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Prison Freighter, Designation: Knoxx
Holding Cell 4




Tarka had sat patiently and listened as the human had crossed the cell and begun to explain that she and the newcomer were plotting an escape but would need assistance. His companion Darius had spoken on his behalf, given that his jaw was currently locked up in a harness. He had nodded along through the introductions and all that. The woman who called herself Taleste was in the middle of trying to free the Endo's cybernetic arm from its encasing when the other woman, Moon she called herself interjected the planning.

"Don't mean to interrupt, it's a great speech and all, but your man over there isn't looking too hot."

Grayson's eyes watered openly. He was trapped in a never ending loop of old memories, part of his implant's reset process was to playback old recordings to mask the loading procedure.
".....such a dork sometimes, you know that?" Amy said, unable to suppress a giggle as she turned over in the bed to face him, scooting closer to lay her head against his chest and wrap an arm around him.
"I am serious though love" Grayson insisted as he absentmindedly stroked her back, his fingernails lightly scraping along her shirt "the parabolic of tha shot kin be recreated 78.9% of the time right now. Wit my work applied, even some'un like meself who've never played holo could do it with 86%"
"I don't doubt you, I just can't believe you're trying to get me interested in calculations at this hour when I'm trying to sleep" she leaned up long enough to kiss him "goodnight nerd..... love you"
"I love you too hon... don't know how I'd live witout ya" Grayson replied "I never wanna spend a day apart from you for the rest of our lives"
"Uh, yeah, I can tell" she giggled again as she played with the diamond ring on her finger.


SLAP
"Snap out of it hero, we need those eyes of yours to get out of here... apparently"
The voice cut through the memory, severing the train of thought like a hot knife through butter. Grayson grabbed his face with one hand and yelped in momentary pain as he wiped his eyes with the other and looked up from his seat to see the short ginger woman smirking down at him.
"C'mon, up and at em.... don't literally get up though. At first glance, it seems to me like you have at least 2 cracked ribs, so walking out of here is gonna suck, save your energy."

Slowly, the room came back into focus and the implant had fully reset, so he got to work with scanning their surroundings, trying to identify the proper security panel.
"Plan's simple folks" he said, just low enough for all of them to hear "First things first, we all need to appear as if we're still properly restrained. Once I find the right security panels, the Endo over there can hack them remotely. One to loop the security footage in this cell, and another to overload the automated response system. Once that's dead, the psionic can blast open that door, and we all fight our way to the security center for this section of the ship, blow open the doors to all the cells, and move up, arming ourselves every chance we get, until we wipe out these Feddy bastards and take the ship into the Deadzone before disappearing on our own ways"

"Ballsy" the redheaded woman said with a smirk "I like it"
The two pirates and the Endo nodded in cautious agreement, they didn't seem totally sold, but everyone in that cell knew that they had to try- anything was better than what would happen if the ship arrived at the Kyln.

Grayson pointed out the right security panel and Crusher got to work, subtly toying with hidden switches and triggers under the prosthetic skin of his arm, his eyes glimmered red all the while. No one moved, or even spoke for several minutes until finally Crusher's lips parted.
"I'm in" he said, barely more than a whisper "It's done"

"Taleste, mind helpin' me up?" Grayson said with an arm outstretched as he held his side, throbbing painfully after Moon's not-so-gentle poking-and-prodding excuse of a medical examination. While Tarka, Moon and Crsher busied themselves with tossing off already loosened restraints, Darius stood, scratching his nose as he sniffed audibly and started to weave his hands around in the air close to the door, which began to hum and glow with psionic energy.

"Everyone ready?" he asked as he pressed his hands against the door. The psionic glow vanished for a moment before Darius' hands started shining bright blue, the glow spread to the door itself and it shook violently on its hinges before being tossed clear of the frame with a loud clatter.

"GO!" Tarka hissed loudly as spikes erupted from his forearms and he and Darius charged out the door, soon followed by Crusher.

--------------------------------------------------

Revenant, Bridge
On Fast Approach Vector With Prison Freighter Knoxx


Stryker, fully armored sans helmet, stood behind Tib's chair as they came up quickly on the prison transport ship. He was still and silent as he let her do her thing, no need to be barking orders when she already knew what she had to do. The more technically proficient members of the crew had really banded together to pull off a few minor miracles for the sake of the mission. Firstly, they had been able to equip the ship with a weaponized EMP to disable the defense measures on the Knoxx, secondly, reverse-engineering the proximity meter on the bomb in SAL's head to actively seek out Grayson's own proximity signal, and finally, digging around in the Revenant's weapons systems uncovered some pirate subroutines that the Alliance hadn't scrubbed completely. That was the key to their plan, options to safely board the ship and get their guy back. The last update had indicated that Sadaet's countermeasures to disable the Alliance surveillance and control tech were nearly complete as well.

Tib and a small team were staying behind to man the guns and protect the ship, everyone else was geared up and waiting down below. Stryker held the small sensor in his hand that was pinging Grayson's location, soon they'd be in range to get an exact location on him.

"Everyone hold on, here we go" Stryker broadcast over the comms as he took a seat in the co-pilot's chair while Tib increased their speed. The Revenant's drive core roared and echoed through the ship as she streaked forward. There was no hiding the fact that they were coming for the Knoxx, surely they'd have registered the approach on the sensors now and were attempting to hail them to no avail.

"Launching EMP.... now" Stryker said as the ship pulled up alongside the Knoxx and dropped to match their speed. The ship rocked and stuttered for a moment as the outer guns started to batter their shields, but he calmly flipped a switch and the angled EMP blast killed their defenses.
"Gun crew, sync up" Stryker announced as he held up the location device "Seems like Grayson is on the starboard side of the ship, we'll breach over here, mid-ship hallway of the port side and fight our way across."
"His signal is..... moving?" SAL said over comms "Curious"
"Should've figured he wouldn't give up without a fight" Stryker replied "Ok, shots synced, go"

The side-facing guns of the Revenant rotated into position and opened fire, peppering through the shields and eventually cracking the hull.
"Breach registered" Stryker said. Tib nodded and pulled the ship away, looping around swiftly and increasing the speed just enough to catch up to the Knoxx and line up the front of the ship with the hull breach.
"Boarding harpoons loaded up.... fire"
Every second gun along the right side of the ship fired a single time in unison. Electro-magnetic anchors that synced up to the ship's guns via laser-lines. An old piece of tech that pirates still used today to latch on to their prey and hold them captive. Though with the massive size difference between the Revenant and the Knoxx, it was more like they were a flea dug in tight to the bigger ship.

