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Work and World Cup put paid to any further writing today, sadly.

Location: Downtown Trenton, New Jersey
Time: Early Evening


The rustling of a paper bag. The unmistakable sound of a cash register opening to deposit coinage inside.

Kseniya gave a small, polite smile to the teen behind the counter of the donut shop as she walked out, her ill-gotten gains in her hand. It was one of many vices for her, sugary food, though it was perhaps the oldest. She found a bench nearby and sat down on it, taking out a donut and biting into it, the sweet, sickly taste of the sugared icing melting on her tongue, the sweetness of the dough almost dripping from her mouth. God, she enjoyed it. It was the first thing she'd had to eat all day. She didn't need to eat, per se, but it was always nice to indulge in life's simple pleasures. The sun was setting in the skies over Trenton, New Jersey, and what cloud cover there was, was lit in magnificent arrays of vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows, as though the sky itself were afire. She smiled and leaned back on the bench - a cool breeze blew through her long, blonde hair as she took another bite of the donut. Inside her jacket, her PPK rested easily inside its hard leather chest holster, for easy access. She wasn't allowed to carry it, of course, but the less the cops on the street knew, the better. Their concern was petty crime and the odd murder and robbery, not dealing with the likes of her. She reckoned even if she was found to be carrying a gun, most of the local cops on the beat would simply turn a blind eye to it under a bit of pressure. Pressure was the best dissuasion technique...

Her phone buzzed and vibrated in its pocket. Frowning, Rubis took it out, and clicked the home button to check what was going on. A new text, from an unknown number. Instinctively, Rubis' eyes darted about, wondering whether she was being tailed by someone, or something - nothing immediately suspicious stuck out in her mind, so she opened the text.

Call this number at the payphone.

She looked down the street, at what she assumed was the payphone in question. She raised an eyebrow, and finished her donut before putting her phone back inside her jacket and walking down towards the payphone, still alerted and on the lookout for anything suspicious. Perhaps she was being followed... but by someone who didn't want to harm her, at least not immediately. Perhaps it was a job offer, though usually those were through other channels, often by crooked employees of federal agencies, or by those in her network - it was seldom that she was contacted via a fucking payphone of all things. What was this, the 1990s? The fucking mafia or something? She walked over and put in a couple quarters, enough for a call for a few minutes. She hesitated before taking out her phone, but eventually, she did so, and punched in the number... the ring tone was agonisingly long. Finally, just as she was about to give up, the call was answered.

"What d'ya hear, what d'ya say... You got the text, I see. Was concerned about getting the wrong number, y'know, girl. Gotta say, business ain't what it used t'be round here. Gone quiet."

She knew the voice instantly and smirked, shaking her head in disbelief. She had been joking earlier, but no shit, it was for real, it was the fucking Nostra. Johnny Tisarelli. "This had better be good, Tiss. You remember what happened last time you and I had a chat. You coming out from that little cave you and yours hid in?"

"Hehe... tha's the Roob I know. 'Ey, the feds might think they've got the upper hand around here, but man, they don't know the half of it, specially now that the Hounds and all that shit are around. They've been great in gettin' the feds' attention away from us. Now listen, I've been gettin' t'gether the old boys and reformin' the crews, and I need your help. Some slimy cocksuckers took over Corazzo Engineering whilst I was hidin', y'know the one, the big buildin' firm out by the riverside, yeah?"

"Let me guess, you want those... ahem, slimy cocksuckers dealt with, mhm? It'll cost you, Tiss."

"Momma always said nothin' in life was ever free. I gotcha on that score."

"Anything else, Tiss?"

"Y'know, if ever ya wanted a place to stay-"

"Not. Happening." There was a laugh from the other end of the phone line.

"Worth a shot. Call me when you get that done. I'll introduce ya to the new boys, alright?" The phone hung up, and Rubis slotted the receiver back into its holder. Jesus Christ, what was she thinking? Tisarelli had never done all that much good by her, but still, she couldn't exactly turn him down - fuck knows what he'd tell the feds about her more... illicit activities in exchange for some sweet, sweet cash. Money greased more palms than anything else, especially in this business - without money, you were useless; with it, you could do whatever you wanted - for a price, of course. Rubis took another bite of her donut as she walked down the street back to the bench, flipping through her phone for any information on Corazzo Engineering, the old construction firm Tisarelli and his lackey de Bono - or as Kseniya used to say, Boner - ran back in the late 90s and early Noughties. She was in luck. Sitting back down, she read through a news article that dated back to 2013, where it stated that Corazzo Engineering had been taken over by Liam and Padraig O'Shaughnessy. It was intriguing to say the least - de Bono's death in 2013 had opened a can of worms regarding Corazzo's future, especially with regards to some debts that the company had run up with a local materials firm that the Shaughnessy brothers had connections with - had Liam and Padraig agreed to buy the company to excuse the debts? And why hadn't Tisarelli stopped this? Did he even know Boner had been running a sinking ship?

