than was really necessary when following this strange security personnel, but as I began stalking him through the scorched streets of Bangalore, I began to notice the discrepancies with his behaviour.
He rarely took the most common route, often cutting into alleyways or walking into shops, before lapping the aisles and leaving again. This, coupled with the fact he had left his post with (presumably) no kind of order, made me even more curious. IT was as if he either expected to be followed, or even knew that I was stalking him (which, given the amount of disruption I kicked up by accidentally walking into people, wasn't a truly unlikely factor).
He slid past a crowd of hyperactive buskers playing flutes and guitars before the cell I had deposited into my pocket began to vibrate. Jumping at the unexpected alarm, I tried to fish it out of my pocket while keeping an eye on the guard, and found it on the floor for my troubles. Irritated now and sighing in frustration, I swiped it off the floor and tapped the screen twice to get it to accept the call, already knowing who would be on the other end.
"Delta one, Confirmed." I responded professionally, while glancing round to find my target. I was just able to see his orange jacket through the drab, colourless business suits and ripped, sodden, brown rags of the impoverished street urchins weaving around the adults.
"Omega one, confirmed." Was the heavily accented reply I received back. I heard a sigh on the other end of the call and began panicking, wondering which order I had forgotten to follow. Suddenly remembering the need to call him after my task was completed, and I was half an hour overdue to do so, I immediately began to regret my hastiness in my current course of action. I should have at least let the commander know the situation and my current plans before continuing to follow a potentially lethal lead outside of mission instructions.
Before he began going through the approach of proper protocol and explaining why it was necessary, I immediately sprang into action. "Mission successful, Omega one. I got all the pictures of the scene and several of the surrounding exter-."
"Very good, Delta one." He interrupted, obviously keeping the conversation short to prevent tracking. "What is your current situation?"
"Following one of the guards from the scene. He left abruptly at 1200 hours." I informed him, I expected the sigh that greeted my update.
"Delta one. Please explain your actions?" Omar asked, and I froze at the subject in contemplation. Why did I simply follow this random officer through the streets of Bangalore after he left abruptly? There was every possibility he was simply on his lunch break, or he was sneaking off the, almost definitely boring, guard job he was ordered to take.
"Delta one. Report!" He snapped, losing his patience with me, a not unprecedented event by any stretch of the imagination. Panicking, I thought of the most obvious reason.
"His journey shows many detours reminiscent of evading followers." I informed him.
There was a long pause before Omar spoke again. "Understood, Delta one. What is your location?" He asked, sounding tired.
I looked around for several seconds before my eyes focused on the small white sign. "Downtown Bangalore, Hosur Road."
I could hear the faint impression of keys being typed on a computer, and the faint whine of a on-board fan increased in pitch to a whine as it stressed itself to keep the machine on the other end cool enough to function. It took 7 seconds before he answered again, his tone reverting to blank professionalism.
"I have you. Delta one. Exercise extreme caution. Epsilon one is compromised." He informed me, and I was shocked to understand that Elise had been taken prisoner. She was the perfect one, Omar's favourite. The fact that she had been taken down was a huge surprise. But before I could enquire as to what had lead to this development, Omar continued talking. "Keep a safe distance and be aware of the Ginger Tom. Inform me of any significant details." Were the words that greeted me before the flat-line tone of a broken connection sounded from the cell and I replaced it into my pocket.
It was only then I had realized I was standing completely still, while my chase was nowhere in sight. Hearing the low pitched, almost inaudible whine of my elemental stabilizers beginning to cycle up in response to my stress, I tried to focus and walked around the closest corner, noticing him just as he came out of a corresponding alley. I began jogging to get to my quarry, accidentally colliding with several high class businessmen before he turned around casually and saw me jogging through the brisk afternoon sun, turning away almost as fast as he glanced. As the subdued chase continued I notice him begin to walk faster, his pace turning from a leisurely walk to a brisk march as he weaved in and out of crowds of people to try and lose what he assumed was a stalker.
As he walked to the curb and strode across the road, I noticed a heavy truck thunder down the road at that same moment, missing him by a factor of centimetres. An old, tried and tested tactic used as a getaway ploy. I smirked at its obviousness before continuing to follow his lead by crossing at the exact same spot. As I did so my ears became assaulted by the high pitched screech of tires and the blaring noise of a horn. I turned to see an old, rusted orange automobile bearing down on me, and I flinched for the briefest second and screwed my eyes shut, crossing my hands over my face as if they alone could protect me from a tonne of weather beaten steel.
I shook with fright, and flinched, falling to the ground in shock. The rubber scream giving way to the noise of steel buckling and crumbling inwards, flattening itself against a solid, immovable object while screams of horror were just audible from those around me. Slowly, tentatively and wondering how I wasn't either dead or in agony, I opened my eyes, too scared at what I might see.
The car's entire bulbous front end was a crushed mess, bending almost at a ninety degree angle upwards to the rest of the auto mobile. Instead of expecting the hard trauma, while the driver compartment was a twisted mess of red smeared glass shards and buckled steel, no doubt bent inwards by the impact trauma of crashing into...
Crashing into what? I wondered, confused. I was perceptively looking around the scene, trying desperately to find a source of the destruction meted out on the (presumably) innocent driver. Had some kind of projectile weapon been fired to keep me safe? Was there another Agent in the field working undercover to keep me from harm?
It wasn't until I looked down and saw my rucksack on the floor; its main compartment and shoulder straps completely shredded and leaking water from the severed water bottle that I truly understood what had happened, and my questing fingers reached across my shoulder blades until I felt the cold steel of my elemental stabilizers, vibrating ever faintly in their activation.
Each one a complex array of levitating conductor discs, suspended stabilization rigs and grounding plates arranged in an fashion not too dissimilar to the skeleton of bird wings in form, picked clean by vultures. They had scissored out from my back, slicing the fabric of my shirt to ribbons and destroying my pack, fuelling the power I needed that I had accidentally began building in response to my anxiety and irritation upon learning my quarry had temporarily lost me.
I looked around at the crowds around me, seeing astonished faces and surprised eyes upon me, and I was suddenly very conscious that I had just very publicly and obviously revealed who I was. Omar wouldn't be happy with it, not one bit. I had been told explicitly to refrain from any elemental use and to hide my conductors at all cost unless doing so was absolutely necessary. This would most likely bring about a whole slew of chastisement and punishment duty, which was something I never wanted to go through again.
My anxiety and concern was washed away when I looked into a very specific pair of grey eyes, wide in fear and belonging to a man across the road from me. His jacket was gone, and he appeared to have removed a relatively realistic toupee from the top of his head, possibly changing his appearance a small amount to throw me off trying to find him while keeping an eye on the development, most likely to report to whomever he was on his way to see.
I allowed myself the ghost of a smile as he sprinted, running as fast as his corpulent frame allowed in the blistering sun. Feeling the power rise within me, like an arm or a leg being stretched after so long spent asleep, stretching itself out to its full potential, I sped forwards like a dart, using a combination of my stabilizers' unconventional shape and my reasonable talents for the element of air to propel myself like a gilding model Dachshund intercepting my quarry. Diving towards him to wrench him upwards by the back of his neck before making a steep ascent through the air, coming to rest on a high building out of sight.
My attentions were diverted to the state of my frightened prey and I immediately set to work on him.
"Who do you work for?" I shouted, trying to intimidate him into giving a response, before relaxing my grip on his throat to allow him some precious seconds of breath to answer what I wanted to know.
"I...I...ugh" He stammered, panicking. "Event hori-."
I slammed his head into the concrete floor before he could complete the lie. Tears and blood from a wound I had made while forcing him to the floor coated his face.
"No. Tell me who you work for! NOW!"
"They told me I'd be safe!" He cried. "I was just intel!"
