Type: Closed Continued from: Auld Lang Syne

Note: This is not a new story, it directly continues from Auld Lang Syne and is open only to players who participated in that thread. Players, if you have partners or are in a conversation among a group of other players, you may move on without a response from the others 7 (seven) full days after your last post.

VILE Players: 
Carmen Sandiego
Vic the Slick
Contessa Adrianna Covrenzi
Sarah Nade
Patty Larceny
Joe Kerr
Acton Roux
ACME Players:
Chase Devineaux
Ivy Monaghan
Lee Jordan
Mikal Jal Darsha
Eugene Grovington
Deric Storm
Nace Bilby
Eleanor Mayhem
Sophie Conrad
Gunnar Svensson
Nevon Blair
Daniel Ainsworth
Cali Corranos
Abby Thorn
Constance Kitlyn
Bran Brychanson

2 Carmen

In April of 2012, Captain Nikolai Zhovtis sailed with an 18-man crew on a Russian Federation cargo ship named Salinga. She carried a load of salvageable scrap metals and engine parts destined for a Japanese yard. The ship docked in San Diego, CA, then entered Long Beach, San Francisco, and Oakland. After, the captain and its crew were to stop at Kodiak, AK then move to Hakodate seaport in Hokkaido to relieve the load. This route was neither unusual for a cargo ship of Salinga's size, nor was it unusual for her captain, but what happened a few hundred miles from their checkpoint in Alaska spun routine into adventure.

The first hint to Captain Nikolai that this journey would be extraordinary should have sparked with the discovery of a beautiful stowaway after they left the Port of Oakland. Her introduced name, Zoya, despite its synonymy with revolutions in Soviet Russia, gave no reason to disbelieve her tale of simply wanting to go home. The woman's accent came distinctly from Moscow and her mannerism, soft spoken but passionate, left the crew more enchanted than suspicious. 

Days after Zoya's appearance, and 330 nautical miles from the port at Kodiak, ten armed men seized the Russian cargo ship. The Captain heard gunshots and shouting; he arose to find his nightshift pointing out motorboats fast approaching their ship. A large cargo-lifting helicopter soon dominated the air overhead, reflecting its round xenon lights onto the red deck. Zhovtis immediately went to the radio -- this close to Kodiak, he knew there would be authorities watching. He began his Mayday message in earnest, but Zoya interrupted him midway.

Salinga's formerly innocent stowaway led the captain and his crew to safety by means even a seasoned sailor could not explain. They escaped on a life boat, but were soon picked up in the darkness by a refurbished Russian Oscar class submarine named Kalach. The sub followed directly under Salinga for 3 days. Its 155 meter length made it a perfect match to the cargo ship, and Captain Nikolai thought this was nothing short of genius.

In the sub, Zoya eventually revealed that Salinga picked up important items when she docked in California ports, and that the woman trailed the vessel in order to locate Salinga's captors; hoping to stop them from creating a powerful weapon. She made little effort to convince them of her story, and only promised the men safe passage home. Her determination, supported by reason, subsequently inspired the Captain to avenge his ship.

Kalach docked near Queen Charlotte Sound and a smaller boat took them into Queen Charlotte, British Columbia. There, they met the submarine's owner, a machines dealer who introduced himself as Fedor Mikhailovich, presumably Zoya's uncle. Mikhailovich offered Salinga's crew the option to return home. While some took this path, Captain Nikolai Zhovtis, his first mate Boris, radio operator Miroslav, and three others; Yurik, Sascha, and Ivan, declined the free passage. For saving their lives, they were going to help Zoya find her weapon.

That pledge led them to a friendless place, on one of the most geographically active peninsulas on earth: Kamchatka.

Months passed.

In August of 2012, through the help of what can only be assumed as friends, Salinga's captain and her crew members became maintenance workers for a once abandoned stone structure known to the locals as Rei Kremlin. Its current inhabitants referred to it as Zamok Torun. History utilised the Zamok as a castle fortress, an unsuccessful gulag and a more successful spying station. Now a heavily guarded compound, it housed a technology and research facility under an illegitimate organisation whose purpose seemed to be producing destruction.

Gathering information in this area was never easy, as workers were under strict watch. From August until November, they lived in a nearby worker village at the shadow of the Zamok. But as the winter drew colder winds, they moved closer to the castle until; for December, they were ordered to stay inside it. Captain Nikolai Zhovtis and his men gathered the most intelligence during this time. With so many civilian workers around, they gained more time to blend in. But the weather became favourable again, and they shortly moved back to the workmen village by late December.

Back in early October 2012, Zoya arrived with a new group of aides from Moscow, replacing some ill or invalid staff, but she never registered as a worker. She drifted in and out of both Torun Zamok and the village like a whisper. Often, she slept in the mock town from midmorning until midday and disappeared all night. During this time, she revealed to the captain her American nationality, and that law enforcement from her country should arrive by November, after which she must immediately leave. But as her predictions faltered, and the eleventh and twelfth months rolled away without reinforcement, she never spoke of her expectations again. Zoya pressed on, silently more resolved to finish what she started.

Her Russian uncle, Fedor Mikhailovich, must have stepped in to help. Nikolai saw him, posing as a weapons buyer. He arrived late December (along with other potential investors) to begin his 'review'. Mikhailovich's physical trait made him easy to recognise; his metallic leg allowed him to walk without a cane, but his gait stood out even when viewed from afar. The 'clients', as people like Fedor were labeled, stayed in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the largest city in Kamchatka. With a population of over 170,000, it housed mostly people working on the Rybachiy Nuclear Submarine Base. From the city, clients were flown to the Castle by chartered helicopters weekly. Not all faces were familiar, but Fedor Mikhailovich frequented these trips.