Rubis took another bite of her donut, and looked up at the sky... and its hues of red. "Czerwony, jak krew."

Location: Corazzo Engineering construction site, Duck Island, Trenton, NJ
Time: Mid-Evening, approximately 21:30

"Stop here. Keep the change."

Rubis handed the taxi driver a ten dollar note, and got out of the car. A red Citroen... couldn't even get decent cars these days for a night of bloody business like this. She lit a cigarette and looked over at the steel shell that marked Corazzo's newest project - a high-rise on the outskirts of Duck Island, next to the riverside... A call from Tisarelli had confirmed that the marks were there to check up on the work... and to check up on some faulty accounting. The local foreman, a guy named Worthington, was on call, waiting for the brothers to arrive... Rubis didn't envy him one bit. When it came to roughing folks up, the Irish were worse than the Nostra, that was for damned sure. She walked over to the side of the road, and watched the site carefully from underneath a wide-brimmed hat - all that could be seen of her face was the low orange glow of a lit cigarette, and the clouds of smoke. For all the guys on the site knew, she was just a local hooker, with her blonde hair and her cheap tobacco, and her heels. It wasn't flattering, that's for sure, but her long overcoat was the perfect cover for her pistol... tonight, Irishmen would die, and the Nostra would reclaim that which was theirs by right and blood ties. Boner had run a sinking ship, but the Irish weren't to gain a foothold in Jersey... hell no.

It was odd. Last time Kseniya had worked for Johnny Tisarelli, things had gone sour. She'd ended up putting a bullet in his con's chest, she recalled... Jackie Maggiore, the rat. The FBI had turned up on a... 'routine' drug hit, and Rubis had been forced to shoot her way out - Tiss had begged and pleaded with her that he wasn't responsible, that he'd only found out Maggiore was a rat after he'd been seen talking with an agent that very day! It had taken every ounce of respect she had for the man - and a lot of money - to spare his life. And now, here she was again, Tisarelli's hitwoman. Still, he was right. Nothing in life came free, and mafia work was profitable, that was for damned sure. She could afford to splash out with it... She watched as a black BMW pulled up. Blacked out windows. Four men, two in suits, two in what looked like tracksuits. The brothers Grimm had arrived. They walked over to the gate guard and flashed ID in his face... The gate was open. She walked over towards the gate... the guard eyed her up.

"Who're you?"

"Oh, don't worry about me, handsome. I'm just waiting for a client... he said he'd meet me here." She smiled and batted her lids at the guard, who smirked.

"That so, huh. Wanna wait inside?"

An opportunity dawned... she intended to seize it with both hands. No doubt he had his own plans in mind for her... but she could easily overpower him. "Oh... that's very kind of you... I don't think he'll turn up at this rate." She walked over to the door, and she heard the key turn, the lock open and the handle slide back. The guard beckoned her inside, his smirk still on his face. When she was inside, he turned to the controls for the shutters on his guard hut.

"That's a mighty shame. Still... waste not, want not, huh honey?" The guard turned back to see Kseniya, far from indulging in his fantasy with him, instead had her PPK aimed directly at him. "Wait-", was all he could stammer out as she pulled the trigger. A suppressed clap. A single 7.65mm bullet. It punched clean through his skull and into his brain; he was dead before he hit the floor. She walked over and took the guard's keyring, and with it, she unlocked the door that led into the yard. The gate was closed, and the Irishmen were inside, no doubt heading towards the building site. Kseniya slipped the pistol back into her coat, opened the door and quietly walked down the steps into the dirt at the bottom, before walking slowly towards the building site, where she could see the Irishmen and Worthington holding a... conversation. Worthington was up against a pillar, with the two thugs flanking him... she walked closer, trying to keep the noise down. One of the thugs had a gun - a Glock from the look of it pressed up against the foreman's head - whilst the other had a crowbar in his hand. The brothers were raving about how 'money was being siphoned away' and 'things just weren't working out properly' for which, of course, they blamed the foreman. Dumb bastard probably didn't even know what was going on. But then something caught her attention - one of the brothers started yelling about how the 'Grey Watch weren't getting their due, and you know what that means'. The Grey Watch were in on this? That was odd - she thought the Watch were confined to the NYC area, and they were the techy sort, not the dumb-bastard-on-a-building-site type? What were they doing out here in Jersey, and connected with a dig of all things? Did the Shaughnessy brothers have a stake with the Watch?