I began to lose my temper at his incessant vagueness, and with a momentary flex of thought I shifted my mental balance out to push my attention to another element. I released one of my hands while keeping him pinned with my other, and I allowed a moment to savour the terror in his eyes as sparks began erupting from my open palm.
"Who!" I increased the charge, painting our faces in an angry, flickering electric blue.
"Hired!" I brought my hand within centimetres of his blood, sweat and tear soaked face, watching him try and angle his head away in response to the small shock burns he received from mere proximity, as if he were staring at a high voltage tesla tower without the protective gear.
"YOU!?" I drove my hand into his face, and even though my palm covered his mouth, his screams were extremely loud and full of agonizing horror. He began to convulse beneath me as the volts caused muscles to lock and spasm, and I released my hand to see if he was willing to answer.
"The-the" He began, his words mangled by pain, tears and burns. "I. W. U."
So, I thought, a smile tugging my lips. It all made sense now. These bastards were doing the same thing that they had done to Elise, trying to apprehend me for questioning, most likely to find Omar. I shuddered to think what they had done trying to get the information. And my worry turned to anger when I understood just how much they would do to break her. She was like a sister to me. In fact, given how long I had known her, she may as well have been. A small part of me thought that, if I had known sooner, and could possibly do something about it... Wait. There was something that I could still do, even though Ömar might not approve of the idea forming in my mind.
"Where is your base!?" I screamed, rage overcoming reason as I slammed his head against the concrete roof again and again. "Tell me, or I swear to god I will tear you apart you sick bastard!"
I took a deep breath to steady my nerves so as not to go so far as to kill him as I gripped his arm around the wrist, pinning it to the floor. It took less than a moments concentration to work with my elemental powers, and his arm began to go blue before crystallizing with the onset of frostbite. He screamed and whimpered for me to stop. But I kept going until his entire hand looked like a masterfully rendered ice sculpture. I released my own hand, knowing that his frozen limb was completely stuck to the floor in the thick sheen of ice I had encased it within, before bringing my foot down hard, shattering his wrist like glass and bring more agonized screams from my prisoner.
"Ready to talk?" I asked as he rolled onto his side, clutching the broken stump that was once a hand.
"It's an hours walk east!" He cried. "The clothes factory."
"WHICH ONE!?" I lost my temper with his vague answers. "There are hundreds of factories, some of which are abandoned, an hour east of here. What are the coordinates?"
"I-I don..." He began to truly cry bursting into tears and sobs, and I had t suppress the urge not to kick him from the ledge in irritation. As it was, I slammed my foot into the stomach. His sobs were quickly replaced with choking coughs.
"Jesus, give me something to work with here. Landmarks, address, something." I frustratedly demanded, slightly softening my tone to get him to co-operate.
"I don't know." He paused, catching his breath, before looking up at me through tears in his eyes "I ca-I can show you it!" he told me, Looking far more hopeful than before. "Would you let me go if I showed you it?"
Sighing, I grabbed his shoulders, bracing my arms against his chest to keep him secure. Next, I focused my elemental powers, and, mentally preparing myself for little more than a second, I felt my stabilizer units give a slightly higher pitch whine as they recalibrated for flight. Smiling, I knew I was ready, before launching myself from the rooftop, my captive firmly secured.
Buildings rushed beneath me, their same grey texture of unpainted concrete flying faster and faster below. Several of the local populace gawped and stared at the unusual spectacle of a teenage elemental and a corpulent policeman flying above the city.
I cruised along the roofs when necessary, but when an alley presented itself I exploited it, using them to drop out of the skyline and gain speed by arching downwards, minimizing my viability while maximizing my speed. Clothes lines and power cables all were strung between the buildings, and I had to arc and manoeuvre myself to avoid impacting with anything head on, leaving a flurry of cut strings and shorn insulated wire, sputtering sparks in my wake. To be on the safe side, I invested some effort into passively exercising my lightning talents, causing a mild but still dull, throbbing pain in my temples, a sign that, if I focused a bit too much, would lead to a temporary loss of my powers as my body recovers from the overuse of my powers. Gritting my teeth, I carried on.
"Where to!?" I shouted, struggling to hear my own voice over the sound of the rushing wind.
"Left here!" He bellowed.
I took a sharp arc around a selection of apartment blocks at his instruction, drafting upwind over a large billboard and narrowly avoiding a scaffolded building in construction behind it.
I was pushing myself harder and harder, flying high in an attempt to scout out my location better, as I begun soaring further upwards I stabilized myself out about a hundred meters over the apartment blocks, allowing myself to glide the rest of the way.
"Where is it now?" I asked.
My captive was hesitant, heading around an answer. "It's uh...like...uh...go to the uh..."
"Where is it!?" I balanced towards my lightning talents ever so slightly, producing a slight yelp from my passenger as his body was shocked from a small static charge built up inside my body, around the same as an electrified cattle fence. Again, he provided little in the way of information.
"I don't know, I don't fucking see the city up here often." He eventually conceded. "Can you fly lower please?"
Frustrated, I angled downwards, travelling on a route almost perpendicular to the hard concrete floor. The policeman cried in terror as we accelerated past terminal velocity until we were almost past the point of no return, before slipping into another up draft glide.
"Is that low enough?" I asked, my now ghost white captive was gibbering in terror. "Or do I need to introduce your face to the fucking ground!?"
"Four blocks away, first right! I...think." He shakily replied.
I soared through the skyline, and immediately found what I was looking for. A warehouse, surrounded by a wire proof fence, picketed by makeshift guard towers and patrolled by several men dressed in casual clothes; trying (and failing) to look casual enough not to draw attention to themselves.
"This it!?" I yelled at him.
"Y-yes!" He screeched over the wind.
I Rapidly decelerated until I was practically stationary above the site, and smiled, this was going to be fun.
"My thanks for your help."
He looked up at me for the first time since our journey started, his tear blinded eyes streaming down his face. Despite his obvious terror, he looked hopeful; shaken, but hopeful. "So, you'll let me go? I did good, didn't I?" He asked, nodding in idiotic sympathy with his own words as if trying to convince me more than himself.
"I never said I would." I snapped, enjoying his horrified expression and the torrent of salty tears running in rivers down his creased face.
I let my declaration hang heavily in the air for four seconds. "But...seeing as you have been useful, I'm willing to, yes."
His face broke into a desperate expression of pure, unfettered gratitude. "Oh thank you! Than-"
"Say hello to your comrades for me, and tell them I sent you all." I smiled, cutting right through his rambled praise.
I held onto my quarry just long enough to savour his confusion before releasing him from my grip, pushing my talents for the element of air as I did so to accelerate him towards the ground like a blubbering, flabby projectile.
He hit the ground, and burst apart like a sack of gruel with a stick of dynamite inside, the largest whole piece, making up his sparse torso and one of his arms, came to rest just in the main courtyard of the supposed "clothes factory".
"This was just the show opener, guys, just wait." I whispered, grinning like a Cheshire cat as I shifted to begin using a proficient element of fire, wrapping myself in a heavy blanket of flames, turning my outline from an Asian man with bizarrely wing shaped stabilizers transplanted into his flesh, to a flaming and merciless angel of death here to punish them for their sins.
As I did so, I almost completely let go of my elemental talents for air, allowing myself the ability to free-fall to the pulped remains of their traitor.
I landed hard, one knee on what had once been his chest, bursting the fattened policeman apart even further and destroying any possible way of discerning his identity without a DNA test.
I let the flames evaporate off my wiry body, rose from my improvised landing cushion, and grinned.
This was going to be fun.
Chapter 8 - Sasha Vlahovic
I was sitting at my desk, idly filing some IWU reports into the proper report folder, when an elderly fax machine in a dusty corner lit up. Momentarily, I was surprised that those dinosaurs were still in service anywhere, but it seemed someone was faxing something to me.
