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"The time is 0800." intoned a soft, automated voice. Emilio had already been up for several hours; having risen with the conscripts to join them on their morning 5km circuit. This new world made great demands of those that survived and it was his obligation to prepare the recruits for what lay ahead. Most of them were too young to remember much of the old world; a small mercy.

Crossing his quarters, he stood before the small window that overlooked the training courtyard. Emilio sipped lukewarm coffee from a dented mug, its dull exterior a perfect match for the liquid within. He longed for coffee that wasn't instant; hopefully some would turn up during the next supply run.

Emilio observed impartially as the training class separated into pairs to simulate fighting off an infected assailant. Drill Sergeant Klein stepped between sets of struggling students, stopping sporadically to make corrections.

He turned away from the window and returned to the task at hand. A map of Monterey County lay on his desk with notes pinned to each area that Parris Security had already explored; detailing areas of interest and observed threats. The target of their next raid would be his decision; never one he took lightly.

Emilio gathered up the map as well as a folder containing the latest inventories and placed them inside a satchel. Removing the olive drab BDU from the back of his chair, Emilio slipped on the short sleeve shirt and gave himself a brief glance in the mirror. Satisfied, he took the satchel in hand and left his quarters to meet with Parris
i settled on a spot along the coast outside of monterey, california. puts parris pretty much in the middle of the state. should have my introductory post tonight.
@Burning Kitty and which part of california is the skyscraper in?
@Burning Kitty would you mind giving me some info on the PMC's base? i can have a post up some time tonight


this is what i've come up with. just waiting to see if he's acceptable to the PMC.


@BurningKitty a cartel backed hitman. i'm considering a modern sicario, making them a former commando in the mexican armed forces.
how appropriate would a former sicario fit into the narrative? i am thinking of aligning with the PMC and want to make a fitting character assuming its a paramilitary organization.
Xo'pil's presence continued to go unnoticed as all attention was focused on the shalam golem's crude imitation of speech. Taking advantage of such, he receded into the shadows as the light that shone from his shoulder was extinguished. In its stead, a shimmering projection began to form around the three hovering orbs that were Epit'li until a diaphanous shade of Xo'pil manifested. No mere hologram, this hard-light reproduction of her tzin would be able to interact with its surroundings; after his misadventure in Q'ab's ruins Xo'pil thought best to err on the side of caution.

Not wanting to alarm either party, the ersatz Xo'pil remotely accessed the hold's control panels and diverted power from an adjacent floor. The lights in the hold came to life with a shudder as Epit'li strode forward confidently and spoke in her master's voice. "Well, at least two of us are dressed appropriately for this party." The imitation Xo gave a gentle tug to the tail of a dashingly dressed creature, before stopping and fawning over the texture of the fur. "This is fine quality. Yes.. whoever crafted this had a keen eye for detail."

A small laugh was elicited as the creature brusquely flicked its tail loose. "Of course, where are my manners. Xo'pil is the name, heresy is the game. At least that's what they're saying. And you are, my fine fellow?" A soft pat as a hand fell on the kukull's rough exterior. Epit'li was beginning to enjoy imitating her creator, who remained hidden and uncharacteristically silent as their ruse continued.

***

"Sir.."

"Kinda busy, Lars." Ophidian belched through a thick plume of exhaust; the thick trunks of his arms were interlocked as he clung to a maintenance drone that was quickly ascending one of Gereza's iso-towers. The cells located in these spires housed the empire's greatest threats; suspended in total oblivion. Well, all except one. He'd been hired to see if Gereza was as impenetrable as popularly thought; but the more he and Lars investigated the more it seemed to be an inside job. The ancillary reports from some schmegghead auditor and a servitor drone so old it took Lars nanoseconds to find and install a compatibility drive to make sense of its findings. All of the information trickled steadily down the HUD of his eyepatch as Lars once more interrupted his exposition.

