In Wraith training, we’re all sat down and told that eventually we will encounter somebody who is better than us, or at least who is in control of the situation. The instructor tells us that we won’t believe this situation until it happens to us, that sometimes even the best agents get beaten. They then explain how we’ll spend the next day hearing about how to handle this situation. They were right. I didn’t believe it could happen to me… until it did. Unfortunately for me… I skipped the rest of that day. So here I sit, alone in a room with a man who is holding my own pistol on me with no idea how I’m going to get out of this situation. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so I suppose I should back up and explain how all this happened. ~
After leaving Leah I had to get out of Clete, but I had to do it the smart way. At this point the command center more than likely had started checking most public travel forums, prioritizing fastest travel times. Most people on the run would go to blink points first… bad idea in this case, all blink points were government controlled, security wasn’t about stopping you from getting to the gate… they could control where it sent you after all, and you can’t crash a vehicle when there isn’t one. Stand on one pad and it is connected to another… a very convenient form of teleportation magic, but pricey as well, I’d have to empty more than one of my small accounts to cover it. Planes were out too, security wasn’t as harsh as blink points, but they were one of the fastest ways to move, and still relatively affordable. Couldn’t drive myself, border protocols would register my car and send an agent to identify me, on days like today, as in after an attack, they’d be stopping every driver, and even if my car didn’t have to obey their computer’s commands, it would put a spotlight on me. That left the train.
Trains were moderately outdated at this point, only a few still remained in the world. Security was still a little tight, but mostly it was on cargo shipping. The simple fact is passenger trains were almost desolate, in our world trains were for a very select few, among them were tourists, they offered some of the most expansive views of scenery as they had already been established by the time air cars became a popular commodity. Anyway, I took the train, why is that important? It’s not, but… you know what? Just go with it.
Anyway, I took the train, and while I was on the train I had a little free time to crack open their files. Some of their files at least. I was astounded to see how much raw information they had on him. See… I’m not an analyst really. I CAN do it. But I don’t. I’m a field agent, they have teams of people to do this boring ass shit for people like me. Still, being an intelligence agent you come to know the importance of having information, so I ordered the files chronologically and began the gruelingly boring job of figuring out what was relevant. I couldn’t afford to use a computer search to try and narrow it down because entirely mundane things could be the missing link I needed to figure him out.
I started from the beginning because that was the best place for me to get idea of what he was capable of. His curriculum was like a stone-age version of what I’d been through, strip all my classes and seminars down to their basest forms, and you’d have his training. He didn’t have much in the way of modifications, at least not compared to myself, but I started to put it together in my head. Russell Raynes was like the prototype and I was the floor model.
After his initial file I decided to take a closer look at his pre-wraith training as well. He was a scout sniper in the army until he’d requested a transfer to the marine division of the army. There he bounced from one section to the next by request, he was making a nice little tour of the training. He wasn’t the average person serving their two year mandated military service, he was a lifer. He had outstanding marks in several different categories of military life, though he was known to be insubordinate in questioning orders. He’d been on the Section 13 radar long before he transferred to the marines and his continuing questioning of authority caused him problems within traditional military command. Questioning orders was bad for a marine, but good for an agent. He worked on several the dark-side of several Section 13 assignments dating all the way back to his first year in the army and following all the way through his career with the marines. The “dark side” simply means he didn’t know who he was really working for.
Records showed that the approach was made after one of their agents had fallen in an action involving him, it appeared that Raynes had been close to the agent and had joined as a result. His specs were remarkably similar to my own, army scout-sniper, turned career marine, followed by wraith induction, troubles with questioning authority… in a side by side our records were indistinguishable on paper.
