SLA: Truth of Consequences

Book 1 Chapter 1: Zen And The Art of BPN Maintenance

PrevThe story of Illusive Death.Next

Queuing in the Crib

The stories of the Crib didn't live up to reality. It was packed, noisy, smoky and huge. Operatives and employee's milled about in an endless sea of bodies. The new operatives stared at their number, one listed in the 'S' range, and compared it to the huge screens that listed the current numbers being called out. Right now it was still in the E range of numbers. They looked at each other and decided to try and fight for a seat or section of wall where they could wait.

Two and a half hours passed by, each minute slowly eating away at their patience and sanity. Looking at the screen they saw that they were only up to the K's. Some contemplate going to get something to eat when they remembered what their instructor had said. "If you are't there when your number is called, you have to start the process all over again." So they decided to continue waiting.

About a half an hour later a human male walked up, about six feet tall with a decent muscular build underneath his finely pressed suit. He had short cropped blonde hair and a smile almost as wide as the Crib itself. His badge proudly displayed an SCL rating of 6B/2. Seeing him approaching them, Difference stepped back to let the others do the talking, but he kept a weary eye on the proceding.

Difference was an ebon with a matte gray and black Death Suit, which, unlike many Death Suits, seemed to have a taunt textured skin covering most of it, yet some of the more traditional bone and muscle mass looked charred and burned. His Mask was covered with the dark smooth skin except across his face where the Mask became a dark gray bone carved in the image of a handsome young man. He wore an expensive Dark Lament Suit and in his better moods spoke and acted more like he was a member of one of the famous Ebon artist families. The suit seemed to mirror his mood - now very formal and rigid: a dark, almost black crimson color.

"Hi," the newcomer said over the din of the throng of people and holding out his hand in an offer to shake. "Name's Harvey Dent, financier. I noticed you're just starting out. Interested in avoiding lengthy delays getting a BPN?"

The first to greet Harvey was Flaky. She looked like a fairly average human female with a skin condition, who used an ointment to keep the effects limited. Everything about her looked bedraggled, her hair, her grubby raincoat, with a hint of worn, bad fitting, cloathing beneath. The continues noise and bussle irriated her, so she shrugged to access the memory in what was now her left arm. Financers, percentage, got it: "For the standard percentage? Yes I'm interested." She unconsciously rubbed off a few flakes from her skin and shook his hand trying to mimic the hands bone and muscle structure as a good way to practice, carefully checking if the part of her SLA badge telling her race was still conveniently hidden by a lapel. She connected all memories concerning financers - her training had been extensive in SLA rules and customs. A financer, a 6B/2 financer, interested in a green teen? Odd, very odd, but better than staying in this racket.

The hideous, milky white skinned Stormer stood up from a corner where he has been squatting and strode silently over to the human: ugly he was, but also one of the most impressive specimens in physical attributes, enhanced by twin Gashfists on the arms of his dull black Blocker body armour with a GA Finisher holstered over his right sholder. Having been grinding his teeth progressively louder and louder for the last 20 minutes, Gore finally stopped, looked the financier up and mostly down and grunts: "Sure... whatever," and then follows him down the hall.

HogBoy, an averaged sized, but strong, human with frother like dyed dreadlocks and a very stylished DNA tattoo of a dragon on half his face, had gotten very irritable because of the long wait. His heavy exo armour and claymore reinforce the frother feel, but he isn't wearing clan clothing. The fact that he had to listen to the huge ugly stormer grinding it's teeth together for the past twenty minutes hadn't helped his mood either, so he says in a clear downtown - and somewhat frother like - accent: "I'll agree. But if you are taking a cut, the BPN better not be a blue one..."

HogBoy then noticed the SCL of the financier, realised he shouldn't have opened his big mouth and quickly continued: "...Sir."

Conference and Confidence

Harvey nodded to each of them with a smile and lead them to an 'Authorized Employee's' only door. He placed his badge in the reader, and then opened the door and ushered them all in. They walked down a long hallway that seemed to almost stretch on forever, repleat with numerous doors. After 20 odd doors, Harvey opened one to a conference room and walked in, taking a seat at the head of the table. After waiting for all to sit down, he began the briefing. "As I explained before, I'm a financier, and a rather successful one. However, I've lost some good teams recently. Some to other agents, some to break ups and a few to the trails and tribulations of being an SLA operative. As such, I'm looking to expand my client base and diversify a little more. Hence the reason you are here."

As Difference walked in, he noticed that one of the chairs was already taken by an Ebon woman. Oddly enough none of the others took notice, so he ignored her as well.

Harvey took up a briefcase he had sitting next to his chair and pulled out a stack of papers. "Here's the deal," he said as he walked around to each, placing a contract before them. "You all work for me for a period of two years. While I'm normally what is called a 'ten percenter', you only be charged five percent until you reach SCL 9, at which time my fee goes to ten. Additionally, I get fifteen percent on your sponsorship contract for the first year. This helps balance out my loss in getting you started. Any questions?"

Flaky started to read the contract, and checked every single line, as did Difference. Differences father had been a corporate and reading the contract brings memories to the surface. As always, when thinking about his family, the thobbing pain in his head returned, so he took out his medication and downed a couple of pills - turning away from everyone while he lifted his Death suit mask to slide the pills in his mouth.

HogBoy at least tried to understand what he was signing, but Gore just flipped through the contract without reading it until he got to the signature section, marked it with a large messy G and casually threw it on the financiers desk. "When do we start?" he growled.

Flaky is the last to still hold the contract. She taps her finger on some clauses and stares at Harvey for a moment. Then she looks down again and signs.

Harvey quickly gathered up the contracts and placed them back in the briefcase. "Well, with the formalities out of the way I should fully introduce myself. As you already know, my name is Harvey Dent. I used to be an operative, working with a squad by the name of Vermillion. We made it quite far in the business until we got ambushed by a DarkNight hit squad. Only two of us survived, myself and the Ebon that brought us together as a team. I decided at that point to become a financier and I've been doing that ever since."
"You'll find that I'm fair and I'll work hard for you provided you work hard for me. I can get you a sponsorship quickly IF you work hard to look good on 3rd eye and sell yourselves. Any questions?"

"Do you have anything in mind right now, or should we go get some R&R 'till you have a job for us?" HogBoy turned his attention to his fellow operatives, "I guess that makes us officially a squad. Any ideas for a squad name?"

Difference had his head in his hands and just shook his head slightly at questions.

Harvey smiled. "That's just the kind of enthusiasam I was hoping for. I have a Blue for you, but at least it's not your typical sewer duty," he replied as he starts handing out the BPN assignment.
"The Shivers in Downtown sector 54 have asked for operative assistance in tracking down a missing Shiver patrol."

SCL: 10
Color: Blue
Department: Investigation
Training Package: Investigation/Any
Notes: Contact Sgt. Mullen at Shiver station 54 for any clues and information.
3ird Eye News: Yes
Consolidated Bonus Scheme: 50c per Op
SCL Increase: +0.1

As the BPN sheets got handed out, the operatives suddenly noticed that someone else was sitting at the table.

At the appearance of the ebon, Flaky just sits very quietly - no sudden moves at all, although there is a suggestion of movement in her right sleeve.

"What witchery is this!!", HogBoy stood up from his chair and took a few quick steps towards the door, hand sliding towards his 603.

