Crows were encircling the hazel sky, in dark parade for fresh blood. Cloudless and windless, the air was still and stale. The thick rope that bound him hung heavy and stank of rusty blood.
The boy trudged on down the muddy path, two Slave Masters at his sides, armed with sharp scimitars. They reached the Chopping Board, a blood-stained stump of a once-great oak tree. Located in the middle of the slave camp, it served as a grim reminder to all of the freedom-less.
"This bastard is hereby punished of killing 3 Slave Masters." One of the sword-bearers bellowed, "Let this be a warning to the rest of you. That this is the price of audacity."
" I know you did it, you asshole. I can see it in your eyes." The other whispered fiercely to the boy.
The same eyes stared back, devoid of any emotion. There was perhaps a hint of a smile, but one could not be sure. The slave population have heard rumours of a saviour standing up for them, smiting 3 of the cruelest Slave Masters. No evidence was found.
The boy had already garnered a lot of hatred from the guards. His grey eyes were always sharp and piercing. There was no sense of desperation, pain, or even anger from the young silent slave. Even now, with imminent death approaching, the defiance in his spirit was unmistakable.
That's why he must be put down, fast and hard before other slaves started having fancy thoughts.
A hard kick pushed the boy onto the Chopping Board. He would have stood back up, but two hands gripped his shoulders and pressed him down hard onto the stump. A collective gasp came from the watching public, who were gathered to watch. To watch and learn.
The executioner heaved a dull and boorish axe up and gave it a few practice swings. The boy did not struggle, his face pressed down, facing the executioner. With a grunt, the executioner raised the axe high above his head, and swung it down hard.
By the time the axe hit the wood with a loud 'thud', the boy was already rolling on the floor. He sprang up and head-butted the other guard. The two sword-wielders were sprawled on the floor, their hands severed by the executioner's merciless axe.
The other Slave Masters were in a daze momentarily, but a look at the frayed ropes and the severed hands on the Chopping Board was enough into spring them to action.
The Boy turned to them, armed with a sharpened rock in his left hand and a scimitar in the right,
He felt alive! And sober. Never did he ever have so much fun without a bottle in such a long time. Big Bang thought he was done for, out of the Game, in a vicious cycle of wild nights and morning puke. But not anymore. Maybe he was meant to do this. To work with this unique group. Perhaps he was supposed to blow things up again with great reluctance.
Blowing things up with reluctance. Yeah, right.
This mission was strange. He was supposed to help break out an imprisoned felon, in all likelihood an insane one, out of a high security prison designed to keep dangerous people like that in. People like himself.
He was not worried about the prison break. He had broken too many of his relatives out of jails, asylums and parenting homes. There was this one job where he had to break his cousin's stepbrother's wife (twice removed) from the Kelon Asylum, the job was so easy that the hard part was listening to her rant as they left in their family pickup.
Rather, he was more worried of whom they were breaking out.
A capable assassin required a presence of mind, to be cold to kill and calculating to survive. Most of the imprisoned 'gentlemen' in there were assassins who lost control, who kill indiscriminately, friend or foe. Assassins who were extremely skilled, although they had lost their mind to the growing insanity of blood and secrecy that comes with the job. Men too valuable to be taken down, too dangerous to be free.
Deep down, Big Bang knew (despite himself) that sanity was an unfortunate necessity when it came to doing a job. Too many nut cases in this line was bad for business. While Big Bang seemed to dance between the lines between sanity and 'kuku land', in truth he was far more calculative than probably the entire team put together, his aloof demeanor more a ruse than anything.
So how would an assassin who lost his marbles help in any cause, whatever that cause may be? He could very well turn against his allies, killing his team mates without warning or caution. How would such a person help in any operation involving a team?
The S.S. Securus was currently on its way to their destination, a fortress above the clouds, silent and undetectable. It was peaceful, as it always is before the mayhem breaks loose. Big Bang enjoyed mayhem.
Mayhem was poetry, and he was the prodigious poet.
