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Chapter 2: Foundations


The trip from Westbrook had been relatively silent. Livewire hadn’t said anything beyond his vague joke, choosing instead to chat with the other drivers of Night City as they drove along.

“Hey you, you fuckin’ dickhead, where did you learn to drive, ay?”

It was sunset. Though the high rises of the City Centre blocked a complete view, fingers of rays poked through, allowing for pockets of warmth and light to flutter through the vehicles windows. Anyone looking out of them would see the sky had turned a beautiful lobster coloured pinkish-red. They could watch as the tall buildings of the city faded into the residential nightmare of Santo Domingo. The further along they travelled, the more dilapidated the houses became, until finally;

“Welcome home!”

The sliding door of the van rolled aside to reveal a run down construction site. Looming over the group as they stepped out were the skeletal beginnings of a Megabuilding.

“Isn’t she beautiful? I know it’s not quite the castle to bring a princess back to, but everybody knows you need to slay a few dragons first, ay?” Slapping the chest of JV, Livewire laughed. “Big man knows what I’m talking about, right my friend?” Slowly the Haitain’s head moved towards the man, his stone-faced look unflinching. “On second thoughts, maybe not. C’mon, follow me.”

Gravel crunched under the collective boot of the group as they marched inside. The rickety scaffolding groaned and whined as they climbed the staircase up towards the first built floor of the building. As they got higher, some of the group would be able to appreciate a beautiful view of the whole city on one side, while others would notice the stark contrast of the mountain of garbage on the other. The smell of which had also become a lot more potent in their climb upwards. “Don’t mind stench my friends, you’ll get used to it.”

Rodrigo frowned slightly as if contemplating their situation, perhaps debating whether he shouldn’t have taken the blonde’s lead after all and left while he still had the chance. “And what’s the deal here?”

“Don’t worry, it’s abandoned. This was Lucius’s pet project before he kicked the bucket, Jefferson’s anti-homeless policy is shaping up to be a lot more aggressive. There have been a few previous occupants, from Wraiths to the bottom rungs of society but it’s all empty now. Empty and forgotten”

“No, I meant you specifically, how are you involved with this whole… mess,” he continued, waving his hand around at nothing in particular.

“Oh that. Easy my friend, I procure “special”, sometimes off market items.” Livewire giggled as a warm and funny feeling washed over him. He really did enjoy his job. “My shop is in Watson in Megabuilding 11. If you’re from around there you’ve probably heard of me.” The man stopped, placing his hand on his hip bending forwards with heavy breathing. “Fuckin’ stairs, ay?”

Getting his breath back, Livewire continued upwards, “so, I get this call from some shady garbled voice; which isn’t totally abnormal in my line of business, right my friend? Everybody wants to be some mysterious gangsta’ or a big shot fixer like Mr. Hands, fuckin’ gonks. Anyway, they call asking me to drive my van to a spot to pick a bunch of people up and drop them here. I was ready to tell them to get fucked when they also say they will buy some of my lower quality items too and if all went well, they’d keep me around.” The man laughed dismissively.

“By this point, I’m intrigued, ay? Who the fuck talks like this? Normally I would laugh and hang up the call, maybe make a threat but then I see the full amount get deposited right there and then. So,” he shrugged, “here I am.”

Finally, with the last few stairs behind them, the group had reached the first floor. The place was sparsely lit. Flood lights dotted the very wide corridor that ran from one side of the building to the other. A generator to their left coughed and sputtered as tattered wiring spilled out of it in all different directions. On the group's right was what was left of a small tent city. Empty homeless shelters of the previous occupants complete with rubbish and all sat on the edge of a railing that looked into the open centre of the building. There rested a crane that looked as if it would make more money from being scrapped rather than trying to get it operating once more.


Whipping around, the group watched as an old woman, covered in tattoos and slightly bent over emerged from a tin shack. “Mumma, what are you doing, ay? I asked you to finish setting up the table.” Gesturing to an empty fold out table in front of where the group had come up the stairs, Livewire groaned. “C’mon Mumma, I’m trying to do business here!”

The old woman hobbled her way over to the group, smiling warmly at all of them. “I’m sorry dear, when you said you had friends staying here I had to do something. I found some cooking utensils and a kind of kitchen in that shanty over there. A pot of stew is almost ready.”

Livewire rolled his eyes, “clients Mumma, I said they’re cli-”

Smacking his shoulder lightly, the woman tsk’ed her son. “Where is my kiss young man?”

Groaning, Livewire bent over and kissed his mother on the forehead. “Fine, finish your stew and I’ll go set up the table. Love you, Mumma.”

As the man left, the old woman turned to the group. “Ah, he’s a good boy. Does a good job for our family and isn’t one to be… messed around.” Her final words were as sharp as her tone was tough. Breaking into another warm smile, she clasped her hands together. “Now, who’s hungry?”
Part 4


“God. I never thought I’d miss the smell of this city.” Kade proclaimed as he took his first steps out of the sewer and into the street. Between the stench of blood, whatever medical crap Militech was using, and the rotten wastes they just ran through, the polluted smog of Night City was almost pleasing.

Of course, freedom wasn’t fully in his grasp just yet. The voice was still giving orders under the guise of curing whatever virus was in their system. A virus Kade wasn’t even sure existed. He had played along knowing the voice was indeed trying to break them out, but now it was time to see if he was indeed bound to continue listening or if he could take off on his own. Anyone looking at Kade would see his eyes light up similar to his hacking, only this time he was running a full diagnostics on his system. If there really was a virus, it would show up. Or at the very least something would be off.

It only took a few seconds, but the results came back clean as a whistle. Seems the voice was trying to pull the wool over his eyes. Trick them into further servitude even after they no longer needed him. Well Kade certainly wasn’t about to fall for… Hang on… Kade looked over the report again. The numbers were good. Too good. After everything he just went through there should be some sign of stress. Hell they just ran for a few miles nonstop, yet even his heart rate was coming back optimal. Something was definitely wrong.

His eyes flickered again as he ran the check a second time. The results came back the same. Exactly the same. Not a single digit had changed. This was a false report or at the very least false numbers being returned. Something really was messing with his system.

“Well, looks like our friend is actually being truthful with us.” Kade said with a laugh and shook his head. “There is certainly something fishy going on with my system at least. All of you can do what you will, but I’ll be getting in that van.”

Not a chance.

Dejah was lurking at the back of the group, having stayed out of the conflict back in the last large room they had been in. She had made her escape with this bunch, having gotten out of the cells they were in and played her part in getting them all past the defenses between them and freedom. And frankly she had been done with them from the very beginning. Dejah was no fool, she knew that there was strength in numbers and collaboration - but the way she saw it she was free now and she had no interest in hanging with this bunch any longer.

And as for the mysterious voice guiding them, frankly she was calling bullshit - to herself anyway. This cryptic, unseen, “helper” was the sole holder of the cure for whatever allegedly they had all been implanted with and no one else was in the know? No. Dejah did not believe that. She was not putting blind faith in “maybes” and “trust me’s”, not when she had reliable sources and points of connection high and low. Did the concept of cyberpsychosis scare her? Absolutely. But so did the idea of trusting someone she had no reason to trust, at least how she saw it.

Dejah’s lips parted slightly, she hesitated, then sighed through her nose. Who even cared? She would find her own way, her own cure if needed. She had money and she held a few favors. Kade spoke up, intent on hopping into the ride waiting for them and drawing the attention of the others. Without a word the assassin slipped off to the side, making no noise as she was trained, melting into the shadows and by the time any of the others might have noticed she would be nothing but a thought.

See you sorry lot in Hell.

Rodrigo blinked a few times as he stepped out from the sewers into the city, though really, there wasn't too much difference between the two, at least when it came to the odors. His eyes had become accustomed to the darkness below and he needed a few moments to acclimate to sunlight again before everyone came into view.

Feeling the warmth of the sun on his skin and hearing life go about normally around them was a bit unnerving. Such a strong juxtaposition to the horrors they'd just experienced underground. Rodrigo could still hear the distorted and painful screams, the sounds of crushing... He shook his head firmly to rid his mind of the thought, but the after images remained nonetheless.

Directions from the voice and the Suit's confirmation of his decision offered a momentary distraction, and Rodrigo willingly took it.

"Estas bien," he agreed. "But I don't see why we can't just head straight to my clinic." Aside from having access to all of his equipment, Rodrigo wanted to check in on his mother. And the cats.

The blinding sun disoriented Ember as she got above ground. She took a deep breath inhaling the unique fragrance of the city. While the odor was dreadful, Ember couldn’t help but enjoy the memories that it instilled in her. Ah the Night City stench. She thought, her lips curling into a small smile. It was a scent that, despite its unpleasantness, felt like a bizarre comfort, a reminder that she was home. She heard the mysterious voice on the radio telling the group to get into the van to be cured. The group seemed hesitant of the voice but Ember could only think about all the potential fun she’ll have with her new chooms. Her unbridled enthusiasm was quite unlike the others. She’d just been so restricted all her life she needed to be happy now. Always. How could she not be?

Hold on, cured, what does that mean? Billy’s almost concerned voice rang through Ember’s ears. A question she should care more about but didn’t pay much attention to. “Shush, Billy. The nice people are talking.” Ember audibly hushed the voice in her head with no care who heard.

“Wait, wait,” she announced, pausing dramatically. All the talk of examinations and being cured, they were overlooking one thing. “Does this mean we get to go on a road trip together!?” The absurdity of the idea amused her, as she quickly jumped into the van making herself comfortable. Ember glanced up at the remaining faces, eager to learn more about them.

Daylight always felt so abrupt, and it was especially so now. Bea was, for the most part, a creature of the night. She was surprised, actually, to see that it was day. That there was a real world after all. How long was I out? she asked herself. She was uncharacteristically quiet, suspiciously so, in fact. She'd done what she set out to do - to get out of there.

She vaguely recognised the landscape, but pressing a hand to her chest, she felt her stash of eddies. That would be more than enough to get her home. Might need to grab a coat on the way, was her next thought as she looked at the tattered fringing of her dress. Nothing a needle and thread couldn't fix. The shoes were probably done for, though. She didn't much like the thought of scrubbing blood from them. It all felt so... Unreal, and yet there was still a constant ringing in her ears, and her heart continued to race.

She wanted to come down from the adrenaline in her own bed. A hot shower. Hell, have a martini (or four...). Life would feel okay again when she got back to the stage. The woman scaled the ladder, took one hard glance at the van, almost swayed to get in... No, this is not real, it's not happening to you. You are fine. Move.

One foot in front of the other, she let Ember's commotion and the questions of the others disguise her attempts at a swift escape. Just make it to the end of the street, then run.

The childlike excitement that bubbled forth from Ember was enough to distract Rodrigo as he wondered how the woman could take the events they were undergoing so lightly. This went far beyond a simple ‘road trip’. Was she perhaps much younger than he’d initially assumed? That might explain her small size…

As he was gearing to speak up for a second time about where they would be headed next, he turned to address the others. Multiple things hit him at once.

First: The woman who’d proven to be a remarkable marksman was gone. Vanished without a trace. He hadn’t heard her leave, wasn’t even sure she’d made it out of the sewer tunnels along with them. Should we go back for her?

Second: Bea was seemingly trying to take a similar route, making her way down the street, back straight, eyes forward as if refusing to turn back to their makeshift group. He frowned, concerned. Where… In the state she was in, she could find herself in more danger out here than they’d faced underground.

Third: They were in Tyger Claws territory. Some of the Valentino boys had had a run in with them a few days back. Thankfully it didn’t end in any casualties or serious injuries, but there had been some business at the clinic from the encounter. In fact, Rodrigo was working on finalizing a few Cyberwear orders before he woke up in the cell below. Hell, that might mean his clinic was compromised. His thoughts immediately jumped to his mother and her safety, but no. She was deeply embedded in the Valentino’s territory, Militech wouldn’t want to start a war, especially not when they often called on the Valentino’s for the odd job. Ay mama… It would be best to stay away for the moment, at least until he had a better idea of what was going on, why he was targeted and what this all meant. I’ll send her a message later so she doesn’t worry… Perhaps it would be beneficial to follow along with the directions of this mysterious Voice a while longer. It had worked out well for them so far.

There was nothing he could do about the first, and the third, while upsetting, served as nothing but confirmation of the next step he should take. But there was still something to be done about the second. “Bea,” he called out, taking a few steps forward. “Bea, where are you going?” The woman didn’t turn around. Rodrigo took another step forward as if he was going to jog after her.

Placing a hand on the Valentino’s shoulder, JV stopped the man in his tracks. Though he possessed more than enough strength to hold Rodrigo back, the Haitian opted for a different approach. His touch was soft but his grip was stern. “Let her go, she doesn’t understand.” None of them did. They had only lived with the curse for a couple hours but the Haitian had a lifetime of experience. “She will soon and so will you. For now, she needs time to process, to see what life is like with the curse.”

Turning, the former Voodoo boy released Rodrigo's shoulder. “Come we need to leave, she will be back…” The man paused as he thought of the woman with the pistol. Her attitude was different, stubborn and mistrustful of the world. No, he would make no promises for her. No way to be sure, not yet.

The strong but comforting grasp on his shoulder was enough to shake him out of the spiral Rodrigo was quickly headed toward as he turned to face Gorilla Arms. His certainty and calm was reassuring, and Rodrigo found himself believing the other man. Yes, surely Bea just needed some time, needed to process the horrors they’d all just experienced. He thought that would best be done in the company of the others that shared the experience alongside them, but perhaps she thought differently, and it wasn’t like he was going to force her.

As JV stepped away and climbed into the van, Rodrigo turned and gave Bea one last glance as she walked down the street, steps purposeful, head held high. He hoped this truly wasn’t the last time he would see the woman.

The van had lurched heavily from side to side as JV entered, causing the driver to spill their coffee all over the front seat. “Jesus fuck big man! This is my personal car, aye my friend, not an 18 wheeler. Careful moving around.” Popping over the driver's seat, a skinny man covered almost head to toe in tattoos and cyberware appeared. His voice was thick with the accent of a far away land and although it seemed similar to Russells’, a distinct difference could be heard.

“Que dios le proteja,” Rodrigo mumbled. Sighing, he turned back toward the van after the others. What had started as seven had now diminished to four. “Guess it’s just us,” he said to the driver, “Where we headed?”

As Rodrigo entered the van, the driver took one look at the group and laughed, “ok my friends, perhaps I will not be too hard on you huh? The three of you look as if you’ve been through twelve rounds aye.” Focusing on Ember, the man smiled. “You, buttercup, look as if you could go another twelve.”

