ERA of Challenge: Azure Tracer
PART I: OPERATIONAL DIRECTIVES
Several Years Ago
Talos Island, Paragon City
Lilia stood in front of a butchers block in the well appointed kitchen of one of her various apartments in and around Paragon. On the block sat half of a turkey and avocado sandwich, the other half clutched in her hand as she read what appeared to be a note written in green crayon.
You missed a fun day at the zoo, the Jackals were in rare form.
I got you a souvenir, you'll find it in the normal place.
Looks like rain tomorrow.
hugs n kisses
Taking another bite Lilia crumpled up the paper tossing it into an overflowing waste basket. It had been a few months since she'd heard from Zero. Rumors hinted at a shake up, but it had not involved her which gave her no reason to care. It was a fairly straight forward message, orders would be in a grey razor safe house nearby and that she should take care to not be followed.
An hour later, sandwich finished, a soda demolished and most of the city asleep she slipped out a window in her apartment and headed towards the location.
Dropping silently into an alleyway, pausing only a moment to listen for sound she pulls a brick away from the wall touching her hand to the activator inside. Behind her a part of the concrete alleyway slides away letting her slip down into a darkened room before it closes.
Orange lights flick on once the hatch closes illuminating a narrow hallway leading down a slight curve towards an elevator. With a buzz the elevator generator hums to life moments after she hits the call button, the slow freight style elevator slide up to meet her unceremonious. With verification provided it begins a slow descent several stories down before stopping with a soft thud and a click as the generator shuts itself off to conserve energy.
Even before the elevator managed to reached the lower floor Azure knew something was amiss. Several stories from the lowest floor the sounds of several machines should had been accompanying the sound of the elevator, instead all that greeted her was silence.
A sharp hiss accompanied the sound of the elevator gate as her sword came to life.
It was bare, the entire room was empty except for a folding table placed in the middle of the room. This room had once been full of equipment, it now looked as if it had been empty for decades, not even a rat to scurry across the floor.
Walking forward cautiously at first Lilia spied a folder on the table. Pausing outside of the elevator for several moments she waited, holding her breath and listening. But as far as she could tell she was the only living or unliving being moving around. Crossing to the table the light from her sword dissipates as she deactivates it and slips the handle away.
It was a plain, unlabeled manila folder, opening it she eyed the orange post it note on the left side first, lat and long but no details. Glancing to the right there was a plain white piece of paper.
Contigencies have now been put in place. This is my final order. Operations will be resumed by an associate. Meet at coordinates provided.
Closing the folder after removing the post it note she turns away, giving the room only a cursory look before exiting the way she came
- Several Days later -
It was a desolate stretch of land on an island off the coast of Paragon that the coordinates had brought her too. Flat and uninteresting, the island stretched out a half mile on either side of her before a sharp drop into the cold Atlantic Ocean. Looking around nothing seemed to stand out, at least none of the standard markers were there, for all intents and purposes this place was as desolate as it appeared.
In a sudden blur of movement her sword burst to life the edge pointing to a seemingly random spot to her right. A spark bursts through the returned quiet and a dark form shimmers into view, her sword at its neck.
"Sapiens stink, your technology does not render you invisible to my nose." Tilting her head slightly Azure observes the dark figure, his face obscured by a mask and goggles and the uniform providing no identifying marks, "You will show yourselves or I will consider your actions hostile."
A male voice spoke up, "I think the hostility is wholly unwarranted Ms. Drake. You were sent here after all by your employer to resume your operations."
A stealth field shimmered out of existence in front of her and a man stepped forward, a shock of blonde hair constrasted against the dark clothing, trench coat and glasses. Moments later several others similar to the first appeared in varying positions around her.
"If that is the case, why are you surrounding me like you are attempting to capture me?" Her sword unwavering against the mans neck.
"Caution, we had no way of knowing how you would react, black isn't exactly the international color for good guys."
Pulling out a device the blonde man hit a button on the side and a hologram appeared, it was Jack Slayton, "49, you are hereby turned over to Orthrus Inc to continue in an operational fashion. Authorization 8MD4 Chicory. "
As the hologram faded her sword shuts off with a soft hiss, "Orders?"
