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    SORA: Heroes Again

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    JS
    Cruel Angel's Thesis
    Cruel Angel's Thesis

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    SORA: Heroes Again

    Post by JS on Tue Sep 26, 2017 8:03 am


    Berlin, Winter 1966

    "For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come."
    Hebrews 13:14


    ---


    Coffee.

    Gunpowder, blood, sweat - all had their claim to being the smell of war. As far as Emma was concerned, the only scent with a legitimate claim to that title was coffee. Light or dark, authentic aromatic roasts or cheap fungal coffee trucked in en masse from Czechoslovakia's vast agricultural districts - the smell of strategic meetings, late night perimeter patrols (with the added bonus of the copper tang of cheap military-issue flasks), long-duration observation missions, weapons trials - basically any situation that didn't require both hands firmly around the hand- and pistol-grip of an AKM. Hanssen was even sure she had once see a Thule commandant go down, Luger in one hand, ultimately wasted cup of coffee in the other.

    She pulled her lips away from her flask, making her way through the firebase. Having spent the last two years preparing for a potential war against Israel on the Egyptian border, the sight of a standard NVA FOB constructed in the middle of a Berlin street felt strangely unreal; there was no sand - thank God - and rather than a loose-fitting black vest, she was wrapped up tightly in a winter jacket, a fur-lined hood sitting loosely around the base of her neck. Some of the men she passed saluted her as she went; that is to say that the group was a fifty-fifty mix of NVA soldiers and Stasi soldiers, and as such she received a fifty-fifty mix of attentive salutes and begrudging glances, respectively. The relationship between the two groups had never been easy. The NVA prepared for a hypothetical conflict with the west; the Stasi fought in a very real conflict within Germany, burdened with the very real task of wiping out all remaining Thule strongholds and operatives. The NVA got the honor and the acclaim; the Stasi got the casualties.

    When Emma arrived at the base commander's tent, the thought occurred to her that despite being a part of a union founded on racial and social equality, there were far fewer black people in the GDR than West Germany. Siegfred von Jager sat in his tent, slumped back on a metal crate of ammo - the huge bulk of the man only amplified by the heavy suit of riveted plate armor he wore, the bearskin pelt he wore over his shoulders hiding both the neck opening of his breastplate, and the trunk of a man's neck within. He was dark-skinned - a handsome man, but old - born when Germany still had African colonies. Reports varied about his history; they were conclusive that he had worked as a metalworker before the war, but his actions during it were muddier - some pointed in the direction of 'Pro-Communist revolutionary', whilst others pointed more towards 'Leader of a Pro-Communist death squad'.

    Perfect fit for the Stasi, then.

    Hanssen unscrewed the cap of her flask and began filling it up from the freshly brewed pot on Jager's folding metal table. The servos in the man's powered armor whirred to life as he stood, chains of ammo dangling from his backpack - clink, clink - as he picked his helmet up and clipped it to the waistline of his suit. Emma turned to him, holding the open flask under her face, as if to let the steam warm it up.

    "I trust you didn't call me here for a social call."

    Harsh. Guttural. If Emma's accent had that educated, girlish flavour that gave even words like 'Stuttgart' and 'Understurmfuhrer' an air of sexiness, then Jager's accent made up for that disparity in droves. The harshness of the German, the syllabic overemphasis that even decades of living in Germany couldn't train out of him - every word coming towards her with the brutality of a train chunk-chunk-chunking down a track at her.

    "Terrorist forces have seized control of the Berlin Psymancer's guild."

    "No fucking way." she replied, her shock genuine for a change. "Who?"

    "We don't know."

    "Who the hell even has the firepower to take on the Guild?" she asked, lowering her coffee, and then refocusing. "Casualties?"

    "None. No hostages, either. They haven't communicated any demands."

    Wrong. Bad. Two thousand years of instinct made her heart do a motion that might've wrenched it out of her chest. Please be a normal terrorist attack please be a normal terrorist attack-

    "But the General Secretary wants them dealt with, anyway."