Other changes appeared as already heavy air grew thicker, both from Tolbachik Volcano surging heated ash in their direction, and the restless heart of mercenaries residing behind enclosed stone walls. Prolonged indoor existence, even within a group environment, easily evoked neurosis. Pressure also rose recently for the workers, when guards under orders would take a few villagers to the underground silo without returning them.

While temperatures rose inside, outside of Torun Zamok the north wind still blew relentlessly. With January upon them, a winter storm approached, calling up high winds at nearly all times of the dimmed day.

Captain Nikolai Zhovtis awoke suddenly in his makeshift hut (almost no more than a nomadic tent) from the sound of sharp wind whistling against the roof beams. In the low light, soft rays from the southern sun managed to reflect against clouds and snow enough to aid his eyes. A Rusalka sat on a wooden rise in his cabin with her eyes out the window as if silently singing to the moon. He rose half way out of his thick bedding to better look at her. Wise of the noise he made, she moved her glance to him and fluidly saluted before returning to her work. Only here did he notice Zoya touching up her hand drawn map. The soft beam he saw glowed from a white LED lamp.

"[You should get some sleep, Captain Kolya]" she said in Russian with cheerful prudence, using the friendly version of his name, "[You have only a few hours before your rounds.]"

"[My sleeping eyes saw you as the Rusalka]," a laugh followed his statement. He had not seen Zoya for nearly a week. It was good relief to hear her voice, even at this uncommon hour, "[Is there something wrong that you are at the village tonight?]"

"[The opposite of wrong]," her composed reply invoked a glimmer in Nikolai's heart, "[Be ready, Captain. I just received confirmation that my friends are here.]"

[Credit goes to Mikal for his help formulating this post.]

3 Vic-the-Slick

January 12, 2013 Lenino Airbase

For the past month, Vincent Fumigalli, V.I.L.E.'s unofficial second hand leader was in Hawaii with the rest of his team. The ACMEs sent over a set of trainers that helped set them up on skills they needed to refresh. It was an uneasy truce, and Vic had fears about suddenly being arrested for all of the first week.

Later on, things started working smoother. V.I.L.E. was understanding some basic commands ACME used in the field. Most of these things, Vic already knew from running away from them so much, but actually hearing the communication and performing in conjunction took some learning.

Then the day came, January 12, where both teams were to meet at Lenino Airbase in Kamchatka to get some briefing done and kick-start on this operation. From Hawaii, Vic's team went to Japan, and then took a helicopter to the airbase. Dr. Acton Roux in that plague mask took his own plane and said he was going to meet them there. This was fine, as long as Roux could help.

By now, every one from V.I.L.E.'s side knew they were here only to help find anything on Carmen, if they could bring the boss back too, that would be a bonus. ACME verified her last location to be at Kamchatka, and unless they're lying, this was a good place to start the search for her.

Getting off the plane at the airbase almost felt like home, in Antarctica. The frozen south used to be V.I.L.E.'s biggest hideout, until an ACME crack-down raided it early last year. That was a lot of misunderstanding, and while things seem to be chiseled enough for some teamwork, Vic knew there was still tension amongst the crew. Trust was hard to come by, and there's always going to be someone ready to stab someone else in the back. Like that Lee Jordan, for example.

"OK, gang, we're waiting for instructions first," Vic said to his friends, "ACMEs are your buddies now, they're giving us a chance 'ere, don't let 'em down, and you won't let the Boss down."

((VILEs, you come in, you post about what you did to train over the month, then put yourself at Lenino. ACMEs are gonna post after Ivy puts 'em here.))

4 Flag (Co-writen with Chase )  

Over the course of his stay, Flag had discovered little that he liked about Torun Zormak. It never got warm, it looked virtually the same everywhere, and any place that he wanted to visit was conveniently off limits. If he had not kept himself busy by secretly recruiting some of Mr. Cane's mercenaries out from under him, he might have gone totally crazy.
One of the mercenaries - Randall - turned out to be a godsend as he not only kept Olga's whimsies in line, but he almost single-handedly put Flag's newest plan in action. A plan that they were aiming to carry out now.

Two weeks ago Flag had sought an audience with the man in Tweed and begrudgingly told him all he wanted to hear; that Carmen was indeed watching them, that she was close and hiding amongst some tourists somewhere on the peninsula, and that she finally agreed to meet with Flag at a park on Maly Semyachik - a volcanic mountain not far west of where they were currently located. 

Upon hearing this, Mr. Cane wanted to pack up and go, but Flag stuck out for his prize and reminded the man in Tweed of their deal. As the tests with the diamond where not complete, they had to wait... until today.

Once again escorted by the same errand girl Tweed always sent for him, the Sivoan made his way down to the labs.

Tweed sat in the labs on his usual chair. Next to him stood a tall blond, Lancaster, she always seemed more busy with external contacts. Yet today, she was here to give the V.I.L.E. turncoat her full attention.

"Is she with anyone?" Lancaster asked sharply, skipping introductions, "Carmen, will she be alone?"

The Sivoan raised an eyebrow at that (a mannerism that he very well might have adopted on accident from their topic of conversation) and paused a moment to think. 
"She didn't say, but knowing her, she'll at least have a couple of grunts on hand."