The absolutely stunning beautiful redhead female Ebon, wearing a half red and half gold deathsuit, looked HogBoy through narrow milky white eyes, obviously offended at the statement. "You should be more respectful to your fellow operatives." Her tone carried a definite edge of venom, but her composure in her chair was still relaxed and business-like.

Gore glanced at the new arrival, blinked twice, cleared his throat and then turned back to the financier.

HogBoy was obviously relaxing, seeing that the newcomer was an ebon and not anything more sinister. Like a drug-induced fantasy... "My apologies, lady, for my behaviour. Although my sense of respect doesn't allow me to sneak up on my fellow operatives, I can see how the situation demanded it", HogBoy spoke - even while he really didn't understand - and sat back down. He picked one of the BPN cards and examined it carefully.

The ebon smiled, seemingly appreciating the apology... even if it was laced with a jab at her entrance. "I know no more than you. I was approached by Harvey just as you were. There were just some difficulties with my SCL card that had to be resolved."

As nothing untowards happened, Flaky picked up the BPN card and started to read. At Harveys suggestion to lease a camera she looked at the others: twin death squad and twin kick murder, not the best camera men: "I'll buy a camera if nobody else has the skill - but that means one of you will need to buy nav chips for that sector."

Seeing that everything appeared to be smoothed over, Harvey took control of the conversation. "Well, now that the calmity is over. You have your first assignment. Here's my business card." He handed out his business card to each of you. "I hope to hear good things from you soon and you have the room for an additional hour to work out logistics. Oh, and by the way. If no one on the team has a camera, you might want to think about getting one. 3rd Eye isn't always available. Good day to you all." Harvey picked up his briefcase and walked out.

What's in a squad name?

"I'm Misery," the ebon said in an upfront tone. "I'm kick murder trained and prefer close combat, but I'm not a novice with a gun." She looked towards the vevaphon, the only other obvious woman in the room. "Has a squad name beem assigned yet?"

Difference didn't bother to look up during the exchange, he just sat with his arms on his knees and his head in his hands, though he was listening carefully. The squad was used to this behavior from their time together at Meny. Difference had always seemed tired and in pain during their down time. Another thing the squad was used to, was not seeing a single piece of Difference's skin.

Flaky seemed unfased by Gore's aura of violence, even sitting calmly next to him, but she hardly seemed to meet both Ebons eyes. With the 'frother' she had no problems: "What about 'Illusive Death', that's Illusive for the kick-murders, Death for the deathsquad and short ID for investigation?"
She again looked at the BPN and mumbled: "Blue... it should have been a yellow... life as usual I suppose."

Misery seemed to be goaded by Flaky's aversion to looking her in the eyes and continued talking directly to the Vevaphon. "Illusive Death sounds good. Very descriptive of the group and it's catchy," she replied with a predatory grin. "Any other ideas," Misery asked as she pulled out her BPN file case and stored the BPN in it.

Flaky tried to ignore the pressure for a while, then looked up and scans Misery: SCL card, cloathing, equipment, stance... It was a bit like a scanner: totally impersonal, yet somehow invading your privacy.
After that she stood up: "I'm going to buy a camera, my radio frequency is 89435.7. After I bought one I'll continue to the main Shiver station in downtown sector 54. Can any of you file the BPN under whatever squad name we're going to operate?
Somebody please acquire a nav-map for your nav-reader?
See you there.

At the mention of filing the BPN, Difference finally raised his head, "Let's go with Illusive Death, I will file the BPN. As for the nava-map, I don't mind buying the thing, but some one else should do the navigating, I am terrible with maps." He pulled out an oyster from a side pocket and fliped it open as he stood up. He instantly took on a better mood as soon as he fliped open the computer. Whatever had been troubling him seemed to have left him.

Misery was leaning forward, elbows on the table, hands clasped and she was smiling at Flaky. Flaky had the feeling that she was prodding her to see how she'd react. For obviously being an Ebon, she did not act like one. When Flaky got up to leave, Misery spoke up. "Perhaps it would be best if we all went together. World of Hurt is just down the street and it would give us a chance to get any additional gear we need as well as discuss the assignment?"

HogBoy spoke: "Illusive Death sounds fine to me. I agree with Misery that we should go as a team. Never know what kind of trouble might find a lone operative. 'sides, I need to stock up some grenades."

Flaky interjected: "Ehh HogBoy, please be carefull when you use those grenades. Getting a positive id on a hamburger is kind of tricky."

HogBoy answered: "Sometimes making the exit can get tricky. If that happens, you'll be thankful that I brought grenades. At ten creds a pop, I won't be lobbing them at marks or civs. I'd have to loot their broken carcasses for valuables to get my money's worth from this Blue one. I better get some extra hits of Rush too, just in case the investigation drags on too long."

Misery looked at HogBoy. "Just be careful. I don't want to get fined for damaging company property because you went running around willy nilly with live grenades."

HogBoy replied: "Yes, mum. By the way, do you think that there is any truth in the saying: 'misery loves company'?"

She leaned over getting within an inch of HogBoys face. "I always love company," she replies with sultry voice backed by a predatory grin. Then she leaned back again.

Gore snorted loudly at Hogboys comment. It is the closest sound to a laugh that Gore ever made.

Difference bursted out laughing in a deep baritone at Misery and HogBoy's interaction. He turned towards Gore and caught his eye when he saw that Gore finds it amusing too. The hearty laugh seemed to fit the handsome mask though its blank expression seemed at odds.

"All right, all right, settle down. She's a handful, isn't she!" HogBoy smiled, "If everyone's geared up and all of us know what role each one is playing under fire, I think that we should get the next gauss train to the 54."

Difference replied with mirth still in his voice: "Slow down HogBoy, we don't need to be down there immediately. Lets go pick up our gear, and perhaps get some tea and something to eat. We have time, which is a luxury and one we will soon come to miss, let us take advantage of it." As he spoke, he closed the oyster and put it away in one graceful move.

Flaky looked at the interaction with a total lack of understanding; she didn't even blink. She clearly reran what just happened and drew a complete blank.

HogBoy drawled: "Ahh, right you are Difference. Killing just doesn't feel right with an empty stomach. Who is in a hurry to find out the fate of a few missing shivers anyway. Anyone know a good place to have a bite to eat?" At this point HogBoy was getting anxious and began fiddling with his Boopa syringe, but he resisted the temptation to shoot up. He clearly would like to see some action already, yet he manages to present a facade of a sociable guy. For now...

HogBoy continued: "How deep in downtown sector 54 is anyway? Do we need to call a taxi to get there without a firefight?" HogBoy turns towards Misery: "Exactly what kind of difficulties you have with your SCL card? Anything we should be worried about?"

Misery looked to HogBoy. "We could take the guass train into upper downtown and catch a taxi from there." She then looked at her SCL card. "Yea. Some sodding idiot put my race down as a brain waster!"

"I suggest that the I&I girl should handle the tech stuff and keep out of the bullet's way", HogBoy gave Gore a nudge with his elbow with an amused wink, "It's good to have something to do at last!"

Misery giggles and stands up, showing off her impressive figure for the first time. "Shall we then?" Misery heads out the door and back towards the BPN hall. HogBoy follows Misery out of the hall, eyeing her behind every now and then, trying his best no-one sees him doing that. He also tries to keep Misery always in his sight, because there were some 'difficulties' with her SCL card.