PART II: DIVERGENCE
Several Months Ago
Azure was damn near impossible to accurately read, and as she stood there eyeing the report Red Havok was showing her he couldn't tell if she didn't understand or didn't seem to care. She fidgeted slightly with the bag of candy in her hand, but that was fairly normal, she wasn't really capable of standing still in any situation that wasn't part of an operation.
"Tracer, he was using you, he was using all of us..."
Looking up finally she glanced over at Red, "All sapiens use people."
"Well that's unfair..."
"Is it? Are you not showing me this in an attempt to sway me to join you?" Turning to face him her head tilted slightly, the action never really seemed entirely human when she did it. "I do not mesh well with your ideals Red Havok or the morality of your team, as has been proven already when it drove a wedge between you and the others. It is best at this point if I leave."
"Look we disagree but you'd be an asset, I want you to consider it at least."
Shaking her head she turns away to leave, "I am doing you a favor Red Havok."
-Several days later-
Vancouver, British Columbia
The light clicked on, the sound echoing through the warehouse as bright light chased the shadows to the very corners of the large room.
"Why are you here Lilia?"
Stepping into the room the male figure dressed in gray non-descript pants and what looked like a t-shirt gave the lone figure standing in the center of the room a side ways glance.
"You get tired of playing house with the monkeys?" There was a edge of annoyance in his voice as he walked to a table in the room littered with various devices.
"I need your assistance Spike, " her eyes tracked him across the room, "I need to find someone."
Spike laughed a bit, "Typical, I'm not going to help you track down Tyler."
Azure scowled, her nose flaring a bit, "I am not looking for snookums. There is a man I was working for who has forfeited his life. The others are like most sapiens, they value life, even that of those who have proven they do not."
"What does that matter to me? They're just stupid monkeys Lilia."
"It matters to me, I would like your help," crossing her arms in a huff, "I can not track him on my own."
"Obviously, " crossing his own arms he stared at her silently for a moment before continuing, "Fine, I'm bored enough as it is, at least this will be interesting. I'm assuming you at least brought something to start from?"
Sprinting across the room with a huge smile plastered on her face Azure latched onto Spike with a hug.
"Get off, " pushing at her arms in frustration Spike tried to detach her, "I won't help if you don't get off me!"
"Fine," with a mock pout she let go and dropped a device on the table, "This data pad should have some data on it, and some details from Orthrus."
Spike snatched up the data pad scowling at her before turning away, "What is Orthrus? Weren't you working for Slayton? Nevermind it doesn't matter, I'll look at it."
"Oh yeah, one more thing, " a bag shook in her hand.
Before she had time to finish Spike spun around snatching the large bag of skittles from her hand and went back to walking away.
"HEY! We're suppose to share!"
Shoving some Skittles into his mouth Spike shrugs and mumbles something about getting your own.
PART III: INTO THE FRAY
A few months later
Smacking his open hand against the table Spike turned around leveling a whithering glare at the woman a few feet away walking across the concrete floor on her hands.
"What Lilia?! Can't you see I'm busy?"
"I am bored Spike, this is taking to long."
"Well maybe if you'd brought me a completely functional data pad that wasn't heavily encrypted this would go faster." Turning away from her Spike went back to reading the kernel dump from the data pad, "But what am I saying, how could I expect you of all people to have foresight."
"Well if the data pad is not useful we could just go get data from the source."
"… what do you mean get it from the source?"
"…exactly what I said..."
"Lilia…" Spike clenched his fists his voice lowering, "Have I been trying to crack this thing for months now while you've known where we could find the information all along?"
"I figured that would be easier then trying to hit the facility."
"And why exactly is that?"
"Well because its probably pretty heavily guarded. And I am not sure if I am considered a hostile now."
Spike turned back to face her staring at her a moment a mixture of disbelief and shock on his face, "Wait, did you just imply that it might be too much for us? They are inferior smelly monkeys Lilia."
"And they say I have the superiority complex, " Dropping her legs back to the ground she stands back up, "There are only two of us now and Orthrus is not that inferior, Shade also knows more then he should."
"Because you have a big mouth."
"No. I did not realized that Jack Slayton was profiling me and it appears Shade now has that information. I also think that I was tricked into believing the orders I received to work for Orthrus were from Jack."