It didn't matter for now. She walked towards the group, stockinged legs and heels underneath her grey fur coat. "Gentlemen? Can I help you in this fine evening?" All five of them looked over at her. The thug with the gun eyed her up.

"Worthington, you son of a bitch... you got a whore of yours?"

The foreman's terrified eyes turned to Kseniya. "N-No... who the fuck are you, and how did you get past the guard?!"

"He thought with his cock, not his head. That's how. I have a message for you all from Johnny Tisarelli... Chew on these." And with that, Rubis opened fire. Five suppressed shots. Five dead bodies.

Tisarelli, you owe me big time. Kseniya lit another cigarette and took a long drag, before walking over to search through the bodies...
Okay, that's fine, doesn't *have* to be those three generals in the first place, mind.

"Presently I've written how the territory from the Japanese border in Russia to the Urals is controlled by a confederacy of sorts of former Imperial Cossacks." That's quite a large state, and really cuts down on the area available to new players in the remains of Imperial Russia, unless you're fine with people carving out their own states from said nation?

I'll probably go for a state in and around Novosibirsk. Probably re-write the nation to make it more nationalist/populist rather than strongly left-wing.
Hrm. This could be interesting - if you want, I could have it so that the Pliyev Troika instead flee to China, and then potentially offer themselves as another option for a government after the Siberian invasion has been completed? Pliyev, Yeryomenko and Chuikov are all pretty hard-line communists, and would likely retain the support of a fairly sizeable chunk of the Russian Far Eastern Theatre - I estimated that the Russian Far Eastern Theatre would probably have been made up of between 24 and 28 divisions (based on relatively similar Soviet ORBATs from the 1960s in the area) and therefore they would maybe have been able to retain the support of 70-80% of the men under their command.

However, this is all subject to your ideas for the region. I can work with whatever, or I can simply relocate elsewhere if necessary.
The plan was:

In the aftermath of the assassination of the Tsar, and the rather spectacular implosion of the Russian state, Generals Issa Pliyev, Andrey Yeryomenko, Vasiliy Chuikov and several others take command of the Russian Far Eastern Theatre's forces based around Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, and transform the area (by force in some instances) into the Commune of the Amur, a communist state in the Russian Far East with designs of eventually re-conquering Siberia and the Urals, eventually driving west and taking the capital areas in European Russia (probably not, but that's their ultimate goal).

Sadly, I was a muppet and didn't read Japan's NS, which claimed the Amur area for their own. So now, in a bit of limbo here.
-Redacted, because the map on the first post of the OOC had indicated the Amur was free... when it wasn't-

Location: Lachance Stronghold - Henderson, NV
Time: Late Evening

Katarina had been anxiously awaiting some news - any news at all - from the witches about Ben’s condition. Suffice to say, they weren’t readily forthcoming with such information, but merely remained quiet… aggravatingly so, in fact. Then, all of a sudden, they disappeared into a room with him, and closed the door behind them, whilst Kat had been instructed to keep out of the way. It rankled and grated on her patience considerably, and yet, for not the first time today, Kat kept quiet. She just had to keep calm, carry on and keep her head down whilst she integrated with the group at large. The other werewolves were with her, each of them swiping distrustful glances over at Kat, but she paid them no attention, preferring to examine the weaponry that she had looted from the Hounds once again, and in much greater detail. So many detailed intricacies that she had overlooked - three-shot burst, for one. She turned the rifle over and over in her hands, testing how easily it was to manipulate and hold for a long time - in truth, all to keep herself from demanding access to her stricken werewolf. She needed something to do to keep her mind off everything, and specifically, off him and what he must have been going through, thanks to that damned silver weaponry. She noted something else from the firefight as well, now that she had had time to think; she had not once resorted to magic, preferring to utilise the artificial firepower of the Hounds instead. It was a weakness of hers - what magic she could remember from her libraries was slow and cumbersome to bring to bear upon her foes, and in such instances as said firefight, it could have gotten her killed. And it could have hurt her erstwhile allies to boot. She needed faster-acting and more targeted spells to complement her new arsenal. She’d have to note that one down for later.

But for now, she returned her attention to the rifle. At least that was a concrete and dependable item. Not like anything else around here- the door had opened! The witches filed out, each of them sneaking a look into the room where Kat and the others had been spending their time… Yes, yes, everything is fine, now please, go away. She watched each of the witches through furrowed brows and unblinking eyes, before getting to her feet and walking over to the doorway, checking to make sure they had actually left the area, before walking the short distance to Ben’s location. The door was closed, but unlocked. And so, thinking nothing of it, she opened it.