Then I went to look at his operations post-training. He had been involved in some of the biggest windfalls of the wraith program, even in his early days, and his contributions were almost always considerable to the overall success, including turning the Celestine Minister of the Interior into a Cletian informer. His future with in the wraith program was bright, up to a certain point. It happened to be a point about eight years ago, it started out slowly in the beginning but as I continued to dig into his case files they became increasingly redacted, which wasn’t unusual for wraith file as a whole, but I had level 4 top secret clearance the highest level available to a field agent, I wasn’t used to seeing quite so many black boxes on my copies…. and then I started finding files that I didn’t have access to. I could see a name, but nothing inside the file… it was frustrating. Whatever had happened eight years ago it was pivotal, because aside from mission files I began finding observation transcripts… the wraiths had been watching one of their own.
Then I hit the barrier from five years ago. There were more recent files involving Raynes, but those I couldn’t even see the names… it was so classified I was only allowed to know that SOMETHING had happened, but not what to call it. After that point five years ago the files became increasingly less frequent, with the most recent unnamed file appearing to be from two years ago.
This was what I had in terms of professional data, so now it was time to try looking at him from a personal perspective… which it turns out was harder. I couldn’t find any personal records of Russell Raynes that weren’t government restricted. Anything more substantial than a rumor was classified beyond my clearance.
It was frustrating for me. I didn’t want to make a cold approach, but all I had to work on were the incredibly clinical reports, and on top of that they were from eight years ago. I couldn’t get a sense of who Russell Raynes was from what they’d said, and even if I could, eight years was a long time, a person could have changed substantially from all that. What pissed me off even more was that if I had enough data to make an approach, I didn’t have a location to make an approach to. I was stuck using my own personal deductions on the best moves and common sense, combined with rumors and hearsay to track down one of the most allusive, illusive, and elusive men in the history of the world.
In the end I needed more information, which confirmed my next stop in my mind. Haven. Haven is one of the places in the world that most civilized people tried to avoid. It was the one place where a wanted man could walk around in relative comfort, it had not allegiance to any country, and no extradition. A man could walk around Haven protected by his reputation alone, the more heinous his crimes were, the more people respected his privacy. It was a lawless cesspit of murderers, rapists, thieves, and gangsters. It was a blight on the map, that only the most desperate of people would turn to for anything. It was one of the most dangerous places I could imagine going to for help, after all anybody suspected of being the agent of anybody could be cleaned up relatively quietly here… in fact anybody could be cleaned up without much questioning. It’s reputation made it a common hiding place for criminals of all sorts, which of course they took in, and which made their reputation even worse. I wasn’t sure how an acclaimed terrorist would fit in there, but I supposed I was about to find out.
I had contacts in Haven that I was hesitant to trust, but I put a word out to them that I would be looking for somebody to help me find services… a matchmaker in the area. They all directed me to the same person, Alexis Parsons. She was an information broker that had built up a reputation within Haven. It was regarded as her territory, and it was considered good form for anybody of any importance to at least let her know when they came to town. Everybody I spoke to told me I’d have to get her permission to go snooping around town, and everybody told me to watch myself with her. She had a vast network of agents and informers, not just within the city but all over the world, word had it that she had the entire city in something of a chokehold, nothing could happen without her influence, and nothing was beyond her notice. In short I would have to stop in and present myself to her for inspection before I could lurk in her waters.
Her rule of Haven was de facto, and yet absolute. I began looking into her organization and her personal history in hopes of finding something that would give me some leverage in our discussion on the off chance that things went poorly, or a way to bring her down, but my assessment of the situation came back the same as all my contacts… it couldn’t be done. The information I got on her was scarce, and most of that was hypothetical, she was a book that was firmly shut. Twice in one day I’d gone looking for data on a person and come back with little to nothing to go on… my frustration was growing. I decided to call it quits for the moment, and instead of working a new angle I took some time to relax and think things over.
For a moment I considered bypassing Parsons all together, but my instincts told me that would be a serious and unforgivable breach in the protocol of Haven. I was going to have to meet her eventually, so I might as well go looking for her before she came looking for me.