Carefully, in case the device chose to perform the patriotic Central American duty and shoot across the room before exploding, I approached the old machine, before removing the paper it had emitted. Glancing over it, it was a report from a IWU cell in a remote location.
MESSAGE ON SUSPECTED TERRORIST ARRESTED IN CAIRO COUNTER-INSURGENCY RAID
PENNED BY: SENIOR WORKER 3887
Below is a hour-by-hour report on the interrogation of the unknown enemy arrested in Cairo. I hope you share my excitement at the importance of the information divulged. Local times and location censored due to high probability of information being used to track the cell down. Given time rough estimate.
Addendum: Request that interrogation becomes my full-time job.
INTERROGATION OFFICER: SENIOR WORKER 3887
ASSISTANT OFFICERS: LEADING WORKER 4506 AND WORKER 4124849
SUBJECT: ELISE RÄUTENSTRAUCH
REPORT ON INTERROGATION OF SUSPECTED TERRORIST ARRESTED IN CAIRO COUNTER-INSURGENCY RAID
BEGINNING 1 HOUR PRIOR TO ARREST
Interrogation chamber set up, believed fully operational. Informants paid off. Encountered morale issue when Worker 4124849 declared he "never signed up to torture nobody". Kept in line by the threat of exchanging places with the subject. Masks secured to avoid later identification.
BEGINNING 0 HOURS POST-ARREST
Subject secured in position, initial tests for mental fortitude conducted. Two fingers removed as it initially demonstrated staunch mental resolve. Subject noted it was in building to steal GHOST files as we suspected. The subject declared it worked for the International Worker's Union to much mirth.
Subject's clothes removed, given threat of stabbing. Left to think of that for some time.
BEGINNING 1 HOUR POST-ARREST
On return, subject still retained the pitiful lie that it was hired by the IWU. As a lesson, a cross was cut into the soles of each foot and cauterised with hot poker. Subject refused to cave despite obvious pain.
Eyelids forced open and salt poured into eyes. Subject refused to divulge further information.
Clamp applied to nipples; pressure increased until removed. Cauterised with hot poker.
Hands forced flat, hammer and sickle brand applied to palm of both hands.
Razor blade used to make small cuts to lips; Subject's frequent movement of lips caused further tearing.
Sledgehammer applied to left hand until broken, then left wrist, then left forearm, then left upper arm, then left shoulder. Given rudimentary first aid and a splint. Subject unthankful for generous treatment; its rudeness won it no favours.
Subject's angle reclined before wet cloth draped over face and water poured over cloth. After much screaming, subject rambled into delirious incoherence. Subject left to recover.
BEGINNING 2 HOURS POST-ARREST
Subject appeared to recover slightly. New session began.
Subject's left arm twisted until bone ruptured the skin across it; bones forced back into place and cauterised with a red-hot poker.
Right foot sprayed with hydrochloric acid until skin removed. Cauterised with open flame. Subject rendered unconscious due to pain. Leading Worker 4506 suggested we slow down interrogation, rejected out of hand by yours truly.
Leading Worker 4506 forced to leave to answer the door and tell investigative police that screams are from new pet goat. I wore a wooly jacket, walked in sight and baaed to convince them.
Morale issue raised; Worker 4124849 ran out of room. Found completely intoxicated at pub four hours after release of the Subject. Request dishonourable discharge for lack of moral fiber.
BEGINNING 3 HOURS POST-ARREST
Subject awoke again. Promised to "tell us everything". I was unconvinced as to the promise's legitimacy. New session began.
Red hot poker inserted in anus. Resulted in loss of bladder control and vomiting. Leading Worker 4506 appeared disgusted; session adjourned until mess cleaned.
Hollow glass rods inserted into urethra and vagina; electrical shocks applied to force muscular action to shatter rods and propel splinters into bloodstream. Hot poker used to cauterise.
Moral issue: Leading Worker 4506, my most trusted of comrades, turned upon me, declared me to be, and I quote, "a truly sick bastard". Summarily executed for lack of moral fiber.
Nails inserted under fingernails.
Cigar used to burn patches of the Subject's skin.
Subject claimed that it was working for Omar Isnan based from Greenland, who is supposed to be dead. Due to the highly suspect nature of claim, it was bound again, tagged and released onto the streets far away due to initially thinking we had broken her mind completely.
A slow smile crept across my face.
So Omar was bold enough that he would work so openly.
I couldn't help but laugh.
Chapter 9 - Elise Thurston
Words could never hope to describe how I felt after that experience. Pain, agony, misery, none were able to illustrate how I felt. After my… interrogation. No, that was far too kind a word to use. Torture. It was long after that I came to, finding myself outside Cairo International Airport, with nothing to my name except for the clothes on my back and the leather crossbody bag I had brought with me. My pants were ripped, and my blouse’s sleeves were torn to shreds. I couldn't feel my left arm, as it now served as little more than dead weight, and my right foot burned if I dared to put any pressure on it.
My first response had been to desperately try calling my commander. To tell him of what happened to me. It went dead the moment I told him of my failure. I could have collapsed then and given up. There was no way I could redeem myself in his eyes after that. The despair crept up on me as the abandonment sunk in.
Stood outside the terminal building, I remember jumping as the communicator I held in my hands began to ring again and I answered it in an heartbeat. To my relief, I heard the voice of my commander once more. Yet my hopes shattered as he told me once more that I only had thirty seconds, and before I could explain anything to him, I was forced to tell him exactly when I had left the Guardian Tower. After revealing said information to him, he hung up without another word.
That had left a bad taste in my mouth, and after several tear-filled moments of reflection, I concluded that the best way to describe what horrors I had been through would be to tell him in person. It had taken considerable effort to drag myself to the check-in desk and retrieve my ticket. It seemed like an eternity until my flight was ready for boarding. I flitted through security without issue. One of the security officers had inquired about my arm and I had just told her that it was a skateboarding accident. Another official offered medical assistance after I was subjected to a routine full body scan, but I politely declined. I couldn't trust them. It could all have just been a trick.
The return flights were conducted without issue. Although the brief stopover in Paris had disquieted me. While waiting for the flight I had seen a large screen displaying the face of a young Asian boy. There was a name attached. Li-Pau Nao. There was a bounty too. One million euros. Yet that was not what had disturbed me. It was the description. GHOST Agent.
I remember panicking as I waited for my connection homeward bound. We were being hunted. Perhaps I wasn't an isolated incident. I had considered contacting my commander but I had stayed rigid with fear at the very thought of being traced. I was rooted to the spot until I heard my flight called. The idea that even now I was being hunted by the very same people tracking this apparent affiliate of mine own frightened me deeply.
But that was behind me now. By some miracle I had made it back to Greenland in one piece. I had to look forwards and make my way home from Nuuk. I had to tell the commander in person about the incident.
It had been half an hour since my flight had landed and I finally came upon a road sign that told me how much further I had to walk. To my absolute horror, I discovered that it would take me at least a day to travel back to headquarters on foot. With my head hung low, I sat down; back against the sign, my morale crushed.
I had spent about a minute afterwards digging through my bag in hopes of finding the files I had secured during my visit to Primary Division’s former base-of-operations, but wasn't terribly surprised when I discovered that my interrogators had confiscated them. Even then however, I felt tears form at the corners of my eyes; for my entire mission had been a failure. I had nothing to show for it other than the scars.
I was short on both food and water, and would expend any remaining calories I had left if I made the attempt to trek back to headquarters. There was a terribly high chance that I might collapse from exhaustion before even reaching my commander, and I didn't want to think about dying; face planted in the snow. I didn't know what to do. On the one hand, it was my duty to report back in to the commander and tell him about everything that had happened, whether he believed me or not. On the other hand, I could stay where I was and either wait for someone to find me or perish in the cold climate.