    Jager nodded. He stepped out of the tent, and Emma followed. In the bright winter sunlight, she could make out the damage on the man's armor - a plasma burn on the right shoulder, the spalling of a scatter-shot railgun blast on the left thigh. Bullet impacts everywhere, but nothing armor piercing. She was fairly certain someone had tried to sink a heated broadsword blade into the angled guard shield on his left forearm, and only managed to get beneath the first layer of reactive polymer before being dealt with. Emma wondered how much blood had been washed off the suit in it's lifetime.

    The NVA wasn't allowed Supers, save for Emma herself, and it wasn't allowed powered armor or energy weapons - directed or otherwise, not that the economics of employing those technologies in a Soviet-style army made much sense. Still, the treaty governing the GDR's existence made no reference to any limitations on internal security forces; as such, the Panzerjagerbatalion had formed from the Stasi's need for an elite breaching unit for Anti-Thule missions. There were six or seven of them waiting; loading belts of ammunition into heavy twin-linked cannon, and sharpening close-quarters battleblades on a mobile whetstone. The firepower present sent a shiver through her; Soviet doctrine had always favored individual firepower with high-rate-of-fire weapons, but the Panzerjagerbatilion took it to an extreme; each soldier carried a twin-linked MG42 machinegun and two shoulder hardpoints, either for holstering helicopter-blade-sized battleblades or mounting swing-out micromissile launchers and submachineguns for extra close-quarters firepower. As she ran her eyes over it all, she felt a sensation inside that was generally reserved for eyeing up people who were decidedly not clad in heavy, fusion-driven power armor.

    And then she realized why she had been summoned.

    "The Party doesn't want a bloodbath."

    Jager looked pleased. For bitter enemies, the two enjoyed an admittedly pleasant and co-operative working relationship.

    "This is too hot for the local constabulary, and too delicate for us. We're going to breach and clear in two hours, but Secretary Muller wants you to go in first. Try defusing the situation."

    "Defuse?" she replied, setting her flask down on a table, shoving a Mauser out of the way. "As in, 'I shouldn't have left my pistol suppressor at home', or...?"

    "We don't negotiate with terrorists, but the Guild does, and the Guild's law is the only applicable law on their turf."

    "Ah, I see." she added, biting her lip. Doing my duty for the General Secretary is one thing, but I'm not here so that Guildmaster Al-Abbiq can pull in favors whenever he wants, she thought, sighing. She unzipped her jacket, sliding out her trusty Browning Hi-Power and cocking it.

    "Be a gentleman and show me the door."

    ---

    She slid in cautiously, checking her angles as she went. The lobby was serene and calm, gentle music piped in through overhead speakers embedded in the plastic ceiling, the dim lighting casting the room in a warm, toastly glow. A path between two vast crimson rugs led to the main desk; upon each rug was an arrangement of tables and chairs besides two fireplaces inset into either side of the wall. The back of the room led upwards to a balcony overlooking the entrance, a set of doors leading into the rest of the guild. She eked her way towards them, muzzle over every chair and shadow as it came into view.

    The way she saw it, the guild was powerful. Fucking powerful. There were one-hundred and twenty-three pages in Emma's officer's manual about what to do if NATO forces were to suddenly surge across the border into the GDR, and above the very first line her former CO had very kindly scribbled 'MOVE GOV. TO PSYGUILD ASAP'. The fact was that no-one would dare bomb or attack it; its presence within Berlin protected the city itself from a direct nuclear strike. Every capital in the world had a guildhouse; every capital had need of a guildhouse, as the Psymancers served to protect government figures, wealthy businessmen and celebrity figures from all forms of mental and psychic molestation. Soldiers such as herself had to stick with weekly drug doses and rigorous mental conditioning.

    But the fact remained that the un-assailable Psymancer's Guild had been assailed. Someone had looked at the prospect of making an enemy of an organization older than Caesar and thought the risk worth it. Emma was eager to see what they considered to be the reward.