"Alright well..... good luck" Stryker said a little awkwardly as he ducked his head in close enough to kiss the side of Tib's head before getting up and heading down to group up with the others.

'What the hell are you doing? She's gonna think you're a dork' a little voice in his head said as his face flushed red on the way downstairs. Outside, the ship angled itself slightly and deployed a docking tunnel at high enough speed to punch through the hull breach and initiate a gravity seal. Thanks again pirate tech. Stryker checked his weapons with one hand as he fumbled with his helmet in the other, marching to the front of the line of his assembled team members.

"No big speech this time guys, simple as can be. Expect heavy resistance, watch each others backs, and lets bring our boy home" Stryker said as his helmet snapped into place. The boarding seal was complete and the tunnel opened up. He led the charge with a subtle nod as a 'let's go' to everyone else.
Familiar Faces

A collab between @Silver Carrot and myself


How long had it been since the Feds had taken him? A few days? A week? Longer? Grayson couldn’t tell anymore. When he woke up, he was in a dark cell, alone, Amy was nowhere to be seen, and none of the guards would answer him when he screamed at them through the slot in the door they used to shove food and water into the room. He’d been through interrogation a few times, but he staunchly refused to talk, every time, even when they resorted to torture.

He felt the mag-shackles powering up. Someone was coming and it was useless to try and fight back, so he stepped over to the closest wall and laid his wrists against it, facing the door. The officer who had been in charge of interrogating him stepped inside once Grayson was restrained.

“You’ve refused to talk thus far” Adredza said to begin “My superiors are getting impatient, but you’ve withstood everything we’ve attempted. You are a surprisingly resilient human. So this is your last opportunity. Tell me what I want to know, or I will not be responsible for your fate.”

“An’ I told you…..” his voice was harsh and crackly from lack of use “Where’s Amy Rosseau? I’m not sayin’ a fuckin’ thing until you bring her to me, I need ta know she’s safe… because that’s how I’m gunna decide how painful yer death is when I get outta here.”

“Big words from a man without a friend in the ‘verse” Adredza said “I can see you’ve made your choice. In the morning you’ll be transferred into the custody of the Kyln. The Knoxx Freighter is en route to ferry you there. Make your peace with this fate, because no one will ever see you again.”

He left without a word, leaving Grayson in darkness once more.

In the morning, he was shuffled out of the cell and put in proper restraints as he was turned over to the black-armored crew of the Knoxx. He’d heard stories of the Kyln, a massive mobile prison ship. People said it was impenetrable, that no one who ever entered left alive. Those stories didn’t concern him in the least. What did, was the fact that Amy was nowhere to be seen as he was marched out of the holding facility.

Once he was on board the freighter, the restraints were removed and he was shoved into an open-concept holding cell with a handful of other prisoners. He felt a strange sense of calmness as he walked to a bench and sat down, head in his hands, looking defeated, but really, the gears in his head had just started spinning.

“Grayson?” a voice asked.

He didn’t recognise it at first, nor the woman it belonged to. It definitely wasn’t Amy, however. For one, the hair was the wrong color. This woman’s hair was a tawny brown, and braided. She stood up, revealing that she was taller and more muscular than Amy had ever been; that most women Grayson had ever told his name to, in fact. It wasn’t until he’d take a look at her still-dirty face that he’d recognise her sly features and crooked smile.

“T-Taleste?? That you lass?” he croaked out as the fog slowly cleared from his head “How…. how? We all thought ya were dead.”

The woman chuckled, then switched benches to sit opposite Grayson. “Well,” she started, “I was captured by a group of pirates who aren’t know for keeping prisoners, that’s true, but I convinced them to buck that trend, and that I’d be more...useful alive than dead. I then started living as a concubine, and obviously not-so-fun factors aside, it wasn’t a totally bad time. I learned to fight. I actually made some friends. And then a raid went badly and every whun else died rather than surrender to the authorities. As for me, I’ve kept alive this long because I know when to surrender to fight another day. What about you? How is that Revenant thing going?”

“I’m sorry that happened to you” Grayson said, his face finally catching the light to reveal the burn marks around his cyber-eye, the swelling and cuts around his other eye, and the dried blood of a scabbed-over cut on his cheek that was almost guaranteed to scar.

“We were out here on a job….. Didn’t go as planned.”

He paused to cough, his throat dried out, once he composed himself, he looked up thoughtfully.

“From what I remember of that night, yer sacrifice got us all out alive, an’ none of us even got a chance to thank ya for it. You came out alright on the other side, but I’m still sorry we couldn’t do anythin’ to help ya.”
He cast a glance around the room.
“If I know Stryker, he’ll be plottin’ somethn’ to try an’ save us. How long ya been here? Long enough to get a feel for the guard shifts, or get ta know the locals?”

Taleste smiled at the thanks, and dismissed the apology with a slight change in her body language. “We all had a job to do, and we all knew the risks. Even so, it’s nice t’be appreciated. And I haven’t been here that long, no. To be honest, this prison is inescapable. I might try to escape, but I’m not banking on it.”

“Oh, we’re gettin’ outta here. Ain’t nothin’ that’s inescapable… except this Kyln place they’re takin’ us, if the rumors are true……. Ya got anythin’ sharp on ya? Even a hairpin or a particularly sharp fingernail would do, just enough to break skin.”

Taleste stood up at stretched, then sat beside Grayson so they could have a quieter, more discreet conversation. “So you’re saying that we break out before we get there. That could work. I don’t have anything sharp, but there are still a lot of ways I can hurt someone without them. What are you thinking?”