Flaky stands aside as Misery and HogBoy file out. She smiled a bit at HogBoys comment on I&I, then hoists her suitcase on her back and follows them out. She gravitates towards the middle of the group and doesn't seem to mind if anybody notices.

Gore was the last to leave and he brung up the rear, eyes searching, constantly alert for danger (even in the BPN hall). Gore walked closer to Flaky then any of the others, almost protectively. Even though he was unaware that "she" was a Vevaphon, he inately sensed her biogenic nature and felt most comfortable around her.

Flaky wondered how HogBoy stayed on Cloaks good side. Perhaps they were more stringent on biogenics. After all, human had to breed to continue themselves and who in his right mind would trust such a random act as that. She did, however, study his jitters and almost reaching for the syringe as a good model for Frother behavior.
"If I'm buying a Cam, should I just buy something basic or something more advanced?", she checked out some advertisments she had picked up, "The standard cam is limited, but the 3rd Eye Sterling is 40 creds out of my budget. It does allow for post editing though."

Difference replied: "I can give you the 40c if you think it is worth getting the more expensive one. Do you have training in filming? If you don't, I think we should get the cheaper one till you learn some technique."

"Forget training. Go with instinsts. I will lend you the 40 credits," rasped Gore through clenched fangs.

"Thanks, Gore, I will." Flaky replied, " With the lease system it's just not worth it to buy anything but the best."

Gore looked down at Hogboy, and his face bunched up into a horrible, veiny grimace and you realized that he was trying to smile. "Hogboy!... should we pick up some Ultra Violence... just in case things get...nasty?"

"Yeah, Gore, UV is good too. I have two hits of the Blaze version. Not exactly my choise for recreational use though." HogBoy was counting with his fingers. "After when I get a few grenades and the extra Rush, I'll be fresh out of cash. You'll just have to indulge yourself, Gore"

Stench or wrench?

A frother, who was about 6 feet tall, approached the group. He was on the phone and as he got closer they could hear "Aie MR. DENT, it wont happen again." The Frother, SCL badge naming him Dedrick mcFerson, extended his greasy hand, but before any could take it they were hit by the 'smell' - it wasn't pleasent and Dedrick seemed to be completly oblivious to it. His dirty mechanics suit and black with yellow streaked dreadlocks did little to enhance the image. "Sorry I missed the meeting boys. How did that Dent fellow get me number anyways?"

"So am I to understand, that you are a part of our squad?" as he spoke, Difference once again pulled out his oyster and looked up the squad roster.

"Yea, unless there was some kind of error. You checkin that out right now? That Dent guy seemed pretty sure I should be runnin 'round with you guys. He used your names on that phone call." Dedrick pulled out a cigarette and offered one to Difference.

Difference waved away the cigeratte. "No, thank you, I don't smoke and yes, I am checking it out, you'll excuse me for not taking your word for it, but it really is best to be sure, it will just take a second.
While I am checking, shall we continue on our way, we were walking down the block to World of Hurt to buy some supplies, please join us.

HogBoy seemed a little cautious at the sight of the real Frother, avoiding Dedrick's gaze and acting a bit more timid now.

Flaky stopped and turned as the Frother got closer. Her nostrils widen up a bit as she took a sniff, but quickly tightened again. She grabbed her enviro scanner and took a sample right next to him. "Polycyclic esthers, diatoped benzoids, blood remains, the list goes on..." She spoke to Dedrick: "Did you know that my downtowns appartment air is actually more healthy than the stuff around you? Of course if we ever loose you in the lower levels I can probably find you... as long as you're not flushed."
"By the way, who'll be our squad spokesperson?", she looked at them, then turned to Misery, "I suppose you're the best choice - did you do any presentation courses?"

"I dont know what you mean Flaky. I feel healthy. Something must be wrong with your scanner." Dedrick answered, "Yeah, I'll trot down to World of Hurt with you guys, untill we get this all straightened out."

The oyster once again disappears into Difference's pocket: "Okay, Mr. McFerson, you are correct you are on our squad roster, welcome to Illusive Death."

Gearing up

As the squad entered World of Hurt, Flaky was intercepted by one of the entrance guards. She seemed to have expected this because she was waving her clearance card before he even could say a word. The card disappeared again in a blur. "One day I'll have to find clothing which works well both central as downtown", she said, "this is a nuisance."

As Dedrick walked past the guard, he was waved in without having to show his SCL badge.. Those still on the outside noticed that the guard begins to *hack* up something: "Hey Flaky, maybe you should get a kilt with some Clan Colors... no one gives you shit."

None of the store guards gave Gore any trouble. He followed Flaky to the electronics hardware section and credited her account 40 credits. Next he went to the pharmaceuticals section and purchased one hit of Ultra Violence, two hits of Kick Start and two hits of Painaway. When he was done he tracked down Flaky and said, "Almost done? Lets get food."

Flaky was of course not finished when Gore returned: she had to compare models and features, decide on colours, had a trial in different light conditions... and in the end bought the model she had been talking about plus some spare slugs.

Difference bought a navi-slug of Sector 54 then met back up with Flaky and Gore. He stayed quiet for the duration of their time in the store.

HogBoy purchased the stuff he wanted silently and alone: two blast grenades, one gas grenade and three extra doses of Rush, just to be on safe side.

To eat or not to eat.

While HogBoy is looking through the latest umbrella line, he overhears Gore talking to Flaky and responds: "Chow-time? Great, I'm starving!"

"I still got some chow waitin in APPIE, its just burgers but should be tasty." Dedrick interjected, "Not sure if it will fill up Gore." He shrugged his shoulders and started to walk towards the exit.

The charm and mirth of twenty minutes ago had left Difference and the bitter, irritated, Difference was back: "Burger's in an APC isn't the way I want to prepare for a BPN, let's find some place relaxing and where we can mentally prepare."

HogBoy agreed with Difference: "You know, this might sound somewhat Shaktar, but when there is a chance of dying soon, I'd like to have a hero's feast before I check out"

"I thought we were Illusive Death, seems we should have been Little Hope *chuckles*. I plan on comin back live and well from this BPN HogBoy" Dedrick spoke with confidence, "I'll keep company where ever you blokes wanna eat, but we should be more positive." He appeared as if a hampster was turning the wheel in his noggin, "What is our BPN? I havent actually seen it." Dedricks confidence started to disappear from his face only to be replaced by worry - what did these guys know about the BPN that he didn't - maybe gathering some thoughts and a 'good' meal wouldnt be such a bad idea... He flexed his forearm, injecting Personal Interest and the worry in his face disappeared.

Gore looked sideways at Dedrick and grunted, "Find a squad of missing Shivers in downtown. Big deal. Let's eat, I'm hungry."

Flaky came walking over with the cam held somewhat gingerly. She started raising it to get some shots of the squad, but reacted: "Getting killed? On a blue? I would die of shame!" She stared for a second, thinking about what she just said. "Yet a good preparation is half the job: let's see what other things have happened in sector 54... But let's do that after we've talked to the Shivers - no use in spending money on stuff we can can find out for free. But some food before we leave would be nice." She hands over her BPN card to Dedrick.

"I've heard that there's some good eatn' to be had in The Pit. Wouldn't know for a fact 'cause I've never been there... Is it far from here?" Dedrick asked.

"The Pit is so common, I know a nice cafe just two blocks from here were we can have a tea and get a nice meal." Scorn filled Differenece's voice when he mentioned the Pit, which felt odd coming from the experssionless mask.

