Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 23, 2011 3:31:38 GMT -5
Jericho Lighter sat behind his large mahogany desk, and lifted his booted feet up on to the desk. Anxiously, he interlaced his fingers and rested them on his stomach.
The killer Sturm stood quietly in the corner, holding his sheathed blade in his right hand. Sunlight reflected from his milky-white eyes and Cold-blooded man grimaced, for he was not used to the light.
"The days and nights just keep getting longer..." And with that, he closed his eyes. He thought about the Order, and the coming war, and knew that his responsibility was to keep the Order strong and profitable.
And naturally, a profit must be earned. Luckily, Lighter had a massive job lined up; one bigger than anything ever attempted by the Order before.
"After this," He told Sturm, "We shall never want for money again. It will be a gamble, I know, but if we work this professionally, I'll be the only one at risk. If I fall, you know what needs to be done. If we succeed, we'll have the resources to rescue our esteemed Mr. Black."
Sturm only nodded and grunted in approval. The sound of heavy boots echoed into Lighter's office. With that, the Assassin Prince sat upright and glanced at Sturm. "Lights out for you." And with that, Sturm vanished. Lighter pressed the intercom button on his desk and told the secretary to "Please in the esteemed guests." He also asked for a pot of coffee and a plate cookies, just for good measure. He then decided that everything would turn out just fine.
"You've said that at least a dozen times now, Raiph, we get it. You don't like being here."
. . .
Robert Valentine opened his eyes and glanced sleepily around the modest, clean reception area. It had been a long journey to the heart of the Rakutan, and the chair had been extremely comfortable, so he'd taken a quick nap while waiting for his meeting. He was currently dressed in his light business attire (somehow spotless, even here in the Rakutan), though his black jacket was draped over one shoulder, due to the heat.
To his left, a heavily-built man (dressed uncomfortably in civilian clothing that looked like it was used perhaps once a year at most) sat fidgeting and glaring with large, wary eyes at every person who entered the building. Raiph Wilson was the Prime Centurion of the Hell Legion, an extremely well-ordered and respected mercenary unit.
To Robert's right sat a small, dark-skinned woman with eyes the color of coal and a brilliant white smile, wearing the clothing of one who was used to traveling in forested terrain; hiking boots, light vest and breathable clothing for easy dispensation of heat. She was Laura Redding, first ranger of Redding's Rangers, a small mercenary unit based out of Aube that specialized in recon missions.
Raiph fidgeted again and gave the pretty receptionist another glare, "These assassins have brought down dozens of Hell Legionaries, Mr. Valentine, we're not exactly on speaking terms with them." The big man growled quietly, his words meant to be unheard by all except for Robert and Laura, though with his booming voice, Robert would have wagered that anyone within fifteen yards overheard the man's words.
"Raiph," Robert replied, his voice reassuring. "The Silver Star have killed dozens of each of our respective organizations. Our three units are each respected, well-trained units, that the Silver Star was able to kill some of our men in the line of duty means that they're exactly what we're looking for."
Laura chimed in, "we can't hold grudges at the moment, Raiph, we're going to need their help for this next op."
Raiph was about to bark out some reply when the receptionist looked up with a sweet smile and spoke, "Mr. Lighter will see you now, sir's and lady."
The three mercenaries stood and made their way quietly up the stairs, Robert leading the way, his jacket still draped nonchalantly over his shoulder.
He entered the office of Jericho Lighter and inclined his head respectfully, "Mr. Lighter," He greeted, "a pleasure to finally meet you."
Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 23, 2011 4:37:27 GMT -5
Lighter looked at his three visitors and gave a venomous smile. "Welcome to my... humble abode, my guests. Please, have some coffee, and if you would like, a cookie. I would offer you something more substantial, but I had to shoot our last cook. Belligerence is not tolerated here." Lighter waved his hand toward the refreshments, and then stood up.
"Pardon me, I believe that I am a chair short. One moment, please." As Lighter walked to a neighboring room, he shot a lightning quick glance at Sturm. The Ice Man's natural coolness kept the room cold, as if an AC generator were installed.