The commander had always told me that I could count on him. He had always been there for me from as long as I could remember. He had told me that one day I would be a soldier and that he could count on me. That he would be proud when that day came.
I doubted that he was proud of me now. I was useless. Spent. How could he ever want me now?
He used to say I was beautiful. That I was perfection in form. What would he say now? I was worthless. Defiled. Maybe it would just be easier for me to let myself die.
The tumultuous blaring of a horn broke my concentration and I looked up from my slumped position to see a large lorry pulled up beside me.
The horn flared up again and my eardrums were assaulted. I forced myself to stand and stumbled towards the large red cab. I brought my gaze to the window and saw a grizzled face nodding to the left hand side. A hand occasionally popped into view and it was clear that he was indicating for me to join him.
I paused for a moment to consider my chances. To chance death in the wilderness cold and alone or risk putting my life in the hands of a stranger. There was the distinct possibility that the man was not a threat but, in light of prior circumstances, I was not one to take chances. Of course, to refuse would invite the uncertainty of ever making it back home at all.
If I was to die. I'd rather it was somewhere warm.
The gruff man opened the door to his cab and started to climb down.
"Fortvivl ikke, jeg bider ikke," he said in a broad accent, "var bare haber du ikke var dod."
"I. I'm fine," I replied, refusing to give an inch, "Just needed to catch my breath is all."
"Ja sikker," he smiled, his yellow stained teeth scratching through his cracked pale lips, "and I'm th' Pope! Pull the other one!"
"Could I get a lift?" I asked, cutting straight to the point.
"Af course, gjorde du ikke see me wavin ya in?" his smile faded slightly, "ikke onsker du to catch your death out here"
He stretched out his hand, pulled me towards him and forced his hands around my waist.
I tensed briefly before I realised what he was doing. With a slight grunt he pushed me upwards and I feel my feet lifting off the ground.
"Grab hold af the railin," he said, "'an put yer fod on the step"
I struggled to force myself in with just my right arm and I felt the man's arms slide down towards my legs as I failed to get a proper hold of the ladder. I tensed again as fear took hold of me as I was unsure of what he was about to do next.
"Can you just slappe af, I'm forsoger til give you a loft," he said. I stopped struggling and let him push me upwards as I felt my body come to an uncomfortable rest against the leather cushion of the passenger seat.
I forced myself into a sitting position and waited for my rescuer to join me in the cab. I startled slightly as the door next to me slammed shut and waited with baited breath as he walked across my field of view outside the front of the lorry. For a brief second he left it before rejoining it again as he brought himself into the driver's seat. He shuffled himself on his seat before checking his mirror. I heard a loud click which made me jump slightly. I assumed it must have been the central locking.
My muscles tensed up as I wondered what he was about to do as I was essentially trapped now. At the mercy of the stranger who had taken me into his vehicle. For what purpose I did not know.
I shuddered slightly as the engine stuttered to life and the vibrations of the lorry cab did nothing to soothe my anxieties. I blanched slightly as the man turned to face me.
"You okay there?" he asked, his face suddenly appearing to be more sympathetic. It reminded me of the look Ömer used to give me whenever I disturbed him when I couldn't sleep at night. I felt a warmth overcome me as the scenario felt soothingly familiar. Beneath the harsh cracked lipped, bearded exterior, there was a distinct softness in his expression.
"I'm just a bit cold." I muttered, easing up slightly.
"Don't worry, the varmeapparat will come on soon," he said with a broad smile, "we'll have you right as rain in no time at all."
As he spoke my eyes flitted around the inside of the cabin. Nestled into the dashboard I spied a picture of the man smiling; two women sat either side of him. They were smiling as well.
He must have caught me staring as it seemingly prompted a response, "Oh that's just the family!"
I refused to ease off. Trinkets reveal nothing of a person's true character, Ömer had once told me. There were only two people I could trust. Myself and him.
Even Daymon was a liability.
My silly little brother.
"They seem nice," I said, attempting to make some small talk.
"Ja! When I get til actually see them!" he said, as the lorry started moving forwards, "but they've been working me til death! Driving up and down here!"
I feigned a smile and nodded.
"Anyway, where's it you're headed?" he asked, "Should have probably asked you that sooner!"
"Ilulissat," I said.
"Det er sgu rigtigt!" he exclaimed, "Then what in the God's name were you doing out here on the ice roads?"
"I couldn't get a flight until Saturday," I said, "and it's not as if there's any alternative."
"You must be mad!" he laughed, "Walking when you could be waiting!"
"Well it's urgent," I retorted, "This was the fastest route."
"If ya want til end up dod!" he exclaimed, "du er damn lucky I found you!"
I refused to acknowledge that he was right. The course of action I had taken was high risk with little consideration for the chance of success. Everything had just seemed a lot closer when I'd flown down.
"Sometimes don't see other trucks for days!" he continued, clearly enjoying lording over me just how stupid I had been, "I consider a couple af us to be rush hour!"
His face suddenly turned slightly red as I saw him glance at his wing mirror.
"Ah right, maybe that APC behind us might have picked you up, but I can count on one hand how many of them I've seen!" he said, a hint of embarrassment permeating the jovial tone of his voice.
I decided to check it out myself and I could feel myself flooded with dread.
What if they were following us?
I chuckled nervously at his comment, "So how long does it take to get to Ilulissat?"
"Eight hours. Good weather," he said, "longer if it's bad. I usually like to stop off at Maniitsoq for a bit as well. You're lucky I'm headed up Qaanaaq way and not across towards the fields."
Disinterested with the chatter I decided to quiz him some more, "So how often do you have someone follow you for that long?"
"Eh?" he shrugged, "You mean some company?"
"In a sense. It just seems odd for an APC to be travelling up from Nuuk to Thule. On the ice roads that is. Does it not?"
"Well. When you put it like that. Aye. Does seem a bit odd. But those Vallarians are an odd bunch," he said, as his voice sounded slightly different, "but who'm I til question what they're up til. Sa long as they keep os safe."
"I mean. Thule is the only military base on the island, right?"
"Well, der er the outpost at Nuuk... " he said, an odd tone creeping into his voice.
"So Nuuk and Thule. Which are both airbases," I stated.
"Ja, I'm not sure I like where this is headed," he stated.
"So why would they bother with an APC?" I questioned. Perhaps my rationale was a little flawed but it all seemed a little strange. What was the point in deploying a land based vehicle to cover a day long journey that could be over in two hours by air.
"Might just be some exercises? Who knows?" my driver said.
"Could you bring us to a stop?" I asked.
"Well sure I could. The road's pretty wide here," he said.
"I'd like you to bring us to a stop," I requested.
"Why?" he queried back at me.
"Well I'm quite sure that APC can travel faster than us, so it'd be polite to let them overtake," I said with conviction.
"Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to do that," the man shrugged as he started to eased his foot down onto the breaks.
I brought my gaze to the wing mirror and watched the vehicle that was following us. My eyes widened slightly as the APC started to slow down as well.
"Don't bring it to a complete stop!" I shouted.
"Jesus! Make up your mind du skore kaelling!" he yelled back.
"Okay, start accelerating again!" I ordered.
"For fanden! What was that about?" he snapped.
"Well now we know that they are following us or they'd have sped up instead of slowing down."
"I really don't like where this is going now," the truck driver said. It was clear that he was worried about what this all entailed.
I could tell that he was worried. His head kept twitching and I as I leaned forwards I could tell that he was not maintaining a concise focus upon the road ahead of us. I checked back on the status of the APC and found that it had continued to match the speed of the lorry.
"Just who the fuck are you!?" he suddenly snapped.
"I-I'm sorry?" I feigned.