She instantly wrinkled her nose as the smell of rotted flesh, putrefied essence and acidic material washed over her as though she were back at her laboratory in the Tower. For a brief flicker of a moment, her prior memories as the Countess flashed through her mind, but no more. She winked to him as he whirled around to meet the opening of the door, and closed it behind her. ”Don’t get too excited, Ben… it’s only me.” She gave a snicker.

Ben’s shoulders immediately relaxed when he spotted Kat. He rolled his eyes at her snickering, a bit irritated at her amusement over his image. Public indecency was going to get him arrested one day if he couldn’t control the wolf. His frown deepened. Pushing the thoughts out of his head, he leaned over for his tunic and snatched it up with one hand. His back was turned to Katarina while he shoved his arms through each sleeve then lifted it down over his head.

One final tug, he then addressed Kat.

“Where are we? I can’t remember much clearly,” His voice held a bit of pain at admitting it.

”We’re in Nevada, Ben. Some stronghold of some of your witch friend’s, er, acquaintances, I suppose is the best way of saying it. Truth be told, I don’t know much more about this place than you do, only that it’s mostly safe from the arschloche that decided to fill us all with bullets.” Kat walked over and pulled Ben into a gentle embrace. His skin was surprisingly warm to the touch, and she subconsciously made an effort to match him temperature-wise, lest he end up hugging something cold as ice. He was soaked with sweat, and the aforementioned smell hung in the air like a miasmatic cloud - in the old days, people would have fled from the room in terror, frightened that the smell would somehow infect them or sicken them. Kat knew better than that, though. And so did apparently modern humans.

”How are you feeling? A little better now that the poison is out of your system?”

“Terrible, like lukewarm death and worse,” Benjamin said as he let her hug him, unsure how to react.

After several moments, he gently removed her arms and pulled away. He jerked down the shirt to ensure his muscles were covered as he considered his next question. Once more he faced Kat.

“Where’s the White Witch now and who else came?”

Kat was slightly taken aback at Ben’s reluctance to engage in an embrace, but then, she remembered his earlier reluctance to do so in previous meetings. It was a peculiarity of his; one that Kat, truth be told, had no interest in delving into at any point in the near future. She gave a half-smile, and giggled as he pulled down the shirt. ”Aww… I was enjoying the sights… That’s not good to hear about your condition - though I would know about feeling like death warmed up, huh?” She sat down on a chair next to Ben, her nose now having been mostly innured to the scent of the… foul effusions that had marked the purge of the silver from Ben’s body. ”I don’t know where your witch friend is, actually… I saw her leave a while back, but haven’t seen head nor foot of her since… apologies. As for who else we have, I believe we have some friends of yours - twin werewolves, I think? Aside from us… nobody else. The French bitch scarpered shortly after we escaped from Vegas - she got us into that scheißsturm and then she vanished into the fucking night, with that robot thing that went with her. She, ah, how do you say it, brought the heat on us? And then ran like the coward she is.” Kat sighed and rubbed her forehead - she herself had not fully recovered from her own injuries, though Ben had suffered much worse, and Kat was acutely aware of such matters.

”The other twins, the man and the woman, they also left shortly after we escaped. I don’t know where any of those who left are, though… Knowing the French, though, I bet that one fled back to France, as they always do…”

Benjamin looked at Katarina with a hard set jaw, “Why do you say she had something to do with the goons that showed up?”

It was odd that a publically hostile group against supernatural would show up right after they met Odette. However, he had doubts she was suicidal enough to risk her own safety and nearly get them all killed. His neck hairs rose up at the thought of Odette causing him to growl in his throat slightly before he cleared it.

Taking a moment to calm himself, his eyes turned to Kat, “I have get my inner wolf under control. This is getting hard and I’m going to be found out if I don’t. I don’t want to end up in a laboratory somewhere being cut open or experimented on.”

”Ben. Think about it. This woman shows up bragging about her unimaginable power, only for the damned Hounds to show up, seemingly from nowhere, and engage us with heavy weaponry, and weaponry specifically designed to deal with us, ja? I mean, come on, I’ve heard of coincidences, but gottverdammt that’s too much, too convenient. Either she’s being followed and dealt with, or she… she led them to us. Either way, I don’t trust her one bit. She’s dangerous and I don’t like it…” Ben’s following statement raised Kat’s ire, however - of course, the humans still were suspicious of werewolves… superstitious fools. Cut up in a laboratory somewhere?

