Skye Rosalind Lyons
Valle Natales, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Skye fought back bravely, ducking into cover, yelling back across to Lynx.
"Seriously, we can talk this one out, whoever the fuck you are!"
"And come all this way to stop? No chance! I am enjoying this far too much, and your arse is mine!" Lynx yelled back in her distinctly neutral English accent, spraying rounds into the trees and rocks that Skye was covered in, Skye firing back but doing nothing in spite of the shield. She was pinned, and Lynx used the last of her exo's booster to leap over the boulder and clatter down in front of Skye. She had nearly nothing left to give. This would be it. Straight up, this is how she would die, if it wasn't for that split second moment of Freya firing that round, and then, in a sudden
And suddenly, the arrival of Frigga changed things altogether. Lynx had turned to shoot back, but well, Frigga was possessed. Driven by something animalistic, Lynx tried to dodge, using the exo, but it was no good. The shields were dead, and as she could hear the ATV coming, Freya began to finish the job. Lynx fought hard, throwing missiles, everything back, but Freya was unstoppable.
"Try it as you might, Frigga! You'd make one hell of a trophy if I could carry you out of here, come at me!" Lynx bravely yelled back, firing rounds at the ATV in the process too, knowing she could rattle them, at the least, delay. With it, Skye managed to relocate, and out of the way of what was coming.
Driven by something personal, and even Lynx couldn't understand it, Freya had gone from a cosmic horror to a real life one. She should have had the upper edge, but even through cloaking, it was like Freya didn't need to see, because well, there was only one place she could be, and one way it would end. Brutally, Lynx clocked the physical action from Freya and tried to overcome it, but to zero avail. Freya's work stepping on her caved her torso's entire bottom half in, cracking like the sound of wood being chopped in the forest, or a large branch howling off in a hurricane. Sam was closing in, as Skye peeked around the boulder, where Lynx had been sent over on the other side, and walked over with a slow hobble, looking to Freya, standing over, silent in her words, completely, totally dazed.
Laying there, blood pouring out of her mouth, Lynx was as good as dead. Skye felt rattled in her walk, and knelt by her side in the dirt, finding the last scraps of her own energy to look, looking directly at the other redhead, the one that wasn't much for the world and instead, the once with a smashed faceplate, and a wound that no doctor could cure. She didn't want to look. But she had no choice, she was compelled, utterly, utterly spellbound. And the words wouldn't come. Lynx's did.
"Remember when we were young, and......dad put on Heroes
in the car? I remember it so well. It's our last collective memory. The last one, the last....innocent one. There weren't any others. None I can recall before then. And after, none that matter either." Lynx uttered, Skye totally fixed, the dying, spluttering blood version of her fading, slowly, drying.
"I wish I could even begin to start to explain it all. But you did exceed my expectations, and if you couldn't go easy, then it had to be this way. There's a greater good you just don't see, and it's us. Always is. Always has to be." Skye put her hand against Lynx's, the passion in the Scot's eyes intensifying.
"Please....please. Look, just tell me who you are, really. Whatever that is, I trust....us on that. No world ending scheme, just whatever the hell it means....please, don't leave me like that." Skye said, looking down at the poor girl, watching her coughing blood, her internal organs shredded, her body ruined, and no hope out. As mortal as it could be, and well, looking on, the other version of her knowing well, she was beaten. Lynx knew it had been worth the try. But well, it was in death that she could be honest with quite literally, herself.
"I just can't. I'm so sorry, Skye. You'll understand in time why all of this had to be this way." Lynx exhaled, before even she couldn't stop the inevitable. She rolled her head to the side, and like that, the life was out of her. Like a light, gone, and absolutely out.
With it, Skye sat by her dead doppelganger's side. She was utterly, utterly gobsmacked, broken, silent.
She sobbed a tear, the first that had left her tearduct in perhaps a lifetime, and that became a gentle trickle, as she leaned back against the tree, looking into the horizon, blank and away from Freya, or Sam, or anything at all. Her heart pounded
and the tears became a flood that silently fell, Skye didn't so much as weep, as she just stared with a flood, the radio spluttering.
"Queen, it's Oracle. Do you read?" It uttered, Skye looking at Freya, a tear suddenly rolling off her cheek in a rare moment of exposure, and in return, finding the words was tricky.