A knock on the door brought Big Bang out of his thoughtful daze. Big Bang opened the door without hesitation. While in this trade, that was practically suicide, Big Bang did not care. He was the least armed among all of them (even Scope has a tiny pistol). Without his trademark explosives, he felt absolutely naked. If anyone wanted him dead, he would have been so ages ago. Besides, he never liked any of this secrecy stuff anyway.
The door slid open, revealing Piece. He seemed like the guy in charge, but it was probably common knowledge that he was just a pawn.
Pawn. He liked that; it made him feel superior.
"Here," the pawn said, "take this, I think you might like it."
Big Bang studied at what looked like a pair of bulky, mechanized gloves. Recognition dawned on him.
"Whut the... How on God's green earth did ya git those? I thought I had wasted those things when I thought mah career was done for."
"Well," the pawn explained, "We picked up the 'wasted' pair, as you so aptly described, and tried to replicate it. I must commend you on the innovative design, to allow controlled explosions in varying degrees to an enemy, without harming the user. A fine piece of technology.
It was far too complicated to reproduce it. However, we managed to salvage most of it and took the liberty to include other features that you might enjoy, such as concussion effects and a controlled electromagnetic pulse. I hope it is to your liking?"
Big Bang took a big breath. It really must be fate, for his old signature weapon to fall back into his hands. Should he don his Gauntlets again, he would officially be back in the Game. Back to the secrecy and death. Back to the sleepless nights and guilt.
Back to loud noises and hair-raising explosions.
Big Bang accepted the Hellboy Gauntlets reluctantly.
Scope hit up a couple of keys to bring up her large Scope Command Control (SCC), a system she devised years ago during her training as a cadet in the Secret Intelligence Forces (SIF). It was a dedicated mission control command centre, requiring a hybrid mix of technologies meshed together to coordinate missions that even the Unique Ops Forces would envy.
She remembered the first time she ran her first trial run of the SCC, was a moment that marked her life and her name in the World of Intelligence. She and her fellow recruits were supposed to run a live training exercise, complete with people manning all the different stations. Basically, they were required to be the "eye in the sky", the voice of direction that bridges the field and command operations.
Little did her trainers expect Scope, the youngest of the recruits, to come up with a software that did all that, and with greater efficiency. Her system was seemingly flawless.
Which was the problem.
Her SCC would render all chain-of-command 'eye in the sky' officers obsolete, as it only required only a single person to operate the software. Her invention was too powerful for its own good, and many of those who saw her little performance understood the possibilities that her machine created.
Everyone wanted their hands on her system. An instant barrage of activity of downloading files and cracking codes commenced. It didn't take too long for everyone to realise that her system was completely useless.
The system was excruciatingly complicated. No one could operate it at the fullest efficiency, debasing brilliance into a common command software. Operation required training. Training from the creator of the software.
And she disappeared a week after the SCC made its first appearance, the SCC 1.0 was to date still inoperable.
Cracking her knuckles, Scope smiled at her SCC 6.5b, and got ready for the mission.
Driving was his game, and Pickup was his name. A name synonymous with bank heists and grand theft auto, but how did the Pickup turn into an assistance for a group of assassins?
"Because they paid well," Pickup reminded himself, "and they promised amazing vehicles."
And boy were there amazing vehicles. Piloting the S.S Securus was like Pickup's dream come true, a monster truck in the skies, monolithic but silent.
He eyed the various monitors and shifted the ship to SC speed (that's what the manual called it), but Pickup remembered it as "Snail Crawl" speed. The ship goes so slow, together with its cloud maker working overtime, would simply appear to be a cloud floating over a building, just like any other harmless fluffy thing.
This fluffy white thing was the vehicle that Pickup took the longest to learn (2 days), but it was worth it. He shifted the controls to auto-pilot and grabbed the captain's horn.
"Attention all passengers, this is your captain speaking. We'll be approaching Jakron Asylum in 1 hour. We're having mysterious heavy clouds on this bright and sunny day."
Pickup heard a collective chuckle from the crew as he called up a screen to view the bridge. For trained assassins, some of them seem to be taking the ride a little too harshly, especially the one named Rounin, who looked positively sick.