“When they took me, they stuck an inhibitor chip in my neck, blocks my implant from workin’ right” he leaned forward and pried his shirt collar back a bit to show the slight bulge “We get that out, I ‘kin start figurin’ out a weak point, then we put tagether a plan.”

Taleste studied the bulge in his skin where the inhibitor chip was, then looked around to check if there were any guards, and how far away they were, then turned back to Grayson. “I have an idea, but it’s going to be very painful, it’s going to be messy, and it’s going to draw a lot of attention to us. Long story short, the only sharp things I have on me right now are my teeth.”

“Oh, aye… that’s not ideal, but… ok, do what ya gotta do.” He leaned forward and gritted his teeth, preparing himself for what needed to be done.

The ex-thief nodded, gave him a sympathetic look, then lunged forward and bit down hard on the outline of the inhibitor chip. Once she punctured the skin, she bit down harder to make the wound bigger, then, once she had the inhibitor in her teeth, ripped it out with a powerful pull-back of her neck, taking some skin with it.

“AH! Jaysus!” he exclaimed as under-his-breath as possible, inhaling sharply as he tried to keep the noise down. He blinked a few times, clearing the tears that had involuntarily formed and feeling the implant finally restarting. He started tugging at his shirt sleeve, trying to rip a strip off to cover the wound and stem any bleeding.

“That did it… great stuff Taleste. Now, ‘ere’s the rub….. Can’t get outta here, just the two of us. We’re gonna need a bit of help, from them” he nodded in the direction of the handful of other prisoners who shared their holding cell. “You’re definitely the better talker…. Right now especially, think you can rally us some troops?”

Taleste nodded, wiped away the blood from her mouth and chin, and turned to study the rest of the transport, or as much as she could see from here. She was looking out for any prisoner of interest. Any prisoner who looked like an easy mark, or perhaps a very difficult mark. Either way, she believed she’d know when she saw them.

They were sharing the holding cell with just 4 others- a Karthian wrapped up in a full-steel straight jacket and jaw harness. A human man sat near the restrained alien, dark-haired with a crew cut. He was exhibiting telltale signs of stardust withdrawal- red nose, darkened eyes, shaking hands. Not far away sat an Endo warrior, easily distinguishable by the near-white skin, shaved head and wide green eyes. The Endo were a cult-like tribe of humans who believed that the key to the next stage of evolution was injecting themselves with a cross-mixture of various alien DNA. This one in particular had a steel gauntlet encasing his left arm up to the elbow, probably restraining a cybernetic limb. Lastly, off at the back by herself, was a very normal-looking human woman, pale-skinned, ginger hair, tattoos peeking out of her short-sleeved prisoner shirt. She was eying up Grayson closely, carefully. Not like she knew him, more that she was simply wary of the newcomer to the holding cell.

-

Stryker stepped into the war room, his brow furrowed as he checked out the latest recon images on his datapad. It had been 3 days since Grayson and Amy had been taken, 3 days since he had cold-cocked Voss and jettisoned him and Treliving in their shuttle off to the far corner of the galaxy. The ‘rescue attempts’ had gone poorly, to say the least. The morning after the incident, Grayson had been taken to a max security Federation facility on the far side of the planet. They kept the place on high alert, so storming the beaches was suicide. Amy had been kept in the city center, the same holding facility the duo had initially been brought to. There hadn’t been any movement there at all. The team had actually just this morning, managed to get a bug onto an unsecured server, where they learned that Amy had already been transferred off-world and Grayson was due to be sent to the Kyln the next morning. Perfect timing as always.

SAL had approached the captain a day ago, with a rather startling confession. The reason he and Grayson were a ‘package deal’ despite seemingly hating each other. A few years back, they had both independently accepted a contract from a crime boss who operated out of the Corvais System. The job involved crossing an active war zone, and had gone poorly, so as punishment, the boss had proximity-based microbombs implanted in both of them.
SAL reassured Stryker that they still had time before he and Grayson needed to ‘check in’ to keep the bombs dormant, but the clock was ticking down. Just another day in the life.

“Alright gang” he said as he looked up at the assembled crew “I’m not gonna sugar coat this. We already lost some good people, and we’ve only got one shot to try and save the one who still has a chance. You all have your jobs, you all have access to the transport ship blueprints to review the plan. We strike as soon as they clear the system, best estimate is in about 6 hours. I want gunners at their positions and the boarding party ready to move in. Any questions at all, you send them my way. Until then, dismissed.”
END OF CHAPTER 1


(OOC: So first thing's first, real talk, I cut some corners on the editing side of things here, dialogue colors and stuff, just to finally get it up. If general consensus is its hard to read, I'll come back later and fix it up, but for now, lets go!)

Edit: I dropped the ball here in terms of tagging everyone, sorry!

Mission Summary: Alliance-appointed commanding officer of Squad 3, Sergeant Gunnarson died early in the assault, from there, the objective was all but forgotten as Benny and Sadaet platooned the leadership role to get everyone out alive except Harriet who tragically didn’t survive. The explosives did their job, creating enough chaos within the military depot to cover the team’s escape, the target may very well have been eliminated, but who could say for sure with no way to confirm the kill. On SAL’s side of things, things went better. Their objective was completed, but they still took losses, particularly Pax. Both teams are currently en route back to the ship. Meanwhile………….



From Action to Action: Growing A Pair
A mini-collab between me and Garde


Stryker’s brow was coated in sweat as he exhaled heavily. Halfway through their drink, he and Tibulass had shared a look and just…… pounced on one another like teenagers overcome with lust. One thing led to another and here they were, in his bed, sheet draped across their bodies and Tib’s head nestled against his chest. He chuckled a little bit as he finally caught his breath.
“Well…. That was…. Wow. That was something.”

“........ y-yeah, it was.” Tibulass stuttered as she snuggled a little closer. Truth is, she was feeling a little weird after that, and was still processing it herself.
“Listen, we…. We’ll figure out what to do in the morning. The others’ll be back soon if they haven’t already arrived, but don’t worry about them and what they’ll think. I want you to spend the night… if you’re comfortable with that.”