    Corner check, corner check, corner check. There were no signs of a scuffle, save for the complete desertion of one of the busiest buildings in West Germany. She came into a long hallway, decorated with portraits of famous Psymancers; all blue-skinned, as Psymancers inevitably became after decades of ingesting Psy-enhancing drugs. She recognized a few of them; most she ignored, keeping her eye on the double doors at the end of the hallway. And then she found her signs of a scuffle.

    A man lay dead, three shots clean through his chest, and half an inch into the thick wooden door he had been standing infront of; blood trailed from the triangular pattern to the slumped corpse at the foot of the door. She looked him over. No casualties, she thought. No hostages. Is he an attacker, then? She rummaged through the pockets of his suit, finding nothing; literally nothing, which was disconcerting. Usually people had something in their pockets - a coin or two, an old tissue or scrap of paper, a clump of tobacco - not nothing. She looked him over. White. Unassuming. Looked like his name'd be 'Hans Muller' or something generic like that - your average John Smith.

    A clone.

    She checked his fingertips. Sure enough, in the very centre of them sat a tiny yet ornate crest, visible only to the trained eye - Crydamoure. A clone bodyguard, then, from one of France's most highly regarded cloning houses. Crydamoure. A name associated with splendour; Saville Row, Louis Vitton, Rolls Royce, Crydamoure.

    Not an attacker. A defender. A luxury clone bodyguard only the Guild could afford to deploy; why, then, was he left off the initial casualty report?

    Emma kicked open the door and burst in. She caught three men by surprise, but they did in kind; the tallest stood, dressed in a three-piece suit, the glowing blue tone of his skin marking him out as being beyond any Psymancer she had ever seen in the flesh. Lifting a hand, he sent her flying backwards, sliding towards the door and tripping over the corpse behind her, her head cracking against the marble floor. Dazed, she aimed her pistol and fired - or thought so, until the pistol slid out of her hand and she found herself pulled backwards, an invisible rope tied around her neck.

    The two other men emerged. One wore a long, tattered duster, a cowboy-style hat across his head, a long flowing beard hiding his aged face. He slid a single-action revolver out from under his duster and trained it on her, grinning. The other man - his face obscured by a white mask covering the top half of his face - raised his arms, gesturing for calm. The Psymancer followed them through, a sorrowful look on his face.

    "You hear that ringing in your ears, kid?" uttered the cowboy, pressing the barrel of his revolver into the underside of Emma's jaw. Salem. That was his name, and when the masked man uttered it, he pulled it away, but kept it trained on her. Emma rolled over to the other man. Salem. Not the name - the word itself. Mask's voice - she recognized it. Father. Boyfriend. Lover. Teacher. She had heard it. She couldn't remember who it was - potentially on account of the concussion - but she knew she'd heard it.

    "Get up, fight. Show me your conviction."

    Where Emma had fallen, Naraka stood up. She surged towards Mask with strength far beyond what her current body could ever exert - armored gauntlets launched towards Mask like stones towards a floor, yet she couldn't land a hit - despite his age, he turned within them, and delivered a single twisting punch that sent her backwards through a hung portrait, crackling the stonework behind it. Naraka's bodysuit took the damage, though it winded her - she shot forwards with a swinging kick, which Mask caught, twisting her leg in the process. She screamed in pain, but that girlish shriek became a masculine cry of battle as Bukola emerged from the metamorposic glow of her body, a tree-trunk of a forearm swung towards Mask - who had already made his way behind, delivering a punch into the small of Bukola's back which paralyzed the man, cutting off the ki channels indicated across his body by lines of ivory white tattoos. Emma fell, her original body returning to her.

    He knows my turnaround times. He knows Kikanu, she thought, referring to the African martial art she had pioneered in her past life as Bukola. He knows me. Why don't I know him? She stood up, limply assuming a fighting stance.

    "Who are you?"

    "Boss'll be the one to ask questions." replied Salem, observing the fist fight with ornery glee. Mask was grinning; the excitement of the battle had gotten to him. Father. Lover. Teacher. The words came to her in a loose coalition, with a few other images interspersed. An Island. An Apartment. Naraka Ishtar. Sex. The latter two, together. Rockbay. Wisemen.