3 drop offs today, 3 different parts of the island.
Pickup hoped there would be 3 pick ups as well.
"A horse, a horse, a kingdom for a horse!"
Mr T straightened up his tuxedo in the full length mirror. He looked odd with a parachute on his back, but the ends justified the means.
He knew the tuxedo was strange on the field where guns were blazing, but it did not matter to him. The physical fight was meant for brutes, and he need not resort to such peasant means. The pen is eternally mightier than the sword.
Some might call him a machinist, an engineer or even an inventor. Such insults. He was an artist, one who guns for perfection in the marvelous world of technology. He was the maestro of nanotechnology, the harbringer of artificial intelligence, the virtuoso of engineering physics.
The tuxedo itself was his own creation. With nanotechnology woven into the very fabric itself, it provides a myriad of functions that one cannot even begin to believe. And that was just the tuxedo. Besides, what did the ignoramuses know about fashion, or class for that matter? He was probably the only one that looked good without even breaking a sweat.
"Hey, Penguin Man, you jump off first." The ignoramus named Pickup, a purely idiotic nickname, cried out. "After you, it will be Jack and Whisper, capish?"
Mr. T did not bother to reply to the boorish cretin. He understood the objectives well enough, and only hoped that he knew what he was doing.
He contemplated Jack as he saw the man load two powerful-looking handguns and adjusted the katana on his back. The smile was unwavering, even in the tension before the operation begins. Simply a unique man.
He shifted his focus to Whisper. She seemed calm; she probably went through countless of similar missions before this. Behind the cold eyes was a fiery, tenacious woman.
The two Gemini Assassins may be less intelligent than himself, but he conceded that they were probably capable. And undeniably dangerous.
The hull of the ship opened up to strong gusts of wind. "Time for action." said Mr. T as he flung himself out into the atmosphere.
"Hey, hold dis. It's v'ry importahnt."
"Don't you know who I am?" Deathtrap asked Big Bang incredulously. Probably a first time he heard someone speak to him in such a nonchalant manner in ages.
"Yeah, I duh." Big Bang turned to Deathtrap and offered him an ear-to-ear grin. "But duh you know who I 'm?"
"No. Not a clue." Deathtrap replied with an amused look.
"I'm Santy Claus, mah friend, and you ah muh elf." He laughed maniacally as he swung a huge, mysterious sack over his shoulder. Complete with a red jumper and a snowy-white beard, it was purely coincidental that he was dressed resembling a hideous looking Christmas icon.
Yes, purely coincidental.
"Santa Claus 's comin' tah town, little boys 'n gurls, 'n I hope yah hav' been good all year! HahHAhahaha!" The laughter was clearly audible even as his diminishing figure disppeared through the clouds.
"Who the hell am I associating myself with?" Deathtrap mumbled to himself as he leaped off with his parachute.
Leaving behind the 'very important object'.
"What?!" Crosshair shouted at the masked man, irritably.
Rounin ignored him, and continued to study him contemplatively. The two of them had been waiting at the hull of the ship, Crosshair dressed in sleeveless army decruiser hood, complete with matching coloured slacks. He even had a cap of the same camou-colour.
Rounin on the other hand was standing at the tip of the pole, the very front of the S.S. Securus. He seemed in perfect balance, standing tall with barely more than one toe in contact with the thin pole, not bothered by the possibilty that falling from the ship would spell a terrible landing.
"Erm, if there is anything wrong with my hair, feel free to let me know." Crosshair said to the Wordless Wonder, feeling increasingly awkward with each passing minute.
After a period of silence, Rounin finally jumped down from the pole and spoke, saying a single word:
Crosshair grinned. He obviously made an impression on the skilled assassin.
"Of course I'm amazing," Crosshair replied, " The only living cyborg in existence, coupled with good looks and..."
"You misunderstand me. I'm just amazed that an incompetent, such as you, is charged with the duty of assisting me."