Cackling, he turned back around and started the car. “You can call me Livewire and I’ll be your guide. As for where I’m taking you? Well my friends, we are going home.”
Part 3


Lauren narrowed her eyes at the woman as she put on the armor from the locker. Of course this lot wouldn't consider anyone else before themselves she thought, rolling her eyes. Though, she could barely blame her for it, it wasn't as if she cared for any of these people either. Her priority was finding Trey.

The woman checked the magazine in the sub-machine gun she'd located in the room. Still plenty of ammo. It must've belonged to one of the guards, the gun had a few stickers associated with a well known BD celebrity. She cared little about this, however, it was a useful tool regardless of appearances.

The lighter atmosphere of the room, if it could even be called that, vanished with the words that emanated from the radio. Everyone sobered and before long, the group nodded to each other and headed back to the hallway in the direction of the screams and gunfire behind the closed door ahead. Whatever their mysterious benefactor had come up with for a distraction, it seemed to be working well enough. What kinds of Militech experimentation would await them inside?

Kade, the smooth talking Corpo, took the lead as before, and signalled to the group before opening the door carefully. As before, the Voice's instructions were trustworthy and the door opened without any resistance. The first thing Lauren noticed was a gurney, located a few feet directly ahead of the doorway, a young woman with pink hair lay strapped upon it unconscious. Likely, the demolitions expert they needed to rescue. Lights shown on her body as if she were prepped for some kind of surgery, beside the gurney was a small metal table with frighteningly sharp tools. Lauren found herself gripping the gun in her hands tighter. As her eyes scanned the room, it was clear the distraction was taking place in the other end of the room, just out of sight from where she stood behind the Corpo. All she could hear, other than the frantic shooting, were the chaotic cries of guards as they scrambled to get around what sounded like a massive creature, its yells a mixture of anguish and rage.

Strange... There was something familiar...

Lauren drew herself closer to the door, no longer paying attention to the prisoners around her as they quickly worked out a plan to extract the woman on the gurney. The more of the room that came into view, the worse it became. Containment chambers lined the walls. Inside them, suspended in an unknown viscous liquid were innumerable human bodies in various states of suspension and with varying levels of external cyberware. Almost like a collection.

But that wasn't what held Lauren frozen, jaw agape and heart pumping. Over a dozen guards aimed high caliber weapons at a massive man at the far corner of the room. Behind them was an elevator they seemed to be protecting and attempting to prevent the man from entering. He was larger than any man Lauren had ever seen. His body took the bullets as if they were raindrops. Thick arms, like metal tree trunks with countless barrels protruding from them returned a fiery volley of bullets back at the guards and easily swatted the men away like flies. In seconds four of the guards lay unmoving on the floor. But it wasn't this that made Lauren a human statue. No, it was the man's face. He had Trey's face, her brother's soft eyes and button nose, his raised cheekbones, and square jaw.

What have they done to you!? Lauren stood. To hell with the plan, with this disembodied Voice. To hell with all of these strangers, she was going in there and she would kill every single last one of those guards and she and Trey were walking out of here together. No one could change her mind, and no one would stop her-- unless they too wanted a bullet through the skull.

Kade’s eyes glanced around the room taking in every last detail as a plan started formulating in his head. He inhaled the last of his cigarette before dropping the smoldering butt to the ground and stopping it beneath his shoe. This room was a nightmare in every sense of the meaning, but they had no time to gawk and recoil at the horrors. Their ticket out of this place was currently strapped to a gurney and the last bit of resistance was distracted by some sort of hulking abomination of flesh and cyberware. They needed to act fast but not carelessly. If they could get the woman off the gurney or at least wheel it out without drawing any attention they would be able to slip back out no problem.

That is, unless someone just waltzed right in and made a beeline to the guards ignoring the huge advantage they had! What the hell was Lauren thinking? Was she out for blood? Or maybe she just wanted to end things in a blaze of glory? Whatever her reason, she was about to reveal their presence!

“Hold on! You shouldn’t just-” Kade tried to explain as he reached for Lauren’s shoulder to pull her back. However, his hand met with Rodrigo’s who was attempting the same thing. Incidentally, they had also stepped with the same foot. With their arms and legs tangled, the two fell to the ground as Laruen simply continued towards her path of revenge. Kade blinked a few times as he processed what had just happened before slowly turning to look at Rodrigo.

“Well…I hope you don’t mind losing another one. Probably won't be able to patch her up after this."

Bea tried too, to halt the woman in her tracks. Not sure exactly how - maybe hold that gun to her head? she initially thought... But the margin for error was, well. A margin indeed. "Hey-" She hissed instead, her voice low. "You'll get us all killed!" She continued through gritted teeth, trying to grab hold of the woman, but really, Lauren was too determined to stay. Oh boy Bea thought, bracing herself all of a sudden, however she could, for death. Was never going to get that fucking EGOT anyway.

Dejah’s arm came up again as before, fingers wound right around the grip of her pistol as she took aim right at Lauren’s back. The shooting across the way will cover it. Dejah’s cold internal calculus was the only thought to cross her mind as she lined up her sights and pulled the trigger. A single bang and Lauren went tumbling down onto the floor in a heap, arms and legs sprawling out as she rolled over facedown. At first Dejah thought it had been a kill until Lauren weakly moved her hands and arms, fingers curling and flexing raggedly, Dejah could hear Lauren’s sharp whimpers of pain over the chaotic sounds of battle.

Dejah sighed slightly aloud and took aim again, training her sights on the rounded shape of Lauren’s head where it lay as she prepared to fire a killing shot. No way did they need to slow themselves down hauling this brainless liability around with them.

Rodrigo audibly gasped, horrified, affronted, and genuinely disappointed. Dios... Who were these people he got himself thrown in with?

Still disentangling himself from the Suit, he'd been unable to prevent the first shot, but as Dejah took aim again, he found his footing and pulled her arm sharply down. "What do you think you're doing," he hissed angrily, preventing any further action.

Inside the room, Lauren moaned loudly as the shock from what had occurred wore off and the pain from the bullet wound in her back surged through her like a tidal wave. Unyielding reverberations of crippling agony burning through her entire body, emanating from a spot in her back. It took her a moment to understand what had happened, but it was amazing how much clarity she was able to attain despite the miserable aching she felt. One of the others had shot her to prevent her from reaching Trey. She wondered if they were involved with Militech all along and whether this was all some ploy against her and her family. The bastards! It didn't matter, she would get her revenge on all of them, but first, she needed to protect her brother. The woman pulled her arms and legs under her, finding the strength to crawl forward while maintaining her hold on the submachine gun. Pure adrenaline, an insane amount of will power, and the unconditional love of an older sister, fueled her forward. There was nothing she would not overcome to reach Trey, to bring her family together again. Her sight was laser focused and she heard nothing but the pounding of blood in her ears as she approached the skirmish ahead, leaving a small trail of blood in her wake.

When she'd gotten closer, Lauren found the strength to lift herself, leaning her weight on one of the metal structural beams in the room, letting out an exasperated and painful yell as she succeeded. "You fuckers!" She lifted the gun and fired a few rounds at the guards, whose attention were now split between the man before them and the wounded woman. Her eyesight was darkening though, her strength failing, and the shots found no targets but the walls behind the men she aimed at. Trey turned toward her then. Their eyes met and Lauren's filled with tears. Her baby brother was still in there. "Trey," she sobbed. He took a few steps toward her, and she found herself sliding back down to the ground. She would leave the rest to him. She had done what she'd come to do, she'd found him. They were together again, and though he was different than when she'd last seen him, he was still her Trey. His new body would have no difficulty in lifting her, protecting her from the shower of bullets that continued unceasingly. They weren't as loud as they'd been before. Lauren lifted a hand toward her brother as he neared, everything else around him fading away. "Brother," she cried.

The hand that had once fit in hers, that she'd held while he was feverish and sick, that she knew better than her own, was now the size of a garbage can lid. Trey reached out this hand, and a smile formed on Lauren's lips. The last she would ever share. The hand became a fist that crashed down on her as easily as it had the guards that were firing at him. What was left when he lifted it away was little more than puddle and mush. What had once been known as Trey was now nothing more than an agglomeration of flesh and cybernetic parts, strewn together in such abominable configurations that all he knew was anger and pain. Nothing human remained inside the cyberpsycho, and his attention returned to the guards.

"Where did she come from!?" One yelled above the gunfire.

"Who the fuck knows?"

"Two of you, check it out, quick! Maxtac should be here soon, we just have to hold out a little longer!"

Two guards pulled away from the others and followed the trail of blood. Distraught by the behemoth behind them, they weren't as careful as they might otherwise have been and did not see the group huddled near the hallway entrance.

Kade let out a soft sigh and shook his head after no one was able to get Lauren to return and Dejah had to put a bullet in her back. It’s not that he didn’t agree with such a method, sometimes you have to eliminate the liabilities even if they are “on your side”. But blatant betrayal in a group setting usually did not go over well. Not to mention, Lauren was still moving and making noise! The whole point of putting her down would be to keep their cover. Now all that had been accomplished was straining the team evident by Rico pulling himself off the ground and confronting Dejah.

Amatures. Kade thought as he picked himself up and straightened his clothes. All the while watching as Lauren approached the abomination acting as though she knew it. Oh lord that thing must have been a loved one. Kade rolled his eyes at the scene in front of him. Maybe she would be able to distract them after all? As long as she kept that thing busy they could-


Kade’s face scrunched in disgust as Lauren was pulverized by what she believed was her brother. He had seen a lot in his time; but that was something he never had nor ever wished to see again.

“That’s it. I’m done.” Kade tossed his hands in the air and began to walk towards the pink haired woman encased in the gurney. “Let’s just get the person we came for and leave.”

As grotesque as the scene further in the room was, Kade kept a watchful eye on it just in case the guard’s got curious as to where the interruption had come from. His intuition served him well as two guards disengaged the abomination and started heading their way. Kade narrowed his eyes which lit up once again. Oh no you don’t. Why the guard’s had weaker security than the lockers he’d never know, but the spy was able to bypass one of their systems with ease and use one of his most favorite tricks; uploading a virus that wiped their short term memory. And as an added bonus, since it was already past their firewalls, the virus jumped to the other guard and did the same to him.

They would forget what they were doing, and their attention would no doubt be drawn back to the large cyberware monster nearby. Perfect. Now all that was left was to wake sleeping beauty and get out of there.

To say Bea was appalled was an understatement. Confused, tired, devastated, frightened, horrified - the whole bag. And then some.

She'd had to turn away when Lauren crawled off, the sound of that shot ringing in her ears. She tuned into the woman's pain immediately. Even as she turned her back to it all she felt completely unsafe. She didn't want to look. She didn't want to be the next to be callously shot for being a liability to the group.

She wanted to go home.

The only thing stopping her from fainting this time was the rocketing fear that if she did, she'd wake up in one of those tanks. Or worse, just not at all.

All Bea could picture was the forlorn expression of her dog sat by the door of her apartment, waiting forever.

Who the fuck are these people?

The only one she vaguely trusted was Rico. He seemed to be reading from the same page as her, he was the only thing gentle down here.

Oh, but think of the book deal when you do get out of here... An intrusive thought, but not uninspiring.

Determined to not be on the chopping block next, she set to looking around the room. We have to keep going. Kade had done his job in distracting the guards, but they needed to rescue the girl in the tube.

She seemed to be locked in there, some kind of medical device no doubt to induce a heavy sleep. As she observed it further from her vantage point, she made sight of cables and wires in the floor, all the way up to a button. Way up on the wall. Now, Bea couldn't be sure but... What was driving her was the need to get out, and fast. I can make that. Just like that number I did in Chicago...

"Hey, hey Sugardoc," she whispered, tugging at the sleeve of Rico's jacket. "You're being my backup dancer tonight. Follow my lead," she said quietly, letting a sparkle take hold of her eyes to inspire him.

"Oh and Cupcake," she added, motioning to Kade, "go make sure Arms is alright..." she glanced back behind them at JV, quirking a brow. They needed him too. "I'm going to get Bombelina..."

She moved as sneakily as she could towards the tube - walking on her toes so as not to make too much noise at all on the concrete floor. She was like a cat on the prowl, ducking to the shadows until she made it to the wall and began to climb - not taking too much time on any one shelf - she felt how unstable they were and yet, that was all too familiar. Stage sets were often cheaper, and less stable. As quick as she could, she scaled the wall - looking like a bejewelled spider in her silver costume, her long legs agile and able to reach every spot until - there it was. The button.

She pressed it.

You better be down there Sugardoc she thought, finding that actually, she had a lot of trust in the man because she flipped back from the wall, knowing he'd catch her.

Despair gripped him as the woman crawled toward what remained of her family, knowing that he would have acted no different. Rodrigo could not watch as the fist came down mercilessly upon her. Instead, he turned away and crossed himself, eyes closed.

The callousness and inhumanity displayed by the woman who shot her gun tore at him as he wrestled with the guilt that he could have prevented it. Had he been more aware of his surroundings he and the Suit together would surely have been enough to stop the woman. Even if they hadn't, he would not have stumbled to the floor when he should have intercepted the murderer. Because that's what she was, he confirmed to himself, looking over his shoulder at the woman who watched the events unfold without so much as a reaction.

And what does that make you?

The hair on the back of his neck stood as the thought echoed in his mind. Rodrigo wasn't sure if it had been his own or if the strange voice from his earlier vision had returned. Darkness seemed to surround him, isolated and alone in the depths of this unforgiving and hellish prison, the sinking feeling overtook him. Even with his tools in hand, what could he do-- what purpose did they serve when he failed to act, when those he considered companions were nothing but disguised dangers.

A pull at his sleeve brought Rodrigo's presence back into his own body, returned his awareness to the room where gunfire and chaotic screams continued as if they were part of the very fabric of this infernal place. He looked up and met Bea's eyes which sparkled with the promise of hope, of confidence and surety of escape. In the light of her presence, the darkness waned and cowered behind him. He was uncertain why she led him to the far wall, but she asked him to follow, and he did.

It took a few moments of her scaling the wall before he understood, all grace and lithe movements as toned limbs expertly found hold where he doubted anyone else could. More than once he averted his gaze as her short dress shifted and swayed with her movements, but his focus never left her. When she pushed off the wall after pressing the release button, Rodrigo caught her in his arms easily, holding her much as he had earlier.

Their eyes met once more and his softened, the corners of his lips quirking upwards. "That's the second time you've fallen for me," he said before gently placing her on the ground. Quietly, he wondered to himself whether she knew that despite his catching her, she had been the one to save him from a precipice.

Ember’s eyes fluttered open, adjusting to the harsh lighting of the room. “Oh, just five more minutes.” She groaned, stretching her arms above her head and releasing a dramatic yawn. Blinking away the grogginess, she took in her surroundings. First noticing that she wasn’t in her bed, instead an uncomfortable chamber-like pod. Where the fuck? she mused to herself as she spotted the rows of tubes filled with bodies, all of the test and lab equipment and of course the giant cyberpsycho across the room.