Flaky stressed: "And it only opens at eight thirty. So something to eat and getting to know each others strengths would seem a good idea. As we've got transportation we do not need to muck about with gauss trains and taxis."

"Tea!!?Ha... I don't want to drink hot water. I want ale!.. and lots of it.", snorted Gore at Difference's suggestion. Gore paused for a long time and then added quietly: "As long as this fancy place serves beer.... I'll go." Gore was struggling with all this social interaction, he seemed flustered.

"They have a bar and I am sure somthing there will satisfy your tastes, Gore." Difference assured him.

"Yeah, yeah. I guess that one place is as good as any. As long as it serves beer" Suddenly HogBoy realised his abysmal credbalance situation. "Umm.. Uhh. Could someone lend me a cred or two at the café. I'll pay back. I promise"

"I can cover you." Difference didn't sound happy about, though he hadn't seemed happy about anything since Misery and HogBoy's exchange half an hour ago. He even seemed unhappy about going to the place he suggested.

A clash of classes

Difference lead the way into Le Monde, a new Parisian themed bistro. The interior walls were covered in dark wood paneling, the floor had small black and white tiles set in simple geometric patterns. The few restaurant patrons at this time of day were sprinkled thoughout the small stone topped tables that were arranged throughout the room.

The hostess greeted Difference as he walked in, "Welcome sir, it is good to see you again, please follow me." Difference just waved the hostess on. The squad was lead to a large cozy booth in the back that fitted everyone, even Gore. Before the hostess left, Difference took her aside and had a brief conversation with her, then came and joined the others.

"Nice little place." Dedrick began running his hands up and down the couch and began to grin... everyone noticed that grease was staining the couch, but Dedrick didnt seem to care. "Seems expensive. HEY, WAITRESS", Dedrick yelled, "4 PINTS!" He turned his attention to the group: "anybody else gonna order, I got her attention?"

"Behave, Dedrick, this isn't your APC, this is a public resturant. The fake leather upholstry gives all of us a nice warm feeling but you are the only one caressing like you want to f$ck it. You can do it in the privacy of your own home, but not here in the resturant." The icy sarcasm tone was all the more cutting because Difference didn't even look at Dedrick while he spoke but was instead looking at his menu.

"Well, I have fucked worse..." Dedrick stopped caressing the couch and placed his hands into his pockets, the movement didnt stop as he continued to rub his own legs.

Flaky had difficulty in deciding who was more interesting: Dedrick for her frother role model - she saw that HogBoy was just a pale copy - or Difference with his condenscending, utterly Central, attitude. She took a seat next to Gore and asked the waitress if she had a hi-en snack. Once in a while she took her eyes of Difference and Dedrick and scanned a part of the room: seating, table, lighting, ceiling...

As the waitress returned, she carried the beefsteak for Gore with a 'Malice approved' glass of amber liquid, tea and scones for Difference, a small glass for Misery and an slightly oily looking 'coffee' with some kind of pastries for Flaky. Slghtly behind her walked the most junior waiter with a tray filled with 4 pints.

Once the food and drink came, Difference becomes quiet and seemed to not notice the others as he concentrated on his meal. He ate and drank awkwardly in his mask. He slowly ripped his scones into small bites, though most of the fragile pastry just became a kind of dusty sand. He then collected small pinches of the pastry in the palm of his hand. Once he had a bite full of pastry he clasped his hands together for a second and when they were released the pastry was gone. His tea was drunk in a similiar manner. He placed his hand over the top of his cup ever so often. Slowly, the liquid in the cup disappeared.

The major domo ambled by for some small talk and asked if they were going on a BPN soon - with no stress on the word soon whatsoever. He then stated that they would have some nice brunch arrangements for small, select, parties, looking at Difference and Misery.

Difference didn't even look up, but just nodded and waved away the major-domo and his distracting talk.

Dedrick slammed a pint and then cracked his neck... He then slammed another pint. "This brew aint to bad... I could go for a burger though." Dedrick remembered that he had burgers in his APC, and then slammed another pint. It had only been about 8 minutes since recieving the food and drinks and Dedrick appeared to be feeling the effects of the alcohol: "Aw hell guys my insturctors never told me this is how cushy we would really have it." Dedrick let out a loud belch, only adding to the smell, which had now become more like an aura of nausea.

Gore ate his beefsteak by hand... He sat, elbows on the table, steak in hand, taking a bite of the rare meat every so often. Blood dripped freely from the steak, pooling on the plate below. Gore didn't say anything the whole time, he just ate slowly and stared into the three candle centre piece in the middle of the table.

HogBoy had gotten a little demure, having to eat on Differences cred. He ordered only a big sandwich with a pint of milk. When HogBoy had eaten about half of his sandwich, Dedrick's earlier words began to echo inside his head over and over again: 'I thought we were Illusive Death, seems we should have been Little Hope...' Somewhere deep inside his subconciousness HogBoy realised that he was only a kid, all his life ahead of him, manipulated by the society to shoot and slash his way to fame, fortune and inevitable violent death. He could not gather those thoughts into a coherent wholeness, but the nagging feeling of wrongess remained.

HogBoy lost his appetite and sat for quite a while just poking his sandwich with a fork. He buried his face into the other hand and not long after his hands started to shake. HogBoy quickly excused himself and almost ran to the restroom.

"Christ Gore, how many of those things do you think you could eat? Hell, why not just bring you a live (or what ever is equivelent in SLA universe)cow, watch you kill the stupid thing and eat it raw. OHHH, better yet, send you to some back water planet and have you kill the natives and eat 'em. Shit, thats right, wasnt that the conflict wars?" Dedrick began to laugh and then slammed his last pint. "WAITRESS!", he yelled, having completely forgetten about Differences suggestion to be civilized, "Another slab of meat for my friend and a glass of water for meself!" He turned his attention back to Gore, "Don't mean to be intrudin on ya, but what the *** wont you eat?" Dedrick had the sleeves on his mechanics suit pushed up and was rubbing napkins on his arms at this point.

At some point Dedrick noticed that HogBoy was gone and addressed the group: "What the hell happend to HogBoy?"

Flaky breathed a few time then slowly reached over to Dedrick and tapped him on the arm. Then her grips tightened and tightened again until his hand started tingling from lack of blood. "Shht! That is no way to speak to a squad mate." She then released and pulled back. She breathed out slowly, then rose and, after paying, walked out.

HogBoy emerged from the restroom just before the rest of the squad started to stand up and ready themselves to leave. He now had wide, staring, psychotic eyes. His hands were clenched tightly into fists, his knuckles were very white. He addressed the rest of the squad with a manic grin on his face and menace in his voice: "Were off? Good. Let's find some heads to bust!"


Outside the it stopped raining... it was now gushing down so fast that the drains could hardly handle the load and most pedestrians took cover. Flaky stood outside trying to discover the location of the APC, although the state of its driver did not bode well for the interior. She peered back, but could not discover any shape matching it. Somewhere in the back of her mind she wondered at the state of her appartment when she would get to it - everything important was bolted down, but she had just cleaned it out and doing it again felt so futile.

HogBoy started to laugh: "Looks like we need to get that gauss train after all. What kind of theft countermeasures you had on the APC, Dedrick? Wait, don't tell. A mousetrap set on the steering wheel, right?"