The Jakron Asylum was a dreary, melancholic place. A rectangular facility on top of a rock in the middle of perpetually angry waves. Fog was a common occurrence, as was the case that night. A high wall topped with wicked Constantine wire stood menacingly along the coast of the small island, daring anyone with the audacity to break out.
Or, in their case, break in.
Jack, sailing down in his jet-black parachute, could not fathom anybody pursuing a career in this part of the world. The guards must be paid very well.
The owner was quite obviously an anonymous billionaire. Jakron had no political agenda, no military connections and have nothing to do with anything outside of its small coastline. It was purely a business venture.
Pseudo-nations, especially small ones lacking in the funding, expertise or technology to erect such a holding facility, would pay large sums of money for housing their most notorious inmates.
And Jakron Asylum was highly capable of keeping them locked in. The walls were genetically selective in its powerful electrocutions, allowing only the guards to be immuned to the shocking effects. Guards were highly equipped and well-trained, probably one of the few remaining organised armies left in existence. There were only 2 entrances, one on each end, that were faced with machine-gun turrets, high tower snipers and at least 10 guards per entrance. A powerful radar, accompanied with long-range anti-aircraft weaponry spotted acoss the island, deterred any airplane foolish enough to enter Jakron's airspace.
Unless that particular aircraft happens to be the S.S. Securus.
Not that they were the first to try to break anyone out. Jakron had withstood numerous attempts in the past. In one famous incident, Jakron Asylum's thick titanium walls managed to hold out against an entire pseudo-nation's worth of an attack force thanks to it's strategic location and superior design.
Jack glanced down his 2 fellow comrades, likewise strapped with the same parachutes, and his grin widened. He noticed, amusingly, that tuxedos and parachutes do not mix well. Whisper was clad in a black skin-tight rubber suit that outlined her shapely curves like a glove. If looks could kill...
He noticed Mr. T fling two peculiar objects towards the rooftop radar. Mini-EMP. The guards would probably assume the cause of the short-circuit to be lightning strike. They might even come up to check. Jack certainly hoped so.
As Jack descended closer to the roof of the facility, he drew his SHLEP. Small Handheld Long-range Enabled Prototype. It was the only sniping handgun in the world, and branded as virtually useless. The high recoil and the cumbersome nature of the handgun, despite a range of over 2 kilometers, made it highly impractical for most assassins. The prototype required an assassin to be both very strong and skilled to be utilized effectively. Every sniper and Gemini Assassin shunned the weapon, preferring the more capable and sturdy sniper rifles.
One had to be a complete idiot to use such a weapon.
He fired the SHLEP in rapid succession, killing the 4 guards on the roof. Of course, there was always the option of landing and taking the guards out one by one...
But, why waste the time?
That was the only word Crosshair could think of as he witnessed the spectacle unfold from the panaromic view of the S.S. Securus. The 3 black parachutes were literally microscopic from 2 kilometers above sea level. However, Crosshair's unique eyes could pick out the action as if it was happening right in font of him. And the fact remains. 4 guards were dead on the roof, sniped by a pistol.
A freaking pistol!
Crosshair was under the impression that he was the only sniper within this so-called elite few. Looks like he was mistaken. Crosshair smiled slightly. Bested by a Gemini Assassin in his own specialty?
Crosshair licked his lips and tasted the air. Feeling the familiar weight of his Gausk, he considered the adjusted scope at the side of the firearm, deciding against using it. At such a high altitude, it was normally a simple task for Crosshair to take down the 3 other guards in their watchtowers. Not so, in this case. The vantage point on the Securus shifted constantly, and the adjustments to accomodate the high-speed winds made this assignment a gargantuan task.
Still, Crosshair was no ordinary sniper, and he will not allow some guy called Jack to appear out of nowhere and take away the unofficial, prestigious title of Best Sniper away from him.
Crosshair closed his eyes and pressed his right fist onto his left breast. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. He felt his heart beating, fast at first, but slower as he felt a strange, almost mysterious serenity suffuse his entire body.