Shear confusion consumed her mind. The psycho was heavily distracted by a group of Militech soldiers who’s bullets were flying desperately at the beast. Despite the concerning surroundings, she couldn’t help but let out an almost delirious giggle. “Looks like they’re having fun.”

With a surge of energy, she pushed herself up, feeling the cold metal beneath her fingers. Sitting up and jumping to her feet she braced herself against the gurney. That’s when she saw them. Right there next to her. On a beautiful shiny metal table. Ember practically skipped over to the table, her fingers eagerly wrapping around the familiar grips of her arsenal. With a playful giggle, she embraced her personal assortment of mayhem before swinging her rifle over her shoulder, hooking her knife to her belt, and slipping the various grenades in the inside pockets of her jacket where they belonged.

Turning on her heel after retrieving her things, her eyes fell on two figures. A handsome man who was releasing a stunning woman from his embrace. "That's the second time you've fallen for me." The man said, a small smile appearing as their eyes met and the woman's feet met the ground.

Ember couldn't contain her joy at the sight of new faces, especially ones that seemed so familiar with each other. "My turn! Catch me!" She called out, her voice a hushed exclamation, before sprinting towards the pair and leaping into the air.

Bea didn't have much time to respond to Rico's smooth talking before the other woman popped out of her pod like Christmas Day. All energy and excitement. Down here, of all places? she thought as she got back on the ground again - in time for the young woman to come barrelling over. She stepped to the side, a trailing whisper of "she's all yours angelfish," to Rico. He seemed to be forming a habit of catching them. Why not another?

Rodrigo blinked, surprised by the flurry of energy that sprang toward him. She’s like lightning freed from a bottle, he thought, instinctively opening his arms to catch the small woman, thankful that nothing else needed to be dropped to do so. And goodness was she small, she fit in his arms almost like a child would.

“Uh,” he began, unsure of how to continue the abrupt interaction. “Hello.” In a smooth motion as he had done with Bea, he placed her gently on the ground before him, lowering his voice in hopes she would do the same. “I think you’re meant to help us get out of here. You’re the demolitions expert? I’m Rodrigo,” he introduced himself.

Ember wasn’t shocked the man caught her already seeing his strength. She knew she could trust this random person she had never met! He placed her gently on the floor and in a quiet voice he introduced himself. Ember’s smile stretched from ear to ear, New choom acquired! She stared off for a moment, not answering his previous question. Thinking all about how much fun they would have together! Hey, hey focus, She shook off the thoughts bouncing back to reality. “Demolition is what I do best! Just point me at what you’d like me to make disappear. Both her hands were up by her head opening dramatically as she mouthed the word boom.

Your name, tell him your name..

“Oh right, my name is Ember, simple to remember… eh team member?” She said with a wink and nudged Rico with her elbow.

Strange how despite it all, he was still able to offer her a bemused smile. How could this woman be so positive when faced with such horrors?

Rodrigo looked up to see Kade near Gorilla Arms, who still held the radio. They needed to know what wall to direct Ember to, or… he wouldn’t be surprised if she just took it upon herself to start blowing things up.


The Captain of the Militech squad swore. Fifteen men he had started this fight with, now he watched as another was caught in the grip of that thing and torn in two. Nine remained and if that Maxtac backup didn't arrive soon, none of them would make it out.

"This is team Delta requesting for back up again! Where the fuck is Maxtac?!" The man's cool was long lost. The corporation hadn't even told them what was down there, just that there was a code red and the scientists needed back up. Now the entrails of all the scientists were strewn about and they were all that was left.

"Demolition is what I do best!"

What the fuck was that? He thought, looking up and over the desk he was in cover behind. Rows and rows of people in vats obscured his line of sight but he had definitely heard someone yelling. Maybe the woman who had been turned to paste earlier wasn't a scientist, maybe his men he'd sent searching had missed something.

But what could it be? He knew they were under attack by an unknown netrunner who had locked down major parts of the facility. Not even their brightest runners had been able to crack through, so it couldn't be back up.

Suddenly, realisation dawned on the guard like a 3 ton fist coming down and splattering a woman.

"Leeman, French, Carter and Harold. Get your asses up and find out whatever the fuck is going on towards the barracks. I think we're being taken on a ride here boys."

God she's loud. Bea thought, tempted to roll her eyes, but truthfully, she couldn't blame the woman for being excitable. Who knew how long she'd been down here. If there wasn't an entire fire fight happening in this house of horrors, she'd have been more inclined to find it somewhat endearing.

As it was, they were in a house of horrors. One of their allies was trigger happy, and they were surrounded wall to wall by people in tubes. Bea had witnessed more incomprehensible violence in this last hour than she ever thought she would have in her life. This Emma girl was their way out.

She was just very loud.

And as Bea glanced down the row of tubes, she noticed that the enthusiasm had alerted the guards. Shit, she thought clenching both fists in fear at her sides. Wait, she thought, the fringe beading... Perhaps, a booby trap? Well, fuck. It's not like you're going to be able to do anything else Doll, she said to herself. She tore at the strands- a fistful of beads in each hand.

With a graceful motion, she tossed them both down the rows and watched as they disappeared into the dark. Worth a bloody shot, she shrugged - eagerly grabbing Rico's sleeve again, moving to drag him along - and their pink-haired ticket out of there.

"Move!" She hissed quietly. "Quickly!"

Rodrigo placed his hand on Bea's, pulling his arm back gently. "One moment," he whispered, indicating that the other two should continue ahead without him. Speed was surely of the essence, but he needed to make sure they wouldn't be followed first. Bea's quick thinking with the beads was incredibly ingenious, but he'd never known a stunt like that to work in real life and his need to confirm outweighed his need to run.

Hunched slightly to minimize his height and visibility over the rows of containment chambers that stood between the three of them and the chaos on the other side of the room, Rodrigo approached cautiously to glance down the rows four Militech guards approached from. A smattering of beads rushed forward, the sound of their gentle strikes on the cement easily masked by the ricochet of bullets and discordant yells. The small spheres littered the floor directly before where the guards approached, unnoticed. For a moment, Rodrigo thought Bea's plan might just work, until the guard in front finally reached the small beads which were easily crushed under the man's heavy duty boots. He paused, lifting a hand for the others to follow suit and lifted his foot to rest on his opposite knee as if checking for dog feces.

"What the fuck is this?" The other guards approached and shrugged or made non committal noises, one shined a light on the floor ahead to reveal the other land mines before them. "Where the hell did these come from?"

While her efforts hadn't quite worked as she'd intended, their delay in examining the small objects gave Rodrigo an idea and enough time to execute it properly. Aiming at the nearest guard, he hacked through the man's ICE and struck him with a contagion quickhack that easily spread to the guard beside him. As the effects of the poison took hold, they began to sway and draw the attention of the other two. Before they knew what had happened, Rodrigo easily performed the same action again and the two remaining guards became equally as affected. By the time he turned to rush back to the women, the sounds of their toppling over themselves could be heard as their weapons and equipment struck the ground.

"Good work with the beads," he whispered to Bea with a wink as the trio rushed forward.

Kade stood back with Dejah and JV observing Bea and Rico as they went to work freeing the trapped demolitions expert. It was actually very impressive how they worked together despite meeting for the first time in this prison. Bea’s skill had especially surprised the spy who was finally happy to see her more than pull her weight in this operation. With any luck, they might just be able to grab the person in the tube in and leave without any one ever-

"My turn! Catch me!"

The smile on Kade’s face briefly vanished as the woman who emerged from the container proved to have no volume control. If he could hear her all the way over here, then it wouldn’t be long before the Militech guards caught on. Oh well. At least in her shouting he was able to catch that her name was Ember. Now he wouldn’t have to come up with yet another callsign on the fly. In addition, they were well aware of the attention they were drawing. Kade couldn’t quite make out what they were doing, but they had set up some sort of trap before taking off full speed down one of the rows of tubes. If they had thrown caution to the wind, then it meant they needed to move and now.

“I think it’s time to go!” Kade said to the others. He bolted out the door and made a sharp right turn, leading them down an adjacent line of tubes. Hopefully there was some form of plan in motion as cover would be limited once they met back up beyond these tubes.

Ember followed quickly behind Rico and Bea after their impromptu diversion. Swiftly moving as fast as her feet could carry her, she didn't even notice the bodies suspended in the tubes around them. As they came around the end of the tubes, three new faces rounded the corner to meet them. Though Ember didn't know them, none of them opened fire on her or her new pals, which in her experience usually meant they were friendly. The very idea of which sent her heart racing with excitement.

“No. Way.” Ember said in a giddy tone. “More new frie-”

Kade flicked out his pointer finger and placed it over Ember's mouth, silencing her mid sentence. “Yes yes we're all the best of chooms here. We'll have time to celebrate that later but right now we need you to make us a new door, one that leads to the sewers. Can you do that?” He asked. The corpo made sure he was able to finish everything he needed to say before removing his finger from Ember's lips.

When the corpo lowered his finger, Ember kept quiet this time. Nodding in understanding. Sewers….sewers…. She thought to herself as she scanned the nearby floor and walls. There were cracks and signs of decay everywhere in this room, but not what she was looking for. Come on, there’s got to be some- and there it was. Just ahead was an area of the wall with cracks running down the surface, but with stains and discoloration around it; telltale signs of prolonged exposure to and damage from water.

“There you are!” She thought aloud. Without warning or hesitation, Ember raised her arm and pointed it towards the area. Her forearm opened up, exposing a small projectile launcher hidden within and firing a miniature rocket. It impacted against the wall blasting away the weakened concrete and revealing an opening. “One passageway to the sewer as ordered! Is there anything else I can blow up for you?... Please?”

"Leeman, French, Carter, Harold! Anybody come in!" The Captain's voice shook, haggard with hopelessness. The static reply over the radio told the man all he needed to know.

In their absence, the beast had mowed down 3 more of his men, leaving only him and one other.


Crashing through the barrier, the cyberpsycho stepped on the leg of the final man. Though his wails of pain were short lived as the thing crushed his head in its hand.

"Fuck." This was it, the Captain was the only one left standing among the guards. Coming out from behind his barrier, his shoulders slumped in defeat. "C'mon you fuckin thing! Do it! End it all!"

Thumping across, the cyberpsycho slowly moved its way over to the guard. Raising its arm above its head, the beast readied itself for the final blow.

Suddenly, the elevator dinged. The Captain's head snapped to the side as his eyes widened. Maxtac had arrived, everything was going to be...


An explosion sounding from behind the guard caused both him and the psycho to pivot around. Several figures from across the room poured through the hole in the wall, none of them daring to look back. So, this was all for them. The guard thought to himself as mantis blades pierced into the back of the creature.

Roaring in pain, the psycho spun around but the Maxtac soldier was already hooked into its back. Expertly, the other two soldiers activated their Sandevistans, dodging the beasts flying fists with ease. Together, they both fired off multiple rounds of high powered, single-shot rifles into the psychos head. Roars turned to groans, then finally gurgles as it fell to the floor. With a final spike through its head, the Maxtac soldier hopped off the creature's back standing among the other two.

Looking over towards the guard, the one in the centre asked, "the threat has been neutralised. Next order?"

As the group crossed the threshold of rubble into the sewers, smoke rose in plumes before it fell down as rubble, landing on their clothing, in their hair, and powdering their faces. They had to keep moving. Bea ran as quickly as she could, surprisingly fast too. Surprising that her heels were holding on too, considering the abuse they’d gone through throughout the whole ordeal.

Like hell would she be taking them off any time soon, certainly not in the sewer. Fucking filth she thought - but she was interrupted before she got to voice her disgust to the group.

Something had happened behind them, and as the group kept speeding towards a dark nothing, Bea looked back at the hole in the wall. They weren’t out of the woods yet, were they? The sound of static reminded her of their mysterious friend. She reached for the radio, it was with JV, and she snatched it away - her brow furrowed with deep concentration and her words came clear as crystal as she spoke into the receiver.

“You.” She began. “We’ve done everything you asked,” she was moving slowly - eyes transfixed back at the room of horrors as the events continued to escalate. “Something tells me we’re valuable to you, and if you want us to make it out of here alive to whatever the next part of your plan is... Please be a doll and put those skills of yours to good use.” Bea’s hand clenched the radio. “If we’re followed down here, we’re going to die.”

As she took her finger off the button, her breath trembled. In the space of light from where they had entered, she saw a chair materialise in the thin midair, then heard a chord… A guitar. Followed by some more notes that she recognised from a long time ago. A humming.

“If you listen you can hear it call….
There is a river… Called the river of no return…”

“Who the fuck is that?” Bea asked aloud, turning on her heel.

“Swept on forever… To be swept in the stormy sea…”

“You better stop singing that song!” Bea called out, glancing left and right.

“Lost my love on the river…. And forever my heart will yearn….
Gone forever… down the river….. Of no return.”

In the dimness, Bea's eyes widened - pupils dilated as she fixated on the eerie silhouette that was now perched in the distant chair, barely visible—an almost spectral presence. The tiny frame hunched over a guitar, its form barely more than a whisper against the deepening darkness. Strains of that familiar tune emanated, drifted hauntingly. The cadence reverberated through the desolate sewers, twisting and contorting the melody within the circular chamber, transforming into an otherworldly incantation. The child’s voice wailed around the walls.

She shoved her hands on her ears, squeezed her eyes shut but she heard it still.

Wail-a-ree. Was it all worth it?”

That wasn't part of the song - she knew that song. That wasn't part of it. But that alone was enough to break the spell of it, tear her away from the spectral hold. A horrible, awful clammy chill took hold of her - and now an earworm nestled itself in her mind too. She clenched a fist and drew herself away, back to the front of the group - shaken by what had happened, but only more determined to press on.

"FILTH down here," Bea cursed, emphasis on the disgust, "and what now?"

The radio stood silent. Perhaps the mysterious voice didn't take kindly to the woman's tone, or perhaps they had moved out of range of the transmitter. Bea's question lingered, the moment stretching out for what felt like an eternity.

Suddenly, a scream cut through the air, funnelling its way up from the facility. It was no ordinary scream, the tone was way off, as if a body with no soul had made the noise. Haunting.

It wasn't long before another sounded, and then another. Quickly more and more joined until there was a symphony so loud it deafened the gunshots that followed. Without another word, the crew took off, running as fast as their feet would carry them. For miles and miles they ran until daylight eventually appeared on the horizon along with the stench of Night City's fresh air. Those who possessed real lungs would feel them burn as they finally broke through the other side. Standing on the edge of a round pipe, the group would find themselves on the border of Westbrook, looking over at the City Centre.

They had found freedom.

"There is a van parked above on the street."