Difference followed the others out of the resturant, his mood was still quiet and introspective. He hadn't even noticed the other's behavior. Before walking out into the pouring rain, he buttoned up his long jacket. As always, the jacket reminded him of his parents, as the resturant had. They were everwhere in Mort. The rest of the world was just a pale ghost, grey and shapeless. More than his parents, he longed for her, his love, Serenity. They had all been taken and he was lost. The cold rain was a shock that he felt through the deathsuit. With the shock, the world in its lurid color came back and he remembered the others that he was with. He needed these men and women, but he hated that need. They all seemed good at what they did and were to be respected for their skills. Still he had trouble trusting them, he had trouble trusting anyone. He would find the bodyguard! He would kill the man and but first he would destroy everything everything the bodyguard loved. He would rip out the man's soul before he killed him!

Flaky turned to the others: "First we must find out what happened, then find out who did it. Once we know that we can discover who is responsible - after all getting the driver is only step 1."

Difference could hear the sound of his heart beating and blood rushing through his ears. The words coming from Flaky's mouth, were like an echo of Difference's thoughts, 'I know what happened, I was there, but yes, we should find out who is responsible. They too must answer.' It started as a whisper but ended in a yell. A scream that was wild and almost mad. The artisan jacket flared a bright red. Just as suddenly the jacket went back to the black crimson and Difference unclenched his fists. They were talking about the APC, not the Attack. He remembered the earlier words like a dream, but he realized they were real.

Flaky turned in the blink of an eye as Difference yelled, her hands seemed to blur. Then she realised it was him and that he had calmed down again. She sighted and looked again like a worn down downtown civilian, but the expression on her face somehow mirrored the impassive mask of Difference: "You're all right? What spooked you?"

"I must apologize to all of you, I, um, I was confused for a second, I am fine now." Differene made a small formal bow to everyone. "Let us find the APC and get on with the BPN" The edges of the migrane he had been fighting over an hour ago were coming back but he knew the medication was still working and so it wouldn't come back to full strength. It was time to concentrate on the task at hand.

Dedrick explained: "I have the new FOOLish (tm) theft deterent system on it but apparently these bastards know what they're doing.
Ah, Hell... They are going to make me shit in a can for weeks over this one. We have to find it!
" He pulled out a syringe and actually shot up a dose of FLUSH, sobriety started to wash over his face as his pupils became less dialated, and he no longer was rubbing his arm eroticly. "It shouldnt be too hard to find.. I just got it painted like my clan colors... talk to the right people, we should find it." Dedrick sounded all business and pulled out some UNIs.

Flaky glanced at the UNIs: "Useful - in downtown - but not up here." She looked around, ignoring the downpour: "There should be lots of security cameras around: it is a matter of finding the right control station and arranging for access to the vids."

Dedrick put his UNIs away, a little embarrased, realizing that he must have slept through the lecture 'Money:A Comprehensive Guide to System Use On Mort' while attending Meny.

HogBoy spotted a Shiver unit down the street: "Let's see if those guys could help us out."

The Shiver sergeant looked with distain at the motley squad approaching him. Other than most downtown Shivers he seemed self-assured and relaxed. With a glance he dismissed Flaky and kept some carefull distance to Gore. "How can I help you, Operatives?" he says. He addressed HogBoy, who, with his exo armour, at least looked like somebody with some standing.

"Official company business, sergeant. We need to find an APC that has been stolen. If you could kindly give the access to local security camera records, we wouldn't have to report this incident to your superiors. After all, the theft has happened on your patrol area, sergeant."

"Sir, I am afraid I can't get you access to those security cameras as we don't have access to them. However, if an APC has been stolen, I am required to file a report. Are you sure an APC has been stolen?" The Sergeant took out an oyster and waited for the young operative's response.

"An APC is missing. It is vital key for our Grey BPN assignment. Do you have many mouths to feed, officer? Perhaps a personal contribution for the welfare of your closest family would entice you to take a call to your department, asking the current location of the vehicle." HogBoy did a perfect mix between pulling rank and offering a bribe.

The Sergeant seemed generally embarrassed which was an impressive act through his body blocker armour. "I am sorry sir, my mistake. Your charitable donations are your bussiness and my family is doing fine, thank you for your concern. I will check the activity log personally. As for the security cams, you can check them by calling into Operative control for this sector on com frequency 176.432.425.234 and submitting form 129435c-A. One second sir, while I check the activity log." The sergeant and the rest of the shivers stepped to one side while the sergeant worked on his oyster.

HogBoy turned his attention back towards his squad. "That seems to have settled this matter. Could someone cover the costs, while I phone Control."

Asking really nicely

During the entire escapades so far, Misery staid relatively quiet, choosing to take the time to study everyone on the team.

After a conversation with the Control and the Shiver officer, HogBoy had the location of the vehicle. It was seen five blocks from there location, entering a custom car repair shop. Undoubtebly the thieves were professionals, but the profile didn't suggest heavy resistance.

HogBoy showed the co-ordinates to the squad and says: "I think that there are only a few options for us. We'll have to go where the APC is."

Dedrick reacted out of earshot of the shivers: "If they've molested APPIE in anyway, I swear to Slayer theres gonna be some bodies that need tagged. Thank you all for all the help In this matter guys. You saved my life as an operative." Dedrick realized that he would probably be spending a long time under the watchful eye of Control or being discharged from SLA: meaning one thing, DETOX.

"It seems strange that an Uptown facility would be in the practice of stealing Operative's vehicles and would be so easily caught. I agree that we should go there, but may I suggest we go in quietly and scope out the place. There might be a perfectly ordinary explanation." Difference was the charming aristocrat again. The anger and frustration of few minutes ago was gone as well as the condescending formality of the resturant.

"No need for subtlety here, I think. I suggest breaking the front door in, pointing guns menacingly and shooting anyone who acts stupid. I'm willing to bet that these types of punks willingly surrender when they realise that they are caught." HogBoy turned to Difference: "Poor bastards probably didn't realise whose ride they were turning. Otherwise the whole thing wouldn't make any sense at all."

"That's right, they didn't know as the reputation of Illusive Death has only been in existance for about two hours. And truthfully, if they did know they wouldn't care. We are SCL 10 operatives, we are a dime a dozen and I guantee that this problem of our has someone bigger than we are behind it. You did such a nice job dealing with those shivers, perhaps you can apply that same good sense to this situation or would you rather go in with guns blazing and have our higher ups come and investigate the situtation. I don't think that would be fun for any of us. Besides it is always smart to recon any situtation rather than going in blind." The charming aristocrat had fled again.

"I thought about goin' in hard and fast and letting the shivers do the after-mopping. But since there is apparently a chance for cloak involvment 'cause the ride isn't truly Dedrick's, but the company's. Hell, I would have liked to show those vehicle-stealing scumbags a little operative justice, hard way!! Well it could go that way too..." HogBoy smiled evilly, "awwright, lets scout the place 'fore goin in"

Though the walk was only five blocks, it was a wet five blocks as the rain continues to beat down on the operatives. Even the Ebons with their rain repellant clothing were oppressed by the downpour. Visibility was only twenty feet or so, so when the repair shop's lights appeared in downpour it was a bit of a surprise for everyone. The shop itself took up part the ground floor of a large non-descript concrete tower. The garage doors stood open and several vehicles could be seen on lifts within. Several were APC's but none were the colors that Dedrick described. Mechanics could be seen moving about the premises. To the left of the main garage was another open garage door that had a ramp descending below the building. On the right side of the main garage was a small storefront that seemed to be the offices of the repair shop.