”Not if I have anything to say about it, they won’t...” She cocked her head to one side and narrowed her eyes - maybe there was some way that Ben could be taught? It would have to mean giving him over to the witch, and maybe the werewolf twins in the next room… but it beat Katarina trying to teach Ben herself, on a subject about which she knew precious little other than what she had briefly read and witnessed in person. ”I suppose the others in our little group could help with that. I don’t trust them either, but if you do, then I’ll go along with your decision…”

“I’m not saying she’s innocent or didn’t have something to do with it, but self preservation is a thing. If I’ve learned anything from Daniel, it’s never to jump to conclusions until you have evidence. It just makes things messier.”

Clearing his throat again, his eyes turned to Kat. He noticed the blood leaking to the surface of the clothing from the now obvious bullet wounds causing him to inwardly groan. Benjamin gritted his teeth a moment before he spoke.

“Did you even get looked at? At all?”

Kat sighed and shook her head. He was right, of course, jumping to conclusions such as that would only really serve to engender distrust and dislike between the members of the group - which for all they knew, might have been the purpose of the woman’s visit in the first place, and they could ill-afford fractious tempers at this point in time, particularly after the Hounds had wrought their bloody havoc. Speaking of which, the dull pain from her bullet injuries was back. It was a mild discomfort… well, perhaps mild was a slight understatement. They still were sore. She winced under Ben’s gaze as he asked the question she hoped he would not. He had a way of turning on the interrogative capability when he wanted to.

Of course she hadn’t sought any attention for her own wounds. His were worse at the time, and he wasn’t a vampire able to regenerate with the sinking of his teeth into a vein. She felt like laying that on him… but decided against it. ”N-no... I didn’t think it was necessary at the time… h-hey, most of the shrapnel worked its way out! I… uh… I think.” Oh dear. Not the best defence of her inaction. Probably could - and should - have phrased that better. She offered a hopeful smile!

“You’re going to make me take care of you, aren’t you?” Benjamin said the words in an annoyed tone, but the way he said it held a hint of threat. One that unofficially made it clear he wasn’t just going to let her walk away until those wounds were taken care of.

The hopeful smile had not worked. Damn. ”What do you mean by that? I’m sure these will be fine by morning… right? It’s only a bit of metal.” It was not just ‘a bit of metal’. And it hurt. A lot. But she was committed to the ruse now - and besides, his wounds were still worse than her own! Never mind that Kat, the vampire was the bloody rearguard for a group that included a giant robot thing and several werewolves… and that she’d done that to get Ben to safety as quickly as possible. Contradictions abounded.

”Though… maybe I do need taking care of… this is actually quite painful.”

“Yeah,” Ben sighed then sat back down on the bench.

His hand reached for his collar then loosened the tunic around it enough to expose his skin. He turned his head until she could get a full view of the artery and added.

“Come on. Let me get you fixed up before you pass out on me.”

”Benjamin, no! You’ve only just recovered from what they did to you, the last thing you need is this…” Kat’s demeanour quickly recovered from the initial shock of Ben’s idea on how to ‘get her fixed up’. Of course. This was the only actual way to get it done, without injuring anybody else or infecting them with the Kiss. Kat sighed and shook her head, irritated at her need for blood - her own weaknesses coming to the fore once again. ”But… ugh… Fine.” She got up from the chair and walked over next to him, nuzzling her head into the gap between his head and his shoulder. And then, with some degree of hesitation, she bared her fangs, and sank them deep into his flesh, his warm vitae draining from the wound down her throat, a surge of energy flowing through her torpid veins. The bullet wounds ceased bleeding, and began to close over as she slaked her thirst.

She withdrew her head from the bite area, and wiped at her mouth. The bite site itself closed over quickly, to avoid too much sanguination. ”I wish I didn’t have to do that…”

“And I wish I wasn’t a werewolf, but that’s not how the world works,” Ben pointed out as he wiped away the remains of his blood.

He didn’t mention he felt weaker than before. Kat would only mother him and he couldn’t handle that right now. It didn’t stop him from twisting about then laying his head against her lap.

“I think I need some sleep before we do anything else.” He yawned.

”I’ll say…” Katarina stroked his hair as she closed her eyes… It would be good to catch a decent amount of shut-eye.

Time: Evening, Three Weeks Before Satellite Attack
Location: Undisclosed Location, New York City, New York State

Sergeant Fred Moonill was on front watch. Watch duty in the middle of a city, on a safe house the location of which was known to only a few. It was, perhaps, the most boring job that one could think of. Sitting on his ass behind a reinforced steel door which was designed to stand up to anything those mutie freaks could throw at them. His assault rifle was on his lap, his monitors scanning the areas outside for any unusual activity by the city's denizens... it was boring, but hell it beat anything else. Fred flicked through the screens - some hobo sitting in an alleyway, some fancy businessmen walking down the road outside, probably plotting the death of the American economy as they always did. A pretty girl with blonde hair standing by a street lamp with a cigarette in her hand... looked smart, but was treated like a hooker from the attention of the fatasses walking by. Fred's stomach turned... to him, the fatcats and the muties were one and the same - vicious pricks who wanted nothing more than to put their own world view in place, and ride roughshod over everyone else, the consequences be damned.