He enjoyed listening to his own heartbeat. It reminded him that he was alive. Truly alive, and not among the mindless pawns that populate Neuera. His heartbeat was his greatest treasure, further proof of the uniqueness that is his being.
With mind tranquil and hand steady, he took aim...
When one dedicates his life to end another using a trigger to fire tiny but deadly metallic slugs filled with gun powder, it is not skill. A child could use a firearm to kill. There is no respect for self or the opponent; there is no honor.
Fools such as the pair of guards at Jakron. Fools that asked Ronin "what kinda penknife ya git slinging on ya back". He said it with such an air of confidence. He saw a lone man with no firearms and two seemingly harmless blades at a distance, and made foolhardy thanks to his faith in the long vulgar pistol he was twirling in his second finger. Misplaced faith; which he learnt moments after Ronin turned around to face him eye to eye.
By the time he saw that Ronin's dark black eyes were devoid of emotion, it was too late. He no longer had a finger to twirl his revolver in, and in anger he tried to retaliate, only to realise that lacking a trigger finger, he was useless.
Fools all. When would they learn that the blade is faster, cleaner, and far more lethal than a bullet could ever be?
Ronin stood in front of the main entrance of Jakron, the wide gates confronting him. Two cameras were focused on him, and the sirens went off. The door guards were already disabled, one crumpled against the walls of Jakron, the other unconscious under Ronin's shoes. His blades were not unsheathed yet.
A flurry of voices were heard, and the gates were slowly opening. Ronin Assessed the situation. Judging by the sound, 2 tanks were being rolled out, lined up with at least 20 conscripts. Snipers from the top watching towers were long taken out by Crosshair. It was bad odds.
The gate flew open, and the tanks rushed straight for Ronin. Ronin immediately leaped into action, running straight for the nearest tank. The soldiers were caught by surprise. Their pale attempts to fire at Ronin only allowed him to close up the gap even further. 4 gunshots resonated through the night, all missing their target.
It seemed as if he could dodge the bullets, by watching and reacting to the gunfire. The truth could not be any further. The only way the human body can be faster than the bullet is to anticipate the bullet in the first place. As a close-range assassin, one must predict trajectories and human behaviour, and Ronin was the best.
Ronin jumped and rolled on top of the tank, hand reaching out to grab a hold. The tank's turret began to swing, threatening to throw him off. In a flash of light, Ronin unsheathed his kodachi knife. Using the momentum from the turret, he landed in the middle of the soldiers. Shocked by his quick movements and fear of friendly fire made them weak against Ronin's quick and efficient slashes.
The tank closer to Ronin sped ahead, exposing him to fire as the other tank began to swing it's turret to faced Ronin. Breaking into a roll, diagonally away from the other batch of soldiers. Ronin sprang up with all of his strength, and in one smooth motion, unsheathed his tachi blade and sliced off the entire nozzle of the turret and landed on the other side of the tank, which he used as a foothold to dive straight for the other batch of soldiers.
A quick sweep of his tachi blade spelled a clean and almost painless death for the soldiers. Ronin smiled as he faced towards Jakron's entrance, sighing as more waves of soldiers were coming.
Poor, poor fools.
"Oh shit! Dah screams of pain! That's dah signal! Pass it tuh me! Now!"
"Dah detonating cig."
"What is that?"
"Ya weren't hearin' me at all just now, eh? I passed it tuh ya at dah Securus?"
"Whaddaya mean 'you did'? Ya dint bring it?"
"I guess not. Why? Was it important?"
"Ya got ta me kiddin' me! It took me 3 days tuh make that! Now how 'm I supposed tuh blow shit up?"
"I don't know? You are the explosive expert. Just blow it up"
She knew that the distrust, complicated personalities and individuals with huge amounts of destructive power at their disposal would cause a hiccup or two in the operations. This was not a hiccup or two.
She turned her attention to Piece, who seemed maddeningly calm. How can the idiot just be sipping tea in the middle of a delicate operation as things are going to fall apart?