"Take a team with you, Umnaj can free up his schedule," Tweed spoke calmly.

The woman seemingly agreed.

"When will she be there?"

Flag simply nodded at the team suggestion. He had expected that they would want to take some mercenaries with them, but he never would have guessed that he'd be allowed to pick them.

He gave a more careful response to the second question. "In about 6 hours."

"Then we'll need to hurry," Lancaster said to the man in tweed, "I'll go with Flag, you stay with the labs."

"What about the diamond?" He said without hesitation. "No. Offense, but I'd rather just split after everything is said and done. I'm not particular to dungeons like you all seem to be."

"You'll get the diamond when we have her," Tweed spoke, "I've one more use for it in the next 10 hours. After that's done, it's yours."

The Sivoan shook his hooded head. "I don't think so. This was supposed to be a simple exchange. Bring it in a locked briefcase, fine. But I'm not going to exchange her for nothing."

"She'll run if she suspects anything wrong," Lancaster warned, "I'll bring the diamond with me."

"But the schedul--"

"Once she shows up, and I have her," the blond agent interrupted Tweed in favor of Flag, "That diamond is yours."

Flag smiled as he nodded to the agreement. "Then we better go pick our team."

5 Joe_Kerr


Lenino Airbase

As Joe got off the chopper, the first thing he picked up on was the biting cold. 

Well, I guess we won't be getting a warm welcome.

Unlike most people, Joe took the frigid conditions as a good sign. Having had their former HQ stationed in Antarctica had provided most VILE agents a tolerance for cold and the ability to operate in it. Hopefully this would prove advantageous for VILE. After having read the fiels Vic left on Patty's phone, Joe was pretty certan they would need every advantage they could get if they were to rescue Carmen and live to tell about it.

Dressed in a black and silver variant of his jester's costume, Joe looked around and took in the surroundings as Vic issued their marching orders.

Vic-the-Slick said: 
"OK, gang, we're waiting for instructions first," Vic said to his friends, "ACMEs are your buddies now, they're giving us a chance 'ere, don't let 'em down, and you won't let the Boss down."

ACME are our friends? With friends like these...

To their credit, ACME had thus far kept up their end of the bargain. The trainers had gone above and beyond to equip him and his fellow VILE compatriots with the skill sets necessary for the search and rescue mission. Having been well-versed with pranks and gimmicks, Joe took to being what the trainers called a 'trapper' like a duck took to water. Picking up the skills of being a 'cyclops' had also come easy to the Jester since it was a lot like scoping a place out for a heist, not that he told ACME that.

As Joe twirled his upgraded Jester's staff in his hand, he wondered how Carmen was doing. If there was a chance at all of bringing her home, then trusting ACME was a gamble he was willing to take.

6 Ivy

Ivy Monaghan stepped out from the ACME airplane loading ramp, and ignored a blast of icy wind that lashed at her hair. She took a moment to scan the overgrown landscape of Lenino airbase. It was still dark, and the people around her looked like shadows under moonlight,  everyone working quickly to clear vegetation and unload equipment. 

This was what four weeks of intensive training had come down to. She spotted Nigel Carter from the Intelligence team huffing as he ran up to her, “Commander Monaghan? The area will be set up for briefing within the hour... and V.I.L.E. just landed.” 

Ivy nodded, noting the Jamesway tents printed in ACME’s version of digital snow camo. The collapsible metal and canvas structures would protect their field equipment and provide a neutral meeting space between two of the world’s most unlikely allies. Monaghan’s early career was based on chasing down those that chose to follow Carmen Sandiego, so it didn’t take long for her to spot a few familiar faces. 

Vincent Fumigalli” Ivy greeted, extending a S.T.U.N. gloved hand to shake his. “Seems we have some time to get acquainted before the brief. Let me introduce the officers you’ll be working with."

She sounded off names as they stood, there was no particular order aside from the tight formation they kept upon exiting the aircraft. “Eugene Grovington, Nace Bilby, Eleanor Mayhem, Gunnar Svensson, Constance Kitlyn, Sophie Conrad, Daniel Ainsworth, Nevon Blair,” Ivy paused, remembering the last time Vic-the-slick would have come into contact with ACME detectives, “...and I think you’ve already met Deric Storm and Calina Corranos in Panama.”

[ACME: There are more agents, but as player characters who have signed the SOUL contract you are of superior ranking and playing team officers. This takes place before the mission briefing so get settled in, tell us on what you did during the 4-week training, what you may be carrying and then mingle with your new "friends" in V.I.L.E.] 

7 Kidman

Vic-the-Slick said: 
"OK, gang, we're waiting for instructions first," Vic said to his friends, "ACMEs are your buddies now, they're giving us a chance 'ere, don't let 'em down, and you won't let the Boss down."

There were many things Kidman feared, the unfortunate side-effect of a life built on an upside-down house of cards, and so any excuse to remove one from that designation was met with wanton joy.

“ACMEs! She cried as she ran off the plane. It was cold, but she was wearing the best military surplus she could come by, and like most of VILE, cold wasn’t wholly new. But really, she was far too excited to care. After years trapped in brutal stasis, life sprang anew.

Her first target was Chase, but unable to find him, she went for the next person she knew.

“Ivy! We get to be friends today!”

8 Nevon

Nevon Blair followed everyone else off the plane. He walked down slowly, trying not to trip when he got off the aircraft because it happened a lot for him during training. Only after he got down safely and dusted the snow off his boots did Nev notice how cold it was.