Well, partial freedom. The radio came to life as the voice delivered its final instructions.

"Climb the ladders and get in. The driver will take you to where you need to go. Remember, I am the only one who can help you, follow the trail of breadcrumbs and you will be cured."
Part 2


Hunched over the control panel, another nameless guard of Militech punched in key after key.

Access Denied. Access Denied. Access Denied.

Over and over again the man furiously typed into the pad, hopelessly getting no where. The whir of the turret next to him, shifting from side to side, combined with the error codes of the elevators control panel were not enough to drown out the distant noises of horror and death. "Code red, code fucking red!" He yelled into his radio, nothing but static echoing back. "What the fuck is happening?! I've been locked out of everything and I can hear nothing but gunshots ou-"

The whoosh of the door to the hallway interrupted his rant, his heart swelling with hope. Had it worked? Had control been rendered back to the facility?

Unable to turn fully around in time, the motley crew of prisoners had only seconds of advantage. Neither the guard nor the turret had properly seen them. JV broke into a full sprint, the electric from his fists crackling up his arms with excitement. The man would see his part of the plan through, would the others?

Kade raised an eyebrow at Rodrigo’s suggestion before letting out a short chuckle and shaking his head. Did he not fully comprehend their situation? Of course Kade would have preferred a slow methodical approach to their escape, but that wasn’t in the cards. They needed to get out before Militech brought reinforcements and stopping to plan every situation was not something they could fit in the window of time they had.

“Oh Rico.” Kade responded in a tone matching Rico’s and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Tell you what? When we’re not in a time crunch and people aren’t trying to kill us, I promise we’ll pause to have a lovely chat. Until then, be a gentleman and let the professionals work.” Kade pulled his arm back from Rico and turned away to face the door before looking over his shoulder. “Oh, but do use that weapon glitch on the guard. I think that should help make this go very smoothly.”

Standing at the side of the door again, Kade was ready to peer around when the door opened and locate the turret. What he was not ready for was JV’s sudden rush into the room. Did he forget about the turret? He was supposed to wait! Shit. Kade had to act fast. His eyes flashed with light as he pivoted around the doorway and hastily located the turret. In an instant he connected with the system and uploaded the proper hack. A burst of electricity erupted from the turret as its systems were overloaded with power. A small trail of smoke bellowed out of the now destroyed- Why was it still moving?

“You have got to be joking!” Kade cursed to himself as he watched the machine continue to rotate, albeit at a much slower rate than before. “Arms! The turret is still up!” Kade warned JV before pivoting back behind the doorway for cover.

Rodrigo's deadpan expression was directed toward Kade's back as the Suit turned away. Leave it to a Corpo to give a condescending lecture only to follow along exactly with what had been suggested. He'd wait for that lovely chat to speak his mind. For now, there was too much that required his focus, and if he wasn't concentrated, more lives could be lost.

A panging ache tugged at his heart, the Aussie's face flashing in his minds eye along with another smaller, rounder, younger face - but Rodrigo turned away from those images, willing himself to focus intently on what was happening before him.

He followed the action closely, no longer surprised by the speed and deftness of Gorilla Arms. Rodrigo could be fast too. By the time the other man had gotten a few feet away from the guard, Rico had managed to break through the guard's ICE. A complicated manoeuvre, and due to the high level security implants Militech had undoubtedly equipped their employees with, all his hacking accomplished was to jam the weapon momentarily. No problem, Gorilla Arms should still have enough time to--

Kade's surprised yell pulled Rodrigo's attention away from the guard and to the turret, and called the guard's attention to their presence. Oh no, he felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. There wasn't enough time for Gorilla Arms to handle both, and there definitely wasn't enough time for Rodrigo to attempt another glitch on the turret. His gaze turned back to the woman who held the gun, eyes pleading. Was she a good shot?

Oh, for fuck sakes.

Either pretty boy had screwed up with his hack or that turret systems were on the next level. Either way, the glitch in their little plan here paired with the sudden shout and alerting of the guard had just complicated this to say the least. Luckily Dejah was good at handling sudden shit situations like this, most of the time.

The turret was crippled, or at least slowed, and the guard while alert was still a wide open target - and Dejah was a crack shot. Acting on training and a tad of raw reflexive instinct the assassin brought her pistol up with a snap - like a snake arching for a strike - and fired, the pistols’ discharge loud and bright in the tight quarters. The guards’ head snapped back, red sprayed across his face and from the back of the head as his knees buckled and down he dropped, the thud of his body following the clink of an empty casing on the floor. Dejah exhaled slightly through her nose, otherwise keeping a cool composure. Now just to handle that turret.

JV felt the rush of the bullet tear by him through the air. Expertly aimed, it missed his head and plunged deep into the guards. The Militech agent hadn’t even fully pivoted in place before Dejah’s target found its home, his blood painting the wall and elevator panel behind him.

Without flinching or looking back, the Haitian changed his trajectory in an instant. Stepping heavily off his left leg, the man skipped into a bound, bouncing off his right leg as if he were performing in the long jump. With a final leap off his left, JV sailed through the air towards the turret, his torso twisting back as he loaded his fist.

There were no screams, no war cries or bursts of rage, the man was silent, simply bringing down the hammer. Slamming his gorilla arms through the machine, the metal gnashed and shredded as if it were made of foil. As the turret practically disintegrated, the ceiling creaked and groaned as a chunk of concrete gave way, tearing from the roof. Dust billowed up like smoke as exposed wires zapped. It was safe to say the turret was no more, nor would it ever be again judging by the damage.

Walking out from the cloud, JV flapped dust from his trench coat and wiped debris from his shoulder. Without a word, the Haitian walked back into the centre of the room and waited for his next order.

Looking around he noticed they were in a barracks, which was perhaps somewhat of an armoury too. Along the eastern wall sat a series of bunk beds, each personalised in different ways. Some had posters or pictures on the wall above the bed, some had bedside tables covered in personal effects and one was made up perfectly aside from a pillow that looked slightly lopsided. Further down was a lounge area, complete with a fridge and kitchenette. An opened packet of chips sat on the coffee table, some of its contents scattered about as if they’d been thrown down in haste.

On the opposite side of the room sat a series of lockers. Some were opened and empty while others appeared locked. With solid doors, there was no way to see what was on the inside, though each had a digitised lock with a keypad. At the end of the row sat a rather large trunk. The chest looked heavy, fortified well with no number pad in sight, rather just a small pane of glass on top, no more than an inch and a half long and wide. Just as JV’s eyes fell upon the hardcase, the radio chimed, as if the voice knew where he was looking.

“It’s biolocked.” It said, still with no hint of emotion. “Lucky for you, we don’t need that guard's face to unlock it. His thumbprint is the key. All your items are in there. You will need them to escape.”

Dragging the corpse over, JV did as he asked, mashing the guards thumb into the glass pane. The trunk hummed to life as the panel lit up with a green colour. Gears turned as the lock disarmed and the chest opened. It was a small treasure trove of goodies, with the man quickly spotting and retrieving his revolver.

“Search the room, there may be other items of use in here.” The voice commanded.

Bending down, the Haitian removed a Unity Pistol from the dead guard's holster. A middling weapon as far as handguns went, it would be enough to do the job.

Back outside the room, Bea had listened, while trying not to listen - while being forced to listen anyway to the riotous din of it all. That unease kept growing and gnawing away at her. She really was just among killers, wasn't she? Should they have actually been allowed out?

Her fingers grazed the cold steel of the doorframe and she let herself into the room. Her cold gaze drawn to the Rorschach painting across the wall. Urgh she thought, not daring to vocalise it - lest his Royal Prince of Darkness try and quip off again.

Despite being filled with light, and having housed the guards, this room too, felt eerie to the woman. The way that each bunk had character even in the cold, unforgiving space. God it was ugly here, those fluorescent lights seemed to sap energy rather than light up anything. She closed her eyes and thought of something more comfortable.

Her fellow escapees would all scramble for their belongings - whatever they were. Hell, it wouldn't have surprised her if one of them had been packing a rocket launcher or something of the sort. Who were these people? Oh, let them scramble over the box of tricks, she thought - eyeing up the kitchenette for herself. Bea realised that it could have been hours since she was down there - and seeing that tap woke up an incredible thirst, and she headed immediately to it like a moth to a flame - next to the sink was a bottle of water, half filled, and she brought it to her lips immediately.

It didn't take her long to finish off the bottle. "Holy shit," she sighed aloud, leaning over the sink. Next to take her eye was a locker - and a little box that was sticking out. Is that...? she thought to herself. "Yes!" she said allowed again, shimmying on over to find a cigarette box, and a lighter. "Thank yooooooou Mr Guard," she sang out, tipping out the single cigarette into her hand and lighting it up. Her lips clung to the butt of it as she drew it back, a long breath powered by her bionic lungs. "Holy shit," she repeated.

From behind the doorway, Kade peered back into the room and confirmed it was safe before pivoting around the corner and strolling in. Things may not have gone exactly as planned, but the turret was destroyed, the guard was dead, and they were not. All in all it was a success. And to top it off, they now Had access to their equipment. Nova.

Kade slipped up next to JV in front of the unlocked chest to snag his own gear, but couldn't help first looking over the body that had been dragged over.

"A single shot clean through the head." Kade spoke as he analyzed the dead guard. He turned back to Dejah with a glint of admiration in his eye. "Damn good job, pistol!"

Though speaking of pistols, it was time he got his own. Reaching into the chest, Kade pulled out his automatic M-10AF Lexington and his customized silenced Nue. The grips of his reliable weapons filled the corpo with renewed confidence. One for keeping quiet, another for going loud; A pistol for each occasion. Now he was more than prepared for anything that lay ahead. The only thing that could have made this moment better was-

“What's that smell?” Kade asked as the tantalizing aroma of nicotine suddenly filled the air. His eyes darted around until he saw the source. Bea was smoking a cigarette and holding an…Empty carton… Kade’s eyes widened. His jaw nearly hit the floor in response to such an atrocious sight.

That fainting floozy! He thought as he watched her take another satisfying puff. How dare she? They had done all the work while she sat around yet she saw fit to take the only thing that offered any relief from their stress? She didn’t even offer to share! How easy it would be to hit her with a quickhack and take it, but Kade’s senses won over. Now was not the time to turn on each other over petty squabbles. Regaining his cool, Kade closed his mouth and eyes, took a deep breath, and allowed his smirk to return once more.

“Just so we’re all clear.” Kade strode over to Bea and gestured to the cigarette in her hand. “I call dibs on the next one.”

Bea turned her eyes to Kade, watched him cycle himself through the stages of grief for a cigarette. She smirked too, drawing again from the cigarette. "You know," she sighed with a faux wistfulness. "Nothing like this to keep away any more of those screaming fainties that you so wanted to keep away..." Her eyes sparkled. ""Besides Cupcake, if you want some, all you have to do is ask." After a pause, she blew out a ring of smoke that momentarily framed his porcelain mask before it was whisked away by the air itself.

""Would anyone else like some?" She added with a flourish of her arms in their direction.

JV approached the two just as the smoke dissipated from the Corpo's face. He didn't care about their back and forth, nor was he bothered about the cigarette or its fumes. Instead the man loomed over the woman, presenting the butt of the pistol he'd taken from the guard.

"Take it, you will need it before the end." The Haitians face sat like stone, his thoughts or feeling impossible to gleam. Deep down, he knew the truth, they were all cursed just like him. This wouldn't end with their escape from the facility, no, their lives were forever changed. The woman would need to learn to use it. Either on them or on herself.

I'll play along, Bea thought, quietly taking the gun. It was heavier in her hand than she could have thought. So heavy. The trigger was nothing to them, so much more to her. A line uncrossed. JV's face was the stark reminder of their situation, and while she would not flinch at his presence, she dared not press at his request. Not now, not now...

Relief flooded him when the woman's shot rang true and took out the guard easily so that Gorilla Arms could dispatch the turret in full. The irony that this loss of life was acceptable, and even welcome to him, was not missed by him. The memory of the raspy voice from his earlier vision caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand.

While aware of the spat between the Suit and Bea, Rodrigo chose to avoid the exchange. It wasn't like he smoked, or even had reason to give a lecture against it. Gone were the days when lung cancer was a concern over a smoke, when new lungs could so easily be exchanged.

There were other options to keep his mind occupied, anyway. First objective, to obtain his weapons. Stored away with other interesting finds were his pistol and poisoned blade. He quickly took those but was unable to find his supplemental tools. "Puta mierda," he cursed under his breath. He wouldn't allow this to happen again. At the first opportunity he had, he would get cyberware implanted to prevent anyone from removing his tools from him.

Done with the chest of weapons, he pulled back and ran a hand through his hair. "Anything else of interest over there, or just the cigs?"

Kade stood perfectly still as the ring of smoke circled his face. He wasn’t about to beg for anything, especially not something as miniscule as a used cigarette. The man’s smile hid his anger well, but the audacity of this woman was starting to get to him. Luckily he wouldn’t even have to excuse himself as JV took Bea’s attention, giving him the opportunity to slip away without another word.

The voice in the radio had suggested they search the room before moving on, but Kade wasn’t keen on sticking around longer than they had to. After a brief internal debate, he decided they had enough bodies to search the room quickly before moving on so long as they each took a part. Under the assumption his hacking skills were the best of the group, he stepped to the lockers and attempted to open the leftmost one. His eyes illuminated as he connected to their systems. What he assumed would be a simple firewall turned out to be some very advanced ICE. What were they hiding in these lockers that needed this much security? It would take a long time to break through this way, time they didn’t have. However, he did just acquire the tools for a more uncivilized yet effective method.

The corpo took a step back from the locker, aimed his Nue at the keypad, and fired a single shot. The silencer kept the sound to a minimum, not that stealth was needed, and the bullet proved more than capable for the high tech security. Unfortunately, it was also more than a match for the only item the locker contained; a tablet that lay right in the path of the bullet. The device had been rendered completely destroyed by the hole Kade put in it. Any data it may have contained was now forever lost.

“Oh forget this.” Kade grumbled to no one in particular as he turned his back on the locker and headed for the door. “Let’s just delta already. The sooner the better.”

“Hold on.” Dejah said sharply, raising her gun again. The woman lined up her shot on the locker next to the one Kade had shot, the dot sight centered slightly to the left center of the keypad. Hand steady the assassin fired, the keypad shattering apart and sparking as the shot connected. Unlike Kade, Dejah had better luck in her “find”. The locker door swung open to reveal a ballistic vest in good shape and untouched by Dejah’s shot. Dejah eagerly slipped her gun away and seized the vest from where it rested, slipping it on and securing it over her torso with a satisfied smirk. While not of the highest quality the vest was better than nothing and would do well enough at protecting her from any stray rounds sent her way.