"Got something sa urgent du er var willing til walk til blodig Ilulissat with a broken arm! Got at bloidg militaer vehicle following du!"
"I'm Special Forces. Plasma Elemental. Ilulissat is classifed."
"Lort!" he shouted, slamming his hand onto the dashboard.
"If my deductions are correct, they're probably International Worker's Union," I calmly spoke, pointing behind me.
"Rend mig! You didn't think af telling mig this sooner!?" his voice cracked.
"You didn't ask."
A bead of sweat trickled down his brow. The worry had translated into fear and his voice opened slowly only for no sound to come out.
"They're following me because my organisation has been compromised by IWU agents."
Honesty was this best policy at this point. Even if I didn't need to clarify who I worked for. I knew he'd assume it was the Euro Affairs Intelligence. At this current moment in time, he needed to believe that he had been fully informed before I could reassure him. The look of abject horror on his face indicated this was going to be a difficult task. I'd just put doubt in his mind over the safety of his own country.
"If you listen to me and do everything that I ask of you. If you do that, there's a small chance that we'll get out alive. If you do not, then there's a definite chance that we wont."
He nodded meekly.
"Do you have enough fuel to reach Ilulissat?"
He nodded again.
"You will not stop driving until we reach Ilulissat."
He nodded a third time.
"There you will drive the vehicle to the airfield."
Tears were welling up in his eyes as he struggled to move his head again.
"We have eight hours. Maintain a constant speed and do not look back."
It must have been a physical strain for him to agree with me.
"If at any point during that period of time they try to make us stop, I will ignite the cabin and spare us from being captured."
At this the driver breathed in suddenly and forced his head forwards. The backwards swing seemed equally as strained.
"Now excuse me. I have an important call to make."
Chapter 10 - Ömer İşnan
I refrained from sighing as the sound system blared out a high pitched ringing.
There was no doubt in my mind that it was Elise.
For a second I considered rejecting the call to be firm with her, but curiosity got the better of me and I found myself accepting it.
"Omega one, confirmed."
"Epsilon one, confirmed."
"Link traceable," I said, "You have thirty seconds."
"Acquisition of civilian hardware for direct transport. En route upon North Pykrete Road, pursued by suspected Ginger Tom, ETA eight hours."
"Say again, Epsilon one."
"En route pursued by suspected Ginger Tom, ETA eight hours."
The line went dead.
At least she was complying with protocol.
However, an estimated arrival time of eight hours left far too many extraneous variables.
If she was already being pursued by the International Worker's Union then there was nothing to stop them from apprehending her for a second time.
Unless. No. She would never.
I paused and stared at my monitor. The picture from her call profile was still there.
Of course she would. She was the perfect soldier. She had already been captured once. She wouldn't allow it to happen again.
It was a real catch twenty-two.
I wanted her to return home safe but that would lead to our position being compromised. Yet, if she didn't allow herself to be captured then all of this would be for naught.
I had to be realistic. The enemy would be at the gates either way. They were probably now aware of my location. Granted, maybe they didn't want to kill me. They had spared Elise after all. Perhaps the IWU wouldn't be so bad. But could I really abandon all that I had set to achieve?
Damien is dead.
GHOST is finished.
Kenneth simply wouldn't have the capacity to continue what we had started. He was a soldier not an officer.
Mathieu. Pah! That weak fool. If our legacy was left in his hands, then there truly would be no point in carrying on.
I'd rather see it left in the arms of an infant than the paws of that buffoon.
Rationally. Pragmatically. Perhaps it would be worthwhile engaging my hunters in a discourse. I'm sure they could serve to provide me with more thorough protection than GHOST did. Greater numbers. Wider influence. They had achieved so much in a short space of time as well. Agent 01 was frightfully efficient.
Ideally, I'd throw my lot in with the Restored White Armies. I'd always found the uniforms to be rther tasteful and their policies were almost parodically perfect.
Of course, beggars can't be choosers.
There was the small matter of Elise and Daymon, but I'm sure I could trust my new associates to properly take care of them.
It'd be a shame to get rid of Elise after all the effort I'd put in, but she'd recently come to outgrow my tastes. Perhaps the South Americans could serve them better?
Hell! South America! I could just picture it. Warm tropical beaches. Sun beating down on me. Cold drink in hand. Masseuse waiting at my beckon call.
Really. I'd be mad if I were to stay here.
True. It had been safer to live in isolation at the ends of the Earth.
That was the key word: had. The game was well and truly up now.
I may as well consider my options. For if there was even the slightest possibility that the International Worker's Union wanted me alive then I'd rather fall to my knees than try fruitlessly opposing them on my feet.
Two child soldiers or two million terrorists.
Dying embers or towering inferno.
Was there ever really a choice? Rationally, of course there wasn't. It was sentimentality that had kept me going until now. The faint hope that my two proteges could potentially recover but a fraction of a broken dream. In hindsight, the missions were doomed to failure from the start. Perhaps I should have acknowledged it earlier. After Damien's death. After Elise's capture. After Daymon's incompetence.
Why had it taken so long to fully sink in?
That was the only clear explanation.
This of course left me with only one option. The International Worker's Union.
Now all I needed to do was figure out how to contact them and offer my unconditional surrender.
I scanned my workstation. The web of monitors staring back at me all displayed different pieces of information. I waved my hand and brought the IWU to the fore. I needed to determine who it was that was looking for me.
As much as it'd flatter my ego, I highly doubted Agent 01 was the one behind this. The man probably didn't even know who I was. No. It would have been someone a rung or two below him. Perhaps a Worker Commander who intended me as a gift to Agent 01. After all, I could provide the organisation with vital strategic fissile assets.
On one screen I brought up the GHOST Database on another I brought up the European Commonwealth State Bounty List.
I jumped slightly as I saw an unknown name attached to an unfamiliar face listed at the top of the latter as "GHOST Agent". A Chinese lad no older than Elise. Maybe Damien had been trying to secure a legacy after all?
No. Now was not the time sentimentality. Especially not when that legacy had a million euro price tag on his head. The last thing I needed now was more problems.
If GHOST were currently in the spotlight within my adopted homeland then what I was about to do was the only sensible solution.
I cast aside my concerns for this Li-Pau Nao and focused on the mission at hand. My eyes glossed over high ranking members of the Restored White Armies and Enlightened Neo Luminous Army. The former filled with portraits of fine looking gentlemen in subtle sky blue shirts and the latter plagued with unappealing white supremacists sporting truly ridiculous imperialist garb.
Amongst this sea of faces were the token bounties of one million euros assigned to the infamous criminals that occupied the number two and number three spots - Agent 01 and Claude Lasi-Faité. I found it mildly bemusing to think that the Euro Zone considered a GHOST agent to pose the same threat to national security as those scions of discord.
Moving downwards, Arekusanda Aiko maintained a respectable fourth at six hundred thousand and even Edward Lester slotted in beneath him at fifth with five hundred thousand. Yet, what I found most striking was the complete lack of IWU personnel listed in the top one hundred. Sure, it had their leader up there in the top three, but there seemed to be no trace of anyone else. Perhaps they were just better at not getting caught.
A couple of years back there had been an incident in Central America. Happened in some backwater city. For the life of me I couldn't remember the name. Weapons of mass destruction were detonated and I remember that Agent 01 had reportedly been killed. Given their track record, I was not the least bit surprised to discover that the Central Americans had been mistaken. They never managed to recover a body.
Yet it always struck me as odd that it happened just before the Central Americans started to withdraw from South America and the Great American War took a drastic turn in favour of the communists. It couldn't have just been a coincidence. Agent 01 must have been up to something. Perhaps faking his own death was even part of the plan. The premature celebrations of his demise still ran vivid in my mind. The reluctant embarrassment that followed scorched into my psyche forever more.