Fred took out a cigarette and lit it, inhaling deeply on the smoke. He had a propensity to grow agitated easily, and smoking was really the only way he could calm down. Besides, he'd come from a family of smokers - his mom and dad both smoked, his gramps and granny did too. Jeff did, Lisa did... it was just what you did. He held the cigarette between his teeth as he checked over his rifle for any spots or rust - a holdover from his days in the Army - and went back to checking the screens. A couple of them were fuzzy, and the blonde was nowhere to be seen. Frowning, Fred smacked the side of the monitor several times to clear it up, but it was no use. The monitors were fuzzing over, one by one. "God damn it." He'd have to call up the techs in the basement to get this fixed. He reached for his radio and pressed the transmit button. "This is two-one, reporting in. I've got some interference on the cameras, can I get someone from tech up here to clear it up?" No sooner had he finished his report, than two of the cameras went black. No report. Nothing. No input feed. Frowning, Fred checked the back of the monitor to see if any of the cables had come loose, but nothing was out of the ordinary. "Shit, this is the last thing I need... I'm a soldier, not a god damn technician." He got to his feet and slotted a magazine into the well of his M4, before walking over towards the door.

In a split second, Fred's world exploded. A blinding flash of light and an overwhelming surge of pain, followed by darkness.

The door had been blown clean from its mounting in the front door, blasting away several chunks of masonry as it had cannoned into the front room of the safe house. The watchman had been standing behind the door as the charges had detonated, from the looks of things, whilst the camera monitor had also been blown from the desk and lay in a pile of wiring and dust shaken loose from the shockwave of the charges' detonation. Cracks had appeared in the surrounding structural walls, and clouds of smoke and plaster dust filled the air. In the doorway was the woman responsible for such an initial onslaught - Rubis. She was dressed head-to-toe in black, with a maroon beret atop her head, sloped to the left as was the custom, and a tactical vest with several grenades, spare RPK magazines and a black assault pack in which contained several large blocks of shaped charge plastic explosive - Semtex, to be precise. A shrill alarm rang, shattering the brief silence following the detonation of the explosives, no doubt alerting the occupants as to what was going on, as if they needed any other information. Rubis unhooked an RGO and cast it into an adjacent room, which looked like a ready room or break room. Inside, two dazed and confused Watchmen were struggling to reorient themselves after having witnessed a rather significant emotional event, and neither of them noticed the small bundle of explosive Soviet joy that had been tossed into the room to accompany them. One had the common sense to run out to check what was going on, only to be met by the repetitive bark of a raised AK-74N firing at fully automatic. The heavy 5.45mm AP rounds punched clean through the body armour - unsurprising at such close range - and sprayed crimson clouds onto the cracking walls behind the Watchman, followed by another deafening explosion as the RGO Rubis had tossed into the break room exploded, shredding the unfortunate sod who was still in the room with shrapnel, and probably concussing him badly to boot. He was alive, but no threat, whimpering and sobbing from the shock and pain of the grenade's explosion - Kseniya unholstered her PPK and put a bullet into the man's brain. She didn't need his whining whilst she was trying to get a job done. The watch room only had one other exit - another reinforced door that no doubt led downstairs into the basement areas of the safe house which would hold the target location.

Kseniya slung her rifle back over her shoulder and jogged through the still-swirling clouds of dust and smoke to the door, and unzipped her backpack to prepare another two charges. However, as she did so, the door slid open to reveal a nasty-looking chap in a black armoured bodysuit, with an M16 at the ready and aimed directly at her. Snickering, the Watchman pulled the trigger, rounds thumping into Rubis' head with tremendous force and frequency. In response, Kseniya gave a guttural yell of defiance and charged down the Watchman, her shoulder impacting squarely with the man's testicular area. Armoured or not, that would sting... and sting it did. The Watchman screamed in agony, his grip on his rifle slackening as both he and Rubis flew down the steps to a landing area halfway down the staircase. The Watchman got the worst of the landing, cracking the back of his bereted head on the concrete wall, a splatter of blood erupting from the impact point. Death must have been instantaneous. Further down the stairs, two other militiamen readied their guns and one called into his radio; "All units, this is two-four, we have a confirmed intruder alert, all security to general quarter- argh!" He was cut off in another spray of crimson liquid, as Kseniya had gotten to her feet, unslung her 74N and loosed off a burst in the militiamen's direction. The radioman took several bullets in the chest and left shoulder, dropping him almost instantly - the other had sensibly dove for cover in a nearby doorway, but it wouldn't avail him for long.