"Affirmative." Skye's words were hard to make, they were tough to remove, hard even to extract out.
"What's your status?"
"Core is recovered. We just eliminated a lone contact, non Artemis I think, by the crash site. Highly armoured, highly experienced, and.....well, she looks like me. She IS
me, Oracle. I'm looking at my fucking twin. Or a fucking clone. Or something, fuck, I don't know. I don't know what the hell is going on."
"Shit......Queen, are you sure?" He broke from protocol, and in that very moment, Skye nodded, breaking from her own trance, trying at least to focus again, objective word, trying.
"Positive. I don't know what's going on. I have literally no idea how this works....we need an extraction too, now."
"Shit. Artemis must have gone further than even we could have possibly imagined. Or they're trying something else on. Get out of there. Bring the body, and we'll do some forensics to figure out what went on. And her tech, too, if you say it's good. It could be a last play of theirs. Alright, I'll get Hawk back on the line."
"Roger that." Skye uttered, her words stumbling, looking to Freya, and then to Sam, utterly silent, distraught even. She looked back, as the radio hissed again.
"Queen, I have an LZ identified near your site. I've got no thermal signatures. There's nobody there, putain, you cleaned them out."
"Heh, yeah, I think we did. Well, you win some, you lose some. Freya, can you uhh....take her body. What is left of it. And uhhhh....thank you. Thank you. I'm really sorry I got a bit emotional. Just a lot to take in I'm afraid." Skye replied, and trying to hold it together and a little out of her own, with it saying nothing more. They'd understand, and well, it was mission complete. Albeit with more questions than answers. A lot more.
As the VTOL came in, the door opened, and the team rolled in, the dusty and dirty environment a shallow landing pad for them, and in this case, dead quiet. There was nobody here. Nobody at all, and it felt eerie, though perhaps it was a reminder of how much damage they'd caused in southern Chile tonight.
"Eyy, Queen, as I live and breathe! That was some crazy shit...." Vincent's tone was positive, Skye's was not.
"Vincent...not now, just fly." Skye retorted, sinking into her chair once again, and looking to the other two. Skye was valiant, resistant, hell, the one that pulled people together when shit really hit the fan. Even in Aralsk, physical wounds hadn't stopped her from running around and never, ever backing down. Right here, Skye had a certain wear to her that transcended physicality. It was like her very soul itself looked like it was utterly, paradoxically broken, looking to Lynx, and reaching across down onto the floor.
Pulling Lynx's hand, she revealed the vial, and pulled it out, examining it in curiosity as it was placed in the middle of the cargo bay.
"That is weird. Probably covering tracks. Or something. Fuck knows." Skye said quietly to herself, shaking her head, before going back to the seat, not wanting to interfere, considering a detox, report and detailing would have to be made. It was highly likely, if not certain, that Raven would not deploy until answers from this were made. Skye couldn't even think about it, she was so, so overwhelmingly flooded with emotion. A rational Skye would have hoped, dreamed even it was just as simple as mistaken identity, a girl like Freya that had a striking resemblance to Skye or a cousin perhaps. Maybe followed by a hidden sister, or cousin, then a twin, then last, a clone or a genetic copy. Which in itself, would be absurd. A non-zero chance. The worst one, which Skye was just thinking through, were those words. She knew her memory. Knew her skin. Knew everything. Fuck, it basically everything she was, in almost every single way. And she shut her eyes to it, trying to forget for a moment., sitting again.
"Sorry....I may need a moment. I'm really, really sorry. It is a lot to absorb. But I think we did it. That might be it. We have the masterkey for Artemis now. Just....she freaks me out a bit. I'm sure it will make sense. I am sure it will. Thank you both. I" She added, smiling at them both, the look in her face one of happiness to have such good friends, and yet, so unwound from it all.
The only thing that could break Skye's unbreakable spirit, rather poetically, was Skye Rosalind Lyons herself. It would last, but like all things, it had to stop somewhere, and inevitably, she would be thrown more to sort, and manage, and then, once they had some idea, what came next was on the cards.
She leaned back against the cushioned wall, humming and drying her eyes, the tears melting her blue paint and creating a horrible, sticky like mess of black and blue blended with dirt, grit and perspiration. The thing Lynx said about that David Bowie song, it stuck in her mind. That last, momentary glimpse, as she whispered it out loud.