Then he saw the other team. VILE weren't in uniform, they didn't look like they were ready for this, and Blair was happy ACME had their own team of professionals. Vic was the only guy who seemed like he knew what he was doing, but there were some VILE members that looked like they really shouldn't be here.

Nev took in a cold breath or two and reviewed his training in his head. The month of rigorous regime changed the way Blair thought about how he wanted to spend his agent days. Looking at the examples he had around him, he was starting to admire Ivy for her leadership, Deric for his candidness, and even Bran for how he figured out things in steps. The truth was, all the older agents here had something Blair could look up to, and while Chase Devineaux raised the bar ever higher now having survived that Nob Hill attack, Nev saw that he had to reach his own level of excellence before he could even consider Chase as a mentor.

The rookie had with him an ACME Utility Launcher and an HK MP5. As a natural spotter, Nevon took the course with Nace Bilby to hone his spotting skills. Without a sniper rifle, he could still use these skills for scouting.

After watching Ivy make contact with Vic introducing people, Nevon gave a short salute to the V.I.L.E. commander like protocol. Then he went to where his Bunker Boy buddies were standing and poked Dan, "Hey Dan, you remember any of these guys from the Venice Masquerade?"

9 Patty-Larceny

Gliding off the transport aircraft, VILE's Patty Larceny wore her nighttime heist uniform under a dense coat. The tightly woven fabric allowed her to keep warm without making her wardrobe thicker than necessary. She rolled up her sleeves a little to adjust her tactile gloves. The temperature was cold, but London-cold, not Antarctica-cold.

As she looked around, she spotted some familiar faces. The last time she was in the presence of so many ACMEs was the Blue Moon Masquerade in Venice where a bold Chase Devineaux called out to Carmen just when all of ACME removed their masks leaving VILE trapped. Patts still remembered how fast her heart was beating, watching Carmen calmly give Chase the stolen mask while a defiant smile stayed on her lips. The blond would have panicked, everyone would have, but their leader held it together so well that they all anchored themselves to her.

Pulling her hair into a tight ponytail, Larceny put on a black cap. This cap hid her enhanced vision gear, and she tested the goggles's thermal imaging for kicks. 

Her other expertise was sneaking, and that's what she did when she spotted a group of ACME boys she remembered from that one party a long time back.

"Y'all got room for me?" she said in her southern-belle accent, the same one she used with her disguise in Venice. And then she changed to her normal voice, "What's up ACME boys? Never thought I'd see you guys again," looking at the tall Swede she laughed, "Who's this? Porthos?"

10 DetectiveAwesome

Daniel Ainsworth was asleep throughout the entire flight to Kamchatka. While he had trained with Commander Monaghan and Alpha team before, the past four weeks of intensive maneuvers taught him what being tired was really about. A side benefit of this was learning to sleep anywhere and everywhere to conserve energy. During the training, Dan had chosen to take a course in sniping skills from Nace Bilby. Since Nevon Blair was a great spotter, he thought this was a natural choice. They had always worked well together... actually, he remembered talking to Nevon after the original ACME tower had been stolen. They grabbed late-night slushies and had a long conversation about their careers at ACME. They joked about one day going on dangerous missions as a team... Dan never thought that day would come so soon. 

As the team landed and everyone followed Ivy out of the plane, Danny checked his ACME Assault Rifle and the Sig Sauer P226 pistol. The SR-25 sniper rifle was kept with the team's other luggage, along with another 'toy' from ACME's Technology Labs. He made sure to bring 'Shelob' their resident spider drone, who was now fitted to be a little faster and a little more bulletproof just for the raid. It was always good to have an extra pair of eyes. 

When the two ACME and V.I.L.E. teams were introduced, Daniel thought the shorter girl in a robe who recognized their Commander seemed a little too happy for how serious this mission really was. But then again, she was right. They really did get to be friends today... it was historic. 

Nevon said:  "Hey Dan, you remember any of these guys from the Venice Masquerade?"

Daniel looked around, "Nah man. I don't think any of those guys would show--"

Patty said:  "What's up ACME boys? Never thought I'd see you guys again, Who's this? Porthos?"

When he heard the southern drawl Dan immediately remembered the Harlequin at the Blue Moon Masquerade and a slight chill went up his spine. Now what was her name? Lacy? Right! Dan squinted at the blond whose face was half covered with a big cap. In no time at all the girl seemed have blended right into their group, acting all familiar. She almost looked like one of ACME. 

"So you're still with V.I.L.E. huh? Figures." He tried to play cool, remembering something Mr. G said about OPSEC and not fraternizing too much with the enemy, "Should we still call you Lacy Boone?"

11 Ivy [Note: This is a co-post between Kid Kidman, Ivy Monaghan and Joe Kerr.]

It was cold, but Kidman was wearing the best military surplus she could come by, and like most of VILE, cold wasn’t wholly new. Her first target was Chase, but unable to find him, she went for the next person she knew.“Ivy! We get to be friends today!”

Ivy turned when she heard her name called, and recognized the voice. It came from the young woman who stood with Joe Kerr at Carnegie Hall, the same girl they had brought back to ACME.

"Hello Ghost," she greeted. 'Ghost' no longer seemed petrified, the difference in attitude between this and their first meeting was stark. "I guess you don't need that mask anymore."

Behind his mask, Joe sported a warm smile as he walked up to Kidman and Ivy. The latter was one of the few ACMEs Joe was on ‘speaking terms’ with so he decided if he was to extend any olive branches, he would start with her; the fact that the former had beaten him to trying was a pleasant surprise.