Difference waved HogBoy and Dedrick forward: "Why don't the two of you go on in and see what you can find out. The rest of us will setup a position to cover you and to take the garage if HogBoy's intution turns out to be correct. Everybody stay on your comm-channels." With that Difference disappeared in the rain as his once crimson suit faded to a dull gray and black to match his Deathsuit and he himslelf started to creep through the empty street.

Gore set his GA to full auto. He kept near to Flaky, growling under his breath to her: "Keep behind me if it gets thick in there, We don't know what were up against."

Dedrick began to walk towards the open garage, he tucked away his SLA Badge and motioned for HogBoy to do the same. Once Dedrick and HogBoy got to the open garage doors he asked: "Is there a shop manager 'round? Me and my friend here are lookin for work.. We have our MVSE's (Military Vehicle Service Excellence) and specialize in the field of electronics." Dedrick was struggling not to hit his Blaze and began beating everyone with a wrench. He also hoped that HogBoy was able to bullshit his way through this.

Hunkered down behind a row of cars across the street from the garage Gore sat and waited for the signal to go. Even in the pouring rain, the sound of his teeth grinding was audible from a few feet away. He planned to advance using the heavy rain as cover and open up from just outside the garage. If there were no guns involved, he would engage the enemy with his two Gashfists. Either way he was so eager for conflict that he is twitching...

Flaky let herself get parked behind Gore. She was a bit amazed that the frothers went in themselves, while they had a well trained I&I operative available... On the other hand, it was Dedricks vehicle. She opened her Oyster, swiped the credcard to get access and started searching for this company - who owned it and any other connected information. While she waited for her RFI (request for information) to return, she contacted Control and gave a short status update. She asked them if they had any information about the APC. As she saw the result coming in she mumbled: "Now that is interesting."

The manager came to meet with Dedrick and HogBoy. He was a balding chap with thick oily moustache and filthy coveralls: "Job seekers, huh? Frickin Frothers need not apply!" The manager saw Dedrick's clan colors and involanterily glanced sideways.

HogBoy followed the direction of manager's glance and saw an APC getting a fresh paint job. He tapped Dedrick on the shoulder and pointed at the APC with his thumb: "Seem familiair to you, Dedrick?"

Flaky spoke quickly in her comset: "Dedrick, this shop also does RePo's! Do you have any missed payment, or missed some paperwork?"

It was at that this point that Dedrick recognized the two crewman painting the APC. Both were Frothers from his clan! In fact, they were both pain in ass rivals of Dedrick's in the clan. Upon turning back to the manager, Dedrick saw a huge smile on his face and his hands up in mock self defense. At the same time, Flaky got back the owner information. It was owned by a burned out contract killer, a frother of the same clan as Dedrick.

The manager spoke: "Look, you must be Dedrick, your buddies over there put me up to this. They brought it in on a repro claim as a joke. They are friends of the owner and you should take it up with him." He then made a hasty exit as he didn't want to be around a pissed off Frother.

The owner stepped in from the office. An ex-CK perhaps, but he still had the aura of nastiness. He grinned evilly at Dedrick: "You've only got 5 days till the next payment - with your record of being late, we thought a friendly warning was in order." He signaled at his crew, who grabbed a hose and removed the new paint layer, restoring the clan colours. "We don't like RePo jobs on our clan. So get your paperwork in order!"

Uptown interval

The outside of the APC was painted Brown on Yellow, Dedrick's clan colors. Inside there were gauges and toggle switches all over the dashboard and the rest of the interior was fairly messy as well. Everyone saw a pile of hamburgers sitting on top of a seat and there were loose parts just laying around. Shop rags littered the enterior, and there was 1 can of air freshner, 6 cans of slosh (empty), and what appeared to be a disco ball (not hooked up).

Flaky started the ride with slamming the door on her fingers, but paid little attention to the fact but a short yelp. She spent the first few minutes of the ride looking (but not touching) all stuff inside, but gradually started to get more interested in the outside and her squad members.

Difference walked into the APC with apprehension. In the confined space, Dedrick's smell was overwhelming to the point where Difference sealed his Deathsuit's nose intake to force himself to breathe through his mouth. He took out his oyster and entered a reminder to buy an air filter and oxygen supply for the Deathsuit. It would be useful in so many ways. In the beginning of the trip he spent his time staring out one of the gun slits, watching block upon block of concrete towers slide by and thinking of his lost family. Slowly he started to nod off until sleep finally took him.

Gore got into the APC muttering something about "*** frothers ***" under his breath. He was agitated, upset that there hadn't been a fight. He didn't speak, just stared straight ahead trying not to grind his teeth. The effort of not grinding his teeth resulted in his jaw muscles twitching and clenching and a small stream of drool dripping from his fang filled mouth down onto his black body armour.

Everyone began to feel a sudden acceleration. those that had ridden in an APC previously knew that this APC is not carrying the stock fuel cell. Dedrick ensured that everything was safe and this just gave some extra umph when needed.

The ride through uptown in an APC showed the change in status the squad now had: only offical cars, like the Augustus, cabs and the occasianal Shiver APC shared the roads - they might be only SCL-10, but that was miles removed from SCL-11, let alone unemployed civilians. Where the Crib was a downer, being just one of the many, here, on the street, it felt good to be an operative - even if the inside of the APC smelled funny.

Dedrick was becoming stressed out again, only 5 days: "I don't get my Finance chip payment for another 30 days. This BPN better work out alright."

HogBoy had strapped himself to the side-door gunner's harness and was standing next to Dedrick during the ride, asking many questions about the controls of the APC. He was acting hyper and was being a little annoying, but that might be the effects of Rush in him.

The APC travels towards suburbia, crossing miles upon miles of officeblocks, huge malls, huge luxurious appartment towers, the odd departemental headquarters, and, almost hidden beneath their domes, small parks.
Each building tries to outshine it's neighbour, using architecture, light, and space to show that is is the most important.
A division of the War department in a building which looks damaged by artillery and a 70 feet high dropship on the lawn;
a mall with a glass front 120 yards wide filled with an active doobrie city;
an office block of 7 dark red tower connected by a web of thousands of red pulsing cables: for a moment, as you pass, you could swear that you read 'Design Associatives' in the web.
The might of SLA Industries can not be overlooked.
Yet slowly the buildings get more mundane until you reach the gates to Suburbia.

Misery continued being quiet and kept on studying everyone.

Flaky wanted to try to avoid another eye contest with Misery, but she could not help herself to try to find out what Misery was looking for and what she was discovering about the others and herself.

Shortly before reaching Sububia, Difference suddenly awoke with a small start. An hour and half of sleep used to be normal for Difference. In fact, he often couldn't sleep at all, the night before being a good example. He had awoken like he usually did, to the sound of gunfire in his ears and pain in his head. He never remembered the dreams, they always faded within seconds of awakening, but they left him filled with pain, fear, anger and longing. The longing most of all - for the longing was always at the center of the others, feeding them to new levels but also eating away at who Difference was. Difference looked around, surprised at being in the APC. Then he remembered and he looked around at the others, studying them carefully.

Suburbia blues

As the APC entered suburbia, the rain subsided into a drizzle. The buildings here were a lot less opulent and often also lower. More civilian cars, and less cabs shared the street with the APC, but the ride was still easy. On the sidewalks were throngs of people going to, or coming from, work, with the occasional Shiver patrol. Hardly any Darkfinders were visible - a rather big difference with uptown.