“...maybe we should keep it a secret. Let ‘em find out find out for themselves.” Tib suggested as she shivered a bit “I gotta steal one of your shirts for the night though, because fuck that dress.”

“Yeah, maybe…. And sure thing, go ahead” he pondered for a second.
“Actually, I’ve gotta get up for a minute” he nudged her head and started to sidle towards the edge of the bed.
Tib nodded as she moved… and promptly rolled off the bed, landing on the floor with a thud before scurrying over to the dresser and grabbing a shirt to pull on. Her face was red as she stated.
“..I was too tired to stand up out of bed, in case you were wondering.”

“Yeah sure, that’s what happened” he said with a grin as he walked into the bathroom.
“Uh... yeah, it is” she called after him. When he re-emerged a minute later, he caught her eye and smiled. She simply pointed towards the desk

“Is that supposed to be blinking?”

“Hm?” his gaze shifted over to where she was pointing. It was his comms earpiece, a small red light flashing repeatedly on the side of it. He sat and fumbled around with it as he accessed the incoming message.

“What is it?” Tib asked as she clambered back in bed “Alliance on our ass again?”

Stryker’s face had gone white as a ghost, his breathing shallow and ragged as the transmission looped again in his head. He stopped the playback and silently started typing something into his terminal.

“Stryker?” she asked, concerned “What is it?”

With one final keystroke the transmission played aloud for her to hear for herself as Grayson’s voice crackled to life
”Stryker…. We got burned. Not gunna make it outta this one mate…... It’s been an honor.”
A second voice, more distant but clear and booming.
“HANDS IN THE AIR!”
“Amy.. baby close yer eyes, just do it”
“I said, hands up!”
A laser blast reverberated around the room before the transmission cut to static.


Tib, eyes wide with shock, immediately jumped out of bed, grabbed Stryker’s pants and pulled them on as she headed for the door “Stryker! We gotta go get them, are you coming or not!?”

He sounded utterly defeated as he spun in his chair to look at her.
“Tib…. we can’t. The others are on their way back. Assuming things went well, the surface is probably on complete lockdown. Even if they are still alive, they won’t be for long.”

“Yeah, no. That was a tazer. The fuckin’ love birds are okay. And you know as well as I do that they’d do the same if it was us, so get dressed.”

“....” Stryker was speechless, all he could do was stare with his mouth open slightly. This woman was amazing.

“Hey, hey, hey, don’t get sidetracked by me stealing your pants, let’s get moving Cap.”

“What?” he snapped back to reality “Oh right, yeah, let’s go.”
He found some clothes and got dressed as Tib ushered him along.
“Onwards, mister-in-the-know!” she said as she stepped out into the hall “Posthaste!”

Literally five minutes later, just long enough for Stryker and Tib to find Voss and explain the situation to him

“No, absolutely not” Voss said defiantly “We had our orders, executed them, and now we leave before reinforcements arrive or investigations start. They knew the risks, not our problem they couldn’t deliver on their end of the bargain. In war sometimes you lose the pawns.”

“Fuck you Voss” Stryker said, his voice dripping with venom “none of us signed up for this, we’re not willing soldiers in your little war, and we’re not fucking pawns to be used either. They’re people, they’re my crew, and my friends.”

“That’s what you think, is it…. Captain?” Voss said snidely “you and your little band of misfits are nothing….. Nothing more than tools to be used. With one simple message beamed back to Earth, this project ends and all of you get a swift bullet to the head before I get the pleasure of dumping your corpses at the far reaches of the Expanse, so fall in line, or I will make yo-”

CRACK

Stryker’s fist collided with Voss’ face, bones splintered and blood flew freely as the jarhead collapsed backwards. Sergeant Treliving, standing nearby, instantly reached for his sidearm, but Tib was already in his face, grabbing his arm.

“Can’t let’cha do that, sorry!”

Before the soldier cold protest, the room lit up with a strobe-flash of Tib’s psionics and the sergeant fell to the floor, ears bloody and limbs twitching.

Stryker, feeling a crazy adrenaline rush, chuckled uncomfortably.

“Hope Sadaet’s countermeasures are ready, because I think we just went rogue”

Tib wiped some blood from her nose “Oh… that’s new…. And it’s about fucking time!”
She kept rubbing her nose as she looked over to the Captain.
“So, what’s the plan for saving our damsels in distress?”

“Right” Stryker’s brain jumped into action and he stroked his beard quickly as the plan came together “First, let’s restrain captain dickhead and his buddy here. Get word down to the others to take out the other guy if he’s still alive. Once the shuttles are docked, we’ll load them on their craft and set their autopilot to send them far away from this system. Hopefully buy us a few days to rescue Grayson and Amy and sever the Alliance’s remote controls on the ship. We’ll worry about everything else after.”

"On it! I'll have to score us a getaway, so you want it quick and painful, or slow and painless?"
Stryker was alarmed at her wording "wait, what?!"
"The-the getaway. Quick one, or safe one?"
"Oh. Safe, we can't afford to lose any more of us. We're on our own now."
"Alrighty, no crashing and banging into other ships on our way out then."
Tib rushed her way towards the cockpit, reaching for her communicator to get a message down to the shuttle to warn the others about their plan.

Stryker stood over the two unconscious and restrained soldiers in the war room, and for the first time in a long time, a smile crossed his face as he felt genuinely happy, and optimistic for what the future would bring.
@RavensMuse Free game, whatever strikes your fancy
@RavensMuse Always!
@iTem @superservo27 @ArkmageddonCat @Vampire Stepdad

SAL completed his scan.

"No better option exists. The plan rolls ahead as scheduled. Pax, Koren, go acquire a pair of vehicles to stage the accident. Kotze, perhaps, you could assist with that. Harrison, with me, we must secure our initial attack position. By my calculations, we have eight minutes to get everything in position. Ten minutes from now the convoy will enter the street. At some unknown point in the timeline, the power to this block will be cut, giving us the perfect opportunity to begin our attack with the element of surprise. Everyone clear?"