"I thought it best to inform you that three more high value prisoners have arrived and are currently en route to your location. Perhaps finding a good spot to hide would be best to maintain the integrity of our task here."

"I guess," Ophidian grumbled, "but I better not be billed for anything I've broken so far. It's in my contract!"

The deep voice of the AI sighed softly before a hint of alarm underscored its next communique. "There's also a lot of chatter across Cizran military command. It seems that something has.. consumed part of the grid. Or did. I'm parsing through petabytes of data, but it seems like there's been a full chronal adjustment.."

"But that means... So they're using the sankuls again, huh Lars? I think it might be time to find a new base of operations. Far, far out of the empire's grasp.

***

The immensity of the Vepsis Dol and a testament to its craftsmanship absorbed the sound of rushing movement as a series of subsequent bay doors began to open. Remote access had been easy enough; Chrrx noted. That means most of the ship's systems must be intact. A quick diagnostic and some minor adjustments should be all that's needed to resume operational status and complete the superluminal jump to Su-Lahn. No more than half a cycle and they'd be back aboard the Admiral's flagship.

This thought was pushed to the back of Chrrx's mind as a small chime informed him of secondary access several floors below in one of the ship's cargo holds. With no exchange of words, Nenegin's honor guard broke off into two smaller parties. One continued to the Vepsis Dol's deck while the other sought to investigate the cargo hold.
6-8-2039
Ndlovumzi Nature Reserve, Xanathan Territories


"Just keep calm and quiet and nobody will know we're here," the voice spoke from beneath the vehicle thad had been hastily covered in whatever brush was available. Its source was an older gentleman, much smaller in stature than his companion; a garishly attired mzungu. The scent alone of her perfume had ridden the night's breeze for miles and had been one of many variables of that night she could not have possibly accounted for. All her planning; ruined in moments. But how could she rush the separation of a family; if even for just days?

The Lioness slipped out from her perch amongst the boughs and landed inaudibly behind the vehicle. She paused and cocked her head towards the distant chop of helicopter rotors. She had minutes to act before the opposition's forces swelled and began its onslaught against anyone within 100km of her fuck up. But she could fix it; even as she saw the old Lion, stone-faced but eyes gleaming with laughter. Father always said plans were just a list of things that never came together. He was right; most of the time.

Clenching the edge of the jeep's rear chassis, she lifted the vehicle with ease and smiled down at the supine pair. "Not quiet enough, but do keep calm," she chuckled self-consciously at her use of English before continuing, "Now come on out from there. We don't have much time." Lowering the jeep, the Lioness quickly took in what little details she had missed while observing them previously. The man was old but seemed in good health; more than the mzungu's clothes had an antiseptic air to them. She swore the older woman reeked of perfume and plastics.

The Lioness turned to the old man and she quickly riffed through a few languages until they settled on Xhosa.

"Now, the following is going to be very confusing but if we are to survive you're going to have to trust me. An easy request of me to make; far easier than the reality of what is going to happen. In minutes more of Xanathan's wasps will be in the air and boots will be quick to follow. They won't care how rich this one is," she gestured to the older woman who had just noticed the smear of mud down the center of her pristine suit, "and they definitely won't care about us. Odds are they pinged this jeep when they passed. I'm sorry, but there might not be anything for you to return to." The Lioness laid a heavy hand on the diminutive man's shoulder. "But I have a way out. You're just going to have to do something for me."

Ndakala was not one to refuse help when offered, although this one came with an extraordinarily ominous tone. In Xhosa, he replied, "We are grateful for any help you have to offer. Our destination is the village of Phalaborwa. Can you help us get there?" The Lioness shook her head gravely in response. "Very well. The old woman will be a problem at some point, but for now I think she'll cooperate. Once the danger has passed and the shock wanes, she'll try to assert her privilege."

She chuckled at the old man's honesty and gave him a second, more genial pat on the shoulder. "That is their way."