“Perhaps better luck next time, Slick.” Dejah smugly said to Kade.

Cigarette in hand, Bea's attention was taken by the beds. They looked comfortable right about now, and that thought disgusted her. She needed to get out of here. I need to get out here, being a barbarous bitch isn't going to help at all, she mused. God that pillow looks off - wait. Wait...

She walked over to it, the others distracted by their belongings, Slacks doing something to the locker, and doing it badly.

HA! she thought as her hand landed on a stash of eddies. Quite a nice one too. Just as she had with her fallen beads, she made some adjustments with the cups of her dress and found those eddies a home between underwire and a double d. Might come in handy later, oh well. Tits up, she thought with a small smile.

Then there was the Suit. He was ready to leave, and pouting about it too. He needed to pick himself up. In the pecking order of usefulness in this shithole, he was still way above her and she knew it. Opportunity to right a wrong.

She softened her stance, wrapped one arm around her other bare arm, and made her way to him. Her face was soft too, her eyes pointed to the ground, "Listen," she said quietly, sighing ever so, biting at the corner of her lip. "Take it." She held out the last half of the smoke to him. "I'm hardly any help down here." She rolled her eyes a little. "I'm just a dancer, you know. So, maybe this will help you. You have it."

Kade looked at Bea, then at the half gone cigarette, then back at her. Was she actually trying to make amends? What possibly could have made her change her tune from before? Wait... did she see his pathetic display with that locker? Oh god. This wasn't her trying to apologize, this was pity. And worst of all, he was seriously tempted to take it... Fuck it.

He reached out and took the cigarette from her hand. "Thank you... Bea was it? I appreciate it." He said and took a long satisfying drag. As he exhaled he made sure to blow the smoke away from Bea's face. "Heh. A dancer, huh? How did someone like you end up... Actually, hold that thought. There will be plenty of time for talk once we're out of here."


A whisper echoed down the hallway, its familiar tone causing JV’s head to snap away from Bea and the others instantly. Obviously he had misheard it. Perhaps it was the dying gasp of some poor fellow from the other room? Or maybe a squeal from structural damage to the facility? Taking a step closer to the door, his chest tightened. No, no, this was impossible, surely, there was no way it could’ve been her could it?

Standing at the threshold of the hallway, JV closed his eyes, straining his ears for anything. Oddly, the noise from the other room had ceased completely, hell, even the team behind him was dead silent. Turning to his head to look back at the gang, he heard it again as if there were someone right next to him.


Her voice was smooth like butter. Deep and sultry, as if you could feel them drip from her plump lips.

“Oshun.” Her name escaped his lips, as if drawn from him by a snake charmer. The Haitain's head snapped back to the hallway and he began marching down the corridor.


It came from around the corner to the left, where the prison cells were but just as he rounded it, it happened again, instead coming from behind him. The man’s heart began to pound, his breath drew heavy as if he had run a marathon. Swinging around there was still nothing but dead silence. A bead of sweat dripped down past his temple as he grabbed the radio.

“Voice, is this you? Sa fout la ap pase?”

Nothing, not even static echoed back. Feelings long suppressed flooded back into the man causing him to hoist the radio above his head, ready to destroy it when…

“Stop!” The voice responded, its first tone change of the night. “Whatever you are seeing is not real, the virus has begun its infection.”

Breathing heavily, the Haitian looked around, hearing the sounds of death coming from the next room and the quiet chatter of the prisoners down the hall. Closing his eyes, JV attempted to meditate, quiet the noise from within. Bringing the radio to his lips, he replied. “What is next?”

“Return to the group and I will give you your next instruction.”

Doing as told, JV returned to the others, not bothering to ask if anyone had seen his outburst. Holding the radio out for all the group to hear, it explained.

“The next room is the experimentation room. In there, I have unleashed a distraction that is currently occupying the main contingency of guards in this facility. Your objective is to retrieve a demolitions expert and use her to blow a hole in the weak point of the facility. That weak point will lead you to the sewers and freedom. It is recommended that you do not engage the distraction or the Militech team unless necessary as it’s more than likely you will not survive the encounter. Maxtac is also on its way to contain the threat, you will not have long until they arrive, so act quickly.” The radio paused, allowing the instructions a moment to sink in.

“Good luck.”
Chapter 1: Genesis

Part 1


Kade's eyes slowly peeled open as the gas disturbed his "vampiric" slumber. His entire body was overcome with a slight aching pain, either from sleeping on what couldn't even be considered a bed, or from the encounter that landed him in this broom closet of a cell. Slowly he lifted himself up and placed his feet on the floor while remaining seated on the bed. He listened to the voice on the screen while inspecting his arms for any sign of cuts that could harm the artwork inked onto them.

"A Militech facility, eh? Heh. Not the worst place I've woken up. But definitely in the top 5." Kade mumbled to himself as stood up and began stretching his arms. "Probably should have realized working for them would have landed me here eventually. No matter. Seems someone else is interested in my services. Better not disappoint them."

Ready to take down the guard and every other sorry gonk that got in his way, Kade strode out of his cell confidently, only to stop a few steps outside. To his shock, the other cells around him were opened as well.

"Oh…Hello there." Kade greeted his fellow inmates, careful not to let his surprise slip past his professional mask. "The name's Kade. I see my anonymous benefactor was not mine alone. Pity. Thought I was special for a moment there. No matter. I suppose having help to cure…Whatever this is and escape wouldn't be such a terrible thing. That is, if you are all up for the challenge?"

JV rose, steadily. Where had his curse taken him this time? Cold, hard concrete surrounded him, the walls seemingly closing in on the man. Hmm. Claustrophobic. Despite his colourful past, he had never seen the inside of a prison.

Sitting up on the slab, JV listened to the disjointed figure haphazardly. The man would not be guided by a figure shroud in darkness, even as the veil of his cell rose, only the Loa had that honour. Without leaving the room, JV got down on both knees, removing his bone idol necklace.

Squeezing the totem tight, the man closed his eyes and spread his arms wide. "Bondye, guide me." Chanting in Haitian, JV remained on his knees as the rest of the group stirred.

Up two cells on the southside wall, Russell panicked. "What the fuck do you mean mate? What farkin' virus?" He shouted at the figure in vain, expecting an answer even as the door disappeared into the ceiling.

Everyone and their Aunt had warned against backpacking across the US but the tourist from down-under wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, claiming "She'll be right, mate." Listening was never one of his strong suits.

Dashing out of the cell, Russell's heart leapt into his mouth as he reached the railing. The seemingly never ending hole in the middle of the room gave even the strongest willed man vertigo. In Russell's case, he almost fainted.

Rodrigo lay in an almost fetal position, rear end held high, face turned to the side, arm draped haphazardly over his eyes as a dribble of saliva pooled beneath his cheek. At the demand he awaken, he instinctively murmured, "Ay, mama, five more minutes."

The voice continued in English, in an even and moderated tone that was the opposite of everything he would have expected from his mother's response to his plea. It wasn't until half way through the speech that he'd realized it would have made no sense for him to even be at his mom's house instead of the clinic where he'd last been. What had happened? Where was he, and why were his memories of the previous night so fuzzy? Certainly, the party at Rene's couldn't have gotten that out of hand to have gotten him arrested. No, he vaguely recalled reaching the clinic...

A shaky look around the tight quarters chilled him, and all he took from the garbled message from the obscured person on the screen in the enclosed space was 'Militech', 'virus', 'cyberpsychosis', and 'cure'. This was more serious than he could have ever imagined.

As he stepped out from the room, glancing to his left and right, he was met with a few others doing the same. One in particular however seemed more confident than Rodrigo understood any of them had reason for. He looked to the man in fancy attire, a corpo certainly, with furrowed brows and confusion in his eyes.

"Rico," he stammered. "Uh, name's Rodrigo." He couldn't fathom the strange humor the man beheld them all with. Was this all just a game, a prank?

Along the opposite wall, a woman with dark hair stepped out of the newly opened door with distrust in her eyes. She looked from left to right and back again, hands twitching as she surveyed the others. Lauren was certain she'd gotten mixed up with her brother's captors. It was the only thing that made sense, but everything else- the strange voice, the release... What was it all for?

All she knew was that she trusted no one. It'd been weeks since she'd been on Trey's trail. She'd asked the right questions to the wrong people, and it had landed her here. Of this, she was certain.

With narrowed eyes she took another tentative step forward and gazed down the gaping hole in the center of the walkway, but pulled back quickly as vertigo threatened to overtake her.

"We don't have time for this," Lauren said aloud, irritated. "Let's get out of here," She needed to find Trey, he had to be within these walls.

Just as the others had begun to, so too did Bea Adler stir from the depths of her drugged slumber. The familiarity of her dressing room at the Cat Scratch now miles away.

As her consciousness returned, Bea's bleary eyes fixated on an incongruous sight: one of her vintage silver pumps, unceremoniously discarded in the corner, the six-inch heel and bejewelled adornment gleaming dully. Its counterpart remained faithfully on her foot, albeit slightly scuffed. Adding to the sharp realisation of her situation, she noticed a strand of fringe had snapped from her outfit, scattering a constellation of diamante beading across the unforgiving and unfamiliar concrete floor. She extended her limp arm to retrieve them.

Deprived of any kind of cushioning beneath her, she voiced her protest with a low, sultry groan. Where am I? Then, a voice wormed its way to her with a commanding set of instructions.

Cyberpsychosis? "Couldn't be me," she murmured melodically to herself.

A peculiar audition had transpired just a week prior—Could this be some sinister aftermath? Bea brushed the notion aside, unwilling to accept such a banal explanation. A stalker, perhaps? A cruel prank or an intricate puzzle designed to amuse some unseen spectators?

With a great effort, she hoisted herself upright and hopped over to the abandoned shoe and slipped her foot back into it. She then tugged at the bra cup of her dress and let the loose beading fall into there for safekeeping, readjusting herself accordingly.

Bea inhaled deeply, she'd already heard others stirring, an impatient woman, a well spoken man introducing himself as Kade, and someone named Rodrigo. She wasn't quite interested in speaking to any of them just yet. No, she wanted to address the stranger who seemed to be running the show.

As she stepped out, she felt a further chill against her bare skin - to which there was a lot on show. The beaded fringing of her dress did very little to cover her, and with each step it swished from side to side. "Listen Mysterio," she began - looking up and around to find the best place to speak to the disembodied voice. "I don't know what this 'virus' has to do with me, but cut it out and let me go already."

Dejah Kan stumbled forth, feet clapping against the hard floor as she struggled to keep herself upright. Like the others she had heard the voice after coming to and the provided instructions, or at least most of them. Dejah fiercely squeezed at the sides of her cranium, fingers pressing into the tender flesh beneath her ebony hair. Her head was pounding like a drum and the clamoring of the other presumed prisoners was just making it worse.

What even happened? Why the fuck am I here? How long have I been here? Who is the reason for me being here?

Dejah twisted her head, the muscles in her neck popping fiercely. She rolled her shoulders, blinked her eyes, trying in every little way to shake off this lingering disorientation. Did they say… fucking cyberpsychosis?! As Dejah’s head cleared and she began to process more of what she had heard the assassin found her chest starting to swell with panic. Her heart pounded and her entire body tingled with cold waves of anxiety and fear. They said a cure… I just need to follow directions?
Dejah looked around at the other “inmates”, sizing them up as best she could. A diverse bunch they seemed to be shaken up as she was, some more than others. A blonde woman in particular seemed less perturbed and more outraged, and quite frankly her finger-wagging caterwauling was making Dejah’s head hurt more. Dejah suppressed the urge to yell “shut the fuck up” and instead tried to garner more focus

I need to get out of here. Maybe these saps can be of help.

The sound of the disembodied voice came from all around the group as it used the facility's PA system. With no change in its tone, it answered the woman's challenge. "What I've told you is true. You are being held in a Militech facility, you have been infected by a virus and you will die if you do not follow my instructions. Whether you choose to accept your new reality or not is on you."

A distant pounding from the eastern door interrupted the voice as a series of muffled yells could be heard.

"Each of you have only minutes to decide how to deal with the guard on the other side of the door. He is armed and will shoot on sight. Kill him and acquire his radio, we do not want to telegraph our next moves over the PA as we move through the facility."

Kade gave a friendly smile followed by a slight bow to Rico. “Good to see one of you still has manners. Pleasure to meet you, Rico.” Kade maintained his elegant tone and almost welcoming demeanor in contrast to where they were and the situation they were in.

While he did have a slight semblance of fear and a bit of panic in his heart, none of those would do him or these inmates any good. Besides, waking up to dangerous situations with a disembodied voice telling him what to do wasn’t completely unlike his old job. He could roll with it.

Speaking of, the voice returned to assure everyone that the virus was real and that they could cure it, but there was a much more urgent matter that needed to be attended to regarding an armed and trigger happy guard trying to break in. Time was of the essence and Kade wasn’t going to wait around for them to show him the same common decency.

“Fine. I’ll get your names later.” He stated with a shrug. Assuming any of you are worth remembering. “Rico, be a gent and get back to your cell.” Kade calmly instructed and began walking down the hall. “That goes for all of you. Stay hidden or get shot. If you happened to smuggle a weapon in, however, then follow my lead.”

Whether the inmates followed his instructions or not, hastily repositioned himself next to the eastern door. He placed his back against the wall to the left and flattened himself as best he could. His fingers on his left hand slipped into the base of his glove on the right, and unfurled the monowire concealed in his wrist. Kade’s eyes flickered with light as he hacked into the door, prepared to open it at a moment's notice. All he needed now was for the guard to take a single step inside the room, and they would have a wire around their neck or sliced across their face.

Bea still wasn't sure what any of this had to do with her, but the situation did appear to be escalating, with Kade taking to the door that the voice had warned about. The woman didn't like this, any of it.

With her hands still on her hips, she released the tension in her brow and sighed quietly. She wasn't about to argue with him. He was halfway through his task. Instead, she looked across at the other gentleman. 'Rocko' was it? That didn't sound right, but she moved into his cell, and not her own. "Hope you don't mind, Sugar," she said cooly, betraying the anxiety she felt inside. "Two's going to have to be company. Shit might hit the fan you know?"

Truthfully, she just really didn't trust the situation, she didn't know if that hack would backfire and lock them back up again, or worse.

Rodrigo blinked rapidly when the suit told him to get back in his cell, but after patting himself down and realizing he had no weapon of his own, he figured it was likely his best bet. He nodded at the man, who seemed to know what he was about, or at least, the most prepared to take action.

Kade's confidence was having an effect on the others too, they were all retreating back to their own cells. Well, all but one. She'd caught his eye earlier. Aside from being breathtakingly beautiful, Rodrigo had been almost sure he recognized her as... but no. It couldn't be. The stress from this whole situation had to be making him see things that were impossible.