“Good day Commander. I do hope you remember me. Unless I’m mistaken, the last time we met we were both wearing different suits though the environment was still just as frosty, in a manner of speaking."

Kidman was surprised to hear Joe come up behind her, but was pleased others were embracing their ACME brethren.

“Unfortunately I still have to stay unknown, but I’ve found more practical ways of it.” She said as she tugged on the neoprene facemask pulled down around her neck and the ski goggles hidden under her hood. “Besides, I trust you. My name, or the name I’ve been given by the guys, is ‘Kid Kidman’.

"Kid Kidman, and Joe Kerr," Ivy repeated their names in confirmation, "So it seems our meeting did result in something. If intel is right, you'll find your leader soon."

“Or at the very least help finish what she started.” Kidman stated resolutely. “I am grateful to ACME for this alliance, not only for the obvious reasons, but because it gives me hope for the future.”

She gestured to the darkness beyond the safety of the lit tents. “We’re much better for each other as friends than enemies.”

Joe raised an eyebrow at Kidman’s statement but resisted the urge to quash the younger agent’s enthusiasm.“Thank you, Commander. I hope for all our sakes that you’re right.”

The poignant silence that followed spoke volumes. Finally Joe broke it the only way he knew how to. “Oh yes, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for taking good care of Kidman during her ‘stay’ with you. I don’t normally recommend such things to VILE agents but as you can see it did her a world of good.”

“Strange, yes?” Kidman added. “I’d never been out of a VILE base before in all my memory, so all I knew about ACME came from stories. You could have done a right amount of nightmare to me, so... thank you.”

The smaller agent felt the urge to hug the woman, but held off.

She was aware her ebullience was out of sync with the prevailing mood, but for three heavy years she had been nearly alone and utterly trapped. The weightlessness of freedom was a rush, and she planned to ride it as long as she could through the coming nightmare.

Pausing to extend an open hand to Ivy, the Jester continued in a more serious tone. “On a slightly sombre note, and I’m sorry to have to bring this up, but since VILE never had the proper channel or opportunity to do so until now...on behalf of VILE, I would like to offer our condolences over the Nob Hill incident. We are genuinely sorry for any losses you may have suffered as a result of the incident.”

Ivy returned the handshake firmly. Nob Hill was a subject on the forefront of everyone's mind, and many agents were still bitterly angry. She remembered how she felt immediately after the attack--it wasn't anger and it wasn't sorrow--it was a drive, a need for justice. Despite the condolences she wondered if V.I.L.E. was here for the same reasons or if securing Carmen's safety was all there was to it.

"Thanks, but you're not the ones that need to be sorry," Ivy looked towards the mountain range that protected Torun Zamok from view, "I'm glad for this truce, truly, and trust me we'll make sure those F*^#&$ don't use that weapon again. The sooner we do that, the sooner V.I.L.E. and ACME can get back to finding each other's bases."

The Jester wisely decided against correcting the Commander and instead opted for silently turning to look at the mountain range her gaze was burning a hole through. As he pondered on the tone of Ivy’s words and the feelings that everyone in attendance seemed to possess, he started to hum softly: “Red - the blood of angry men! Black - the dark of ages past! Red - a world about to dawn! Black - the night that ends at last!”

As he hummed, Joe wondered which he was truly more afraid of - that which lay behind the mountain range or the ticked-off feline that awaited his return to VILE HQ. The

Jester gave an involuntary shudder at the latter.

Elsewhere..a certain auburn-furred cat happened to sneeze...

(note: “Red & Black” is one of the trademark songs of the musical “Les Miserables”)

12 DrRoux (This is a collaboration between DrRoux and Contessa)

Doctor Acton Roux spent his time this past month doing very important things. The first, he trained behind his mask with the ACME instructors only on the qualifications of a field medic. His vocation as doctor of medicine and education from the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie gave him good standing. The second thing, more important, was that he procured his "samples" for travel.

Acton had an aide set up his portable laboratory inside a plane which, as the time for action neared, landed in Hawaii. After gathering all he needed, the doctor rested for the night at a nearby hotel, and arrived early in the morning to depart for Kamchatka.

As he entered his private jet, an odd chill transpired up his back. Through the tinted glasses of his plague mask, Acton espied a vision of influence skilfully painted in colours of grace.

The woman helped herself to his Réserve as soon as he entered, and strangely, he felt honoured to have been of use.
"Comtesse," his greeting muffled little behind his mask and Acton continued en Française, "[I see you have conveniently missed the other plane. You ride with me, I am assuming?]"

Countess Adrianna Covrenzi was a perfectionist. There was nothing she did that was not planned weeks in advanced, from her Michelin-starred breakfasts to her haute couture wardrobes. So it would be very ill assumed that she simply 'missed' the first flight. 

"Monsieur Acton," Adrianna left a crimson kiss on her champagne flute, then continued her conversation in French, "[Have I never told you how curious I am of your work?]"

Acton was not either at ease or enjoying the idea that his research has been exposed, but the very idea that someone else was interested in this brought him marginal pride. The way she phrased her question informed the doctor that he was in for quite the conversation. 

She glanced briefly at the machine that was integral to Dr. Roux's research, but her eyes mainly fixed on the viscous golden liquid contained in a large glass cylinder. She hid a knowing smile. "[Are you bringing this all the way to Kamchatka just to see what Carmen would think?]"