I could try giving up on Raynes all together as well, I thought, but that would make my situation harder. He’d learned how to get away and stay away from Clete for years, I needed to know how. For a second I wondered how he’d felt when he was in my position… I at least had a hope of a prayer in finding him and asking for his help, but he’d had nobody. I wondered if he’d felt it was hopeless when he’d first started out.
After a while I gave up my thoughts on Raynes and my personal search for information on him or Parsons, instead I called all of my personal contacts back and asked them for some information on Parsons, things like where I could find her, what her security was like, what her businesses were and the like so I could begin formulating a strategy for my approach. Between calls I had to switch trains so that I could begin heading in her direction. I was still two days out from Haven where I was and I would need to stop off for some new clothes, not to mention food and sleep.
I got off the train at the next stop and found a connecting train to Haven. I had one of my contacts arrange a meeting between myself and Parsons, he told me he’d get back to me with the information. It took a while. By the time he called me back my train had arrived and I was already in Haven. I had been in town for two days already. I was irritated that it had taken so long for him to get back to me, but I knew why… he took two days to get back to me because she took two days to get back to him. She was jerking me around, wanting to make me think she had more important things to discuss. He gave me a time and place, but I decided it was my turn to jerk her around.
I’d spent my two days working hard, following her around, scouting out her favorite places: clubs, restaurants, stores, parks, gambling dens; it was all pretty standard stuff for a lord of the underworld. Her security was pretty tight, a two-layer net that followed her closely everywhere but the club, where it was too packed to keep her covered, instead the first layer covered all the entrances while the second kept a decent perimeter around whatever area she was frequenting. There was one entrance that was almost impossible to cover though, there’s an upper level to the club that allows for maintenance on the lighting and sound system… a set of catwalks, that connects to a small office with an outside window. Club security was pretty lax, especially in regards to this one entrance, instead of a personal guard, it was a managers office, so it required a keycard to enter… or a little brute force. She kept two men prowling the catwalk, but they looked down on the crowd not the rest of the catwalk.
The only part I saw as challenging was going to be the climb in undetected, the club has two guards roaming the perimeter at twenty minute intervals, so I’d have to get in without one of the guards seeing me, then before there was a ruckus I’d have to the guards on the catwalk and neutralize them, finally get down the stairs, slip through the tight net of her security and get to Parsons undetected, then get her out… all in about twenty minutes. Nobody needed to die on this mission, so I had to move carefully, especially on the catwalks where there isn’t a lot of room and an accident could send somebody over the railing. Non-lethal force tends to take more time, to speed the process I’d use a few electroshock weapons, but it would still take a little longer than a standard “shoot to kill” attack would.
During prep time I pool my weapons and gear and figure out what I’m going to need. I take out a jumpsuit, but instead trade it out for my combat vest, it has the same number of pockets with the added benefit of bullet protection. The club enjoys using strobe lights, which I absolutely hate, but I understand how to bypass them, I pull a small handheld flashlight from my pack and slip it into my jacket, used properly it’ll negate the strobe effect allowing me to see where I’m aiming. I pull out a stun gun, equip it with an air cartridge and then slap a laser sight to the bottom. I toss a few extra air cartridges into my vest pockets, then grab a duty belt. First I add a drive stun device, a roll of duct tape, some zip ties, another flashlight, a handheld mirror, a set of lockpicks, three sets of handcuffs, a utility knife, mace, and flashbangs round out my belt. I put a combat knife into an armband, and a small revolver in an ankle holster. Next comes the decoy guns, twin .45 caliber pistols are strapped into tactical quick draw holsters on my thighs, I keep the magazines empty though, and no .45 rounds in my kit. The purpose of these guns is on the off chance that somebody gets the drop on me with the idea of disarming me, they take the empty gun. Instead the only easily accessible loaded firearm I carry is a 50 cal I keep tucked into the small of my back, usually I’d carry more, but this is about abduction and keeping casualties low, I pack a few 50 cal rounds into my thigh straps then add an adrenaline needle to my belt. I grab a backpack, load it with a gas powered grappling hook and thread the rope through it. I don’t worry about getting out, that will be easy once I nab her.