The pairing of Rounin and Crosshair was a disaster in the making,the unknown entity of the Ripper hanging behind everyone, and now with Big Bang unable to collapse the entrance, a vital key to the operation, things are literally going to fall apart. To make matters worse, this was her first time actually performing an "eye in the sky" role since simulations in her cadet days.
"Look, Piece, this is not going to work out. With Big Bang lacking the necessary equipment, both the entrances will be available. Without the entrance cave-in, this whole plan goes to shambles. We've got to tell the boss to pull out and regroup." She tried to reason with him.
"Relax, my dear Scope. We cant quit now. If we do, Rounin is going to die. Crosshair can't cover for Rounin with that many soldiers he is facing. Besides, he has it all covered."
"Yah right," said Scope sarcastically, "What is he going to do? Pull out a detonating cig right out of his ass?"
"Oh, don't worry about Big Bang. I'm sure he will figure something out." Piece replied nonchalantly.
Panic. Such a nice word. Rhymes with picnic. Oh, the irony.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" said Deathtrap, "That is the signal, right? Blow up the entrance."
Big Bang gritted his teeth. He was normally a very nice guy. Friendly, personable, gentle, not one to hurt a fly. Well, unless it involved a huge 'kaboom'.
But the ancient ignoramus is really pushing the limits. And to make matters worse, he is a super uber-powerful assassin with laser beams emitting from his eyes(maybe) and concentrated sulphuric acid oozing from his skin(very likely). So punching him is out of the option.
"I'll think up 'f somethin'." He muttered to the nettlesome old coot.
A silky smooth voice interrupted his thoughts. He still has not gotten used to it yet. Sound coming from within the body itself, caused by millions of nanobots. Utterly insane.
Oh yah, back to Scope's voice. "Heads up, gentlemen. You have a patrol coming straight for you."
Panic. Better now than later. Later, you might die before panicking. That won't do. One must panic before dying.
"Can you cause the cave-in?" said the miserable old man, "Can you do it?"
Big Bang stopped panicking. "Well, if I rig dah remaining explosives in a precise manner tuh muh Hellboys, 'n explode it at dah places that causes dah structure tuh collapse inwards..."
"How long?" The inane paleolithic homo habilis interrupted.
"Well, giv' ah take... Tuh hours?"
"You have 15 minutes." The obsolete object stated with a finality in its voice as it headed towards the approaching patrol.
Damn. No time for a picnic now.
"Sir. the roof has been attacked! All roof units unresponsive!"
"Sir! All snipers in Towers 1, 2 and 3 are unresponsive as well!"
Captain Taylor of the Jakron Corps, pinched the bridge of his nose, wishing that this was all just a nightmare. A full frontal attack on Jakron? Unheard of in years. Sent by whom? A few suspects, but none with the resources. For what purpose? Perhaps something to do with the recent experiments.
"How many are involved in this assult?"
"One, sir, from each sector."
One? One at each of the entrances? 2 high level assassins working together? No doubt about it. But where did they come from? A stealth dropship, possibly from Neuera? What is Neuera's involvement in this attack?
"Who are they? Bring out their profiles in Screens 1 and 2."
The first profile caught him by surprise. Rounin, an exiled Martial Assassin from the food pseudonation, Oryza. Oryza was the only nation left unscathed by the Nuclear war, thus being the only pseudonation remaining able to grow crops. High leveled assassins, formed in different clans and sworn from firearms were trained since birth to protect the fertile fields. They were for defensive purposes, and since Oryza was not an aggressive pseudo-nation, Martial Assassins were seldom seen.
Here is one right now, wrecking havoc in the Captain's very own front yard. His attention shifted to the second profile and felt the colour draining from his remains.
No. Not him. It can't be him.
"Sir?" One of his subordinates questioned hesitantly.
Captain Taylor sat down, close to tears. "We have no choice, if he is involved. Send in the Raider Assassin. God save our souls."
He opened a bottle of whiskey and poured himself a glass, staring at a name that spelled doom for many in a bygone era. A name many thought dead.
Blinking on screen 2: Poison Assassin, Deathtrap.
3. Mr T
4. Big Bang
9. Death Trap
12. Doctor Strange
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