"Well, thats just perfect, what information?"
"I only saw a portion of what seemed to be a personality profile of me."
"Safe to assume Slayton knew more then just that." Spike scowled a bit at the thought. "Its going to take me forever to fix this Lilia, so either you gain some patience or we go retrieve the information we need."
Lilia paced a bit mulling over the possibilities, her boredom aside the longer they spent on this the harder it would be to eventually track Shade down. It was a risk though, but Spike was at least partially right, they did still have the element of surprise and she had trained a lot of the Orthrus agents herself.
"Fine, we will try to retrieve the information from an Orthrus facility. We will need to be fast however in disabling their communications."
"Now thats more like it."
PART IV: BETRAYAL
With a flash of blue light and a gasp the final Orthrus agent in the small research room collapses to the ground in a heap surrounded by their fallen comrades. Lilia turned to face the sealed reinforced door blocking access to the rest of the facility.
"I'm working on it, " Spike stood at a terminal against the wall working to access the security controls for the door.
When they'd attacked the first Orthrus facility it was to gather intel on Shade and his current whereabouts. Instead what they found was intel on a cloning project, a project centered around Lilia. It took ransacking another facility to find the location and now as she stood facing the door to the main cloning facility Lilia found herself contemplating the repercussions of Shade's actions.
Callidiens were, for all intents and purposes a boutique species create primarily for survival in their home dimension, a world short on natural resources. Being stranded here had put the U.S.C.P.E. government in the uncomfortable position of abandoning three of their own. It meant the secrets of their genetics programs might be open to the unscrupulous and those who may be in league with the alien enemy the U.S.C.P.E had been fighting for six decades.
The U.S.C.P.E had made it very clear when they arranged to leave Lilia and her comrades on primal earth that any medical research on them or studies of them would be considered a hostile act against their sovereignty.
Shade had no idea what he was meddling with.
"Spike?!" Lilia turned to look at Spike a new level of urgency in her voice.
"There!" The door lock clicked open allowing the door to slide to the side opening access to the corridor.
"Get the project data, destroy the mainframe and set up explosives. " Lilia turned back towards the door, "I am going to clear out the rest of the facility."
"Right, I'll catch up."
Spike returned to the computer as Lilia bolted out of the door into the facility. The adjoining rooms were mostly devoid of Orthrus agents, dispatching the few she encountered Lilia pushed deeper into the facility.
It wasn't long before she skidded into a large open room. Hanging from the ceiling were an impressive number of golden tinted cloning tubes. Each contained a figure in various stages of the cloning process. The figures had an uncanny resemblence to Lilia and someone else.
Her eyes widened in shock as she recognized the other figure, "Cutter?"
Lilia's eyes swung from the tubes to the male figure in red with a pattern similar to the one she wore on his shirt approaching from the opposite side of the room her eyes narrowing slightly, "What are you doing here Cutter?"
"Oh you know me Lil, I was getting tired of the wide open spaces, so I figured a cramped smelly sapien lab would be a good place to get away from it all."
"You are helping Shade?" Lilia pointed her sword at him, "He is a evil man Cutter. He will use you."
"Use moi? Pffft, as if Lil. No if anything I'm using him and getting what I want while he gets what he thinks he wants." Waving his hand around him Cutter motioned to the cloning tubes, "Isn't it awesome? I don't need to be alone anymore, surrounded only by stupid, evolutionarily stunted apes. I figure if I can't go home, might as well make this pathetic dimension home. And whats the best way to do that? Why to create more of us, thats how."
"... Cutter if our home government finds out..."
"They'll what? They won't even know till its all over and they'll probably thank me. More of us to fight on the front line and no worry about lacking space and resources, Primal earth has plenty of those."
Lilia stared of him in disbelief, "You are insane."
"Not a good idea flinging rocks in a glass house Lil. You know I'm right, they don't appreciate you, I'd venture a guess they don't even like you." Cutter took a few steps forward a crazed look in his eyes, "You're just something for them to use for their own pathetic gain. We're superior to them, we should be controlling them. They destroy everything, even themselves."