Flaky asked Difference if she could have the map of sector 54 for a bit.

Difference handed over the map to Flaky "Keep it, as I said earlier, I am not good with maps." He sat in silence while Misery and Flaky studied the map.

She put it in her NavMapper (tm) and started scanning through the map, pinpointing all the major buildings and trying to learn the generic make up of the sector. She shifted over so that Misery also had a clear picture.

"Thank you Flaky," Misery replied softly as she looked at the information provided, obviously interested in what was being given.

"Perhaps we should decide who's calling the shots. I mean, I don't see any of us being, well, a natural leader. So what about each of us deciding when it is their expertise."

Flaky tried to handle all eyes looking at her. She was uncomfortable with that, but she also clearly disliked the current uncertainty. "Misery should be spokesperson, ehh, you saw the people bumping eachother in the Crib because they looked at her. Gore should be combat leader, it's ah, well, who else? Perhaps Difference could be our covert lead, and I'm, ehh, the information person?" She kind of looked crestfallen because she couldn't mention a role for HogBoy.

Then when Flaky started to speak again. Difference nodded along. "Sounds fine with me, my specialty is covert inflitration and assasination. I am willing to take the lead in those situtations if everyone feels comfortable with that. I am fine with following you, Gore or any of the others in their areas of expertise."

HogBoy turned around when he heard the talk about deciding the roles of expertice. "Couldn't think one for me? Can't blame ya. I'm so damn good in plenty of things that it is hard to pick one out. I'll be in charge of taking the most dope, since Dedrick here needs to keep his head sobre for driving." He chuckled and gave Dedrick an over-friendly slap on the back of his head, "No but seriously, I could cover for, accompany or replace any one of you. That's my role."

Suddenly Dedrick slammed the brakes. For a fraction of a second the APC swerved dangerously on the wet street, until the automated slick responses of the APC kicked in.

HogBoy looked a bit scared. "Hey Ded', sorry about that man! I didn't mean to offend!"

When the squads attention returned to the front of the vehicle they noticed a makeshift roadblock composed of civilian cars, beds, chairs, and other assorted junk. A sound of vehicles was coming from behind the APC. The squad members in the back saw through the gunslits two civilian vehicles forming a blockade on the street there as well.

Flaky dug herself out from beneath one of the chairs. She was folded in a way not really healthy for anybody with a spine, but seemed no worse for the wear. "Well, someone had a problem, didn't like it and wants the problem to become our problem - without a BPN" She sighted, "We're in suburbia, so many people here are SLA employees. Any damage here might easily be charged to us.", she looked at Gore and HogBoy, "Let's asked friendly what they want." Her smile during the last sentence was far from friendly.

The squad didn't need to wait for long to find out the civilians motives. A solitary figure climbed on top of the barricade in front of the APC. In one hand he was holding a megafone and the other hand he had a CAF pistol. "Corporate opressors, throw your weapons and valuables out of the vehicle and no harm will be done to you! Fail to comply and the Brethren of the Oppressed will launch it's rightous anger at you!" This figure was most likely to be seen as messianic to his followers, fifteen odd of whom could be seen positioned on and around the barricades, armed with a variety of armaments, ranging from a crowbar to a CAF rifle. Judging by their boldness, they surely must be hiding more serious firepower, that could be seen at the moment. All the members of the blockaders were wearing some purple in their outfits, distinguishing themselves as a group - it looked influenced by downtown.

Flaky mumbled in her ComSet "Control, we've got a situation here. A gang like group tries rob us. How would you like us to respond: gently, surgical, or messy? For intel I could try some 'negotiation' first. Camera is available for direct footage." She made sure to look around, so that control could have an idea of the situation.

After a short exchange of facts, control informed: "This is a shiver operation. We have dispatched two units of shivers to surround the perpretators. They are in position in two minutes. If you are able, play time. Until then you are on your own... We always appreciate live feed", spoken somewhat sarcastically, "but don't expect it to be seen on the evening news."

As soon as she heard this, Flaky warned: "Control says to stall for time."

Station Analysis came back a minute later. This wasn't the same controller you talked to before. "Operatives. You have been issued a red BPN should issues escalate. Feed will be required, including audio at all times from here until cesation of all hostilities. If you can, capture any obvious leaders alive for questioning. Station Analysis out." The BPN was transmitted to Flaky's oyster. The red had a .2 SCL increase and paid 300c to the squad. There was a 50c bonus if any gang leader was captured alive. Extermination warrants were available as needed.

Once again, Difference's artisan suit faded at the threat of violence to grays and blacks to match his Deathsuit. Difference sprung into action, moving towards the back of the APC to check on the civilians in the back. "Everyone on comms, please and can we get a count of the enemies in the front, I am working on the back as we speak." Strangely, all anger, bitterness, and arrogance was gone from Difference's voice. He was calm and collected as he counted as many potential enemies as he could see. "If we are stalling, then I guess we are following your lead Flaky, as it falls under the heading of information mangement rather than PR or combat. I for one, would like to get out of this tin can and get into some cover."

The spokesperson of the gang spoke: "I better see some hatches opening in ten seconds!" He motioned and Difference saw a gun platform of an un-recognizable design, equipped with protective plates, being hauled upto the terrace-balcony of a six-storey building, situated in the rear left of the APC.

"We got a gun platform back here, I think it is time to get the hell out this contraption and do something about the situtation." Difference's Kick Murder training kicked in.

Dedrick stared at his rear-view-cam monitors for a little while and stated: "I can get past them if need be, but it would be a very bumpy ride, believe me!"

"Tincan? Isn't an APC rated upto a 12.7 HEAP rifle bullets?" Flaky was upset that she misremembered. She showed them the Red BPN. "Ehh can you ebons do that fold-thingy?" - Difference and misery both nod - "I want to go out and try talk to the speaker. A few seconds after I got there, start moving the APC around. First to the rear for the Ebons: there should be a lieutenant there, then forward to me for HogBoy and Gore. Grenades against those heavy weapons." She then cradled her right arm as if it is hurt, opened the sliding door so that she just can wring herself out, closed it again, and started walking towards the speaker - clearly carrying a running cam and wincing when she moved her arm, which, unseen by anyone, changed into a biogenic blade. "What seems to be the problem here?"

Misery knew she could fold upto 20 meters and she focussed on the closest target that was also the most serious threat: the gun emplacement. She had her deathsuit maxed and she formulated claws on both hands.

"They have no way of knowing how many of us are in here." Difference surmised, "HogBoy, Gore and myself can exit the APC as ordered, while Misery and Dedrick remain hidden inside. I will move towards the back of the APC, Gore and Hogboy towards the front. When Flaky gives the signal, we all attack. Misery can Fold to the back line which looks to be only 15m away. Gore you will need to try and take out that weapons platform, while Dedrick draws it fire by trying to break through the front line." He made sure his comset was on squad frequency: "Flaky, your task will be to take the leader alive. HogBoy, you should cover Flaky and take out anyone you can in the front line. I will high tale it to the back line to support Misery. Any comments or questions?"

"Just tell me when to go! I hate these propoganda guys"

Dedrick hit a button on the dashboard and a compartment under the passengers seat opened up. Inside were 4 cans of Slosh and 2 cans of Cider. Dedrick reached down and opened a can of Cider, took a drink, and set it into his cupholder, waiting for the command to gun APPIE.