Anyway, I digress, there was work to be done. The European Commonwealth State Bounty List had proved useless. Even as it reach one thousand hits I couldn't find any hint of an IWU operative as it descended into the realms of petty criminality.
The GHOST Database flagged up a few possible leads. The first was a blonde haired American filed under the name of Mitch Ochoa, a known associate of Agent 01 back when he was still calling himself Thomas McKenzie. The notes mentioned something about a latter incident in New Zanzibar and the possibility that he was an IWU agent. The last entry had been input in 2114.
I took a note of his contact details and processed the next result.
Vladimir Aleksandr. There was no photograph attached. A relic from the intermittent crisis that followed the massacre were details input by Primary Division on the conspirators involved in the purported trap. I hadn't been quick enough to cut off everything and there were some data leaks from both sides. Oversights here and there. I never thought I would be grateful for my own inefficiency. He was listed as Agent 08 of the Blessed Worker's Elemental Group. Not Worker 08. Agent 08. Perhaps it had been a transcript error as I found two other entries using the same naming convention.
Understandably there were no convenient contact details attached but I took a note of the man and his identification number. It would smooth over my negotiations with the IWU if I knew who I was dealing with. And this Russian national had hunter written all over him.
Of course, perhaps there was someone holding the leash of this mad dog. For while there was no name attached, Agent 09's entry caught my eye. The description was brief: Northern European accent; IWU negotiator; suspected leader of the BWEG.
I briefly looked over Agent 11 and dismissed her off the bat. Just a pawn by the looks of it. Damien's subjective analysis could be flawed but I saw the most promise with Agent 09.
He fit the right criteria to be the kind of person who would be looking for me. A couple of rungs down the ladder. Previous interaction with GHOST. European. Just the right kind of guy for the job.
Which begged the question of how this man discovered I was still alive.
Stupid girl. She must have given it up during the interrogation.
It really was all over now.
I'd just have to bite the bullet and send a message.
What would be the quickest means of doing this.
Such a loyal little soldier. I could get her to unwittingly deliver it to them.
I swiped to her profile and tapped it.
It started ringing as I prepared my instructions.
"Epsilon one, confirmed," was the reply I received.
"Omega one, confirmed," I said.
"Are you able to halt the vehicle?"
"Yes," was the cautious response I heard. There was a hint of suspicion.
"Please halt it. Discourse with the enemy is the only way to mitigate the damage."
I held my breath as I heard a brief exchange of words on the other end. I couldn't make out exactly what they were saying but it sounded like there was a man with her.
"Vehicle static," Elise said, "Instructions?"
"Exit and approach suspected International Worker's Union on foot."
My heart started beating faster as the adrenaline kicked in. Would she see through the duplicity? Would the IWU just shoot her on sight? Was this plan half-mad or half-brilliant?
I could hear her breathing. Rapid. Haphazard. She was panicking. This was far from her comfort zone.
"Armed personnel have exited," she said, "Instructions?"
"State that you have Ömer İşnan on the line. Do not resist if they attempt to restrain you."
I heard her say what I had told her to.
There was shouting and screaming. I couldn't discern what was happening but I assumed that she had been neutralised. Detained or dead, it didn't really matter which.
A gruff voice suddenly met my ears "Give yourself up or we kill your friend."
Such a pity. They'd taken her hostage.
"Well first of all I'd like you to kill the young woman and her accomplice," I responded, "Then I'll cooperate."
I held my breath again. Go on. Be a good little dog. You know you want to.
There was some angry shouting and I think I heard the fire command.
I smiled as the sound of gunfire in the background validated my assumption.
"She is dead. The driver also," the man said, "We are tracking your position."
"By all means do. I'm fifteen miles out of Ilulissat, but it'd probably be easier for you to meet me by the airfield. I can be there in an hour."
"And one last thing."
"Can you patch me through to Agent 09?"
Chapter 11 - Sasha Vlahovic
"Well spank me in the arse and call me Poland," I blurted out as a familiar voice met my ear. The very same voice I had become accustomed to after countless hours of watching fast breeder reactor instructional videos, grainy footage of arms deals and the odd confession from a war crimes trial.
Ömer İşnan had led a very interesting life and it was slightly daunting to imagine that this living legend was speaking to me directly.
"Agent 09," he repeated, the words trickling from the speaker, "I trust this isn't how you anticipated things to play out?"
I paused for a moment to consider how to reply. Of course this had not gone as expected. I hadn't even been able to execute Plan Uriah. I had been expecting a siege not a handover.
"Not exactly," I replied.
"Well if I had known your organisation had been so intent to treat with me I would have jumped ship sooner," he said.
"If you hadn't staged such a convincing demise we'd have been none the wiser that you survived," I said.
"It was rather airtight. Although you found me through an avenue I should have taken better care to cover. Pity she turned out to be such a liability."
"If it's any consolidation she lasted three hours before she broke."
"Well I must have been too soft on her."
"I'll confess that the methods used were unsavoury even by my standards."
"Then I should have considered a wider array of tortures. I guess we've moved on from the parrilla and simple waterboarding. I should have left scars."
"The man who detained her initially thought she was delusional when she gave us your name."
"Is that why you let her go?"
"That was the reason given. She was tagged of course. So we could keep an eye on such a tenuous lead."
"Which is what lead you to Greenland."
"Tell me, what is it that gave her away and why did you detain her?"
"A cold team caught her trying to break into the Guardian Tower from a back door. She really should have just gone in through the front and I honestly think they would have been none the wiser."
I heard a slight muttering from the speaker. It sounded like he'd said "stupid girl" and I couldn't help but feel smugly content that his careful web had been unraveled because of the poor decision making of a single agent.
"After we picked her up we got reports of two suspicious looking gentlemen hanging around the warehouse where Damien Anderson was assassinated," I continued, "Naturally we started to monitor them as well as it was a hot site."
I heard more muttering. This time it was inaudible.
"I knew they were unready," he said, "I bloody knew it."
"So why did you send them out if you knew they weren't ready?" I crowed, "To advertise that you were still alive?"
"I'd by lying if I said I had planned this from the beginning," there was a pause, "It was more of an improvised consideration to throw my lot in with the IWU after I discovered Elise was compromised."
"So is this opportunism or pragmatism?" I asked.
There was a significant delay in the reply.
"I'd say a little bit of both," were the soft words that left the transceiver.
"Well you requested me personally," I paused for breath, "What are your terms?"
"You've already got me. All I want is sanctuary," he said.
"Then allow me to make a proposition," I said, "Just let me call you directly on a more secure line."
I dropped the connection and put down the wireless headset. It was a brief walk to my desk that saw me pick up a wired headset.
I carefully input Ömer's channel into the keypad and called it.
"Sorry for the inconvenience," I said, "But I have some unfinished business I'd like you to take care of."
"You see, I didn't expect things to run so," I broke off my speech for dramatic effect, "smoothly."
"As you are being picked up from the airfield, I would like you to leave a little present for whomever investigates that little base of yours."
"Well I was already planning on detonating it."
"Could you perhaps delay that detonation to occur upon entrance to the facility?"
"It'd take a little work, but it's definitely within the scope of my ability."
I smiled at the prospect of Plan Uriah being completed. It would be a simple command to instruct the BWEG to investigate the coordinates given to us by İşnan, "I could pull some strings at my end to allow for thermonuclear. If that would help."
"I didn't really plan for less."
It would have been unprofessional to start laughing at this point so I maintained a firm composure.
"Is there anything else you wished to discuss?" I queried.
"If I'm doing your dirty work then I guess I should fill you in on those unidentified agents so that you can tie up some loose ends."
"That would be most helpful," I said.
"I know for certain one of them is Daymon Hiruman."