Kseniya opened fire again at the doorway, peppering it with hot lead to suppress the militiaman behind it as she surveyed the situation. She noted that the hallway in front of her was reinforced concrete, almost like the top levels of a bomb shelter - these guys were serious when it came to the construction of their hideouts. From the end of the hallway came forth a veritable squad of infantrymen - at least six militia from the Watchmen. They opened fire, several rounds striking Rubis in the torso, but without effect. Grimacing, Kseniya unhooked another grenade from her vest and threw it down the hallway, scattering the militia behind what cover they could find. The man from earlier, however, wasn't done - he had gotten to his feet, and rushed Kseniya as she finished throwing the grenade. Knocking her to the floor, the militiaman straddled her torso and landed several blows to her head - though again, with little effect beyond irritating her. She took hold of the man's head and slammed her own into his face, definitely breaking a nose from the sound of the impact, whilst in the distance, the grenade detonated, showering shards of shrapnel all through the hallway in a steel rain of fragmentation. Several fragments embedded themselves into the Watchman atop Rubis, shortly before she pushed him back and then kicked him in the chest with both legs, shattering ribs. Those four who had survived the grenade earlier were now once more opening fire, forcing Rubis to ignore the critically-injured man in front of her and return her attention to the others. She reached over and took hold of her rifle and fired a long burst down the hallway, which drove the others into cover.

The magazine was dry.

Quick change, drop the old, take hold of a fresh magazine, slot it in, check the charging handle. Textbook quick reloading under fire. The survivors had retreated behind the door, and sealed it shut. Rubis didn't know how many there were behind it, nor how many rooms lay beyond... she would simply take one problem at a time. The keypad on the side of the door was bright red, with text reading SECURITY BREACH: LOCKDOWN IN EFFECT. Like that would stop her. She still had plenty of charges... she reached into her backpack and placed down four 500-gram charges on the corners of the door, wiring all four up to a single detonator she held in her hand. She unwound the wires down the hallway, and then looked over at the dying Watchman to check he wouldn't be a problem... he was bleeding out. No issue. Two... one... fire! The blasts blew the door clean off its hinges and shattered the surrounding brickwork. The door itself flew backwards and down some steps into a central room filled with several large computers and screens, and terrified technicians hiding under desks. On one particularly large screen was shown a map of the state and Watchman activity. The door itself had taken out the four men covering behind it in rather... gruesome fashion, but Rubis wasn't finished yet, as another four of them made themselves known at the other end of the room, firing wildly at the doorway in an effort to suppress Kseniya's advance. It would work... if bullets actually had an effect on her. Striding forth through the gunfire, Kseniya raised her rifle and fired controlled bursts at each militiaman in turn, killing or gravely wounding each and every one of them. She looked around at the technicians... they were all staring at her, some with fear, some with hatred in their eyes. Kseniya shrugged and slung her AK over her shoulder, unholstering her PPK once more. They all had to die. They were all responsible for their organisation's actions. One shot. Two shots. Three shots. Four. Five. Five suited bodies, with bloodstained wounds. C'est la vie. She emptied the last round in her pistol at one of the technicians who she thought had been killed.

Kseniya walked down the stairs, finally able to catch her breath after the adrenaline and excitement. The map was quite something - she opened an inner pocket on her tactical vest and took out a USB flash drive. This was the purpose of the safe house - and all it took to get there was the deaths of over a dozen militiamen, some technicians, and some Semtex blocks. "Pathetic, really. You call yourselves an army..." The alarm still rang in her ears as she downloaded the intelligence maps and databases onto the flash drive - its continued ring was troubling for Kseniya... were there more on the way? Was there an external alarm room that was calling in extra security forces as she stood there, waiting for the download to complete? Evidently not. She finished up the download, and headed out, back the way she came, with the disk drive in one hand, and her AK in the other, a broad smirk on her face.

Nobody fucked with Rubis.

Time: Shortly after the attack in Las Vegas
Location: Hoover Dam, Black Canyon, NV

The portal ejected the group forcefully onto a concrete structure the likes of which Katarina had never seen before in all her years of life. The violence with which the portal threw them through was unwelcome, to be sure - Kat fell awkwardly on her injured leg, grimacing as she stumbled back to her feet. The Frenchwoman - may God forever curse her for this! - was saying something about how she expected Marie to be in one piece and unmolested by the time she returned. Kat sideswiped a glance at her, a venomous glint to her eye, but said nothing, even when the damnable woman called her 'vampire girl'. Girl? She was hundreds of years older than all of these mortal scum combined, how dare this insolent whelp refer to her so? Why, were she at her full strength, she could wipe this foolish young woman from the face of this planet, or condemn her for an eternity of undead slavery with but a look! Did she have any idea whom she was dealing with?