When she approached him, he felt his breath catch, but quickly swallowed down the accompanying anxiety. There were worse things than potentially being locked in a room with her. He held out his arm for her in response, and they stepped inside. "Mi casa es su casa," he said before he could help himself. Immediately wishing the ground would swallow him whole, he turned away from her to watch as the suit positioned himself against the wall.

"Those are some high grade wires," he murmured, not realizing he was speaking aloud. "I should get his supplier's contact."

"I wouldn't go calling this your casa." Bea answered quietly as she leaned back against the wall. "This place is a dump," she refused to fidget and pinned back any flickers of anxiety with a laissez-faire expression.

JV felt nothing. He had clutched his totem tighter, chanted louder, squeezed his eyes shut with all of his might and still, nothing.

Of late, it had taken more and more of a concoction of chemicals to hear the words of the Gods. During these bouts of inebriation, he'd heard them loud and clear, speaking to him, guiding his actions and giving the man some small semblance of comfort. But here, under all this concrete, there was nothing but the gurgitation of sewage that passed outside the walls of his cell. JV had hoped that whatever Militech had pumped into his system lingered, helping him reach out to Bondye but this was not so.

The man grunted, releasing his iron-like grip of his talisman and returning it to around his neck. He might not have liked it but at least the voice had given them a chance to escape, honest or not. Stepping out of his cell, JV adjusted his trench coat, pulling it forward before rolling up its sleeves. Moving past the others, he took the opposite side of the door. Eyeing off with the man on the other side, the former Voodoo boy balled his fists, the mechanical gears of his gorilla arms hydraulically whirring in anticipation.

The skinny, twig-man can distract the guard with his piece of string, I'll land the killing blow.

Inside the cell, Rodrigo pulled back from the door to give the woman a wry smile. "Oh, I've been in worse," he said. "But you're right. Mamá would hate it if she heard me call this place home." With a shrug, his attention returned to the door behind which the guard was still banging. Another one of their numbers had joined the suit. Gorilla arms. Interesting. He'd installed one recently but never had the chance to see it in action before. Yancy was determined to stand toe to toe with the worst of the Animals, and Rodrigo hadn't seen him since, so that meant he was making a name for himself, either on the streets or in the obituaries.

He glanced back at the woman, suddenly aware that she might have joined him in his cell out of fear. "We'll get you home soon."

Dejah rubbed furiously at her skull, the dizziness but not receding any. She felt like she had been pummeled over the head with an iron bar. The other prisoners were stirring themselves about, aside from the idle prattling Dejah heard the one man speak of dealing with the guard.

Dejah had nothing on her and decided it best to leave it to the man - Kade was it she had heard? - to handle this, gung-ho as he seemed to be. Another few minutes and Dejah might be oriented enough to handle herself, for now though she was following lead.

As most went back to their cells, three remained, approaching the door. Kade took the left, JV the right, both ready and gritting their teeth as their mysterious benefactor began the hack.

"Guys, this is fucked, surely we can explain that they've just got the wrong people." Some would call him an optimist, others an idiot, either way Russell approached the door front on, surprising everyone.


The door opened and the guard stepped forward, just far enough for his pointed rifle and arms to come into view for both Kade and JV. "INMATE! BACK TO YOUR CELL!" He yelled, flicking the gun into full auto.

"Mate, I'm sorry but you've got the wrong guy." Russell stepped forward, his arms next to his head in surrender.

"I said, back to your CELL," the guard repeated, lifting his rifle to train it directly on the prisoner. How had he gotten out? It was unclear whether this was related to the emergency, but in all his years with Militech there had never been a prisoner escape.

"Whoa, whoa, I haven't done anythin-" That was as far as Russell got when the first shot rang out. His face distorted in agony, mouth making a small O shape as if in surprise. A second shot followed in rapid succession and Russell cried out before he fell to the ground, gripping his wound.

The guard took a cautious step forward, not noticing the danger awaiting him on either side of the door. He wasn't about to take any chances with this filth, particularly with a tier 1 alert taking place just beyond the corridor. He needed to lock things down and show he meant business. "That's the problem," he said as he stepped through the door, "you should've done what I said."

The former corpo spy couldn’t help but roll his eyes at the man’s attempt to reason with the guard. Even if they were the “wrong people” why give yourself up like that? This was a chance at escape and no one was going to stand in Kade’s way. Besides, didn’t their mysterious benefactor warn them the guards would shoot on sight? What part of that made it sound like they would be open to talk? Though Kade took no pleasure watching what unfolded next, he also wasn’t devastated seeing the foreigner take two to the torso before he dropped to the ground. Well. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Still, Kade wasn’t going to just let the poor man be executed, assuming his injuries weren’t already fatal. So instead of holding his position for the guard to walk past, Kade only let him take one more step forward before he sprung the trap. In one fluid motion, his grip tightened around the base of his monowire as he pivoted towards the guard and whipped the wire at his arms. He didn’t have the angle for a lethal strike, but if he could at least disarm the guard, then the large Voodoo boy flanking him could finish the job.

The guard hadn't expected the surprise attack, but years of training suddenly surged through him. The sight of the prisoner's movement at the edge of his vision allowed him to shift his body just so at the last second, which resulted in the monowire wrapping itself only around the rifle. This was all well and good, because had the wire touched any part of the guard's skin, it would be more than just pieces of metal that clattered to the floor. The pull of the wire was enough to break his balance, and the man stumbled forward, but as he did, he deftly pulled a sidearm from his waist. Huffing from the movement, the guard steadied himself and trained both his eyes and weapon on the man before him. There was no warning this time, he was going to pull the trigger.

On the floor, a pool of blood slowly began expanding around Russell, who had ceased his low moans in pain. Rodrigo watched cautiously from the doorway, brows furrowed. He wouldn't risk leaving the cell while the guard was still armed, a medic was of no use to anyone injured... or killed.

One of the shots struck a bit high and seemed to have hit the Aussie's shoulder, but the second had hit much closer to home in his chest. It was nothing he wasn't familiar with patching up given his experience both with the Valentinos and the Trauma Team, but Russell needed medical intervention immediately if he was going to pull through from this. Rodrigo patted his pockets for a second time to ensure there were no stray tools he could rely on to assist the man. Unfortunately, whoever had captured him had done a thorough job of removing everything. As the guard lifted his weapon toward the Suit, Rodrigo's breath caught. Not another one.. He wouldn't be able to save two lives tonight, not at that range, not with no tools, not when the pool of blood around the Aussie indicated every second that ticked by decreased his chances of survival tenfold.

Fool. The Corpo was slow off the mark, unable to fling his string at the guard before he fired. JV watched as Russell's body slumped backward, going down in only two bullets. Pathetic.

Finally, as the monowire wrapped itself around the rifle, the former Voodoo boy leapt into action, literally. Jumping as if he were going for a slam dunk, JV twisted his torso, bringing his fist back. Distracted by Kade, the guard didn't see the 106kg man bearing down on him.

Thrusting with all his might, JV ploughed his fist through the back of the guard's skull. Exploding like a watermelon, chunks of brain matter painted the walls along with the Corpo before another shot could ring out.

Gunshots. A squash. Splattering. The ground becoming wet. A scent in the air that was unfamiliar.

Bea's face still held resolve that she wasn't afraid; she moved out of the cell again - curious, unable to stop herself from being drawn to the macabre. Unwilling to wait for her cellmate. She held out her manicured hand in front of her, the other against the cold bare skin beneath her collarbones.

Her heels in step kept in time with her heart as it quickened in this changing face of impending uncertainty after the sounds that she heard.

Red everywhere. Just red, like ragu. Like rose petals. Merlot. A pomegranate.

She'd never seen such violence before. Heard of it? Yes. But... Been this close to a scene so gruesome, so close to it? While a body was still warm - painting the grey walls... Urgh...

Parts of him existing too on someone else's hands.

"Just corn syrup Ms. Adler..." she muttered quietly as her gaze continued to trace the tapestry of viscera. A feeble attempt to reason with it.

The ground beneath her changed, and instinctively she looked down to see that she had stepped in it. Her shoe had quickly taken in a fearful asymmetrical ink blot of blood - seeping through the satin, turning it ruby red - the jewels gleaming back up at her like tiny eyes.

She thought, in fact, that were her shoes to become so drenched, she could tap her heels and "there's no place like home" her way out of here. Or was that just the... Air is getting thin... She swayed, side to side, in a swirl of slow motion - her eyes blurred -the image of the guard's burst head burned behind them. The colour dropped from her face, and so too did she - falling forwards.

As Gorilla Arms prevented the guard from taking out the Suit, Rodrigo sighed in relief. Only the Aussie would require his attention, and he would need it quick. As Rodrigo moved to step out into the passage way to see what he could offer the fallen prisoner, he noticed the woman who had followed him was already standing outside the cell, transfixed. When had that happened? His Kiroshi optics picking up her increased temperature and heart rate, the perspiration accumulating on her skin. Not an untypical reaction to the scene before them, but there was nothing outright wrong with her. His attention began to shift toward the Aussie once more, but he noticed the woman swayed where she stood and as she began to fall, Rodrigo rushed forward to prevent an injury, catching her just before she gave way, his arm supporting her back. Guess it was more than one after all, he thought to himself. He lowered her quickly but carefully with a hand carefully cupping the back of her head as he lay her down. In his rush however, he was unable to prevent some of the splattered blood and brain matter from staining the short dress she wore.

Some of the other prisoners began leaving their cells too, now that the worst of the threat had passed. A woman with dark hair made eye contact with Rodrigo and he motioned to her. "Keep an eye on her while I check on him," he said, quickly kneeling before the Aussie. Russell?

An initial scan of the body indicated severe blood loss and low blood pressure. Rodrigo attempted to slow the bleeding to the two wounds, but that would leave him without any hands. His eyes shot up to the Suit. "Please," his voice sounded higher than normal. "Put all your weight on these bullet wounds, quickly. We need to stop the bleeding."

As if he was unfazed by the gory death in front of him or the bits of flesh and blood that now covered his suit, Kade calmly retracted his monowire and gave a quick smile and nod to JV. With the immediate threat dealt with, he walked elegantly over to the injured Aussie, ignoring the woman who had fainted on the ground, and followed Rico's instructions. He knelt down and placed his hands firmly on the wounds and applied pressure.

"We really do not have time for surgery. Patch him up quick and lets go." Kade said to Rico before looking down at Russell. "Maybe next time you'll follow instructions?"

The man was in no condition to offer a reply, he was no longer conscious.

With his hands free, Rodrigo checked the Aussie's pulse to confirm what he already knew, Russell was fading. Fast. There were no tools to pull out the bullets, and even with all of the weight Kade was adding, the blood still seeped around the Suit's hands. There were no options here. There was nothing Rodrigo could do to prevent the inevitable. Too much blood had already been lost, and without any equipment– he was helpless.

A deep gnawing darkness crept up from the base of his gut, consuming him. A voice unlike anything he'd ever heard before whispered in his ear, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand. A raspy, guttural, feral sound. "How many more will you be unable to save, Cas?" Suddenly, Rodrigo was no longer in the prison complex. Before him was an examination table where a young girl lay, dead. Her chest cavity open, blood drained from her arms down to her finger tips. Drip. Drip. His hands trembled as he looked down on her lifeless body. "Wasn't it you who boasted your skills? Told them they could bring her to you? Told them you would handle it?" The voice continued, each sentence striking him like a bullet. "Had they taken her to the hospital, she would have been saved. But you insisted, didn't you?"

Rodrigo fell to his knees, shaking his head. "That's not how it happened," he said, voice low at first. "That's not how it happened!" He repeated, louder, raising his head to yell at the incorporeal voice around him. But as he did so, he realized he was back in the prison complex, kneeling next to Russell and the Suit. Rodrigo refused to bring his glistening eyes to meet Kade's. Slowly, he shook his head. In a low voice he said, "There's nothing we can do."

Dejah found her arms half raised as of preparing to take a defensive stance, her entire body tense from the scene that had just played out. The one man laid out by the guard who then was eviscerated by the larger man, blood and red chunks everywhere across the floor around the corpse. The blonde had fainted it seemed, truly a sorry thing, and the rest were debating between fixing up the downed Russel or just leaving him. Dejah, truly, did not care which - all she was worried about in the moment was herself. As long as the rest of whoever these fucks were drew the fire of these pigs for her she was fine if they all went down, so long as she got out of here and to whomever this person was that claimed to be able to cure this affliction.

“Leave him.” Dejah finally spoke for the first time, echoing what Rodrigo said. “Let us go, shall we? Before this gets any messier.”

Blood and matter steadily slid down JV's arm as it fell to his side. His head turned up, facing towards the ceiling with his eyes shut. Breathing heavily through his nose, the man's jaw was clenched tight, almost as if it were wired shut. Softly he hummed, a deep thrum of a noise that came from his belly and sat in his throat.

Falling into a deep, meditative trance, the wails of the Doctor slipped away. The saturating smell of gunpowder and iron evaporated just as the taste of blood dissipated.

Was this enough? Would this violent sacrifice appease the Gods?

JV's ears strained. His heart thumped, calling out, begging for anything. A word, a noise, whatever to help guide him.

"I warned you."

The voice cut through his trance like butter. A garbled, static-y voice that came from the hip of the headless guard. Flicking the blood from his arm, the Haitian bent down and grabbed the shortwave radio attached to the guards belt.

"Down the hallway there is a left turn, follow that passage to the barracks. Inside there is an automated turret and another guard. Dispatch them and collect the weapons that were taken from you. You're going to need them."

The voice paused as JV looked over the group. One of them was already a mere moment away from death, another had passed out with a third distraught.

"Get the Ripperdoc under control and see if he can rouse the woman. Leave the man to his fate."

Tucking the radio into the inside pocket of his trench coat, JV approached the medic and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Bring the woman around, I could carry her but there are more to kill."

Rodrigo felt the touch on his shoulder and was surprised by how gentle Gorilla Arms could be. He nodded and stood, Russell's blood still staining his hands. There was no time to grieve now, they needed to get out of here.

As he moved closer to the woman who'd fainted, the other woman he'd asked to watch over her shrugged her shoulders. "I tried shaking her awake, but she's out of it."

He dipped his head toward her and wordlessly bent down to collected the woman in his arms. He had nothing on him to rouse her and would have been able to achieve only what the other woman had already attempted and failed. The shock from the scene would eventually wear off and she would awaken, but they didn't have the luxury of waiting around for it to happen. If the disembodied Voice was right, and there was no reason to doubt them at this point, there would be more battles ahead and Gorilla Arms would be better suited to protect the group. Kade and his wires as well. Without any of his tools or weapons, Rodrigo's own useless arms would at least serve some purpose in carrying the unconscious woman until she stirred.