At 8:20 I go over the plan one more time, take a few minutes to check my equipment, usually I’d use this time to clean my guns, but only two of them are loaded and I’ve cleaned those twice already. I dress all in black, no mask, but I do add finger gloves, I don’t want my grip to slip at an important time, I make sure to check the magic wards on my kit, if they’re off then all it’ll take is one spell and I’ll be down. It’s now 8:40, she should have had ample to arrive at the club and make herself comfortable. I wipe down the safehouse and remove any incriminating evidence of my existence, I load all of my extra gear into a drone model delivery craft and program it for my next safe house so it’ll be tucked away by the time I arrive, I won’t be coming back here after tonight. I program my own air car to the same destination. All of my meticulous planning could be shot to hell if she has a mage in her crew, but I don’t have time to worry about that, and I like to think I would have picked up on any threat with those abilities, plus… my wards SHOULD hold.
Once I arrive at the club I set the car to move around to the window from the alley, I use a small EMP to knock out any internal counter measures, then set the car to pick me up at the front door after 20 minutes… that’s all the time I have. I slam my elbow into the window then reach one arm in to pull up, no guards yet. I slip through the window then set the car’s programing. I close the window, but there’s no point, there’s a giant hole in the pain that anybody looking could see. I pull the flashlight along with the taser from my pocket right away. It looks like the guards outside didn’t hear the window break, and the music from the club is almost deafening.
I open the door, I’m surprised to see one of her guards on the catwalk is RIGHT there, I caught him when he was moving, he’s too close for the taser so I grab him and pull him into the room, making sure to shut the door so the other guard doesn’t see us. He pulls his sidearm on instinct but we’re too close together and I pin his arm to the wall quickly. Two quick slams and he drops it to the ground I kick it away just as he pushes me off of him hard with his legs, the wall behind my back jars me slightly as I bounce off, but I stand ready. He moves in with his hands up, throws his first punch, a quick right, he pulls his guard up to cover his face when he swings, I trap his outward arm and pull him in closer, a quick knee to the solar plexus sets the fight in my favor, I slip my right arm inside his guard and deliver a quick elbow to his solar plexus again. He’s set down to one knee, I follow up with a quick strike to his jaw, followed by a jab to his throat, and finish it off with an overhand elbow to the top of his skull, pushing him to the ground, where I pin his arm away and lay my shin over his throat, thirty seconds later he’s napping there on the ground. I make sure to tape him up good arms behind his back and feet together, then cover his mouth.
I take the mirror from my belt and stand behind the door as I crack it ever so slightly, I was moving too quickly to consider this earlier, through the mirror I can see that the coast is clear. I slip through the door quietly, spotting the second guard on the catwalk, the strobe lights are a pain in the ass, but a flashlight up here would stand out. I pull the taser out when I’m ten feet away. His back is to me and he’s moving so I know he shouldn’t fall off. I pull the trigger and rush to catch him in case he rolls, I have to drag him to the stairwell before I bind him up like the last guard and handcuff him to a rail.
On the ground floor it’s much easier to spot her security through the crowd. Nobody wearing a suit is my friend right now. It takes me a few minutes to pick up the radiating pattern, they’re all radiating out from a group of three guards keeping watch over a door. She’s in a private meeting. Getting the outward guards shouldn’t be hard, they’re having a hard time spotting much through the twisting, writhing, mass of bodies that represent the dance floor. They skirt the edges of the crowd and keep glancing about anxiously… they don’t like trying to keep watch in this place.The dancefloor is where they’re all looking, because it’s hard to identify a single face in a crowd like that, but they are standing on the edge of the lounges casually glancing in the other direction now and then. I decide the lounge is the best approach. I dart around the lounges dispatching the five away from the door. I use the taser on them and drag them to the various restrooms where I tape them up. The earpieces don’t do them much good because it’s too loud to hear much… bad communication breaks a security team up fast.
