The office was busy as usual with the changing shifts, there was much groaning and yawning going about as the tired officers finally called it a night and the reluctant morning shift begun at a crawling speed. Lilyth had arrived a good three hours earlier that day to sort out the final details for the day's worth of operations and was kissing her third cigarette goodbye. Finally her crew was filling in the room; the new recruits stared confused at the large holographic board displaying the entirety of The Core, densly packed with hundreds of alerts and indicators.
"Oh heck no, it's too early for this Lily." exclaimed her second in command as she walked past Lilyth and through the hologram, which flickered at the interferenced, up to the counter with a hot cup of coffee. Sergeant Kathryn Willows was a lively girl still in her late 20's, with a slender shape that attracted more than a few eyes. They'd been working together for quite a few years now and she'd been essential to maintain the crew's spirits up after Lilyth's harsh drills.
"It's never too early to go clean up the streets, Kat." Lilyth shot an icy glance at the two new recruits, who seemed to have taken a liking to the Sergeant's treatment and were growing complacent. "Now, I've got word from HQ that a Liberata cell might have infiltrated a corporate buidling near the border of the slums. Right here..." she pointed a gloved finger at a red flashing dot on the proyection of The Core, "..and it seems our boy, Del Santo, might be involved in this one. So y'all know what that means!"
"Fuck" the whisper came out at a near-unison from all but the two recruits, who looked around for an explanation. "Come on, time to gear up, we leave in 10'." Kathryn handed one of them her half finished coffee and patted the other on the shoulder.
It was rush hour out there, and despite the update pushed onto the GPS system and the barricades set up around the block, there seemed to be an ever-present sea of people bustling about, oggling the sieged building.
"This is the Police. We have your surrounded. Hand yourselves in and you will be spared." she hated the cliche, but it was protocol to give the criminals a chance to repent. The 'sparing' usually was a straight trip to Sector 3, or the shooting range, but the public needn't know that. Lilyth lowered the megaphone after the single attempt and turned to face the twenty fully armoured Watchmen under her command.
"Sorin, take Alpha. Matt, take Beta. Kathryn you stick with me, we're taking Gamma for a test drive." she smiled maliciously before polarizing her visor.
"Yessir" the echo came through her helmet a fraction after her unit saluted and got into position.
The Liberata inside the building prepared makeshift barricades from furniture and vehicles to hide behind, and were poking the muzzles of their rifles through. A gunfight was inevitable at this point, but that did little difference to Lilyth, her crew was well equiped and capable of dealing with couple dozen rebels with stolen weapons.
"Alpha Squad, I need you on the western building, third floor. Hold." A string of orders was being barked out into the silent channels. "Beta Squad, take the northern building and await my signal." She turned to look at Kathryn and the newest squad members. They are just a bunch of kids. "Gamma Squad, get on the Hunchback. We're going in."
The opening moves had been on point, the Liberata hadn't prepared for a full-in assault and had had a hard time retaliating after their barricades were turned against them. The Hunchback sat in the middle of the building hanging from the wires it ripped on it's way down from the third floor. The fight had simply taken longer than expected, as the new recruits were just as beffudled by the Lieutenant's tactics as the enemy had been. Nearly two hours had gone by in the ceaseless gunfire inside the building.
"Two injured, no casualties. What's the status on Del Santo?" Lilith asked over the comms, impatient as she kicked over a corpse looking for a facial match-up.
"Nothing here" Kathryn was the first to report on the first floor. "Second floor's clear. He's not here either" was Matt's report. "Third floor's a bust, sir. Seems the data was fake." Sorin pitched in, confirming Lilyth suspicion. But then another voice came through the comms:
"Heimdall Unit, there's a request for backup in the slums. We lost contact with last dispatch moments ago. Please come in." the operator from HQ, a voice she rarely got to hear lately. And for a good reason.
"This is Lieutenant Lilyth Ruskin, state your rank and division, this is a reserved channel." she wasn't happy with the sudden request and it was clear in her voice. I didn't get all the way up here to go play hide and seek.
"Sergeant Azerix, Logistics, ma'am. The Colonel requested I pass this message to you: 'We're stretched thin today. Get your ass moving.'. Do you copy ma'am?" the operator a poor young boy playing lackey to the Colonel, and got the brunt of it too.
Lilth sighed as she looked the reading on her crew. "I copy. We'll take care of it immediately. Get someone to clean up here and let AT know the Del Santo info was a bust." she closed the comms channel to HQ with a furious flick of her head and then gestured to resume her local comms. "Congrats everyone, as a reward we're getting double shifts today. Now get your asses on the move, we're heading to the slums. Go, go, go!"
Where there had been hundreds of thousands people a few hours ago, there were now a mere dozens, and interceptors were making their rounds in the sky. The Hunchbacks made their way through the empty streets into the slums, when they came to a sudden halt. "Where the fuck is everyone?" Kathryn was leaning over the wheel, turning her head left and right, but the only movement in sight was from the interceptors. "HQ, what's going-" she paused mid-sentence and looked at Lilyth with a hint of fear in her eyes. "We're on high alert. Channels are on priority-only mode."
Silence fell over everyone on the Hunchback. Lilyth took off her helmet and grabbed a smoke from the board. She had it on her lips when Kathryn intervened "Sir, you know-" an open hand told her to shut up as Lilyth lit up her cigarette. Silence resumed as she took a long puff of smoke. "Keep driving" she said with smoke slowly coming from her mouth. "Matt, stay close behind" she said sternly over the vehicle to vehicle channel.
"STAY INDOORS. THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL." an interceptor flew overhead while playing their message on loop. Is it that bad?. Lilyth grabbed her bolt gun and made sure to load a fresh cartridge. She stood up to face the to face the crew onboard. "ETA minus 10 minutes. I want everyone ready for action, we have no idea what's out there and HQ is not respon-" she was cut short by the sudden blow to the side of the Hunchback which nearly tipped it on it's side.
"THE FUCK WAS THAT?!" Kat cryed out from the pilot seat. "KAT! GET US TO COVER NOW!" Lilyth barked at her from he sore seat on the floor. She was looking at a noticeable dent on the inside of the Hunchback. What did they hit us with? "MATT! STATUS!" she nearly screamed at the board. But there was only the rumbling of the engine and the annoying scaping of metal pieces.
Lilyth turned her head to the window. There she noticed the cyan ghastly face staring into the vehicle. "Everyone...out...NOW!"