Lighter walked to a supply closet and checked his pistol. He didn't trust the Hell Legionnaire, especially after knowing the ins and outs of a few now-dead members. Lighter hoisted up an extra chair and carried it into his office. His sinewy muscles tensed and released under his formal Silver Star Uniform. He left his black suit jacket unbuttoned, so that he could quickly reach for his firearm. He wished that he could have worn Armor under his shirt, but that would have been suspicious. Instead, he would have to make do with trust and personality.
"In other words," Thought Lighter, "I'm a dead man."
"I'm sorry about the chair. I wasn't expecting the Lady." Lighter smiled at her and bowed courteously. His rapier dangled loosely on his right hip. "If I may ask, whom do you represent, Misses...?" He looked at her, searching her face for a name. After an appropriate response, Lighter took his seat and placed his hands on the desk, palms down and fingers spread.
"As you may know from my... work... I'm not one for foolish formalities or little games. You are here because you seek the services of the Order. I also know what service you wish for us to preform. I also know that you have massed an army of about seven thousand mercenary soldiers. And finally, I know what your prize is: The Burning City of Acera." Looking pleased with himself, Lighter studied the faces of his guests. He then poured himself some coffee and kept talking.
"Well, we are very interested in your offer. Every free Order member is being tasked with this very important assignment. Naturally, we can't pull everybody from the field. Otherwise, I wouldn't know about how uncomfortable Mister Raiph Wilson is. Don't worry, I don't bite." Lighter gave another of his signature snake-smiles.
"Because of our interests in the target, we already have a large force of agents involved in undercover operations in the City. I can move commandos and strike teams in at almost any time. But that's a little too conventional for my tastes. I have something... special planned. But enough of that. I'm sure you all have things to say. Oh, and by the way, in the way of Silver Star custom, it is appropriate to address me as either 'Reaper' or 'Mister Lighter.' Thank you." Lighter relaxed, and looked at his guests with anticipation.
Post by Steinerman on Jul 23, 2011 16:02:30 GMT -5
Robert kept his easy smile in place as Laura clumsily introduced herself, obviously in awe at the mere presence of of the legendary Reaper of the order of assassins.
He kept the same easy smile in place as the man detailed quite a bit of their operation, though arguably not all of it. He'd known the Order's information-gathering abilities were good, and this only proved it. Admittedly, Robert had intentionally played things a little loose in this operation, a way of letting the Silver Star know what was happening, but even taking into account that his own security had been less than it could have been, the information gleaned by Mr. Lighter was impressive.
Raiph, however, growled deep in his throat, "Well, you're bloody-well informed for a hitman, Mr. Lighter." The big man replied with a glare. Earning a worried glance from Laura, who obviously thought it wasn't a good idea to provoke the assassin in his lair.
Robert kept his smile though, and kept silent, listening for the inevitable reply from the Reaper. In the meantime, he helped himself to a pair of cookies.
Raiph continued, seemingly oblivious to any danger, "There a reason you're keeping tabs on our organizations?"
Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 23, 2011 16:35:09 GMT -5
With a sincerely concerned look, Lighter addressed Raiph. "Good Centurion, I keep tabs on everybody. Your organizations aren't special. If I didn't keep these tabs, how could I know all of these things?" Lighter crossed his arms and tapped his foot on the floor. With perfect silence, Sturm circled around back, behind the Hell Legionnaire.
"You need to trust us to act like professionals. Our performance is directly affected by your trust, and how much we know about the target. Now, this is the biggest and second most difficult operation we've ever embarked upon."
Still as quiet as the grave, Sturm drew his icy blade.
"Mr. Wilson, with that in mind, I need you to be at the top of your game, and we can't do that if you don't trust me. If you focus on watching me, you'll miss a few very important details. Now, I'll teach a few assassin skills: most importantly, observation. Now, when you walked into the building, it was hot. When you came in, it was cold. Why would that be? AC? Not installed. Open window? Nope. Magic of some sort? You're getting close!"