Only one problem left. The trio of guards are in a hallway, standing on open ground and screening anybody who walks too close to them. So far I haven’t stood out much because there were enough people around me that I could fit in, but in my current attire, they’ll see me coming from twenty feet away. Only one was allowed to bring his gun into the club it looks, as he wears it on his hip, the other two look to be unarmed, which means my first target is clear. If I can take out the armed guard the other two might be tricky, but I’m confident I can handle them. No more guerilla tactics here… this is going to be a feat of simple rapid dominance. Shock and awe.
I move quick as I head back out into the club and direct my attention to the hall. As I approach the hall the two that aren’t armed start to head my way and set up a screen for the other guy. I don’t back away as I draw the taser and let it fly on the armed one, he goes down and the other two are too stunned to understand what just happened. I slip the taser into a holster with the leads out.
They recover after a split second, they’re five feet from me, and my taser is used up for the moment. Each reaches to his waist and pulls out a collapsible baton. SHIT. If I don’t want to kill these guys the only weapons I have at this point are my drive stunner and, if I’m careful, my knife, both much closer range weapons than the batons. As they approach they start to angle toward separate directions. The hallway is only about ten feet across… if I let them split up and come from both sides I’m already done, so I took a few steps forward to keep them from splitting up before it started.
The one to my right lashed out with his baton, I grabbed him about the wrist before he could hit, I stepped toward him, then drove one hand into his shoulder and torqued him around so he blocked off an attack from the other one. They were now firmly on the same half of the hallway from me, but my back was to a wall… not entirely an ideal situation, but I suppose it was better than the alternative. I back off a step to find the wall right at my back. Well, I hope I can pull something together fast. They moved in together, the left side raised his baton, the right dropped his lower… two enemies, two sections to control. I ducked under the one going high and moved under his outside arm as the baton came crashing into the wall, a second slower and I’d be effectively down. I move fast, I slip my arm in under his armpit and jam my fist into his nose, jerk my elbow back to crash into the wrist of his armed hand, he drops the baton, I catch it by twisting around backwards and bring it up to collide into his chin hard. One down one to go.
The other begins that stupid twisting thing people sometimes do to loosen themselves up, as soon as the baton is at the peak of it’s arc in a backhanded motion I slap it away with mine and crack him across the ear. He drops the baton as he staggers to one knee, I whip the baton around and connect following the line of his jaw. It unhinges in a grotesque way and the last guard is down. I reach back and pull the trigger on the taser just in time, the first guard managed to recover and reach for his gun, just before he has it in hand the charge of the taser goes off and his body seizes up. I walk over and place my shin across his windpipe as I wait for him to go back down. As I stand up I reach for his gun and check the chamber… empty, just a deterrent for people like me. I keep it anyway, for the next stage of the plan. I tape up the bodies quickly before returning to the door.
I take a moment to collect my thoughts and catch my breath before reaching for the door. Twist the knob and bring the gun up in the same motion, moving into the room quickly. I only see the grey patterned cat sitting on a plush couch, looks like whoever she was meeting didn’t show up yet. “Don’t move,” I tell her.
Her face isn’t afraid, she doesn’t look frightened, or even surprised, not batting an eyelash or lifting a brow at this scenario. She doesn’t bother lifting her hands. “Hands up,” I tell her.
“No,” she answers calmly. This catches me off guard. “You think you’re the first person to point a gun at me? Not even the first one today. Though, you are the first one to point an Empty gun at me… in a VERY long time at least,” she says in a demure voice. “So… what happened to my guards?” she asks intently.
“They’ve been taken care of,” I answer shortly as I lower the gun.