“[I bring it everywhere,]” he made his first rebuke, but it was obvious the woman before him knew much more than Roux had anticipated, “[and what might you know of my work?]”

"[What do I know of your work? I think you are on the verge of something spectacular... something that would be extremely beneficial to me.]" The Countess tossed her silver-blonde hair, and it cascaded neatly, not a strand out of place. 

“[I must warn you, Madame, that this is not simply a cosmetic product.]”

Breaking from French to her accented English, Adrianna continued “For every birthday since I was eight years old my uncle would give me an artifact from his collection. When I was fourteen, it was an amphora, believed to have been used by the Egyptian doctor Imhotep to carry his ‘magical honey’... a substance that could do anything from warding off infection to healing broken limbs. They said it made him live to his hundreds.”


Seeing that she had his full attention the Countess stood. In long strides she stalked around the masked man, so that she spoke to him over his shoulder, “How old are you Doctor Roux?”


“...and what year were you born?”

“Nineteen... seventy.”

“How nice to have been born at the time of Charles de Gaulle.”

“A oui,” he agreed.

“Except... it was Pompidou that was in power, no?”

An odd silence permeated.

“There really is no reason to lie to me. We can be such good friends after all,” The Countess drew a line across the doctor’s back with a well manicured nail. “I have always been fascinated by the story of Imhotep. Consider it a personal mission of mine to unmask overlooked miracles in history. So I propose we work together, I have extensive resources and you have a mind unlike any other.” 

The plague doctor stood in quietude for several seconds. The idea that this woman wanted to collaborate was intriguing, yet uninvited. 
“I am afraid,” he began, “you may not be clear on the methods of my studies. I wear this mask for a reason, Comtesse. I work alone.”

Adrianna was always one to get her way through any means necessary. The plague doctor’s initial response barely fazed her. “I care very little if you keep your mask,” she started, “but I think you should reconsider my proposal. If you don’t have me with you, your last link to V.I.L.E. will be severed. After all, have you not been asked to leave our organisation?”

“And how might you have reached that conclusion?”

“Because I delivered the letter to you in Florence.”   

13 Gunnar

The upturned visor on Gunnar’s helmet frosted as the cold air collided with the shield. He had been told that it was not necessary to wear the helmet for now, but he did not protect his body for his own sake anymore. It was best to be safe now, no matter the circumstance. Therefore, his HK MP5 hung loosely--and very accessibly--at his side. To the exaggerated relief of some other team members, his assault rifle was packed elsewhere.

Over the past month’s time, the young man had pushed himself through the combat and advanced computer training as he would in his sprinting. He questioned his own reasons at times. He had signed his SOUL with a sort of vengeance in his heart, and he wondered if he would soon pay the price for letting emotion control his decision-making.

Walking off the loading ramp, Gunnar followed Danny through the snow, not at all fazed by the opportunity to meet any from V.I.L.E. But it seemed that he could not avoid them long, for a giddy blonde practically skipped over to their location.

Patty-Larceny said:  "Y'all got room for me?" she said in her southern-belle accent, the same one she used with her disguise in Venice. And then she changed to her normal voice, "What's up ACME boys? Never thought I'd see you guys again," looking at the tall Swede she laughed, "Who's this? Porthos?"

The Swede looked at Danny and Nevon quizzically, then turned and squinted at the odd V.I.L.E. agent. “What?” He had not understood half that she had said. “Why am I... Porthos?” Uncomfortable being thrown into such a social situation, he nudged Danny for conversational support and shifted his footing.

14 Calico

Cali Corranos began her day focusing. The month that passed, she trained some of the agents on how to use explosives. Today was the day that she would use this knowledge as examples for others as well as herself. But something else she began to feel over the past month was Deric's protectiveness. It might just be her thinking, but he had not been the same since the event at Nob Hill. She hoped this was only a temporary change and his worries would be normal again after the mission.

Then she can talk to him about how her family was not so open to him. Everything after this mission.

Once she exited the plane after Commander Monaghan, she began to do an inventory check on her equipment. Cali will only be carrying a small sidearm, the rest of her firepower will come from the utility launcher and her explosives. She looked at VILE with suspicion, but she admired very much Ivy's ability to speak to them on common ground. That is something she knows Deric can also do. If you can be kind to your enemies, you can of course be kind to the protective parents of your namorada.

Cali greeted Vic the Slick with a familiar salut.

"You are well?" she asked pleasantly in her Brasil accent, "our second mission together in one year, yes?"

15 Vic-the-Slick Ivy Said:

“Vincent Fumigalli” Ivy greeted, extending a S.T.U.N. gloved hand to shake his. “Seems we have some time to get acquainted before the brief. Let me introduce the officers you’ll be working with.”

She sounded off names as they stood, “Eugene Grovington, Nace Bilby, Eleanor Mayhem, Gunnar Svensson, Constance Kitlyn, Sophie Conrad, Daniel Ainsworth, Nevon Blair,” Ivy paused, “…and I think you’ve already met Deric Storm and Calina Corranos in Panama.”

Cali Said:
Cali greeted Vic the Slick with a familiar salut.
"You are well?" she asked pleasantly in her Brasil accent, "our second mission together in one year, yes?"

Vincent Fumigalli greeted Ivy with a handshake, then the Brazilian with another handshake.

"Devineaux didn't say we were gonna be meeting again," he said to Calina Corranos then he turned to Ivy, "Good t'know the pros are on this one." He said just enough before she was greeted by Kidman and got pulled into a convo with the kid and Joe Kerr.