"We can be heroes...just for one day....."
Skye Rosalind Lyons
The phone buzzed in Skye's lap, as she picked it up, seeing Tahlia's secured and encrypted number come through.
"So, we tagged and bagged Spectre. As per sitrep, Jaguar has gone to ground. Makes sense, after all that happened."
"What is he saying? And agreed. I don't want to see him back until he's ready to go again. That would have been heavy after all the shit around Tejedor. Anyway, go, on."
"Not a lot. But we recovered something interesting. The drug, he muttered it's some sort of trial run, the intel from Jaguar backs that. It sterilizes people, but comes with some nasty side effects, mostly significant memory loss, but highly unpredictable. Which for the compound shouldn't really be a thing, Spectre thinks it should have been far purer, or altogether, something completely different. More like a sarin-like compound for Artemis's activities, so, lethal and extremely spreadable. He also said something about the fact he was betrayed. All of Artemis was, or something crazy like that, by some woman called Lynx. What does that mean for you?"
"It means whatever we do in Patagonia ends this then. All of Artemis comes into the light, because he got backstabbed probably by Pavel's leak. Or a contact there linked to Pavel who we identified after Aralsk. I assume it has to mean that, because otherwise, they're literally destroying Artemis from the inside out. Someone high up in Artemis lost their bottle and that was that. There's nobody else left. We just exploited a weakness and kept prying after they tried to kill us."
"If that isn't right though, Queen....what does it mean?"
"It means we know what loose ends are left, we'll find out about this time tomorrow. Either Spectre will succumb once he starts getting interrogated, or the data core will expose the whole network, and more likely, both, Taniwha."
"Have you got a working theory then?"
"Likely prognosis? Pavel meant by the fact they needed to do something about the problems the world faces, they meant they were going to start spreading that drug to people, globally.
Drop the population slow and quiet either by killing them or simply neutralising their ability to give birth, play the long game and promise governments that pay the cure or stop that train, keep them addicted, then suddenly, revel in the profit and chaos.
Project Mercury with the satellite network would exaggerate that, taking out key infrastructure and communications to make more chaos- a cover for rare earth and opportunity for Artemis to get monopolies too. Nothing like that to keep other eyes off the real problem, so the dragons can build their hoard bigger and steer the narrative.
It's literally their playbook since when I spoke to Oracle last, everyone wins apart from well, everyone bar them. Talking about climate change, resource depletion, inequality? They're full of shit, they want to survive the storm, and all of their boats need to float when it does."
"Jesus. That is a fucking lot. Never knew how sick the bastards were, but as a theory, it adds up. All that happened to us up to now, couldn't have been anything else. What do you want us to do, Queen?"
"Head back home, and I'll relay it through Oracle."
"Roger. Good luck riding her arse."
"I'm going to love it. Over and out."
The gentle patter of rain outside the evening light of the base was rhythmic, if not a little repetitive, coating the base in a typically New Zealand drench. The kind of rain that made going outside not such a great idea, it was just endless, and the trees and grass shook in the wind, the light storm coupled to just a continuous, horrid drizzle. There was another reason this place was so green, and volcanism could only go so far.
Sitting in the lounge, the team had the opportunity to regroup. At the very least, Skye was back in some shape or form, undergoing an assessment at Doctor Keller's, and revealing none of the compound was in her bloodstream, or even in her presence. The other Skye, now formally branded as Lynx given her tattoo and mark on her suit, had been taken away at a fuelling stop-off in Santiago, Chile. It was agreed to keep her away from Skye, and well, for now, to assess the situation before anything carried on. Whatever happened, lessons had to be learned, and it had to be investigated, in detail. Something as serious like this had rocked Oracle's lead, because it meant that the entire organisation could be completely compromised, top to bottom. Sitting tight was best, using other support teams in Raven for now to quell any work.
