Saturday, April 29, 2006

Episode 25

A sleep agent works in a building.
In the case of an outside battle, how
can we put it to good use? Jean?

Ross, Ceri, Taylor and the four met up on the fourth floor, one mentioned by Alec as of 'particular interest'. It was administrative, and they planned to slide down the main elevator shaft to enter the garage.

"Everyone okay?" Ross asked, worry in his voice.

Taylor jerked a finger in Kyioshi's direction, and Ross sucked in a breath at the sight of his bloodied shirt.

"We have to start the escape now -"

An engine rumble cut him off. As one, they turned towards the windows and saw, horrified, what had arrived.

Four Toskan vans. Eight men each, four units. As they watched, the units were split up into two groups, one towards Internal, the other towards Alcott. It all seemed, Ceri thought later, well planned and rehearsed.

Taylor took one look and gulped. Then he dug his hand into a stealth suit pocket, pulling out a crumpled envelope. He opened it and out rolled four syringes, along with Alec's plan B instructions.

He read it in complete silence. When he spoke, fear crackled in his voice.

"Quick! Four of you! Inject this!"

"What's going on?" Ross said, confused.

In answer, Taylor took Ross's grappling unit and primed it at Alcott.

AP600 is useless in open spaces.
However, plan B takes an outside
attack into account. Jean tells me mixing
the AP600 with a hallucinogen makes it
more effective. How so?
It turns it into a nerve agent.

Yuki took only a second to understand the instructions. He looked over the scene. Two units had entered Internal, and Yuki could see them spreading out, scouting and double checking rooms.

The zip line crashed out of the administrative floor, cutting air and attaching itself to Alcott's top floor.

Immediately Toskan soldiers pointed and yelled; gunshots were fired. Yuki saw the searching units in Internal make a beeline for the elevator after receiving intel about what was happening outside.

Yuki took out the detonator from the instructions packet. He flipped the plastic cover and squeezed the trigger. It's not my fault, he told himself, its for the mission.

The resulting explosion blew the fire hydrant ten feet into the air, letting loose a geyser of water. Unknown to the Toskan men a small vial just underneath the hydrant cap had cracked, and the nerve agent was freely mixing with the liquid. The geyser rained down on the soldiers, making them spin around in surprise.

I'm sorry, Yuki said to the cool night air. He aimed the vaporizer and fired. Then he looked away.


The steam that engulfed the alley provided them with enough cover to slide across to Alcott. Ceri was the last one, and he cut the electronic bug off the Alcott wall, sending the zip line flaying uselessly down.

As he turned back he tried to push out the thought that the steam all over had killed the Toskan units on the streets. Ceri hurried down the stairs, and straight into Ross.

"What the - "

"Shush!" Taylor said. Jean rushed up the stairs, holding a timer.

"I'm going to blow up a hole to the vaults below Internal. Once we're in don't make any sounds. They have a security system down there that we can only dream of breaking.""

"Blow?" Ross asked. "How -?"

"A tub of plastic explosives, painted and supported by directional charges. Don't worry." She punched Ross lightly, "Strong enough to shake the foundations of the entire neighbourhood."

The timer she held clicked down to the last three seconds. Ceri looked for something to hold on to.


The Toskan team leader had rushed out, over to Alcott. Things were happening too fast, and they were running in circles. His unit stopped for a split second at the sight of so many dead soldiers, but training took over and they barged into the departmental store.

Smoke and debris curled out to meet them, forcing the entire team to drop to their knees and start crawling. So this was what they blew up, the team leader thought.

He came to a hole in the ground, the cement still warm to the touch. Below was the glow of a few flickering lights. Gesturing, he divided the unit to two, and dropped through the hole.

A clean white corridor met him. On the floor, leading away from him was a messy trail of black footsteps.

They followed. Corridor let to corridor and the team leader gripped the gun as close as he could. Too tense. Would they catch them? They were smart, but perhaps they had made a miscalculation?

He turned to find the elevator prised open, insides exposed like a dissected frog. Two secret doors that were meant to hide the vault entrance had been forced open by someone very strong. And there was - a hole? The team leader frowned.

He climbed up and scrambled through, the rest of the unit following close behind. It was a garage, completely empty and with the moon shining in from an open entrance.

Outside, another explosion. He later learnt a tape had gone off in Alcott, destroying all video evidence of the escape. A further two men had died.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Episode 24

30 minutes earlier

Alec leant back in her chair as the team got ready to leave. They were ten minutes away from a tube, and the train was set to go in fifteen minutes time, giving them a five minute buffer period.

Yuki strapped the bag containing the vaporizer and looked at her.

"You okay?"

Alec nodded numbly, thinking over the many ways her plan could go wrong. She wasn't worried about the rescue - that had been prepared for, in as great detail as the limited time frame allowed. It was the escape that worried her, since it had been thrown together in a really slapdash manner. She stared at the train maps all over the table in front of her.

If anyone died ...

Alec broke away from her reverie to find Yuki placing an arm around her.

"It'll be okay."


She was eleven all over again. War was in full force, and the Vladosha household was in an equal mess. An older cousin, Dmitri, had been killed recently, and the womenfolk were all in emotional dissaray about the funeral plans. Those that were not crying were wringing their hands, and those that were not wringing their hands were crying.