"And who is he?"
"A Japanese national. Equipped with a rather conspicuous wing system. He's hard to miss, I'd imagine your men are tracking him already. So now they can put a name to that face."
"He's an experimental prototype. Some nasty business with gene splicing and elemental powers. So bring high caliber rounds and focus on destroying his wing system. I'd advise your mean keep their distance as his smorgasbord of abilities can be rather hazardous."
"Six elements to watch out for. Air, earth, fire, ice, lightning and water. Highly proficient in using them in combat exercises. No experience of using powers in a real world environment."
"I think that's everything. I don't know who the other one is."
"Well I'll be sure to pass this information on to our workers that are out in the field."
"Just see that he's neutralised and I'll take care of things at my end."
The line went dead.
The room was deathly silent.
Only the soft bleating of my pet goat filled the air.
It was an odd feeling to taste victory on a silver platter. I had expected a fight and been given everything. It almost seemed too good to be true.
Chapter 12 - Daymon Hiruman
So, this is the great and glorious International Workers Union? I thought, disdain twisting my face into a sneer of contempt as I exercised my talents to a degree I had not for a very long time.
Not since Tertiary division with... I mused, before frowning when I realized I couldn't remember the name of the other subject.
Dismissing the detail for now, I turned my attention back to my surroundings. The gory, smouldering ruins of my crash mat were strewn across the concrete walls and guards towers, affording me several seconds of time from pure shock value of my entrance.
Several seconds I had almost wasted on musing. I realized as I turned to the closest guard tower and flexed my talents once again.
Shocks of force were projected, fashioned where once there was dead air. Caught by my stabilizers, so very like the pinions of a bird, the flexing of my talents allowed me to skitter from cover to cover, like a dragonfly, too fast to aim at, as I launched straight for the closest guard tower, operated by a man wearing shades and a white shirt as he desperately fumbled with an semi automatic rifle in his pudgy fists.
As he brought it to aim, another small, painful twinge in my psyche created a localized sandstorm that blazed strong from the detritus that this man's boots undoubtedly kicked up into the tower over time, stealing eyesight and entering the lungs to create a hacking cough.
I twisted my body, feet first, and collided with his face. Immediately he crumpled inwards and collapsed on the floor, completely motionless. I barely gave him more than a passing glance as I used his body to cushion my fall and hit the metal grate flooring without shattering the bones in my ankles. I span around fast to grab my first victim's weapon; an Armament Works 116. A particularly compact sub machine gun, devoid of all but the most functional components.
Spying more soldiers at the floor around the lookout post I was sat in and being incapable of ending them without fatally exposing myself, I leapt from the tower to sail towards the roof of the building on powerful air currents. I felt the roof crumble slightly at the force of impact, no doubt cheaply made and poorly maintained, before bringing the gun up to my shoulder and sighting down the barrel at the group of hapless riflemen who had planned to storm the tower seconds before.
I pulled the trigger over and over again, producing sporadic barks of semi-automatic fire, first four bullets, then four more, and four more after that. I braced the weapon against my fists in anticipation for the strong recoil. Surprisingly, in addition to its relatively light weight, the recoil was almost negligible, it seemed that the terrorist organization was better supplied than any of us had originally assumed. Three of the novice soldiers were brought low and the others scattered as far as they could, trying desperately to escape my wrath.
Another few bursts stopped them in their tracks and stained the dusty floor red with their blood. I turned just in time to spy a man taking aim from a guard tower a few feet from my location and I brought the rifle to my shoulder, sighting down the barrel at his perch. Before he had a chance to fire I flexed my air element ever so slightly, increasing the density of the air around myself and pushing the bullets fired at me around my body. I could hear the tell-tale chatter of gunfire becoming louder and the high pitched rush of bullets passing oh so close to my ears became more pronounced. My head was beginning to hurt and I was beginning to feel light headed from over-exertion.
I had always been warned about the dangers of excessive elemental use when I was in the facility. They had explained, in great detail, what using multiple elements so close to each other and so frequently would do to my brain. Between the first flight, the subsequent interrogation of the Security officer and his untimely death, not to mention using my air and earth talent to stop my first target from firing at me and the manipulations I had used as an air shield, I was well on my way to causing a disastrous case of depletion.
I need to ease up. I decided. Find a place to take cover.
I took me no time at all to find a small, steel air vent curling out from the roof. I snapped off another four shots at my target and quickly dived for cover, not even checking if it had ended my opponent or not. I allowed the air shield I had fashioned to dissipate and giving me a few seconds to breathe.
Every heartbeat sent the liquid ache of over exerted muscles pulsing through my brain and shoulder blades, worming its way outwards into the rest of my body, a sure sign that the strain I was putting myself under was beginning to tell. The more I tried to think the harder my headache bit back, stealing thought and concentration.
I blinked away the greying spots in my vision and, using some of my ever diminishing reserves of mental energy, began to pull inwards, slipping into a different elemental ability. Immediately small amounts of moisture began to pull themselves towards me, drawn from the sparse water content in the dry air of India and into my body. The effect, while not completely instantaneous, did moisten my mouth and make breathing easier.
It was then that the metallic thud of projectiles penetrating metal sounded, followed by the whistle of something passing close to me and I realized how badly I had picked my hiding place. Scouring the area showed nothing better to to keep myself hidden. Risking a glance around the corner of my "wall" showed me what I already knew, that even if I pushed every single ounce of energy into my air element and push a small amount into my fire to ride the convection current high, I wouldn't be able to move either fast enough or drastically enough to evade bullets. I searched all of my training, all of my memories to find one way to escape the situation, mentally testing every plan I had. Each time I did, I was met with the same conclusion.
I was trapped.
No no no no no no no! I internally screamed. This can't be happening!
If I left cover, I'd be shredded by semi automatic fire. If I flew high, I'd most likely be intercepted and blown out of the sky. My only really viable option is to get into the building and hope I could find a place to hide and covertly escape later.
The only problem with that plan was simple, I had no idea where I'd be dropping down, I could end up in the toilets, the lockers or even the offices. On top of this, given the amount of soldiers rapidly pouring fourth from the building's myriad exits, common sense would dictate that the place would be teeming with IWU soldiers like lice in a beggar's hair.
I assessed my options, my gun hanging heavy in my hands as I rapidly ran out of time. I began to hear the percussive beat of hardened, booted feet on concrete, interspersed by the angry shouts of officer's leading his subordinates into the fray.
With nothing else available to me, I tensed my body in anticipation for the thought stealing agony soon to be flaring bright from my mind and implants, pulsating in time with my rapid heartbeat.
Liquid fire burned through my veins, and my vision started to grey at the edges. Half blind, I pressed my palms flat to the roof's floor, and pushed with my elemental talents.
The earth element, as a lamentable response to detestable circumstance, was always my weakest ability. Flash, my carer and the man responsible for moulding me into who I was today, had several theories on why this was, none of which true but all of them interesting.
First they blamed it on being my final awakened elemental talent, before my manipulation of ice manifested and completely disbanded that school of thought. Another theory came from the idea that, with my other abilities controlling liquid and gaseous matter, electrons and temperature, the solid element didn't develop as fully as the others due to how powerful they grew in comparison.
I knew differently, in my heart. It came down to blood, as it always did. My father was a weak earth elemental, and an abusive parent. The former meant that my element was always going to be weak. The latter meant that I wouldn't want to train it even if it wasn't. I would sooner die than be like him. Unfortunately for me, being captured by the IWU was a fate worse than death. When the choice is disobeying my own values and degrading my ideals, or slow and painful death (at best) at the hands of the Independent Workers Union...well the choice was no choice at all.
Screaming with effort, I pushed every ounce of energy I had left into the attack, crunching down through layers of rock and breaking it apart. Cracks cobwebbed through the roof and the ground beneath my feet gave a lurch into a crater, disintegrating rapidly.