It was standard procedure for dead HVTs, but this target was neither high value, nor a target. The link to Skye was overriding- and figuring her out, background, everything, all of it had to be poured through. Her armour in particular was of especial interest rather, as was the link to Skye- it was also being poured over by the techs and anything out of it would be recovered, salvaged and used for the team in an upcoming kit update. Nothing at all had been said, and the intel core, that was with the team here, isolated and any trackers deactivated. The HVT, Spectre, was isolated out for further interrogation. Raven was not a set of torturers - they were far too important to waste on that sort of thing, and after two incredibly intense missions, the action reports for them reading like 80s action movies and having more redactions even for a redacted document than a political blackmail piece, so they needed a deep, cavernous breath before more work came.
So flying across the Pacific Ocean, returning home had come quick following that- oh, of course including Freya's large yet deflated helium balloon for repair. Then, the server core itself was being studied by Raph and Sam in Kaitiaki on an offline repository and any tracking on it had been deactivated, whilst Spectre was being tortured by Oracle's contacts for anything he knew. Same went for the drug- . Blue Sword had been asked to clean up the mess in Chile, and for the first time in potentially forever, things were going better.
Coming in, Skye grabbed a seat on the sofa adjacent to the table, quieter than usual, the team in there waiting, making food, chilling out, and off-duty. Skye was dressed in her usual- a navy t-shirt and jeans, the casual officer as per usual. The outside world had been cut off, given the criticality of the situation, more than the usual- they were sitting and waiting with an intent, not really back in operational trend and waiting for missions. She turned to face the group, aware they knew exactly what had happened, her husky Scots accent as per usual coming in.
"Hey all. Sorry for the admin. I've gotten off the phone to Oracle. We're to sit here and wait, they will have more work for us, but as you may have heard....there are some complications." Skye started, knowing her presence might have raised some eyebrows, particularly during R&R between the team's various tasks to complete.
"But, good news....we basically just took out a significant amount of Artemis's operations. About a dozen people are going to be arrested, tomorrow across five different countries- for completely unrelated charges to what we just found, but there is a hell of a lot of corruption that is being found in some higher ranking political circles that just came out, from slush funds to money laundering, and beyond."
"They're in disarray, given their leadership got taken out and what Spectre terms as the "Directors", or effectively, his entire cabal of people, are now without any idea of what the direction is. He says he was solely responsible, but I mean, it is likely they probably have some idea what to do. Meaning, they still will want to do shady shit, but have no common target. Someone will rise up in time to fill that void, but like a weed, it's a lot shorter and easier now. We did an incredibly good job. And I'm immensely proud of you." Skye said, smiling, the rare break from what had been probably one of the most fucked up days in her life.
"The other news, then. We're waiting to find out about the DNA test, but initial autopsy shows that well, she's got some differences to me. Tattoos, freckles, a few other bits basically don't add up. So it might not be me. So....that is good. If not, then it's likely Artemis managed to...make a genetic copy out of me. Someone who got angry and probably tried to destroy it from the inside, but didn't need us to find something. Which seems pretty incredible. That would be likely our next target to find out how they did it, because likely they could be trying to crack Raven by brute force for their next attempt, perhaps to buy time is my working theory. Which relates to the fact that the bad news is, I think we know how capable they are. So our work won't be done." Skye retorted, as she stood, a little more frail perhaps in the mental than before, but putting on a brave, stern face once again. Reaching into the cabinet that was of their particular fame, she pulled it out, and undoing the sealed cap, poured a dram, finally glad to be seeing this come to fruition.
"So....I say we say cheers to that. Thank you, everyone. We got through a particularly bad day of work yesterday. And believe me...other me has zero taste in whiskey and nae fucking Scots roots, because I can tell you this one comes out only for special occasions. '65 from Tobermory, one from the old country. I'd say put some tonic with it if you're....less acquired in taste. What comes next will be difficult to manage. But we'll end this. Once and for all." Skye added, chuckling as she finished pouring, the bottle complete considering everyone in the team, including Tahlia were up here. Taking her glass, she put it to the middle, and for a moment, relishing in the fact that she had a team. Her stoic self had been broken, and now, there was this to reflect on. A crew, a team, people. It was home, and everything worth doing. Even in spite of everything, and how much her head was ruined by that. The first time she ever felt a certain kind of pain, a certain kind of hurt. The image had to go on, and Skye was too stubborn, too proud, too much to say she needed help. She wasn't an alcoholic, not by a long shot, and the alcohol wasn't that- but it was clear, Skye even as good of an operator as she could be, had something deep down in her.