"We're not prepared for full-on assault," Vic told Cali, "but if y'got tips, I'd be happy to hear."

The last time he met both Cali and Deric, they did impress him on how ACME worked. There weren't any hard feelings, these two kids were following orders and they followed it well. If he was ever mad at anyone, it'd be Devineaux. Then again Devineaux was now supposedly in the structure, doing some dirty work before the teams tackled it, so this made sufficient mixed feelings on Vic's part. There wasn't a difference between ACME and VILE at this point. They were here for the mission, and they were all going to do their best to get it right.

All Fumigalli can do was look out for his team and hope that, at the end of this, everybody got to go home.

16 Patty-Larceny

Dan said:

"So you're still with V.I.L.E. huh? Figures." He tried to play cool, "Should we still call you Lacy Boone?" 

Patty blinked. She hardly remembered the alias she used, and here was an ACME boy remembering a 2-second introduction that happened two years ago. Dude.

"Whatever," she rolled her eyes, "Call me Blondie if you want."

 Gunnar said: 

“What? Why am I... Porthos?” 

"He's Athos," she pointed to Dan, "he's Aramis," she pointed to Nevon, "and I met d'Artagnan at the masquerade," she turned back to the Swede, "Plus you're tall, so that makes you Porthos. Why do I have to keep explaining things to you ACME boys, you never took a class on 19th century literature?"

Patty studied the object the boys were huddled around. Guns and things, but something else creepy crawly caught her eyes.

"Is that a robot?" She saw the limb from under a loose bag and gave it a little nudge with her foot. The bot reacted and positioned itself so it could 'see' her, "Oh my God! That's so cute! It's like you have a seeing-eye spider!"

She tested the drone, pushing it and making it fall over a few times, giggling when it corrected itself.

"This will totally save your lives," she laughed, "I'll name it Shaggy."

17 Sophie

Doctor Sophie Conrad had been one of the first few to exit the Mil Mi-8, skipping out of transport helicopter’s side-door and directly into the below-freezing winds that swept across the once-abandoned Lenino airbase. She pulled the polarised goggles that had been stretched across the crown of her head over her eyes to protect them from the cold and the snow and debris that had been swept up by the helicopter’s downdraft and dug the thread of her boots into the frozen ground. Her red hair had been neatly tucked beneath a knitted beanie but tendrils of it loosened themselves in the wind and swirled around her face. Finding a firm footing, she took a three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn, visually examining the foreign environment around her.

She appreciated the cold, the sensation of a million microscopic daggers of ice piercing into the skin of her cheeks. The air smelled of moss and was tinted with sulphur, and she was once told that to feel the cold was a blessing, for it was when one felt nothing that one should be troubled.

Sophie pulled a scarf over her face and turned away from the sight of the volcanic belt in the far distance, visible in the black night only because of their white-capped peaks and the scattered wisps of smoke drifting from their summits. The bright red-and-white insignia of the red cross across her upper arm identified her and she was patiently introduced before she followed the directions of an earlier arrival and made her way into one of the tents. It was immediately warmer out of the wind.

Meanwhile, the ACME unit she had travelled with worked swiftly, unloading the crates of supplies that had been previously lashed to the reinforced floor of the Mi-8. Four 80-litre heavy-duty plastic crates were stacked two-on-two, their covers and sides clearly marked as belonging to ACME Medical. Sophie released the watertight locks of the top two crates and took off their covers. Despite having travelled over three-thousand seven-hundred miles, the items in the crates were still as intact and neatly arranged as Sophie remembered them to be. Garnering the help of an ACME bystander with the movement of the storage boxes, she knelt down on the ground to inspect the bottom two crates in a similar fashion. Satisfied that the contents of her crates were safe, she resealed three, systematically depressing the locks on all of their four sides until she heard the satisfying ‘click’s, before allowing them to be restacked accordingly.

In view of the collaboration between ACME and VILE, she had packed enough supplies for both organisations. However, until she personally met the medical team from VILE and until the necessary time and orders arrived, the contents of the crates would remain under her protection…

18 EarlJr

For having spent a sizeable portion of his life in warzones, everything about this raid felt completely foreign to Eugene.

As he walked down the loading ramp, Euge took in his surroundings.  Sensors networked throughout the entire team fed him data he couldn't perceive otherwise, making up for the relative blindness of his own suit; ambient temperature, trace elements in the air, even voice stress in individual conversations was all sifted through by onboard computers in an effort to keep Euge aware of his environment.  Most of the information was out of focus on his partially retracted visor, but the colorful haze of data kept the details of this raid at the forefront of his mind.

Pausing when he heard snow crunching underfoot, Eugene looked around somewhat indecisively.  All systems onboard the ASP had been running constant diagnostics the entire flight in, preparing for a possible hot insertion.  Having this time to gather in base camp left him with little to do, and Euge’s mind began to wander.  His gaze rested briefly upon several field agents who had acquitted themselves admirably during previous raids, but most of them were cops, suddenly forced into the role of a soldier.  Euge wondered how many believed in ACME’s line, and if their faith in the agency would be as strong after the dust settled...  He stopped that train of thought abruptly.  

Left unchecked, doubts always snuck in during downtime, and Euge restarted his gear checks and diagnostics to help clear his head.