They proceeded to set up and everything was in place with time to spare before the convoy arrived. Pax and Koren both clambered out of the crashed vehicles and started their 'argument' right in the middle of the street. Kotze, SAL, and Harrison had taken up position on a nearby overpass, a low rooftop, and the balcony of an abandoned apartment, respectively. All three positions gave a great overview of the scene below. Their target wasn't getting away.

Right on schedule, the convoy pulled onto the mostly empty street. It slowed and eventually stopped about 200 meters back from the 'crash site' SAL readied his weapon as a guard climbed out of the lead transport and began shouting at the duo in their path. Roughly it translated to:

"What is ging on here? Move at once! We are on official business!"

As if on cue, a large whirring and whine noise echoed out as the power shut down, plunging the city sector into darkness.

"Begin" SAL transitted over the comms channel as he opened fire.

@Rultaos @TheEvanCat @Strange Rodent @BKburke

Gunnarsson accessed the feeds from Sadaet's drone and directed his squad accordingly as he fired up the ion torch and waited for the signal to begin.

"Once Captain Voss' unit cuts the power to the sector, we infiltrate here. Bomb squad heads off on its rounds, the rest of you follow me up to the overwatch tower 350 meters to our 3 o'clock. Start scanning the ground to see if the target is in the open. Only open fire on my command. Everyone clear?"

After a quick acknowledgment from the squad, Gunny reached out to the Captain over their private commlink for an update. They had just attacked the power station, and confirmed the kill of target #4, so his unit would have the green light to proceed momentarily. Quite literally ten seconds later, the lights cut out and a still silence fell over the city. He blazed the ion torch to life and quickly cut through the depot's perimeter. Minutes later, his team was in position and the bomb squad had begun planting.
Stryker barely had a moment to breathe that whole week. Every day quickly turned to a blur of overseeing the combat training, discussing strategy with Voss, getting increasingly pissed off with Voss and his cronies, and helping in the mission prep. The only thing that stood out, strangely, were the moments he crossed paths with Tibulass. Time seemed to slow down every time he saw her. He'd start sweating, or find himself unable to form a proper sentence. There was one possible reason behind all of it, but.. no way, that was impossible..... right?

On the night of the job, Stryker arrived at the cargo bay slightly ahead of time, dressed in a formal black suit (that just barely fit him properly) with a red shirt and a tie that was monogrammed with the Black Sky Company insignia. He'd applied false tattoos and coiffed his hair just so to increase the resemblance to the merc he was to impersonate. Eventually Voss arrived to discuss some last minute strategy and slowly, but surely, the team arrived. Tibulass looked great, but uncomfortable as she looked around, avoiding his gaze. He shook his head quickly 'mind on the job Stryker'

Voss took front and center after everyone arrived, hands behind his back as he proclaimed.
"Everybody keep in contact. Remember that this is a coordinated effort. The failure of one, means failure for all. Best of luck to all of you."

He marched off towards the elevator and a few seconds later, the cargo ramp began to lower. Everyone boarded their respective shuttles and one by one, the vehicles took off and sped off towards their destinations on the surface.

In their shuttle, Stryker awkwardly shuffled in his seat, trying not to look over at Tib too much. He observed the pilot drone the Alliance had provided and gazed out the window. Suddenly he snapped to attention.

"I nearly forgot. Matija, here" he reached inside his jacket and handed over a small case "a dose of the poison we're to use on the target. There's probably a syringe in there if you think you can get away with that undetected. Otherwise, keep the vial handy in case an opportunity to slip it in his drink arises. I've got a dose of it too, but they'll probably be checking us for weapons inside, so it's a good thing I've got this" from the same pocket inside his jacket, he retrieved a flask with a false bottom, the vial stored safely inside.

Finally, they arrived at the drop-off zone for kitchen staff, the door slid open and Stryker nodded at Tia.
"Keep in contact with us, we've gotta coordinate this job carefully if we want a chance at getting out of here in one piece."

--------------
@Xandrya@iTem@superservo27@ArkmageddonCat@Vampire Stepdad

Grayson and Amy had been told to board the same shuttle as SAL and the rest of Team Three, their objective was en route and the team only had three shuttles, so it made sense to have Team Three drop them off. The duo kept to themselves as the robot piloted and slowly spoke aloud to his team.

"Our plan is simple. We'll be intercepting the convoy at intersection 112-501. A 'simple' traffic accident will cause an unexpected hold up to the route. Before they can recalculate and divert, Harrison, Kotze and myself will begin to attack from the rear. Pax and Koren, you two will be acting in the roles of the individuals involved in the accident, having a quite heated argument on an otherwise empty street. When we start attacking, take cover and join in. That is, of course, what the Alliance prepared. I believe that if we arrive with enough time to spare, I can calculate a more effective plan of attack."

They dropped off Grayson and Amy and sped off once more to their ultimate destination. The shuttle was tucked away in a side lley and SAL began to scan for better options....

--------
@Rultaos@TheEvanCat@BKburke@Strange Rodent@t2wave

As Team Two's shuttle took off, piloted autonomously by an Alliance subroutine drone, Sergeant Gunnarson tossed a hologram display unit on the floor and an overhead image of the military depot popped into view.
"Listen up, here's the plan. We're dropping in just under a klick away, we'll make our way over on foot. Once we arrive at the depot, we infiltrate from this position here, and break into two groups. You three.." he pointed at Benny, Sadaet, and Henry "Are gonna take this route around Alpha Sector, plant some of the heavy duty charges. The rest of you will follow me, we'll make our way around this way and drop 2 charges by the gate, just in case the target tries to escape. Regroup at this position here. We scan for the target, if he's not in the open, we trigger the main charges, set off the alarm to draw him out. Once the kill is confirmed, we begin exfil procedure. Maximum carnage rule applies here, so by all means, go hog wild you beautiful, degenerate fuckers"

Conversation was light from there as the shuttle silently glided to the surface. Once they landed, the doors slid open and Gunnarson was the first to hop out.
"Alright convicts, go time"
Roughly an hour later, Stryker's voice echoed through the ship, calling everyone back to the War Room. When all hands were present, Stryker began:

"Welcome back, so there's a bit of prep work that's going into this plan, and we thought it best to let you all know about it early, get on top of things, you know?"

