Agent of Discord/Blurred Lines
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
It was a silent night out in Nerva...
The mercenaries came unseen, but not unnoticed, and definitely not unexpected. The Longbow soldiers had little doubt that they would be sent after them. So they made ready. As soon as contact with the first patrols was lost, they started a fighting retreat. They were briefed exactly on who they were facing. But in the end, they were all there to buy their computers just a little more time. And all too soon it showed that they would not be enough.
The Longbow commander rested his fists on the computer's keyboard and mentally cursed the fact he couldn't use the building's security system. Time and again, the silence was broken by sounds of combat - short, intense staccatos of gunfire, the dull thumps of explosions, the screams of the wounded. He closed his eyes and wondered for how many Agnicourt's Medaport would be too slow this time. And every time, the sounds were closer. The realization that they would not make it was slowly sinking in. His fist fell on the keyboard again. And, yet, he looked forward to the confrontation. He sighed and asked no-one in particular.
"What I can't figure out is Agent of Discord's part in all this. Is it money or mind control?"
He thought about somebody willingly, knowingly working for that woman, and shook his head. That just... made no sense. He, too, heard the rumors that the mercenaries hunted down Rikti with extreme prejudice. And now this?
Just then, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. A dark mist, creeping into the room along the floor. He opened his mouth to shout out a warning, but it was too late. In a heartbeat, columns shot upwards from the mire and disappeared, leaving dark-armored soldiers in their wake, weapons drawn and firing. The SpecOps to his right never stood a chance, knocked off her feet by the first shot and kept down by the several that followed. Bell saw the culprit, the largest of the mercenaries, eschewing his upper armor for a simpler vest, the reason doubtlessly the twin cybernetics that replaced his arms.
Still, before he could bring their integral weapons to bear on a new target a bolt of force flung him off his feet and into a wall. Bell was a Ballista, one of Longbow's strongest warriors. Even though the sound of the minigunner opening up didn't come long before that of him collapsing, even though he was now outnumbered seven to one, he knew better than to give up. He had to fight to his last breath. But as he gathered his power to launch another attack he felt... odd. Chilled to the bone, as if from the inside out. Weak. Unable to aim properly. The power wave that should have hit all of the mercenaries, all but two dodged. And the unarmed leader, he saw, wasn't done with his powers. Darkness again gathered around his hands as he drove it into the ground. Arthur tried to charge into melee, but found his feet grasped by shadowy tendrils, slowing him down, exposing him to attacks.
It was in that moment he realized it was no longer a fight to win. Merely to last long enough for the acquired data to finish uploading. Eventually, the mercenaries' torrential firepower would bring down even his body, and then... all would be lost. He gritted his teeth and prepared to fight to the better end.
He lasted almost ten minutes. Ten long, grueling minutes, staging a fighting retreat across three rooms. The mercenaries knew better than to let him close to melee, and so he decided in turn to move towards more favorable ground as fast as his snared feet would take him. Time and again, he tried reasoning with their silent leader. But in the end, he fell down, gasping for breath. His opponents lowered their weapons slowly, the leader looking at him, face hidden. Arthur tried one last time to reason with him.
"Gotta warn... Uqua is..."
The leader he knew as Agent leant back a bit, as if in surprise. But before he could complete, he felt blackness enveloping him, his mouth trying to finish what it started.
"Uqua is... is a..."
The armored man leant down , fists curling on the Ballista's torn costume. His voice was imperative, and yet barely more than a hissing whisper, almost inhuman.
"A what, goddamnit!?"
Arthur Bell was silent. He closed his eyes for the last time.
And then he said nothing more, collapsing on the ground, his Medaport beacon disabled to buy him just a bit more time.
Agent straightened out and looked at the dead Longbow in silence. His mind finished the word, straining to disbelieve it as the shackles subtly placed in it held fast. But once started, an avalanche cannot be stopped. That would explain too much. Fit in too well. Agent's eyes noticed something on the Ballista's harness, in a half-open pocket. He reached to pull the journal out, and flipped through it. One of his men broke the silence.
"Sir, I'll go upload the false data..."
"No, Thompson... wait..."
Despite the tight schedule they were on, the soldier said nothing. Neither of them said nothing. They stood, stunned, horrified at the sudden realization that their recent actions were solely for the benefit of their most hated enemies.
Agent meanwhile flipped through the pages of the journal. The last one held the explanation he sought. And it showed him just how much of a fool was he and his own men played, how cruelly used they were. He closed the journal and rose it in a clenched fist, righteously angered. He looked down at the body of a noble man they just killed. His eyes tightened.
This was it. The end of the line. Agent Bell finally admitted it, looking at his own body, his soul now freed from it. He felt no sorrow, only a resignation. He died fighting for what mattered most. He knew this day would come. He could only hope he had not fallen so... helpless.
In the back of what once was his head, he felt a warm, comforting presence. He looked up, towards the light. It looked so welcoming, so peaceful... he felt drawn towards it. He closed his eyes and mimicked a sigh, heading towards it. Just then, a darkness had befallen him, and in death he had felt more afraid than ever in life.
He saw a massive beast, dark as the darkness itself, its shape defying description by his mind, blocking out any hope of passage to the light, hissing, attacking, the lone eye set upon him. Denied of even rest after death, he let the beast approach, even now looking for ways to fight... but then, he felt something. An escape. And badly outmatched, he took it.
The Ballista's body arched into the air as he let out a scream, forced into a body painfully filled with enough life energy to heal it's lethal wounds. He fell back onto the floor, eventually managing to force his eyes open. He saw the mercenaries' leader, standing over him, hands held over his body. Slowly the realization of what just happened came to him. Without a word, one by one, the armored soldiers turned and left. Bell forced himself to sit up and speak.
"...why?..." He managed to speak before an aching chest caused a coughing fit. The last of the mercenaries to leave, Agent, looked over his shoulder at something. Arthur followed his sight and noticed his own journal, lying on the floor.
"I was blinded." The mercenary hissed. "Used. Tricked by... goddamnit..." His hands curled into fists, and he fell silent for a while, before continuing. "I can't touch her. But you can make that bitch suffer. You can make them all suffer." He was looking at the Ballista now, mask emotionless, voice silent. "You are a good man, Bell. And to them, you're dead."
And with that, he started for the exit again. Bell found the strength to stand up and ask.
"What about you failing here?"
The mercenary looked at him one last time, and chuckled. "Same excuse as always. Accidents happen."
And with that, he was gone.