Maybe Mayhem

Flaky approached the spokesman of the gang, camera running, limping and looking wounded. The apparent leader of the gang saw the camera and proceeded to spout his propaganda on it. Everyone wanted to be on the camera, Right? When Flaky reached the necessary range, she suddenly lept forth and slashed the speaker with her naturally formed blade. Extending to her maximum range, she nearly missed her target, but the blow landed effectively on the targets leg. Flaky didn't feel any armor beneath the clothing and her weapon arm sliced muscle and tendon effectively enough for her target to fall down, clutching his leg desperately.

When this happened, everyone sprang into action. HogBoy charged to Flaky's position, Difference sprinted to the back ranks and Gore ran for cover on the side of the APC's exit point and assumes a firing position on one knee. Flaky started to take some footage of the front barrickades and the people on it, while suddenly both of the Ebons vanished. Misery reappeared on the side of the building that was the position of the gun turret and Difference suddenly was behind the first enemy in the back barricade. The CAF bullets started raining. HogBoy, Gore and Flaky were the targets. HogBoy took two, but didn't even slow down, claymore on his hand. Gore took a hit while another shot rang off his cover - he was almost unaffected. Flaky was also hit twice and seemed to be getting in trouble - she quickly dove for cover. The gun platform opened up on the APC. Judging by the sound and appearance of the thing, it was a 12,7mm cal or equivalent, capable of very fast rate of firing. It also seemed like it required two people to operate it.

Gore took careful aim. Dedrick decided to see what would happen if he put the reverse on and drove towards the back barricade as fast as he could. Most of the gangers there started to run as fast as they could from the estimated impact point. Just before the impact Dedrick hit the brakes, so that he wouldn't hit Difference with his APC. Flaky got her feet under her again.

Flaky began to film the action in the back from her cover. She managed to take footage of Difference taking down an opponent who tried to take a punch at her with a skillful hip-throw. HogBoy and Gore still were the main targets for the CAF fire. HogBoy, being out in the open and charging towards the barricade took the blunt of the enemy offence, taking many shots to his chest. He grinned manically and let out a blood-curling battle cry. Gore got hit by a further two shots, but fired away at the turret. The shots rang off from the armor plates in the front of the turret, but its operators decided to keep their heads down, hindering their aiming. Meanwhile Misery looked up at the building.

HogBoy reached the nearest enemy on the front barricade and clove him into half with his power claymore. At the back, Difference drove his GASHfist's blades deep inside his victim's chest. Dedrick sped back forward and began to make "donuts" with the APC, slowly starting to create a smoke screen. Gore decided that HogBoy and Flaky could use some help and started to run crouched at their position as fast as he could, hoping that the gangers wouldn't, well, gang up on his comrades. "Kill the turrets Misery!! I'll clean up down here.", he shouted in his comset. Misery 'folded' to the edge of the terrace where the gun emplacement was. She saw only two gangers operating it, so she somersaulted in between them. Flaky didn't like the damage but wasn't worried, although part of her mind was busy redirecting bloodflow around the damaged locations. She tried to focus on anybody taking command on this side of the battle and targetting him - or her - next.

Dedrick took a drink of Cider and put it back into the cupholder as smoke began to lume over the front of the APC. He heard Gore's shout over the com for Misery to kill the turrets. Unfortunatly, after all the donuts that had been done Dedrick has no idea where the turrets are anymore - otherwise he might just have decide to run them down... mmmmm donuts.

Flaky stood up, all but ignoring two bullets that hit her, and pointed her camera at the terrace-balcony where Misery was fighting hand to hand with two gangers. She somersaulted between the gangers and they back up a little and drew knives. She side-kicked the one on her right, but the ganger managed to graze her leg with his knife. Misery spun around a little closer and slit her opponent's throat open with her gash fist. The other ganger drove his knife into Misery's back, but her deathsuit protected her from most of the damage. At the front, Gore sprinted towards the barricade, while HogBoy shot up Kickstart. In the back, gangers were once more starting to close in on Difference, pistols drawn. Difference rolled over the nearest car and ran crouched towards the nearest gang member.

Flaky and Gore are hit twice and HogBoy once. Flaky approached the megafone guy to see if he was still alive. The spokesman was moaning silently while gripping his wounded leg, breathing fast. When he saw Flaky appoaching he lifted his pistol and shot Flaky in the face!!! Seeing that the shot did very little damage to the "little girl", he started whimpering like a small child. "Please Slayer, deliver me from the hands of this demon!" and dropped the pistol from his hand. At the roof, Misery jumped up, delivering a spinning kick to the side of the head of the next guy. He dropped down and Misery drove her gash fists deep in her assailant's throat. HogBoy ran toward his next chosen target, who cautiously tries to back off, firing snapshots and hitting him.

Flaky was satisfied, having caught the gang leader's breakdown on camera. She panned to the combat-proper. HogBoy and Gore were cutting a bloody path throught the unfortunates that got caught in their way. The ganger's morale was broken: their heavy weapon was out, their leader had fell and was crying like a baby and two bloodthirsty psychos were slamming into their ranks.

Flaky added fuel to the flames and removed the bullets from her body, which was quite an unnerving sight - especially the head wound. The remaining gang members forgot about any chance of disciplined retreat. They threw down their guns and started running in different directions. At the back Difference grabbed her chosen victim's head with one arm, spun behind his back and punched him into the small of his back with her gash fist. The four left saw what had happened at the front barricade and decided to follow the example, but with a little more discipline. They retreated into a nearby building each firing only when Difference put her head up from behind the car.

A little time went by as Misery healed herself and then took the stairs down. Gore just stood there - waiting for the bleeding to stop and the wounds to heal. Flaky made sure that the spokesperson would stay alive for transfer to the Shivers, and that the gunnery platform was also ready to be signed over: they might get a -small- bonus. After asking, Control reacted: "Please deliver the vidslug to the lead Shiver. The cost of the slug has been credited to your account. As well as payment for the Red and the bonus. Continue on with your current assignment. Control out."

As it was clear that HogBoy was in trouble, 3 Kickstarts notwithstanding, Difference walked over to him: "I am not very good at this, so hold still and keep your mouth shut." Difference laid his hands on HogBoys head and concentrated, carefully making the calculations. It was during this initial calculation that Difference realized the next sequence of Healing Formulae and how to apply it. With his new insight into Healing, Difference performed a tentative test of his new ability. While Difference was touching him, HogBoy realized that Difference was crying. A few small tears formed along the edges of the blank eyes of his mask and made there way down the smooth surface. "I couldn't save them! I didn't know how. I miss her so much. So much!" After releasing HogBoy Difference just sat there on his knees crying for a few minutes - immobile and oblivous to the world.

Flaky searched and picked up two Caf submachine guns and several clips of ammo. She looked at the others if they were interested and answered Misery's raised eyebrow with "I might want to establish a downtown persona - twin smgs are a nice start for people to remember."

Two shiver patrols came to the scene in their own APC's. The sergeant addressed whomever operative who is closest to him: "Nice job ops. We'll clean up the mess here, you just get on with whatever that was that you were doing." He then sent one squad in pursuit of the gangers that were on the front barricade and the other shiver squad was tasked with digging out the four gangers from their "fox-holes" inside the building.

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