Lilia took a step back from Cutter shaking her head, "That may be partially true Cutter but we are not here to judge them."
"Are you kidding me? We're stuck here because of them. Everything is because of them. I don't get your insistence on helping an inferior species that doesn't even like you. That is madness."
"I do not want to do this Cutter," Lilia stepped back forward, "But I can not let you continue doing this."
"Fine, we'll do this the hard way, but I offered you the easy way out, " A metal cylinder appeared in Cutters hand, not unlike the very one Lilia carried and hissed to life with a straight broad blade. "You will regret choosing them over your own kind Lilia."
Lunging forward Lilia's blade met his with a flash of sparks Cutter skidding across the ground with the force of the hit, "Do not forget Cutter, I am better then you."
Leaping backwards, Lilia's follow up slash barely missed his stomach, "Should we have some cliche repertoire now? The circle is now complete..." Flipping up and over her Cutter avoids another slash of her blade before landing solidly behind her. Kicking her in the back he sends her stumbling, "When I left you I was but a learner, but now I am the master."
Catching herself Lilia turns as he charges, dodging to the side and slicing his arm. "Shut up Cutter."
Grabbing his arm Cutter glared at her with mock anger, "Now that's not nice, you're suppose to play nice Lilia."
"I am, if I had not been nice I would have removed your arm." Lilia swung again her sword striking his as he rose to parry.
Pushing back against her sword Cutter swings, his blade parried by her own, "You better get serious then Lilia, a flesh wound isn't going to do it."
Jumping back away from him and taking up a defensive stance, "I do not want to fight you Cutter, stop."
"No." Lunging forward bringing his sword to bear at her, his blade relentlessly meeting hers, sparks flying with his eat before he finally scores a grazing hit on her arm. Kicking her legs out from under her Lilia tumbles to the ground.
Pointing his sword at her Cutter gloats over her, "Last chance Lil, you really should take it."
Smacking the sword away with her own she sweeps his legs out from under him leaping to her feet. Raising her sword she brings it back towards his head in a wide arc, the blade leaving a blue tracer in the air.
The blade stops several inches from his face, blocked by another blade. A new figure suddenly appears wearing dark Orthrus style armor, their face obscured. Caught off guard Lilia doesn't have time to react as the fist of the newcomer swings. Connecting with her jaw the blow sends her flying her sword hilt clattering across the floor several feel away from where she lands.
"I told you it was your last chance Lil." Cutter stands up brushing himself off and sparing only a momentary look at the new comer before taking taking a sword attached to the back of the mysterious armored figure.
Crossing the room to where Lilia laid momentarily stunned. "You should not have underestimated me."
Pushing herself up shaking the stars from her vision Lilia eyed her sword hilt before looking back to Cutter, "I am not useless without my weapon."
Leaping towards her sword hilt her motion was stopped short as a burning sensation suddenly blossomed in her gut. Cutter finished his slash, a grin spreading across his face, the sword in his hand now burning with dark matter.
"You are oh so predictable, I knew you were going to go for the weapon rather then try to face me unarmed. Foolish Lilia."
Looking down Lilia could see the gash opened up in her stomach cut through the symbiote and into her own flesh, the edges beginning to fester with dark matter. In her mind the symbiote screamed in agony writhing along her own skin. Clutching her stomach one hand she stumbled towards the hilt her of sword, "Spike... You won't get away with this."
"But I already have. Spike has already been dealt with. You've lost Lilia." Cutter stepped away from her as she stumbled towards him letting her fall to the ground curling into a ball as shock began to set in. "I told you that you'd regret siding with the monkeys."
PART V: RESURRECTION
12 Hours Later
PART VI: ALLEGIANCES
Several Hours after the Rescue
Brickstown, Paragon City, RI
Standing in front of the sewer gate in ankle deep run off water Azure scowled at the gate.
The stillness of the grate was the only reply.
"If you do not open I will tell them who you are."
A siren howled in the distance as a long otherwise silent moment passed. In frustration Azure turns away, "Fine, I'm going to tell them you are..."
Behind her a metallic ping resonates in the small concrete area around her as a hidden hatch unlocks, opening with a soft hiss. Slipping quietly into the opening and landing in a crouch on a damp concrete floor several feet below the opening seals behind her.