Slowly, Sturm lowered his weapon, leaving it an inch from Raiph's neck. with that, Sturm uncloaked himself and sheathed his weapon.With his gruff voice, he spoke. "The name's Sturm. And don't worry about Jericho with his fancy titles and names and other BS. He just has a stick up his ass. Heh heh heh... But seriously, there is no 'assassin custom' with the titles. Lighter just thinks he really hot stuff."
With this, Lighter looked down and scowled. Sturm kept talking. "Most everything he's said is the truth. "Wilson, sorry about the fright, but I owed Lighter a favor, and he is technically a higher rank than me, even if I was the one who taught him all this stuff. Heh heh heh... At any rate, the Hell Legion has many good men. Here's something for you to remember though. We aren't evil men. We're paid assassins. When one man offends another, we kill him. I've killed some of your soldiers, but only because they committed some offense. We keep detailed records of every hit, and every hit has to be approved by the Reaper. For a while, that was me, but now, I have better things to do than to baby sit a bunch of Ghosts and Specters. Heh heh heh.... anyway... sorry about all the talking. I'm old, and I like the sound of my own voice. Once I start, I don't shut up. Heh heh heh... Lighter, give the man the Hell's Legion hit file, now."
Jericho began to argue, but Sturm cut him off.
The dropped fifteen degrees, and a large spike of ice grew in Sturm's hand. "Now, Jericho."
With that, Jericho reluctantly opened a file cabinet and pulled a large manilla envelope out. He set the envelope on the desk in front of Wilson. "There you go. Now, you can see why we've killed some of your men. Do you trust us now?"
Sturm removed his large hat, letting his tousled white hair hang loose around his head. He leaned down next to Laura's ear, and whispered "I believe the Assassin Prince has a bit of a crush on you. Heh heh heh..."
And with that, Lighter swore at the Old Iceman, and then turned himself invisible before he could blush.
Post by Steinerman on Jul 23, 2011 21:10:53 GMT -5
Robert had to give credit where it was due, Raiph reacted surprisingly well to the invisible threat that materialized behind him. Most other Hell Legionaries would have reacted with violence, most likely bringing their small business meeting to a short and sudden end. The First Centurion, however, was made of sterner and smarter stuff than that.
Raiph gave a grunt of acknowledgement that the man Sturm had appeared behind him, but otherwise didn't bother to turn around, or even to look impressed. When the file on the dead Hell Legionaries was placed on the desk in front of him, he refused to even glance at it, instead staring coolly at Jericho.
Robert munched on a cookie and watched with interest as Laura reacted with a visible shudder as Sturm whispered a few words into her ear. He actually knew very little about the girl, in her mid-twenties, besides that she'd been capable enough to take the position of First Ranger in her unit, which was no easy feat. Judging by her reaction, she was still relatively inexperienced in the ways of the world, definitely not used to being in the presence of assassins.
Finally, finishing his second cookie, Robert took a sip of coffee to wash the crumbs away and spoke, "Invisibility is quite a useful trick, however, the cold gives you away, as does your smell." he stated softly to Sturm. "The smell is easy to remedy, the cold however . . . can you lessen it? I doubt the Aceran's would be as forgiving as Mr. Wilson here, if they found you in their city due to noticing the cold you radiate."
Without waiting for a reply, Robert turned sharply to Jericho, "I am curious as to your suggestions, Mr. Lighter. It seemed you had some to offer on the mission at hand. Do explain, if you would be so kind."
Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 23, 2011 22:29:30 GMT -5
Sturm growled and muttered something about how he could change the cold, should he so choose. Lighter explained that Silver Star Standard Operating Procedure stated that all operatives involved with invisible operations had to shower at least three times a day. "And," he tacked on, "I've been working on a chemical to fix that."
Still invisible, Lighter sipped some coffee from his cup. "Yes, I do have a plan. It's not completely ready, but we have it under construction. What would you say," He paused, for dramatic effect. "To an airstrike?"
Sturm snorted in disapproval and leaned on his sword. Quietly, he said, "This is the stupidest goddamn thing..."
Post by Steinerman on Jul 23, 2011 23:21:22 GMT -5
Robert calmly sipped his coffee, hiding a smile behind the steaming contents within his cup. It seemed he and the Reaper thought in many of the same ways.