“Killed?” she presses. Something’s not right, even if the gun was empty she shouldn’t be so confident.
“Predisposed,” I correct her.
“Good, most of them have families. Now, I can assume that you are the Mr. King I was supposed to meet the other day. What can I help you with?” she asks me.
“I need information,” I tell her simply.
“And all this was…? A way to show me that you were serious? Or was it meant to tell me not to waste your time?” she asked, she was confident… she knew something I didn’t.
“We’ll talk more in private,” I answer her as I take a step forward.
“This place is pretty private, you’ve seen to that,” she says confidently, she’s not in control, but she thinks she is.
“I prefer a more homey locale to talk business, stand up, slowly,” I tell her.
“You seem to be under the impression that we’re going somewhere together, that you set the rules here, I hate to inform you that you are wrong,” she answers as she stayed seated. “I hear you’re looking for Russell Raynes, but the real question is why?” she asked me. Whatever was happening, it was done, I was going to show her rather forcefully who was in control. I stepped forward.
“That’s close enough, for the good of everybody involved, don’t come any closer,” she bluffed. She wanted me to think this place was wired to protect her.
“That’s my business,” I answer.
I advance on her, and just when I reach out to grab her wrist things change in a whirlwind. Something strikes me at the back of my knee, at the same instant I felt a breeze at the small of my back. I was on one knee now, with my own gun leveled down on me. “Actually, it’s my business. Now put your hands up slowly. I know right now you’re wondering if you can get to your ankle or your knife in time, let me assure you, you can’t,” a voice tells me. As I raise my arms, I turn my head to see Russell Raynes standing right behind me.
For the first time Parsons stands up. “Don’t bother with the guns on his thighs, they’re empty. Start with the knife, that’s what he’ll reach for first, then take the ankle holster, then take the vest and finish by collecting his belt,” Raynes instructs her.
“It took you long enough, he was almost on top of me,” Parsons says irritably.
“I thought you were used to having strange men on on top of you by now,” Raynes quips.
“Let’s try this again now, Mr. King. Why are you looking for him?” Parsons asks me.
“He got away,” I answer her shortly.
“You wraiths are always so damn difficult when it comes to answering questions. I know he got away, what do you want with him? Are you going to use him to buy your way back in?” she asks me.
“You’re asking stupid questions. The missile strike the other day took the program out, no, they tried to kill him the same as all the others. How did you avoid it?” Raynes asks me.
“I was lucky,” I tell him.
“A lone wraith escapes a missile blast meant to take them all out, you must have been damn lucky. Tell me what happened,” he commands me. I give him a watered down version of my perspective, minus a few details.
“So you weren’t JUST lucky, there was a little skill involved. Still, if you’d been inside you’d have been taken out too. So you came looking for me hoping I’d have compassion for you and help you get away, not a bad plan, but you miscalculated. Parsons slighted you so you set up this little stunt to try and pump her for information. Unfortunately for you she called me in, and I saw this coming. See… you probably thought… what? That I was the prototype and you’re the floor model? A cute idea, but inaccurate. See, the truth is that I’m custom-built, tailor made, and you’re a cheap knock off,” Raynes pieced it all together.
“Hey, you find anything useful over there?” Raynes asks Parsons, who has been looking through my personal effects while we talked.
“He was kind enough to bring his own dosing method, I can’t imagine what things he had planned to do with me,” she smirks.
“Should have sent him some background data, if he bought you a drink he’d know he doesn’t have to dose you,” Raynes jokes.
“There’s only one needle Russell, don’t make me put you under, you’ll wake up in the middle of Leah stark naked,” she responds.
“Just can’t wait to get me out of my clothes, eh?” he laughs.
Parsons walks over and jabs my needle into my neck. “His car’s waiting, lets move,” Raynes laughs as I fall to the ground, I feel him start to twist me around and sling me over one shoulder before I’m swallowed by the approaching darkness.