The men ignored them completely and were writing up war plans.

"38 degrees to the south!" Father said. He was an imposing man, more keen to grab hold of the situation and act than sit by and think. Which, most unfortunately, was how Alec and Granpa handled strategy.

"Magisters attack from the west." said Uncle Sullivan, ignoring the renewed wails of Mother and company.

"Summoning circles are on the east, dammit! If we more them there'd be a higher chance of death!" Father bellowed, "The Guild is already breathing down our necks with their -" Alec was treated to a feast of new swear words, "- political agendas!"

"Shush." said Granpa, idely taking a frying pan from Aunt Mant, for she waved it in the air dangerously as she cried. "Our army can hold them off long enough while the magisters summon. And while the pentacles on the east are more vunerable, the oragi division can take care of oncoming threats."

"Oragi division? There's only 3 of them, and one's a kid!"

"I believe," Granpa said quietly, "in those seals."

At that moment, a cacophony of clashing utensils, wailing and tossed vegetables brought the discussion to a halt.

As Father bellowed at them to get out Granpa whispered in Alec's ear.

"Deaths are a normal part of every war." he said, eyes blinking sadly. "But thinking too much of death will kill you."

"Cousin Dmitri is - was -"

"A good young man. You just stick it out in times like this. Think no death. Just life.


5 minutes earlier

"We've gotta go." Chong Fen said, "Our part's coming up soon."

Alec stared at the three vials laid before her, beside the com kit. She thought back to Granpa's words.

"Sticking it out, huh?"

Chong Fen shot her a quizzical stare. Alec got up, her mind made.

"Help me turn on the taps. Everywhere."

Toskan Transmission
Moving out on blanket operation, Internal. Suspects will be apprehended within half an hour. Nobu units on backup.

Transmission end.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Episode 23

Phase 1 is just saving
the shinobi. Protect yourself,
protect your partner.

The bomb blew upwards, tearing apart the shaft.

Ross opened his eyes. First one, then the other. No alarm. The sensor strip was untouched.

"Get in there!" Sabrite hissed, poking him.

Ross clambered through the shaft and turned a corner. There, amid much smoke, was a charred, gaping hole and some remains of a screwdriver.

Ross scrambled down.

"Never again, never, will i climb up behind you. You are the most insolent -"

"Good thing i brought the scredriver." Ross cut in, fingers already flying over the keyboard.

"Good thing i saw it in your butt. Dumb stealth suit pockets."

"Shut up and do your part." Ross snapped, finally cracking. "Kyioshi is still up there, in a cell!"

Silence but the tapping of keys. Ross effectively put the entire security system to sleep. Then he realized Sabriye hadn't left.

They stared at each other, through their masks.

"You're not that lazy, are you?"

Ross frowned. "You don't hate Ceri that much," he shot back, "Do you?"

Sabriye was silent. Ross couldn't see her face, underneath the helmet.

"You're not that worthless a person after all," she said, at last. "And that's me passing judgement."

She turned and made for the hallways.

Ross moved back to the screen, relayed a message to Alec, and wondered just what the hell did Ceri see in Sabriye.


The pigeons had passed by for the third time. Ceri grabbed the rope nervously and chacked his mana reserves. The display on his arm showed five percent left. The batteries were not going to last.

"Cameras down." Alec said, in his earpiece. With hidden relief, both boys bounced over to the window, Taylor getting in first.

The guards were still dead to the world. Ceri headed for the cells, Taylor checking each and every one of the guards on the floor.

The four shinobi had suffered the same fate as the guards outside. They had neither the filters nor the anti-agent that the eight had. Kyioshi was in rags, almost naked and bleeding all over. Ceri averted his eyes, taking out four syringes.

"Wow." said Taylor, coming over and looking at Kyioshi.

"We need clothes."

They spent the next few minutes stripping down one of the the guards and putting the clothes on Kyioshi. Ceri cleaned the wounds as best he could, using the guard's handkerchief. Not clean enough. Blood still seeped into the uniform.

Ceri injected the anti-agent as Taylor tended to the rest. Kyioshi stirred.

"W-wha?" he said, eyes squinting.

"Shut up." Ceri said, propping Kyioshi's arm over his shoulder. "You need a medic. Fast."

The other shinobis were waking up as the anti-agent started to combat the sleep. Of the three, Milo took in the broken cell doors, the fallen guards and the stealth suits.

"Centauri." he said, a little relieved.

"They made Kyioshi t-tell tehm -" Kierra started.

"Never mind that, we need to leave -"

"- where t-the academy is located."

Taylor and Ceri exchanged dark looks, and Kyioshi shifted a little on Ceri's shoulder.

"We have to go." Ceri said firmly.


Three seconds.

The explosion rocked the walls, sending Sabriye spinning like a top. She stabled herself and then slid down the grappling rope.

A hole had been punched out at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Alec calculated correctly the thickness of the walls, and it had been easy to drill the explosives in. Sabiye loosened the warm concrete and crawled through.

The room beyond wasn't very large, but it contained one very important thing - the black armoured van.

Whistling, Sabirye walked over to the entrance and hit the controls, raising the garage doors.

"Hello," she said, "On time as usual."

Chong Fen nodded and entered.

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