"I'd say," he replied softly, lowering the cup from his mouth to reveal a vicious, predatory smile. "Why stop at one airstrike? We've checked the clearance between the buildings of Acera and the cavern ceiling, there's more than enough space to fly aircraft, assuming we could be nimble enough to dodge the buildings that go all the way up to the top."
Raiph chimed in, eyes never leaving the space where he assumed Lighter was standing. "Acera has no air defenses to speak of, as far as I know, nobody has ever tried using airstrikes underground. Assuming we can smuggle in the aircraft, we'd have a major advantage over the Korin." He shook his head, "It's a crazy idea, but then again, we're all probably a little crazy."
Robert picked up where Raiph left off without missing a beat, "Between our three units, we have upwards of a dozen military-grade gunships, what could you bring to the party?"
Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 24, 2011 1:16:49 GMT -5
Mildly surprised, Lighter examined the two male leaders. "Well... at the moment, we only have two prototype jets. One is complete, and the other is still under construction. But, our pilots are second to none, and the second prototype, codenamed "Eagle", is almost enough to handle the entire load herself. It's just that a certain part of the jet still won't listen to commands. Belligerence, you see. I was going to shoot it, but I was reminded that the prototype somehow managed to find, attach, and engage its weapons systems. Damn plane..." After a few minutes cursing the aircraft, Lighter resumed speaking coherently.
"We simply don't have the manpower to add significantly to the assault. Our might comes from shadows and secrets. But, we do have a number of Death Commando teams that can weaken the city's defensive infrastructure while your army attacks. Plus, the Death Commandos can target key buildings for the air teams." Lighter would have looked proud, but his face remained invisible.
"Now, I also had one other idea. I could plant a man as a mess officer for the enemy infantry. We could see to poisoning the entire force. In theory, we would just be able to walk in. Actually, if civilian casualties are OK, we could sabotage the water supply! Kill everything! We just need to isolate them, cut their supply lines, kill their electrical systems with an EMP, and then we can unleash the poison." Lighter reappeared, still in his seat, with a knife in hand. He procured an apple from his desk and began to cut sections with the blade.
"So, now for the business side of this. We don't have any strategic interests in the Burning City. How much will we be paid for this undertaking?"
Post by Steinerman on Jul 24, 2011 12:29:50 GMT -5
At the mention of poisoning the water supply, Laura Redding turned a worried look on Robert. "Robert," she said, her voice half-pleading, "My aunt won't go along with civilian casualties, you're not actually considering this, are you?"
Robert shook his head slowly, "No, Laura. When we first came up with this plan, your Aunt, Yonto Heller and I swore that civilian casualties would be kept as low as possible."
He turned his attention once more to Lighter, "If you can disable the actual Korin infantry, that would be beneficial. But I think you'll find that they blend very well with the civilian populace, I doubt they even have mess halls for their forces. But no civilian deaths if you can avoid it. Part of our plan will include a gas agent to deal with the civilians when the time comes, I suggest having your operatives pack gas-masks."
"And as to the price," Robert continued, noting the uneasy glances from Raiph and Laura, who each represented units that were respected, but not exactly rich. "Name it."
Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 24, 2011 12:46:42 GMT -5
Looking slightly disappointed, Lighter disregarded the notion of poisoning the water supply. He then snapped a response back at Robert.
"I know that the military population is deeply embedded with the civilians, but there are a few mess halls, for on duty and on call soldiers. With operations of this magnitude, there will always be... statistical casualties." Lighter stood up and place his right hand on his sword. He paced the room, like an animal in a cage.
Still standing behind the visitors, Sturm raised a question. "Miss Laura, what is your connection to this city? You wish to take it over, by force no less, but you seek to... muzzle us, as the Assassin King would say." Sturm wrinkled his brow and leaned forward. The handle of his gun hung out past his overcoat.
Ignoring the old man, Lighter replied that one should never tell a "hitman" to "Name his price."