"First the job details. We have intel that says the Feds may be planning something big. It's no coincidence that these five high-value targets will be on the same planet on the same night. We believe they'll be making contact with one another on the night in question to plot out a major attack against the Alliance. And our efforts need to be coordinated, someone kicks off a little early, it'll raise the alarm of the others. So, without further ado..." Voss said as the holotable sprung to life "Target number one, Mabar M'raek. She's a political candidate who has the Federation's backing. Her election would essentially give the Feddies a strong foothold in Republic space, including some key military zones that would shift the balance of power should a war break out. She'll be attending a heavily guarded fundraiser on the night in question. Impossible to infiltrate without tripping some alarms, but it's on a rooftop, and if my boy's recon report is right, they skimped on the bubble shielding tech."

A hologram of a skyscraper and the buildings around it rose up as Stryker started to speak again.

"Grayson, this is your area of expertise, so this target is yours. Take Amy as your spotter. The two of you will be dropped about 3 kilos away by one of the transport shuttles, make your way up to whichever vantage point works best for you, and when you have a clear shot, take her out and exfil.

"Simple enough" Grayson nodded, containing his disdain for the Alliance soldiers "Any chance we can grab a copy of that recon report?"

Voss nodded and continued.
"Target two, Quinlan Kifear" Once again, the holotable shifted "He's military. A high-ranking commander of the Shrekeer. There's a military supply depot on Teravainen, he's scheduled to make an appearance there and inspect the place. Sergeant Gunnarson will be leading an assault squad to attack the depot. Standard formations and all of that. Collateral damage will be a bonus. Stryker, the team?"

Stryker cleared his throat as he read down a list on his datapad.
"Benny, Tobi, Sadaet, Henry, Harriet and Varrus."

"Yes, them. Moving on to target three, Caha Zaier. She's the head of a technological conglomerate that is one of the Federation's largest sponsors. And she's scheduled to make a public appearance. We've managed to acquire a copy of her car's route, so another team will be sent in to intercept and destroy. She will be guarded, but nothing you can't handle."

"SAL, you're taking point. Your team is Harrison, Koren, Kotze, and Pax. I'll get you all the intel we have so you can form a strategy, whatever works best for you."

"Target four, Batec Ciaten. He's another corporate sponsor, with military ties. In addition to being an integral cog in the military supply chain for the Feds, he owns the power company that powers all of Teravainen. Treliving and myself, along with a few members of the crew will be taking the Revenant on an attack run over the generator hub for Sectors 13-17. We'll knock out the power giving teams 1-3 more time to exfiltrate and provide additional cover as needed, as well as taking our the target, since he'll be present at the location.

"Ryan, Mazie, Qoorb, you three will hang back here and man the guns."

"Which leaves us with the final target, and this is the big fish: Zala Ha'rek. He's a core member of the Federation's leadership group. One of the original founders if the rumors are true. He's hosting a ceremonial gala, some form of political or military fundraiser, probably in support of M'raek. The plan is simple, infiltrate undercover and poison the target, slip out in the confusion of our attack run starting."

Stryker got visibly disgruntled as Voss turned it over to him.
"Matija, you're gonna be taking on the identity of one of the wait staff. It'll provide you with the opportunity to blend in with the crowds, and get close to Ha'rek if I can't."

"Nearly forgot that part, yes" Voss chuckles to himself as the holotable summoned up images of two humans. He looks over at Tibulass with a grin.
"Stryker and this radiant young woman are infiltrating the gala as a couple of mercs who've pledged for the Federation. Marcus and Jen Stormare of the Black Sky Company. Can't you see the resemblance?"

"Yeah yeah, we're all very amused by your cover story. This is the job, we'll handle it. Stryker said as he stepped up to the plate.
"We've got a couple of days before the targets arrive, but there's a lot of work to be done. Grayson, I need you to tune up all the guns. Amy, the Federation may still be working on old broadcasting stations and using codes from your time, can you get on signal analysis, see if you can turn up any extra intel? Benny, we're gonna need explosives, and lots of them. Sadaet, we're going to need a few mobile hack kits, that something you can rig together? Varrus and Harriet, prep some med kits. Everyone else, we're gonna be doing daily combat training. That'll be all for now."

ONE WEEK LATER


It was time to go. The team was as ready as they'd ever be as they boarded their respective shuttles. Voss stood in front of them all, hands behind his back as he spoke.
"Everybody keep in contact. Remember that this is a coordinated effort. The failure of one, means failure for all. Best of luck to all of you."

He marched off towards the elevator and a few seconds later, the cargo ramp began to lower. One by one, the shuttles took off and sped off towards their destinations on the surface.

"Not exactly, no" Stryker said as he took up his usual spot at the table, next to the holo controls.

Once everyone had finally arrived (save for Tib, who was, as usual, listening in via comms) Stryker stood up and called the meeting to order.

"Before we start, there's a lot of new faces in here. You guys who've been here a while need to meet 'em, and in some cases, they need to know what's really going on here. So without further ado, Sadaet Kotayki, Kotze Wylks, Ryan Rosq, Qoorb, Mazie, Pax, and Henry."

He pointed at each of them as he said their name, then quickly introduced everyone on the crew to the new folks.

"Ok, so we all know each other now, that's good. So, I referenced some of you guys, Kotze, Pax and Qoorb in particular, needing to be filled in, because we're not exactly your average crew. Welcome to Project Revenant."

He launched into a quick speech that summarized the purpose of Project Revenant, his voice dripping with utter disdain for the entire thing, so they all knew where he stood on being a tool of the Alliance.

"....so that's the situation here. A little much, I know. You folks are lucky, we're all stuck here, but if you want, you can walk out that door right now, head to your rooms, and wait it out until we hit port somewhere then get far away from us. Now, with all that said, time to get down to business."