Behind her several feet away a gun safety clicks off. It was just far enough away to give her opponent a chance to fire before she could turn and use her weapon.
"One round is not going to stop me."
"It will when it explodes in yer god damn skull. Won't kill you but I'm pretty sure it'll hurt like hell." There was no kindness or sway in the voice. "What do you want 49?"
Turning slowly to face the woman holding a gun steadily aimed at her head Lilia eyed the red haired woman her head tilting ever so slightly as her mind runs over the possibilities of the situation at hand. "I could ask you the same, Wraith. Why were you looking into Orthrus?"
"Why were you workin' for them?"
Lilia scowled a bit, "I was tricked. I was lead to believe Jackal turned me over to Orthrus. It was a well crafted sapien lie. They knew the authorization codes."
Lowering the gun the red haired woman stared at Lilia for a moment before turning and beginning to walk away, "Come on, I need to show you something."
Sprinting a bit to catch up, "Where is Jackal?"
"Yer guess is as good as mine."
"You did not answer my question. Why were you looking into Orthrus?"
The tunnel ended opening into a larger sewer room that had been converted to a bunker facility and temporary living quarters. Along one wall several monitors had been hooked up, displaying various bits of data.
"I don't know how, but it looks like they managed to get their hands on some Grey Razor intel durin' the chaos when Jackal first disappeared and destroyed most, but apparently not all, of the Grey Razor facilities." Walking up to a keyboard the woman hit a few keys, the display changes to a world map showing some glowing points.
"Most of the assets went missing, to be expected, but I've tracked down some of em. I didn't discover the breach until recently, I thought you might have been the source. The little escapade with yer friends pretty much nixed that idea."
"Why would you think I would betray Jackal?" Lilia looked up at the monitor her tone even, it was purely a question.
"You three ain't exactly beacons of sanity and reason, just take a look at your buddy Cutter. Real winner there. I thought maybe you'd finally lost it."
"That is reasonable. What does Shade know?"
"Dunno, most of the data we got out of that facility is pretty corrupted. I'm workin' on it now, but its not lookin good." The woman rubbed the back of her neck, it was an anxious motion.
Getting a better look at her in the brighter light the main room Lilia noticed the scars on the other woman's neck and arms. There was an edge to her that had not been present the last time she had seen her several years prior.
"Why are you not with scorpio?"
"Lost cause and I'm not stupid enough ta fall into that trap."
"It's a long story Tracer an I'm not about to start tellin' it."
"I can help if you would like."
The woman eyed her for a long moment, "What about yer new friends?"
"I believe I am more of a risk to them then an aid. I do not believe Red Havok is prepared to utilize me effectively. We disagree on keeping dangerous sapiens alive."
"Capes are like that." The woman sat down abruptly in the console chair pushing an errant strange of red hair out of her face, "I think it'll be good for you, and who knows, they might be useful, they seem to have enough of a vendetta wit Shade."
"Shade used them."
"Seems like a pretty common theme with the guy, beginning to wonder if he's Jackal's evil twin brother." Leveling a look at Lilia the woman took a deep breath, "Anyway you won't be much help with that wound."
Lilia froze in place, "Wound?"
"Oh give it up Tracer, yer a shitty liar, showed up on infrared, good job hiding it by the way. I'm guessing its going to be awhile before that heals. Go play hero, I'll try to funnel what I can find out about Shade an Orthrus to em. But I have bigger things to worry bout right now to be honest."
"Don't call me that. She's dead, just Wraith now."
Lilia scowled at her, "What about Spike?"
"I'm keepin an eye on him. He's fine."
"No clue, seems your comrade has been workin fer Shade for awhile now. If I find something I'll let you know."
"I still think you should let me work with you to go after Shade and Orthrus."
"Right, me you an what army? I don't have assets like that anymore. I can't just assign a strike team and be done with it. You want to go after Shade you do it with the Capes. They at least seem to have the team needed to pull it off."
"Fine." Turning and walking off Lilia only pauses when Wraith speaks up again.
"Grey Razor may be gone Tracer, but Jackal's rules remain."
Disappearing down the tunnel her words echo behind her, "This never happened."