    By the time the realization came to her, he had already removed his mask. He was older, and his blonde hair had turned grey, but there was no forgetting that trademark smirk - that knowing, condescending look.

    "Did you do something different with your hair, Remy?" asked Domino.

    Emma roared, shooting towards him. He calmly sidestepped her every attack. Why?! she roared, as Salem chuckled; Domino grinned, before picking her up by the collar and throwing her back down the hallway, to the feet of the Psymancer observing the battle. She looked up at him, his apathetic gaze meeting hers; the realization that he could crush her with his mind momentarily paralyzed her with fear. A rogue psymancer. The Stasi outside are on a suicide mission.

    She stood up, climbing limply to her feet. Salem aimed his revolver at her.

    "Want me to finish her off, Boss?"

    "What?" he replied, offended. "Are you stupid? No!"

    "What are you doing here, Baudouin?!" cried Emma, her tone raspy - partially from the damage to her neck, partially from the emotional turmoil of the situation. "We were heroes! Not terrorists!"

    "Is that what they're calling me, now?" he replied, replacing his mask. Behind the one-way red lenses, she could feel his gaze run over her blooded body. He paused, partly for effect, partly to collect himself. When he spoke, it was a deliberate as her memories of him told her he'd be. "Auchswitz, 1942." he began. "A young Polish boy named Janusz Pawlek is pulled out of a crowd, ostensibly for his outstanding psychic abilities. For the remainder of the war, he is experimented on and abused in ways that defy belief in the basic concept of human decency."

    Emma fell silent.

    "After the war, the Americans and Soviets had the joint responsibility of cleaning up the extermination camps of the Nazi regime. The Soviets shot any SS officers they found, but the Americans? They recruited a great deal them for their own cause - as did their benefactors. Gene researchers for Crydamoure. Engineers for Wright-Petraeus. Psychic researchers were in the most demand - CIA, FBI... and the Guild."

    "Half the country's made up of Ex-Nazis, Baudouin. You're one yourself."

    "I shot Hitler three times in the back of the head, a few times in the torso, and then emptied the rest of the clip in his general direction just to be absolutely fucking sure. I believe that alleviates some of the guilt."

    "What, and attacking the Guild alleviates the rest?"

    "The General Secretary didn't send you in here to end an embarrassing terrorist incident, you idiot." he replied, scornfully. The little girl inside her shuddered. "He sent you in to stop me getting my hands on their secret Nazi science project that's been going on twenty fucking years too long."

    She turned. Janusz. A serene man; sorrowful in appearance, regarding her with curiosity rather than contempt. The blue face that looked down on her was childlike in demanour; she reached a hand up and gently touched it. He smiled.

    A tear rolled down her cheek.

    "And the Jagerbatalion outside?"

    "They aren't here to clean up after us, Emma. They're here to clean up after you."

    The realization hit her like a ton of bricks, which by her estimation meant she had been hit by at least three such quantities by now. They're not on the suicide mission. I am.She stumbled backwards.

    I could probably take two or three of them out before they turn me into Emma Hanssen-flavored pulp, she reckoned. Maybe only two.

    "You're going to make him into a weapon, aren't you?"

    "He already is a weapon. I'm going to show him a life where he doesn't have to be one." replied Domino, sliding his pistol out of his holster and aiming at her. She turned to him, acknowledged the firearm, and nodded. "Keep today's events between us if you don't want a Stasi knife drawn across your neck. Say someone got the drop on you after you made a rookie mistake; it'll be embarrassing, but believable. When you resign from the army, Ezra will try and scout you for the ICSS. I'd tell you not to take his offer, but I know you will. When you grow tired of that life, I'll be waiting. We'll be heroes again, Simon."

    She nodded, and then Domino sunk three rounds into her; she fell backwards, gasping in pain, clutching at her wounds. Janusz cast a warm smile to her, and then walked off. The blue glow of his body expanded to include all three men, who promptly disappeared. Emma's vision faded as she heard the explosion of breaching charges at the front door, armored footsteps closing in on her location.

    Yeah. Sounds good.

      Current date/time is Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:53 am