"But since you offered..." A hungry grin danced across the Assassin's countenance. "We want the dozen gunships, once this is over. We want at least five Stamarian armored personal carriers and we want five tons of solid gold, or it's equivalent in lesser metals. And finally, we want information. We are looking for somebody, somebody very special. So, we want full access to your databases." Looking pleased with himself, Lighter turned around. "And I want Mr. Wilson to stop scowling at me."
Post by Steinerman on Jul 24, 2011 12:58:08 GMT -5
"Well," Raiph muttered with a large smile. "Robert I've got to hand it to you, you got the assassin to refer to himself as a hitman."
Robert smiled grimly but otherwise stayed silent, thinking over the demand.
Meanwhile, Laura turned and gave Sturm a look of disgust. "We're Mercenaries, Sir." She replied icily, "Not murderers. This operation will enrich our coffers and aid us in other ways if we pull it off, that is why we do it. But we still have our honor, one might say that's all we have. We're not going to murder civilians simply to get what we want."
Mere seconds later, Robert's easy smile flashed as he replied to the demand of payment. "We will pay you a dozen military-class gunships, but not our own personal machines, those are retrofitted specially and will not leave our possession. The APC's will of course be no problem, nor will the gold. I'll even throw in an extra five tons of it. Our databases . . . "
He paused and looked first to Raiph, then to Laura, who craned her head around to meet his glance. Both of them shook their heads.
"Our databases," he continued smoothly. "We would open to you on the condition that you enter from a single terminal, look for your name and do nothing else."
He glanced questioningly at Raiph, who nodded. Laura still didn't like it, but she nodded as well.
"Bear in mind that if you tried to look for anything else in the database, we'd kill you."
"Now," he ended pleasantly. "Will that satisfy you?"
Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 24, 2011 15:40:01 GMT -5
Jericho studied Robert's face for a long time before answering his question.
"I suppose that I was a little vague. When I say full access, I mean full access. Our current target is more than just a man. He's a shadow on the wall, a whisper in your ear. He's everywhere, and nowhere. Simply typing his name would just get a list of myths, mostly distributed by us. No, we have numerous things that we need to search for. Locations, weapons, deaths, people, events, paintings, pictures... we need a full search through your records. I'm not saying this because I want to snoop. If I could just find him, I would have done it already. I've scoured every entry in our database, and I've read every book in our libraries."
Lighter pulled his handgun out from his holster and set in on the table. The gun pulsed with dark energy. "Do you know what this is?" He looked at Raiph. "I'm sure you've seen the effects of this pistol. I'm sure you all have. It's known as the 'Darkness Operator' and was created by the target. Sturm, put your sword and ring on the table."
With hesitation, the Iceman removed his weapon and ring. The sword sucked the heat from the room, and the ring merely sat, with its eyes glowing red. Lighter then removed the scythe from its mount on the wall behind his desk.
"These artifacts came from a bigger weapon, back when it was still around. Very few things can create objects as powerful as these. We need to find the weapon, before it strikes. When it does, it will obliterate cities, massacre innocents," He glanced at Laura, "And destroy anything that might prove to be a threat to the guild. And there is nothing we can do, unless we find it soon. I think I know where it is, but I need to be absolutely sure before I go on the offensive. If I'm wrong, the Order, and many more, will die."
Lighter clasped his hands together and leaned forward. Sturm reclaimed his equipment and then moved away from the table. Both Assassins thought about the power of the objects, and the power of their creator. Lighter then stood and leaned across the desk so that his nose was almost touching Robert's. "Do. NOT. Threaten me in my lair. We might be 'Lowly hitmen' in comparison to your 'honorable orders', but trust me when I say that if you so much as scratch the Reaper here in Razortooth, an anti-material slug will separate your head from your chest before you can say 'shit'. Death threats should not be made lightly around Reapers. We are everywhere. We are in your ranks, your offices, your communities, your schools... There is simple rule when bargaining with Death. Don't piss him off. Now, I'd advise you to keep a civil tongue, lest I nail it to your child's forehead, Wolf."
Lighter grabbed his pistol and leaned back. He hit the silent alarm button under his desk with his toe. Death Commandos would be inside in an instant. "You said name your price. I named it. I want my goddamn information, and I want it without death threats and people looking over my shoulder. I want one of my technicians to retrieve the data, clear all search history, and then I want it back here. If you knew the weapon we were seeking, you would be scrambling for it yourself. We don't take chances when it comes to Code 14 situations."