I had just enough time to fold my wings in before two things happened. First, a single rifleman dressed in a pair of dust stained shorts and a wife beater top ran around the corner of my makeshift cover, his SMG raised to one tanned cheek as he sighted down the barrel. Then, the floor beneath me collapsed entirely, and I fell through the ground. He fired off a stream a shots. One bullet embedded itself in the meat of my shoulder and I cried out at the agony of it, before I tumbled away into the building.
I tried to arrest my fall and harness my talents one last time, hoping that the bite back of overuse wouldn't simply kill me or cripple me. A storm of bullets followed my descent, and I heard the horrifying metallic thunk of a bullet hitting metal, right next to my ear.
Immediately my flight faltered and I tumbled away into the ground, like a Dachshund Interceptor attempting to turn. I landed hard and gracelessly upon a smooth stone floor, slamming into my wounded shoulder, tearing the flesh of my arm and turning it into a gory ruin.
Not having time to collect my thoughts, and at least a little bit concussed, I scrambled away from my exit point and ran as fast as I could, barely noticing as the room filled with soldiers in various different clothes and disguises. Some were wearing the official uniforms of various organizations. Here; the fluorescent uniform of an Event horizon security cartel member. There; the dark blue suit of security officers for myriad organizations and businesses. Others still were wearing casual outfits, ranging from the rags of the impoverished slums, shirts and denim jeans and the sophisticated clothing of the upper class.
The room filled with a storm of bullets, dust clouds kicking out around my feet and at my heels. I slammed into the door, just trying to put as much distance between both myself and my attackers as humanly...
My knee gave out, pierced through my a lucky shot as I fell to my hunches. I pushed as hard as I could against the door, and had to lean on my good arm as the door swung open. Not wasting any time, I dragged myself into the room and did my best to slam the door.
I was leaning hard against the wall, the door to my left. Breathing hard, and trying to do anything to suppress my various aches, pains and mutilations; I assessed where I was, and my heart sank.
It was a utility cupboard, devoid of anything that would help me to escape. The only way out was through the door behind me; no windows, no doors, not even an air vent.
This is it. I thought. This is how I die, alone and cornered, wounded and crawling across the floor like a dog. At best they'll execute me for all the damage I did. At worst... it doesn't bear thinking about.
"I don't...want to die." I wept, curling inwards on the cold floor and not knowing what else I could do. I had nowhere to run (and probably couldn't run even if I had somewhere), I'd dropped my weapon when I fell and the sparking screech at my back confirmed my previous suspicions. I had no options.
No. I have one option.
If I was going to die, I was going to do it on my own terms. Taking out the enemies of GHOST. For the good of humanity, saving it from the stranglehold of the corrupt governments and terrorist organizations. For the good of GHOST, long may it continue the good fight into the future against the oppression in the world. For the information officer and my adopted sister; Elise Thurston, distant but admirable in her dedication and zeal and favoured by my commander as a consequence. For my commander and foster father; Ömer İşnan, the man who moulded me into a valued member of GHOST, the man who was going to lead our division into the future as the heroes the world needed.
Disregarding every warning I had been given in the past, I pushed with my last ounces of strength, not caring what happened, just trying to do something, anything as the door burst open.
I felt something in my mind give way, like rocks sliding off a cliff face in an avalanche or a damaged and dying car being finally forced into a higher gear for it's very last journey. My vision became gradually more blurred as every ability my mutated genes could perform snowballed further and further out of my control. I heard screams, I felt intense heat licking out from my form, burning everyone, and everything. The agony was indescribable, my head felt like it was several seconds away from bursting.
Alone, crippled and most likely dying, I fell back onto the last pillar of strength I had left.
"Trust no one."I heard Ömer say.
A red tinted stain darkened my vision.
"A paranoid mind is a healthy mind."
What was left of my sight faded into complete darkness, and my hearing muffled as I tasted the coppery tang of blood on my gums and dripping onto my lip.
"You need to be strong, you need to be guarded, you need to trust nobody bu...
I exited the luxury jet undetected. I was quite pleased with this disguise. Rather fond of it actually.
Agent 09 exited shortly after me as I hid underneath the extended ladder. I needed to remain out of sight until the right moment.
From my vantage point I could spy a hooded individual approaching the aircraft. From the look of things the person was outfitted in a blue winter jacket - fur lined - and waterproof pants.
I activated my earpiece and sent a signal to personnel loyal to me and me alone. I shuffled slightly as I heard footsteps clunking down the retractable metal ladder.
I knew that Agent 09 had his own plans and was intending to offer Ömer İşnan a fair deal. Probably a safe house in the Amazon Basin far beyond the reaches of civilization. Armed guards no doubt.
Unfortunately for Agent 09, my faith in Mr. İşnan didn't extend as far as constant surveillance. You just can't count on the loyalty of defectors.
Ömer İşnan was an animal and he had to be caged. A safe house wasn't secure enough. The only means of ensuring his cooperation was under detained supervision. Preferably deep within the bowels of the earth. Sealed behind several inches of reinforced concrete. Locked behind a titanium door.
It was quite clear that he had abused the freedom given to him by his former benefactors. No doubt he gave the order to have his protege killed in order to avoid himself from being incriminated further. Agent 08's involvement in the execution of Elise Thurston had only served to further my desire to see Project Uriah completed. The Blessed Worker's Elemental Group had long outlasted their usefulness.
Reports of an attack on an outpost in Bangalore had made me suspicious that he may have had another agent operating out in the field. Although Claude had given me assurances that it was likely only Li-Pau Nao. I rarely accepted any assurances given to me by that snake but I had bigger things on my plate and I had faith in my employees to handle the situation without any instructions from high command.
My mind drifted back to Ömer and the manner in which I admired his pragmatism on a personal level but simply could not work with him on a professional one.
I tapped my earpiece and instructed the two soldiers that had exited the aircraft to keep their distance as the hooded target approached Agent 09.
The pair of them shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. I gave the command to my agents to move towards the two men chatting on the runway as I trotted out from my hiding spot.
I made a beeline towards Agent 09 and he smiled at seeing me. I baaed convincingly and he moved down to pet me.
"Is the goat yours?" the target asked.
I baaed again.
"Yes," Agent 09 confirmed, "but I was sure he'd stayed aboard the aircraft.
"Why did you bring a goat?" he queried. I could tell he was bemused.
"Well I could hardly leave him back home. Poor guy might starve."
The target moved down to pet me. I now knew it was Ömer for sure. I bleated three times and the two guards advanced towards the duo.
It was over quickly as they forced black hessian bags over the heads of both Ömer and Agent 09.
Now seemed as good a time as any to disable my holographic cloaking device.
"It's such a privilege to meet you in the flesh, Mr. İşnan," I said.
"What the hell is this!?" Agent 09 yelled as he struggled against the man who was restraining him.
"A change of plans, my dear Sasha," I spoke softly.
"Unhand me you brutes!" Ömer screeched, "We had a deal! You promised me sanctuary, Agent 09!"
"Indeed he did," I crowed, "But I'm not Agent 09."
Agent 09 went deathly still as the penny dropped.
"I'm Agent 01."
|K21 - Dusty Blinds · K21 - I'm With You · K21 - Prayer · K21 - Kindred · K21 - Degenerate · ...|
|Prequels & Stand Alone Stories|
|Vallarian Trilogy · Ortus Continuity · Antecedence Double Trilogy · Artificial Elemental Trilogy · K21 - Broken Faith · K21 - Substantial Illusions · K21 - Judgement In Duty · K21 - Aces High · K21 - Limitless Sun · K21 - Distorted Closure · K21 - Loose Ends · K21 - Attache Case|