No, of course not... This was not 1600. This was the 21st century... people had long forgotten her Red Reign and all it stood for. And she was not the Katarina of that time. And more pressingly, she was wounded. For all her indignation and fury, Katarina knew that she wasn't in any great shape to fight, and simply held her tongue - albeit with great difficulty. The frog would win this little battle... lull her into a false sense of security, make her think she was in control of the situation and she could order everyone about with impunity. Whatever wary appeasement there was between the frog and Marie, Katarina would have none of it. Kat would work with this odious little carbuncle for as long as it suited her, and then, when she had regained her power, she would excise the frog from the skin of humanity, and it's little golem construct with it. Ambassador title be damned. As the Frenchwoman opened her own little portal to... wherever, Kat returned her attention to the stricken Ben. His condition had not improved, and it seemed that the group, at the moment, was unable to counteract the doubtless-horrific effects the silver was no doubt wracking upon Ben's system. Kat herself was too injured to contemplate what she would normally do, otherwise she would attempt to at least concentrate the silver in one area and draw as much of it out as she could with her teeth, but she could not afford such a high concentration of silver in her weakened body... for now, anyway. It seemed that once again, the Red Countess was powerless in the face of adversity, just as she had been 400 years ago. She sighed and slammed her fist onto the fence atop the dam's walkway, crushing the steel framework with ease. She didn't care for the damage. Only that she was incapable of protecting those she felt obligated to do so. And the one person she desperately did.

Kat couldn't quite explain her infatuation with the werewolf. Deep inside her, emotions that she had never really been able to show were finally making their presence known - feelings such as compassion, and selflessness; perhaps even love. During her initial sojourn amongst the living, Katarina had never seen mortals such as Ben and his comrades as anything other than tools, or playthings - items to be used until broken, and then thrown away, left to decay and rot amongst the rest of the detritus of human civilisations. Yet here was a man whom she had saved from assault, who had then taken her in (although with some difficulty), given her a bed, a place to stay... normally, she would have exploited this ruthlessly. More fool the man who shows mercy to the Countess, and all that, yet Kat felt no desire, no longing to do so. Perhaps she had learned from the Fall. The cattle were still powerful, in sufficient numbers - the Crusade had put paid to any thoughts of inherent vampiric superiority over any and all opposition. No. Perhaps this time would be different. She put this to the back of her mind - Kat would have plenty of time to ruminate on her predicament and internal emotional turmoil later.

Instead, she turned her attentions, albeit reluctantly, to her surroundings. And what a landscape she found herself in. She had never known the existence of construction of this scale. The Hoover Dam, it was called by the mortals - a sheer face of concrete, impounding the terrifying force of nature in the Colorado River. Kat gazed at the cascading tumult of released floodwaters cannoning down from the slipways and jet-releases further down the dam, a terrifying two hundred and twenty metres (though Kat had no real way of determining the height of the dam) below her. It was... hauntingly beautiful. To watch what was once an unstoppable force which had carved out this massive canyon, impounded by physics, engineering and sheer human determination. Humanity had advanced far since the days of the 1500s. No longer did the peasants live in wooden and mud hovels, thatched with straw from offshoots of wheat farming. Instead, humanity had progressed to damming even the most powerful rivers, to housing thousands, if not millions, in urban agglomerations formed of glass, steel and concrete. It had seemingly not yet occurred to Katarina just how far humanity had advanced since her defeat, and now, looking at the white cascade of river water that gushed forth from the dam, it almost struck her in one blow. The aforementioned cattle were cattle no more. No vampire had ever been able to construct such massive feats of engineering - nay, even the Tower and Schloss Neuhausen paled in comparison with the Dam. And it didn't stop there, not with the Hoover Dam. Nuclear power. Nuclear weaponry. Aircraft carriers larger than some buildings. Supertankers even larger still. It didn't matter that Kat had also been exposed to humanity's fractious and oft-tribalistic nature. There were always bound to be those who opposed the marching of progress. Doubtless there were those advocating for a return to the 'old ways', before the days of mass mechanisation, globalisation and massive feats of engineering.

Maybe it was worth giving these humans another shot.

Alas, for all this, it was time to leave. The White Witch had deigned that they needed to move elsewhere to receive treatment for Ben and her own wounds - some place known to those of Fae origin. It was with a slightly heavy heart that Katarina acquiesced. She would have loved to stay at the Dam until sunrise... but needs must.
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