Lighter relaxed a little, but was still visibly on edge. He removed his jacket, revealing his holster, several knives, and a small computer attached to his wrist. Lighter typed a command, queuing the "Teleport" ability.
"Was that clear enough for you? Perhaps I should get the-" Lighter was interrupted as a snowball smacked against his face. With a graceful, animal like leap, Sturm cleared the table and landed on Lighter. With a single icy finger, Sturm sealed Lighter's lips and sealed him to the flood.
With the poise of a grandfather, Sturm addressed the undoubtedly horrified guests. "Please excuse my IDIOT step-son. He gets pissy when he doesn't get the toys he wants. Your deal is more than fair. We'll take it." Sturm planted the heel of his brown oxford shoe in Lighter's groin. "I'm taking executive control of this Operation. You may call me either 'Iceman' or 'Saal.' It makes no difference to me.
Lighter squirmed under the pain. "He's a gifted kid, Jericho. He's just an idiot. I tried to raise him right, but he's more concerned with prosperity and longevity, not honor and integrity. Even if I am some nutcase hitman, I'm an honorable one. Don't forget that. Treat a man with honor and trust, and he'll follow you to hell and back. Cage him, and he'll be an animal. And I have no time for animals. I am willing to work with you professionally and rationally. Just one thing- I would like to assign an Overseer to your side; to ensure things are as they should be. You may do the same with us. Just be sure that your man can make it through some crack Assassin training." Sturm gave a sincere smile, showing he unnaturally white teeth. The scar wrapped around his neck bulged as the Iceman swallowed. Reluctantly, he extended his hand. "Do we have a deal?"
Post by Steinerman on Jul 24, 2011 19:09:31 GMT -5
Robert took another sip of his coffee and watched with interest as Sturm disabled his own leader.
"How interesting." He murmured. Behind him, Laura glanced on in horror, while from a little ways to his right came the rumbling chuckle of Raiph Wilson.
Robert drained his cup and placed it gently back on the tray before speaking conversationally. "Your honor was never in question, Saal. Your order's prices are high, and for good reason. We came to your order because we wanted the best."
He raised a finger quickly, "Of course, now knowing that what you're looking for in the database is more than a mere name, we would let you search for more than a name. You had only to say that to begin with, Mr. Lighter." He added, leaning forward a little to glance at the man on the floor. "Also, I was not threatening you, Lighter. I was promising."
He glanced towards Raiph and Laura. "The terms are acceptable to my unit, you two each speak with the voice of your unit leaders, what say you?"
Raiph swiped up a cookie and furiously devoured it before nodding once, "Aye, it'll do." He agreed.
Laura looked apprehensively at the two assassins, "I apologize for any offense I may have caused, Saal." she murmured towards Sturm. "But yes, this agreement is acceptable to the Rangers as well. Though who do you want to send with us?"
Post by The Silent Fourteen on Jul 24, 2011 19:28:01 GMT -5
Saal placed his hat back on his head and looped his Katana through his belt.
"I have a man known only as 'Rain'. He is an outcast of the Silver Star, but still loyal to me. He loves nature, and is the best scout in the Continent."
Lighter twitched on the floor and gave a low moan. Sturm spoke on his behalf. "With all due respect, both parties jumped to conclusions. And stating that you would kill Lighter during his technology extraction would be... foolish. Knowing him, he would rig your mainframe with a dead switch. The device on his arm is remarkable technology."
Sturm began to button his jacket. "Will you be sending a soldier to train with us? It would be an excellent sign of trust... heh heh heh..."
Saal studied the company and wondered which would pose the most difficult challenge in a fight. His mind began to wander as he thought of old battles and old tricks, parries and ripostes, and simple, brutal kills from the rear.
"And your apologies are accepted, even though I don't think you fully understand the scope of your blunder. Remember, if you trap something so that it has no escape, all of its energy will focus towards you. Mind the energy... heh heh heh..."