Turning back to the grisly scene, he gave the Aussie one last look, straining to remember the man as he had been before he fell. It was the most he could offer since they would leave his remains behind. "Que dios lo bendiga," he muttered softly.

The Suit and Gorilla Arms both stood at the door and Rodrigo nodded once more to indicate his readiness. It was then he caught a glimpse of the old radio from which the Voice had spoken to offer further direction. It was old world tech. Something he had only ever seen virtually in ancient films. Scraps might still be found in the municipal landfills but no one bothered with them anymore, even antique collectors. Glad to have a distraction to occupy his thoughts, Rodrigo considered the benefit of using such dated technology. It was hard to detect, particularly underground, ensuring this secret facility remained just that.

As the Doctor left, JV lingered over Russell. The blood leaking from him had slowed to an ooze. Taking a knee beside the Aussie, the Haitian noticed his mouth had been left agape with his eyes wide open. Terror had filled the man’s final moments.

JV placed a hand over his face. There was no water to wash the body with nor was there anything to wrap it with. What would Militech do with it once they found it? Where would it be in nine days when Russell’s soul escapes?

Shutting the dead man’s eyes and mouth, JV could do nothing but offer up a prayer. “Mwen priye nanm ou chape kote sa a.”

“Shame.” Kade simply stated in regards to a man dying in his hands. He released his hands from the wounds and attempted to wipe the blood from them off on the deceased Aussie’s clothing. It was already going to be hell washing the stains out of his suit. He didn’t want his gloves to be drenched in blood as well. Besides, Russell certainly wouldn’t object to his clothes getting a little dirtier.

Once he was satisfied with the amount of blood he managed to remove, he stood up and left the corpse to JV and glanced back at Rico, curious to see how the ripper doc was fairing after his little outburst. The corpo looked at the fainted woman he held in his arms, then back at Rico and raised an eyebrow. Kade said nothing on the matter, but it was clear he was silently questioning the doc’s choice in carrying someone out of here. Time was not a luxury they had, and this distressed damsel would only slow them down.

“I could not agree more.” Kade replied to Dejah’s comment. Gracefully he strode back to the headless guard. His eyes darted back and forth as he scanned the body for anything else of use. The rifle would have been a great asset, but Kade has sliced it to bits in an effort to save Russell. Ugh. What a waste. He should have just stuck with his original plan even if the guard got more shots in. But it wasn’t a total loss. The guard did have a pistol, and JV had killed him before he could even fire it. The mag should be full along with any spares he had. With a sly grin he bent down and retrieved the weapon.

“Anyone here besides me good with handguns?” He asked, holding the weapon aloft and giving it a slight shake. “The more people we have armed the better.”

Dejah was starting to become more oriented, albeit slowly. She saw Kade lift the dead guards’ weapon and without any hesitation took an assertive step forward, right arm extended. “I will take that.”

As a professional assassin suffice to say that Dejah had no shortage in firearm use, namely pistols and smaller automatic weapons. She imagined the guards all carried the same weapons or close to it, anymore guards killed could be stripped of ammo along with anything else they had on them.

"Wonderful!" Kade said. His fingers wrapped around the front of the gun as he stood back up and placed the grip of the weapon in Dejah's palm.

"Now then. You and hammer hands over there will be on guard duty. If either of you see someone in a uniform, kill them. As long as you can do that, I should be able to take care of the turrets or any other automated defenses they have." Kade turned his attention to the rest of the inmates as he continued speaking. "The rest of you, just stick close and do as I say. I will try to keep you alive, but from here on out if you get shot you get left. Understood? Great. Now let's not waste anymore time." With his final words, Kade turned on his heel towards the exit and began walking down the hall as the voice had instructed.

The blonde did rather quickly stir once she was picked up, and from the noise. Rather than being embarrassed about the whole thing, the first thing that struck Bea was a feeling of annoyance that she was still here - and that she hadn't been out for longer. For the second time, her eyes opened to a sea of grey. She lifted her head to peer over Rico's shoulder, back at the scene. That poor man, she thought to herself as she looked at Russell.

She wriggled free of Rico's grasp and stood back on her feet - she felt less stable, but, should bullets start flying again, she wanted to be able to run. Still, she found time for a remark. "If you moved your hands any further north you'd owe me dinner, Sugar."

She ran her hands over the fabric of her costume dress once more. "But thanks," she added with a quiet sincerity. "Name's Bea, by the way. If not dinner, at least first name terms."

Rodrigo felt the woman in his arms stirring, but waited until she'd fully come around to place her on the ground, which ended up not being necessary as she slipped free from his grasp much like a cat he'd held on to for too long. Hm, the cats missed their dinner last night, he suddenly remembered. Probably wondering where I am.

At the woman's comment, Rodrigo blushed, unsure of how to respond. He'd had no ulterior motives in holding her as he'd been, but she'd have no way of knowing that about him, especially considering how many creeps there were in Night City. Then again, he'd be lying if he said he didn't appreciate what he saw, or how soft her skin felt in his hands. He was grateful she introduced herself through his blustering. Mentally slapping himself, he thought, I should've done that ages ago.

"Rodrigo," he answered, holding out a hand only to realize it was coated in dried blood before pulling it back sheepishly. "Sorry about the stains. I guess I do owe you dinner once we manage to get out of here."

Wait a second. Had she said Bea? As in. The Bea Adler? It couldn't be...

Respectfully, after we get out of here I hope to never see any of you again, was what Bea was thinking. Her smile, however, responded to Rodrigo's offer as was to be expected. Her life depended on connections down here, it seemed.

JV stood, leaving the dead mans side to follow the corpo down the hallway. Dank and dark, the passage way was what you expected from an underground facility. A series of pipes and wires ran along the ceiling, darting off here and there to panels and gadgets that littered the wall. Solid and ugly concrete covered the floors, without so much as a colour or a pattern to brighten it.

What little lighting there was flickered on and off dimly, as if the facility was being drained of power. Halfway down was a right turn, a T-junction, the ends of which each led to doors that looked exactly the same as the one they entered through. The only difference was the noise.

Down at the far end, beyond the right turn, muffled noises echoed, drifting their way up to the group. Shearing metal, screams of terror, maniacal shouting, wails of pain, all were followed by the occasional sporadic gunshot. Something was tearing the facility apart on the other side of the door.

"Turn right." Commanded the voice. "We cannot go that way, not yet."

JV rounded the corner, his mind focused on the task at hand.

"As stated," the radio continued, "there is a guard and a turret on the other side of this door. The guard is preoccupied trying to hack the lift I disabled while the turret is in 'sweep' mode. Make your plans and signal when you are ready."

The halls of the Militech prison were far more dark and dreary than the corpo cared for. Sure it might have been cost efficient to make a place like this so bare bones, but a little class never killed anyone. Not to mention decent lighting would at least make it easier to navigate. Though in the absence of light, the blood curdling shrieks and screams accompanied by gunfire was a decent way to guide them. Specifically in telling them where not to go. Once they had reached the door and the voice indicated they were in the right place, Kade placed his arms behind his back and sat up straight and proper as he turned to address the ragtag crew following him.

“We’ll make this quick. Pistol. Arms.” Kade looked to Dejah and JV, still attempting to work with the fact no one gave him even a codename to go with. “I’ll hack the turret and short it out. Once it’s out of the way, you two take care of the guard. I suggest Arms here tries to sneak up and give him the same treatment he gave the other one. Hopefully we can save our bullets, but if the guard catches us before Arms gets close, I’ll need you to start shooting, Pistol.”

“The rest of you.” Kade’s gaze slowly passed over every other inmate before he cracked a devious smile. “Stay put and watch our backs. I’d rather you all look away, anyway. We really can’t have someone fainting every time things get… Messy.”

Lauren nodded, she had no problems standing back until she had a weapon of her own to contribute. Once she had that, nothing would stop her from finding her brother. Mysterious voices be damned.

Rodrigo ran a hand through his hair. "Look," he said to Kade in a low tone so their voices didn't carry to the room inside. "I appreciate you stepping up, hermano. But we should learn a little more about each other before orders start flying around." He looked to Gorilla Arms and the woman holding the gun. "I can glitch the guard's weapon so he'll be harmless for a few moments which should give you enough of an opening. If there are no other suggestions, this seems like a solid plan," he finalized, giving Kade a nod.

There was something deeply unsettling and frightening down that hallway, and Bea didn't exactly want to find herself next in line for it, whatever it was. Ignorance could be bliss - at least, that could be true if the sounds weren't so... detailed. She pushed the thought away.

Learn about each other? Was it not obvious for her at least? Although she supposed the remark was not made her way to begin with, she had no weapons or propensity for violence. She had diamante studded tits and a catalogue of show tunes. Big whoop here! Still, she wanted to speak for herself. "Well you know," Bea began, her sharp eyes glancing around the space and the individuals occupying it. "Unless there's an escape hatch controlled by a guitar, I'm best staying put in the back."

Her brows quirked, and her fingers fidgeted, a hand placed on her hip - the other free. She wanted a cigarette. Hands were too idle like this.

"Nothing to offer this game of escape but the promise of martinis and a show on the other side if we make it out in one piece..." Her voice was once again melodic, a sing-song purr against the awful torturous sounds from the hallway. Slacks was right. "We should keep moving. Quickly."

Every beginning has an end and every end has a beginning.

Deep underground, a steady pulsing of purified air was being pumped throughout the impressively large cement structure. Behind the walls, sounds of water surging along its path underneath the city high above could be heard. Luckily, they had been built thick, preventing the stench of waste materials from penetrating the prison complex, but if someone stopped and listened, the telltale rush and gurgles of a thick soupy liquid could be heard. Inside, a lone guard walked along his perimeter, maintaining his motion while whistling to himself in an effort to drown out the noise. It wasn’t so much that he disliked the sound, but the idea that the city’s filth was both just beyond the walls, as well as within, was enough to make his hair stand on end.

He paused along his circuitous route to gaze into one of the cells to his right and raised his lip in scorn. There lay a woman, jet black hair, slender with protruding cheekbones. Her chest rose and fell at a slight but steady pace. Still sleeping. All bar one of the cells' interiors were visible from the catwalk through a hardlight holographic bit of tech. It allowed the guard to see everything inside while the inhabitants could only see their own reflection. The cells themselves were all the same, a cube with a small slab of cement sticking out from one of the walls where the prisoners were allowed to lay. There was only enough space for them to stand at full height and spread their arms wide from all sides. More than these ingrates deserve. The guard thought to himself.

Continuing his along the metal catwalk, he left the four cells on the southside wall, passing the locked tight eastern door and heading over to the northside wall with four more identical cells. Refusing to even glimpse to his left, the guard hugged the walls, well away from the railing that overlooked a sheer drop. Below was a well of prison floors that stretched so deep underground, even the most daring thrill seekers would think twice about venturing over.

Passing a blacked out screen, the guard wondered about the man held on the inside. He had overheard his supervisor mention the prisoner was a journalist. Perhaps that was the reason for the darkened screen, anyone who preached the truth in Night City made enemies and could’ve copped a heavier beating from it. Though that was one of a hundred potential reasons, in truth the man was as much in the dark as the prisoner.

Taking in a deep breath, the guard sighed in relief, thankful he could leave such a place at the end of the day. You had to have true grit to survive such employment. Sure, the pay was good but the monotony... innumerable floors laid out in the same fashion, each of them could be seen repeating floor after floor below, almost as if in an unending recursion. Better to keep walking. At least he was on the top floor, new prisoners were always kept here first before finding more permanent homes in the cells below, so he had a constant supply of new subjects to observe.

Approaching another cell, he saw a woman sprawled awkwardly on the cement slab, arm draped over her face and legs showing just enough skin to make the mind run wild. A lecherous smile crossed his lips. It was rare he was granted such eye candy, and this cell had become his favourite part of the circuit since this batch was brought in. He always lingered a bit longer, slowed his steps and ensured his observation of this particular cell was elongated. Unfortunately, however, he always reached the end of the cell before he was ready to give up his inspection and was met with a disgusting view of a man slumped on his stomach with his bottom raised into the air as if taunting the guard. A mix of cyan and green, the man was dressed in a dishevelled manor, his hair rough as if he had slept peacefully for days. The guard grunted in annoyance at the sight.

Rounding off the final cell on the northside was another male, though very different in appearance and demeanour. He slept on his back, his legs straight as an arrow while his arms were crossed across his chest, as if he were a vampire. Sleek and slick, he was dressed to impress. A Corpo through and through if the guard had ever seen one.

Round and round the man walked, passing the elevator down on the western wall and back to the cells on the southside. A foreigner from a distant land was first, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, then a woman who had been searching for her missing brother. Neither were much of note. The third, however, had a man who made the guard shudder. A daunting hulk of a thing, the man inside the cell had slept with his eyes open. A gut churning sight that almost made the guard brave enough to peer over the edge as he passed by.

Back to the start, he sighed. Right, here we go again. But before he could take another step forward, the guard suddenly froze. Raising a hand to his ear, he cocked his automatic rifle before running through the high security door to the east.

As soon as the door closed behind the guard, the holographic hardlight screen flickered. Fuzzy static focused into an image of a seated figure obscured in shadow behind a desk. Their features were entirely obscured and when they finally spoke, their voice was distorted and garbled.

“Wake up,” they said, their voice steady, unhurried. The air flowing into the vents in each cell changed. A dense gas seeped out, rousing those that slept below. As soon as it was clear the prisoners were stirring in response, the voice continued. Its tone was matter of fact, direct, as if the figure was reading from a prompt. “You are currently being detained in a Militech facility and you have been infected by a virus. This is a novel but highly advanced agent that is being developed and researched now in the very facility you find yourself in. The effects of this virus leave us with little time, therefore, all I can say now is that unless action is taken, you will succumb to Cyberpsychosis in less than 24 hours. Follow my forthcoming instructions carefully and you will not only avoid that end, you will be cured.”

The holographic screen flickered once more, static overtaking its entirety before the picture vanished completely. Raising up, the hardlight structure disappeared into the ceiling opening their cells to the facility.

“Take the western door,” came the voice, perfectly audible to the prisoners despite the lack of accompanying visuals. “But beware, the guard is trapped in the hallway.”
Kysar “Venator” Proctus

Solveig “Wraith” Winstrom

Iron-side Chats

Kysar was wide for a Turian. A fact which was most inconvenient when it came to sleeping on a couch. A quarter of his torso hung over the lip of the cushion, leaving one of his arms to flop about uncomfortably. The length of his body didn’t help either, being too long for the blasted thing, his legs draped over the wicker twinned arm, undoubtedly leaving their mark on his skin. All this would have been tolerable if not for the racket next door. A night of Nadara and her new plaything kept the Turian awake, forcing him to sleep with a pillow over his face just to block out the noise.