He finally turns his attention back to the holotable and activates it. The lights in the War Room dim as the images from the briefing file begin to materialize, beginning with a planet.

"Teravainen. If you've never heard of it before, then you're lucky. It's one of the central hubs of trade and industry in all of Federation territory. We're going deep behind enemy lines on this one, and to that end, we've gotta put up with a team of Alliance Deep-Cover dicks. They'll be making contact once we reach the system. Whoever's in charge over there honestly has more details than me, but I can cover the basics."

The image shifted to five faces, all of which were distinct alien races.

"Zala Ha'rek. Mabar M'raek. Quinlan Kifear. Caha Zaier. And Batec Ciaten. They're all either high-ranking members of the Federation leadership, part of the military chain of command, or major sponsors. All five of them will be present on Teravainen in about one week. None of them are allowed to leave the planet alive. They've got a cover story cooked up, something about a 'humanity first' terrorist group that'll take the blame for the killings, but that's not our concern. Yeah, to be honest, that's all they've really given me. I'm assuming the team that's coming have the rest of the details."

As if on cue, his datapad chirped to life as an encoded message flashed on screen 'APPROACHING REVENANT, DOCKING CLEARANCE C-308'

"Huh, they're already here. Wait here, I'll get them."

He returned about four minutes later with three men following behind. They were dressed in civilian clothes, but at a glance, it's fairly obvious from their posture and the general attitude on their faces that they were here for official business.
"I am Captain Voss, you'll address me as such. These are my associates, Treliving and Gunnarson" The leader said. He even looked like a stereotypical military jarhead. These guys were deep cover operatives? Stryker, standing behind them, shook his head in disbelief.

"Mr. Stryker tells me that you have the basic objective and knowledge on the targets, excellent. He and I are going to convene now and discuss strategy before continuing this briefing. Return here in one hour, but be prepared to return at a moments notice, should we finish early."
@Gardevoiran@Xandrya@iTem@BKburke@Rultaos@T2wave@ArkmageddonCat@Silver Carrot@Strange Rodent@Vampire Stepdad@superservo27@sntabe@TheEvanCat

"Hm, yeah, good idea, especially if any of our newer crew mates have any questions"

Stryker spun his chair to find the datapad and turn on the loudspeakers.

“Attention everyone, I was just informed we’re a few hours out from or destination. I want everyone to gather in the War Room in 15 minutes, I’ll share the intel we have on the job. See you there, Stryker out."

As he stood up and prepared to leave he called down the steps.
"Hey, uh Tib? You want the comm link set up so you can listen in?"

A muted 'yes' floated up in response, so Stryker leaned in over her console and flicked the appropriate switches.
"Ok, all set, see you later."

Stryker headed directly to the War Room to plug in his datapad and started to upload all of the briefing files to the holotable as he waited for his audience to arrive.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Amy's Training

A collab between Xandrya and myself


“Oh, so you're gonna be pretty busy then eh? I was actually...I was hoping you could help me with some marksmanship training," Amy stopped for a moment, holding out a hand to stop Grayson as well. "I'm an okay shot but I'm not great, but I want to do better."

“Yeh?” he asked “I mean, we’ve plenty of time ‘til we get wherever we’re goin’, so yeah, we can do that. C’mon up to the armory, we’ll get some gear an’ ammo.”

He led the way upstairs and marched right on in to the armory. Every surface along his desk space and workbench was covered in weapons, all in various states of disassembly.
“What did ya wanna start with lass? 7.72, or somethin’ a little heavier?”

"Uh, yeah, that'll work," she smiled, looking around the various disassembled parts. Sure, some weapons were familiar to her going off of their parts alone, but otherwise she had no knowledge of what he had laying around. "It should be fine for some long-range practice."

Amy picked up one of the parts, carefully examining it simply out of curiosity.

“Right, ok, think you could handle slappin’ that Kilotek on the desk back together? Already had ‘er cleaned up and polished, jus’ didn’t get a chance to put it back together ‘fore I came to bed las’ night.” He grabbed one of the chairs and rolled it across to the far corner of the workshop portion of the room “I’ll load up a few mags worth a’ rounds. Or ya know, we could switch over if yer not comfortable with the assembly job. I’m sure you’re familiar wit’ loadin’ rounds at least right?”

Amy let out a short sigh of disbelief. She knew Grayson meant no harm, but nonetheless the question caught her off guard.

"Yes, I do know how to load rounds, I wasn't born yesterday." The statement came off half-jokingly, just like she'd intended. "The Kilotek however is beyond me. Hand me those rounds now, will ya?"

“Alrigh’ lass, only teasin’. Here, you hop up on this chair, the mags an’ a few cases o’ rounds are already set out. Only gonna need a min or two to get tha Kilo back in one piece!”

Grayson slid out of his seat and walked over to sit at the desk. True to his word, he quickly and efficiently reassembled the bolt-action rifle and tested it dry a few times by sliding back the bolt and clicking the trigger.

“All ready here Ames, how about you?”

“Just about done,” Amy rotated around on the swivel chair to face him, her hands busy with the last magazine and the remaining rounds that needed to be inserted. She worked on it a little bit quicker before finally setting down the magazine next to the other one, both full to capacity.

“Alright, let’s do this. My trigger finger is itching.”

“Right-o love, let’s go”

He collected the magazines and slung the rifle over his shoulder before heading out, leading the way downstairs to the makeshift firing range in the gym. Once they arrived, he set the rifle on the table and laid out the magazines. Finally he reached under the table and pulled two pairs of noise-suppressing earmuffs out from a box. He laid one set in front of Amy and slid the other down around his neck.

“So, obviously you know yer basics lass, but marksmanship is more so a skill of the eyes than the reflexes, and if I were ta’ guess, the years of bein’ blind affected that in ya. So that’s what we’ll focus on. Start here though, ya ever used a Kilotek before?”