Moving away from the group, she strode over to some brush nestled beneath a fever tree and knelt. After a few hushed words she returned leading a small child by the hand, covered in grime. The girl shivered with cold and exhaustion as she was set in the rear of the jeep. The Lioness removed the remains of her dress; tattered and singed from earlier in the night; and did her best to warm the child. Removing the crystal that hung from her neck, she whispered to it in a language unfamiliar to the others then proceeded to plunge it into the soil with a burying blow. Almost immediately the earth began to churn and a crude tunnel took form in front of the vehicle.

"Don't stop driving, just follow the tunnel until someone meets you. No harm will come to you this or any other night. But you must be quick." The jeep's engine silently turned over and began to crawl forward as its headlights struggled to illuminate the tunnel's depths. The Lioness stood silhouetted against the night sky as she called out to the group; the echo of her voice quickly fading. "Thank you for this. I, Najwa Moghadani, am in your debt."

Najwa turned and sprinted down a second opening that had appeared as the first began to crumble, leaving nothing but loose soil seconds after their disappearing underground.

===

5-8-2039
300km W of Xanathan Outpost Lamda-5 (Somewhere in former Angola)


<< Lamda-5, Lamda-5, do you copy?! This is Jagter-Actual! We are under attack! Jagter-0 is down! The fucking tank is down! Is anyone fucking listening? >>

Lt. Smit slammed the receiver into its cradle as static was the only response to his increasing panic. The lieutenant struggled to make sense of the carnage that surrounded him. He knelt behind the hard cover of the command vehicle as a gunner fired the coaxial MG into the treeline, doing his best imitation of a chainsaw. This wasn't the fighting he'd grown used to. Even the most organized of the rebels he'd encountered in his ten years of service had never brought a full convoy to an explosive halt.

Smit had watched with mouth agape as the main gun of Jagter-O erupted as an unspent HE shell traveled down its length; the rippling vapor of the heat from the blast had destroyed most of the tank after it withstood whatever initial blasts had crippled nearly every vehicle and sent an armored personnel carrier skyward. He peered at the monitor embedded into the forearm of his prosthetic but whatever was disrupting his communications was also interfering with much of their equipment.

Fitting a 40mm grenade into the tube mounted beneath the barrel of his weapon; Smit fired the projectile in a deadly parabolic arc into the treeline where the gunner was focused. Turning to give his man a reassuring thumbs up, the lieutenant felt the warmth drain from his being as the gunner's body twisted crudely; a broken marionette in the hands of a sadistic puppeteer. Blood flowed from the man's mouth as his brain struggled to process its new reality...

===

6-8-2039
Ndlovumzi Nature Reserve, Xanathan Territories


There was little sound in the tunnel beyond the rapid patter of sprinting feet and the Lioness' breaths; deep and even inhalations of a highly-tuned machine which moved towards the small village that bordered the larger town of Phalaborwa. If she'd acted with enough time, she might be able to evacuate the village before the onslaught started. If she hadn't, well- she would deal with what would come when it did.

===

6-8-2039
300km W of Xanathan Outpost Lamda-5 (Somewhere in former Angola)


A heavy cloud of dust hung over the remains of the convoy, obscuring the devastation that had taken little more than a quarter of an hour to create. With a simple gesture, Mshale cleared the battlefield as he hovered high above, embraced by the moonlight's glow. He took in the carnage with a degree of pleasure he seldom felt during his recent years of peacekeeping. These wazungu were demons and would soon learn there time on this soil was coming to an end. He had begun his descent when he saw movement once more amongst the wreckage and readied to exterminate one more Xanathan wardog when curiosity stayed his hand.

The scrambling and emaciated form had finished its perverted rites on one of the recent corpses and scuttled over to the mobile laboratory in desparate search of something. Mshale landed where the creature had entered and extended his will inwards as a cocoon of telepathic pressure enveloped the hobbled form and withdrew it from the laboratory like a snail plucked from its shell.

Mshale spat as he took in the full extent of the creature's corruption and kept it steady in his grasp. "What have you become, mazungu?"
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