The hallways weren’t safe either. At one point Kysar had wanted to take a break but as he left the room, he caught the human quickly ducking back inside, leaving a foul smelling odour in his wake. The Turian had made a mental note to ask Awks if her kind had some sort of defence mechanism when scared though such a thing would be news to him.

Still, dawn broke all the same and Kysar had made the most of their complementary breakfast by ordering it up to the room. Zenn was splayed out on the bed. His lack of snoring was an eerie feature of his enviro suit but the Quarian tossed and turned every now and then, displaying at least some sign of life. Munching on a dextro sausage, the Turian opened his omni-tool and began browsing the web. Ugh, he thought, a message from Primarch Invectus, what does he want this time?

Flicking the notification to the side, the Turian decided to deal with the Primarch’s nonsense at a time of his choosing.

Next was the news. Right, Batarian’s being Batarian, Human’s being Human, corporations doing what they do… oh that’s interesting, Konesh you ballsy old dog. Kysar’s eyes darted from the orange glow of his omni-tool to Zenn, then back to his wrist. Wonder how that one is going to go down. He isn’t going to haul our asses into the middle of nowhere again, right?

Moving on, the Turian raised an eyebrow at news from the Hierarchy. What was left of his old unit was being turfed out into space under the guise of “pardons”. Conditional pardons maybe. He mused, tempted to return to his messages to see if he’d been given the same raw deal. Fuck him, he can at least wait for me to finish breakfast. With a bite of his final sausage, Kysar flicked onto the last story.

Human memorial service, how sweet, I wonder if… wait, what the fuck? Kysar’s back straightened in an instant as his face closed in on the hologram. Winstrom, Vice Admiral Agnes Wistrom. Following a hyperlink, the Turian jumped to another article.

Heart attack. Survived by her only daughter, a well decorated Alliance soldier.

Sifting through a few more press releases, Kysar found a date. Oh Sol… Windhoek, I had no idea. Standing, the Turian kicked the leg of the table. You fucking idiot Kysar, how could you not know?

Tearing out of the room, the Turian bounced down the stairs dodging staff and any other early risers. Galloping up to the front desk, Kysar demanded a cab from the receptionist. “Of course Mr. Proctus, where are you headed?” Panting, he replied. “The gym, take me to the gym.”

Solveig's morning had started much like it always did. Mornings were never different. She opened her eyes in the bed that could stand to be more comfortable. She couldn’t complain, she’d slept on hard floors when it had been necessary. Something different today disturbed her routine… a smile.

A shower, lukewarm today to wash her hair, and then her hands got to work in setting the length of it into two Dutch braids - finishing up at the base of her shoulder blades. Others still slept in their beds at the hour she left the dorms, and she wondered if she’d even slept enough. She couldn’t complain, she’d taken on missions on less.

The gym was empty and cold - the equipment stark, basic, and uninviting - some of it broken even. She couldn’t complain, she was used to the cold. After a quick warm up and stretch, she made her way today to the punching bag in the corner and began punching it with her right hand swiftly, following with a low kick, before moving around the bag and doing it again. Over and over. Over and over. Her mind fell blank of thoughts, Solveig had only a sense of complete focus on the movement of her body - feeling each and every muscle as it worked. She felt the strength of her kick in the way the bag absorbed it, the sound it made. A solid and heavy thud.

Higher kicks now. Three in a row. One. Two. Higher. Three. Highest - twist. One. Two. Higher. Three. Highest - twist. Over and over. Over and over. Outside, the sun would be rising soon, but inside the time slipped away in her quiet, meditative focus. She had no idea of the news update, and no idea when Team 2 or 3 would be stirring.

The gym door creaked, echoing around the room as Kysar pushed it open. Despite practically pelting it to the gym from the lodge, the Turian had taken a moment to compose himself just outside the door. Perhaps he wasn’t willing to foot the bill for another broken door or, more likely, he didn’t want to seem too eager.

“Sol!” The entrance to the gym was on the opposite side to the punching bags. Without so much of a second thought, Kysar had called out to the woman as soon as he saw her. Idiot. So much for not sounding desperate.

Kysar’s voice immediately drew Solveig out of her focus and toward the Turian. ”Venato-uh, Kysar,” she answered, facing him, the bag swinging just so, the last of her kick’s momentum leaving it. ”You need something?”

“I-er…” Kysar stuttered, his hands wringing each other out as the Turian began to feel beads of sweat form along his forehead. Why was he so nervous? He had never shied away from conflict before. Ky could feel his heart beat in his ears, seemingly thumping with irregularity. In truth, the Turian had grown accustomed to conflict but what he didn’t realise is that he wasn’t used to caring about someone else.

“Sol… Windhoek. I-I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

As Solveig stepped away from the equipment and toward Kysar, she paid close attention to his movements, the way his hands twisted around each other. She did that too when she was unsure or anxious. Her eyes narrowed, the silver-blue of them focused closely on her teammate and her head cocked to the side. Curious, she thought to herself. It wasn’t like him to be nervous. ”Windhoek…? You haven’t – didn’t do anything to apologise… I’m…”

She paused then. She read it in his eyes, and when she finished the word, what she’d been avoiding blew back in. How does he know? she asked herself and her eyes inadvertently narrowed further, her posture changed. ”Don’t be. Or… Thank you, but no need.” Both fists were balled, and she shook her head, turning away. ”I’m.. I’m fine. I, I trust you slept well?” she asked, changing the subject - unable to look at him.

Kysar stepped in towards Sol, tempted to stop and embrace her just as he had once before. Instead, the Turian kept moving, taking another step towards the still swinging bag. Placing a hand on it, he brought it to a stop. Opening his mouth, he croaked once more. Say it! A voice deep from within hissed, familiar in its venom. Scipio. Quit being such a coward and say it!

Gritting his teeth, the Turian’s fingers balled into a tightly wound fist. Say it! Scipio repeated. With a sharp exhale through his nose, he opened his mouth again. “I was angry with you. Angry when you left. At the time, I… I dunno, I thought I blew it off. Didn’t care about you or the Alliance but when I woke up, when Nadara found me and I saw you again, I was angry.”

”But you’re right to be angry!” Solveig said clearly, her voice raising. She rolled her shoulder back with a twitch. ”I-I left. I left. She breathed in, wringing her own hands now, pacing. ”If only. I mean. I just. Just why? Why then? Ev-everyone gone…” She motioned between stopping and starting with her pacing. She couldn’t hate Kysar for what he’d admitted, she could only feel his sudden regret for it and that was even worse. ”If this hadn’t happened, if I was there…” Not wanting to sound like she was some big shot hero, she shrugged and shook her head. ”At least someone else might- could have saved one of them. Even one. Be… Be fucking angry Kysar...”
Solveig exhaled, looking down at the floor. She felt her voice quieten again. ”I am.”

Kysar swung the bag, following it with his fist as it drifted back and forth, giving it momentum. It was mesmerising, as if it was a metronome, something to help keep his stray thoughts at bay and the potential gaze of his friend out of his cone of vision. The Turian couldn’t bear to look at her, not yet at least. “No, Sol, I’m trying to say I was wrong to be.”

An image of fire flickered across his mind as he thought back. “I was there that day. It was Jelize over the encrypted channel, telling us to go down the alley. Then a different voice told us to drop the device. We hardly got an answer out when they activated another one hidden in a dumpster. Everyone went down except for Keslia and I…”

Kysar felt his chest tighten, rage sparked inside his heart, seeping into his lungs. His torso began to rotate back as he cocked his fist. “Her biotic barrier and my tech armour saved us but they knew what they were doing. The bastards rained molotovs down on Karnoc.” The Turian fired, his body rotating back, flinging forth his arm and striking the bag. “Keslia stepped forward to retaliate when they hit her too. Drenched her in fire.” Kysar hit the bag again with a left. “She saved my life, gave me time to activate the beacon.” Another, harder, hook from his right.

“But it was already too late. They swarmed us, dragged off Katya and Tamás before I could even take a step. I didn’t even see where Kaya went.” More punches. Left, right, left, left right. “They fired a shotgun right into Karnoc’s head.” An image of bright orange blood coated the interior of his mind. “I fell back, trying to find cover behind a gap in the fence when they hit me too. I tried. I crawled away when those humans got me. Last thing I remember is the butt of a shotgun closing in on my head.”

Shutting his eyes, the Turian hammered the bag with a flurry of punches, only stopping to catch his breath. “I was there Sol, if you were too, you’d just be another name on that wall.”

The bag moved with every punch of Kysar’s, the sound enough to turn Solveig’s head back to him, and as he spoke - not daring to interrupt, she let him go at it. Let him speak it out loud, she just listened to him and allowed his words to burn a clear image of it all in her mind. It filled out the clear space she had worked to create, a storm of blood and ash swirling against the backdrop of Havana. She made her way to his side, and then in front of him - catching the punching bag to hold it still as it swung. She held it for a while, in silence as she thought.

”If… You were angry then and aren’t now… I. I don’t care about that.” She held it tightly, gripping into its material. ”It doesn’t matter. No time to… Dwell. Matters how…” Solveig paused, closing her eyes, biting on her lip. ”Matters how we honour who we lost… Matters how we… Protect our team now.” She thought of Zenn. Then of her jumping on that violent Brute without much time for second thought of consequence. How the three of them took it down, Kysar with the killing blow. ”If I’m on that wall…” She opened her eyes again and stared across the gym. ”It’s so someone else doesn't have to be. Th-that’s my job. That’s… What I was made for…” Her arm twitched again, as if the thing was responding to her words.

Kysar sighed, unclenching his fists as his arms fell to his side. “You’re more than that, Sol.” Now standing in front of the Turian, he made sure to catch the woman’s eye. “You aren’t just a name waiting to join a memorial. You’re a friend, a comrade, a real life person with thoughts and feelings. Not just some tool for a militaristic organisation.” Kysar sighed again, rocking on his back foot.

“My point is I should’ve just talked to you about this. I should have known better or realised there was something more to you leaving when you did. I’m sorry about your mum. I know how losing a parent can change things.” Pausing for just a moment, Ky felt a sense of warmth emanate from his hand, the final touch of his dying father still lingered within him after all this time.

“So, I dunno, if you ever want to talk about it?” The Turian smiled as a small chuckle escaped him. “I know that’s not quite your strong suit but ah-” Putting a hand on his friend's shoulder, Kysar continued. “I’m here.”

Solveig looked at Kysar’s hand, and then into his eyes. She wanted to keep the box closed, pushed right back in the dark corners where it was just a quiet, constant hum and nothing else. But… She’d already made up her mind that this was someone she trusted, and more than anything else - she appreciated the patience that he and the rest of the SRN team had for her. “She was… a great Vice Admiral, soldier… Those things.” Her fingers tapped lightly against the punching bag, her tone was calm, respectful, as if she was being listened to just then. Was she? Did that matter now? “Reason that I feel… Like some tool. I… That’s, what I was - to her. All I was.”

She couldn’t believe she’d said that. Let her biggest wound open up just enough. She slowly brought a hand to her mouth, rubbing at her lip. “I wasn’t a good daughter. I was born wrong…” she stopped herself, stepping away from the bag. She felt a sting in her chest as the face of her mother came to her mind. Cold and chastising, and her eyes always looking the other way. She took a breath, a long pause as she often did - letting her words come to her without a feeling of rushing to speak. ”I’ve lived… In her shadow… All my life, Kysar. Got used to silence. To working alone... Being alone. But… I’m trying to be Solveig, again… Trying.”

Kysar grimaced. It was difficult for him to imagine what it would’ve been like to have a parent like that. What level of fucked up would he even be if that was the case?

“Impossible to be a good daughter to someone who wasn’t a good mother.” Fuck! The Turian eyes slammed shut, the thought had escaped him without a filter. “Shit, sorry, I mean that parents are people and some people fuck up. A lot. Letting her shoulder go, Kysar kicked an imaginary rock away. “I’m sorry your mother didn’t see you for who you really were. She missed out. We do though, I mean shit, Zenn is pretty taken with you and I don’t think that would’ve happened if he didn’t see the real you.”

The Turian shrugged, smiling. “Plus, y’know, you do some of your best work in the shadows.”

It was a relief for Solveig to hear that. To feel validated, at least for something small. A small step on a long road she knew was in front of her, but a step regardless. “Thanks Kysar,” was all she said for a bit, a smile teased at the corner of her mouth when he mentioned Zenn, and she wondered if he was well. “I… appreciate it. I don’t think I’m… Really ready to talk about any more but… Maybe another day. Sink a bottle of something… Let it rip. I don’t know…”

She shrugged too, watching Kysar. “Being so quiet for so long, I’m good at listening. If you ever had something to say, to share…” She sighed again, reaching out her own arm to touch Kysar’s arm. “I’m glad you talked about Karnoc, Tamaz, Kaya, Keslia… I don’t want us to forget them, you know? Even if remembering is hard it… Means they meant something.”

Kysar nodded, although he wished there were some other way he could remember them. There was a part of him that regretted not getting to know the crew in Namibia but then again, it may have only meant their deaths would have hit him even harder. Either way, Sol was right. “I’ve got stories for days.” He chuckled. “But yeah, let's wait until we meet next over a bottle of something strong. That human vodka is probably the best thing your species has produced so far.”

“Can’t argue with that…” Solveig said, flashing a brief smile. “Let’s… Save these conversations for the bar then… And next time we’re here, get some real practice in?” She gave him a jab in the arm as she spoke, he seemed to be swimming in the memory again, she hoped it would pull him out - reaffirm she was there, in her own way.

“Punching bag is no opponent for us.” She was thankful for his time, and to him - even if she couldn’t quite express it like he’d have been able to. In her own way, she did. Her mind felt clouded with thoughts of Team 1, but she didn’t mind that they were there, she wanted to feel them. To know. To share that knowing with Kysar, he deserved to at least speak out the burden of it, didn’t he?

“I should go… Mission briefing.” With that, she began heading in the direction of the door - as she walked through it, she made sure it was completely open. “Oh and Kysar… This door is no opponent either, remember,” she added with a smirk, and then she was gone.

Kysar laughed, rubbing his throbbing arm as he considered her offer. Even her real arm still packed quite the punch but the Turian wasn’t in the business of backing down from any challenge. Following his friend out of the room, he stopped at the open entrance. Quickly, Kysar lashed out, stepping towards the door with his fist raised, only to stop an inch away. “Better watch yourself buddy, let all your door friends know you’re all on notice.” Chuckling, the Turian left the room, headed towards the briefing.

Solveig, clearly full of beans after beating down the punching bag, had scurried off ahead to the meeting. Kysar had been left in the dust and was almost at the board room when he remembered the email. Propping himself up against a wall, he opened his omni-tool.

Fuck, here we go again.
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