“Can’t say I have,” Amy replied, grabbing the earmuffs and subconsciously tapping it with a finger before she realized what she was doing. She then placed them around her neck like Grayson and picked up the rifle. “Walk me through the steps, please? I’d rather do it on my own as I’m a hands-on learner.”

“Well, real quick, tha’s one of my own there. Kilotek Model 188, bolt action, fluted barrel, 10 rounds per mag, 12x scope with thermal toggle, and that foregrip there, he’s the real treasure. It’s adjustable to any point along the underbarrel to fit the user’s preference. An’ also, if ya’d prefer ta post up in a more covert position, there’s a little switch there that splits the foregrip into a bipod. Comes in pretty handy. So, let’s get to it lass. Load ‘er up, get used to the feel of it, I’ll set up a target,”

Grayson crossed the room, grabbing a paper target from the stack and pinned it to the wall. He fished out a pen from his belt and hastily colored in a dot, off-center and smaller than the actual bullseye.

“May as well dive right into the deep end eh? Try an’ hit that target I put on there, and we’ll use that as a baseline for how much practice ya need.”

"I appreciate your faith in me," Amy smirked in a hushed tone, reaching for the magazine to load up the rifle. After she laid in the prone position, she made some quick adjustments to her liking, especially since she was much smaller than Grayson so she had to readjust the foregrip. She did a bit of a test run, aiming down the sights with her finger on the trigger but with the safety on, so she wasn't taking any shots even if she wanted to. Amy felt comfortable after a few moments, looking up at Grayson.

"Alright, stand back and watch the magic happen."

Amy took a breath in before she took aim at the small dot on the target. She switched off the safety and placed her finger on the trigger. She made sure to not use the very tip of her finger, so she lined it up just over the first crease. And finally, when she felt at ease, she pulled the trigger just enough to get the shot out. Not with a jerk movement, nor too soft as to jam the weapon, but somewhere in between.

“Nice one Ames” Grayson said as he lowered his earmuffs again and engaged his ocular implant to start analyzing the shot. He headed over and removed the target from the wall.

“Technique was excellent. Top marks there. Ya hit the target too, but the point o’ impact was off by a little bit. So, like I figured, it’s all in the eyes for ya, we train those up a little, and you’ll be unstoppable. Ready for another round?”

He placed a new target on the wall and placed 3 more dots on it with his pen.

“Same deal, sight ‘em up and shoot ‘em dead!”

He snapped his earmuffs back on and walked across to stand behind Amy’s position.

“Not bad if I do say so myself.”

Amy waited for a moment until Grayson walked back to safety, out of the line of fire. She got into the ready position and switched off the safety once more.

Amy lined up the sights a little quicker this time, having the confidence she didn't have before. Not that she considered herself a great shot, but she found herself handling the weapon with ease. Targeting the dot on the right, she waited for a moment before slowly pulling the trigger again.

Without bothering to take a look, Amy repeated the process for the remaining targets. She did not want to lose her concentration by looking up and then having to readjust.

“Well done lass” Grayson said after his initial analysis “89% accuracy on th’ first, 84 on the second, an 90% on the third. That’s all up from a 78% score on that first shot ya took, so that’s already a great improvement. Once we get ya to consistent high 90’s on stationary targets, we can try some moving targets.”

Grayson considered the stack of paper targets for a second and an idea came to his head

“How ‘bout one more?” he asked as he grabbed a target and drew on two dots, so close together they were nearly overlapping, he quickly shaded in one of them then showed it to Amy.

“This is somethin’ I had to do to way back when I was barely more’n a kid. The circle, as always, is your target. The colored dot is a hostage…. And it’s someone you know. Could be anyone, a friend, family member, hell, it could be an old schoolteacher even. An’ you gotta visualize that before pulling th’ trigger. Someone ya know, and love, or at least respect, held at gunpoint by an’ evil piece of shit. Now kill ‘em an’ save their life.”

Grayson set up the target and stood back. For this test, he was firing up his implant right away to study everything that happened, not just the bullet trajectory and accuracy, but Amy herself. How she reacted physically to the task, any areas of tension, or stiffness in her actions and that sort of stuff.

"That took a dark turn real quick," Amy said to herself as Grayson was making his way back to her, her eyes briefly on the target downrange before she turned to him. "No pressure, right?"

Amy couldn't help but picture some of the people she knew, those she cared about the most, being in that situation. Of course this was only a training, with no consequences at all except being told she was a bad shot, but she felt a little bit nervous again. What would occur if the scenario was actually taking place and she missed, but not without injuring or killing her loved one? It would be nothing short of devastating for her.

But Amy had to shake away those thoughts. The loss of her parents managed to affect her with something as simple as training, and it needed to stop. Readying herself again with the same routine, Amy took a bit longer to fire the next shot, hoping to all hell for a positive outcome.

“God damn” was all Grayson could say “Tha’ was damn near perfect Ames.”

He pulled the target down and brought it over to show her.

“That’s a 96% right there, but look here, the ‘hostage’ circle isn’t broken at all. Still a kill shot, an’ the hostage survived so may as well call it a bullseye right?.”

He leaned down and kissed the top of her head.
“Proud of ya love. This one took me a couple tries to get an’ ya took to it right away. Yer a damn natural at this” he paused and tapped his temple “I’ve got a little bit of data to sort through, but if ya wanna keep goin’ we can move on to-”

The loudspeakers screeched to life.

“Attention everyone, I was just informed we’re a few hours out from or destination. I want everyone to gather in the War Room in 15 minutes, I’ll share the intel we have on the job. See you there, Stryker out.”

“Ah, damn” Grayson said as the announcement ended “Guess that’s all we get for today then?”

“And I was doing so good…”

Amy pushed herself off of the ground, picking up the rifle as she stood up and handing it to Grayson. She also removed the earmuffs, putting them back in their place.

“You know, I think I’m going to like this next job.”

“Yeah? Good feelin’ about it? Well let’s go see what it’s all about.” Grayson put his own earmuffs back, gathered up the extra magazines and led the way out.

“Should be jus’ enough time to pack this stuff away before we’re expected.”
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