19 Chase [Credits: Mikal Darsha, Chase Devineaux]

In the morning of January 12, 2013, ACME’s Director of Operations attempted to contact VILE’s Fearless Leader, but received no reply. The transceiver failed, but gave no feedback on why. He thought to wait, but she brought them directly to the enemy, and one check-in wasn’t going to matter now.
In the time that it took for the ACME Field Team to reach their Forward Operating Base at Lenino airport, Chase Devineaux and Mikal Darsha were already gathering information. 

Torun Zamok seemed impenetrable, but from the sea a temporary ladder of ice provided necessary access. The men scaled a frozen waterfall that linked the ocean to the Watch Tower’s natural drainage system. Without the intricate channels throughout the structure, the stones would buckle and collapse from melted snow runoffs trapped in its crevices. At the top of this massive water trail, they found a metal grate, cut and opened in anticipation of their arrival. 

A gift from your friend?” Mikal looked at the recent tool marks. 

Devineaux only shrugged. 

Within the first two hours, the agents confirmed that much of the floorplans were correct and relayed this information back to the team at Lenino via the ACME radio. There were five main areas, The Watchtower an ancient stone refuge that overlooked the sea; The Castle, also an original ancient structure that held a former church, now  used as a semi-formal meeting area; The Fortress built sometime before the castle as a defensive base, held four towers and served as living quarters for some of the mercenaries; the Wedge, a connecting area between new and old buildings, constructed later with modern materials seemed primarily used for storage; and finally the Silo, housing for a soviet missile that was possibly finished and abandoned during the cold war era. They believed the weaponized C-5 would be held in either the church portion of The Castle, or within the Silo. 


[Rough floorplan of Torun Zamok]

They later confirmed that the number of mercenaries were approximately 120, that the kitchen was a dirty, wet place that served nothing but bad cabbage soups, and that while the old structure had stone walls ten feet thick, breaching was possible on certain sidings made of cheap modern plasterboards... they found all this, but saw no sign of the elusive Carmen Sandiego. She was never the type of woman to make these things easy.

[Four hours elapsed time.]
In the dark south tower, Mikal stood over the convulsing body of a man, pinning his neck down with the heel of his boot. The Moroccan mercenary gagged, unable to yell due to the pressure on his throat. 

Chase Devineaux whispered through the microphone, his voice ejecting from a static burst, “What was that?

...Nothing,” Mikal replied in a plain tone. The man, weak and losing blood, held on to Darsha’s foot with all his diminishing strength before finally letting go. 

Cameras facing The Watchtower are disabled,” From the ceiling, Chase confirmed; and upon seeing the dead man, asked Mikal, “How many?

One,” Mikal confirmed, “They will not miss one, yeah?

The intelligence gathering had been smooth so far, but only because Chase had never lost touch with his Force Recon background and Mikal... well, Mikal knew he was born for this. He looked down at the dead lump of a man at his feet. If they hid the body correctly, no one would notice it until the field team arrived for the attack. Darsha lifted the man across his shoulder, noticing a pool of dark blood on the straw floor. It had been a while since he was this messy with evidence, but they weren’t in any position to do proper clean up. 

Then they heard the door. 

“Tiago? Time for shift--” A thin wiry man who wore no shirt under a plate carrier yelled as he stood in the entranceway. Behind him was a larger beast, a man whose face looked like it had been through several rotations of battle and healing time. Immediately they drew their kalashnikovs at the intruders.

Mikal slowly backed in a direction away from the door and the two armed men entered the room after him. It would have been a simple drop-and-disable tactic on Chase’s part, except the beast swapped positions with his buddy, demanding something in mumbled Russian while the thin man stood behind him. Devineaux had to opt for momentum. He swung down from the ceiling, kicking the giant in the head. The beast toppled back onto his smaller companion who, out of fright, fired a few rounds into an arch as he descended. In the chaos, Mikal moved to end two additional lives but he was quickly denied when Chase stood up. 

Ceiling,” the Captain said, “move!

He was right, and Mikal followed the order. Those shots were more warning than they needed, and it was better to disappear now. Devineaux cupped his side as he climbed and Darsha became worried.

You were hit?

I'm fine,” Chase replied, “but they got the satellite radio.

20 Lee-Jordan

Lee Jordan surveyed the area at Lenino through rounded windows. Sensitive computer equipment had to stay heated or they would freeze, so everything stayed inside an ACME-transformed Boeing 747. This was only one of a few planes that landed in Lenino carrying both equipment and people.

He had two technicians with him to help hack into systems ACME might encounter, one guy was Russian, the other was Danish, both experts in their fields. Jordan was probably the least qualified of them, but this was one of the few times he could pull rank as a "senior informant." Even Lee had to have a sense of humour, and he thought that title was worth a laugh or two.

"Radio, down," Adal the Danish tapped on his screen to get Jordan's attention, "There, no signal."

"Check network status?" ACME had the strongest satellite communication network available, but under rare circumstances, ground equipment could fail.

"Up," replied Uric the Russian, "everything go. Pings to target, no reply."

"What about the back-up?"

"No reply."

That meant the infiltration team's satellite radio was off. With the ground antennas surrounding the no-fly zone that was Torun Zamok monitored by the hostiles, there was no way of setting up communication at this distance.

Jordan put on his jacket and left the heated area, entering a small airlock in front of the airplane's door to the frozen wasteland. Here, he picked up his radio and called the Commander.

"Commander Monaghan, there might be a situation," he reported, "can you meet me at the comms plane? Something you should look at."

((If anybody is confused, Lee Jordan has a small tech team inside their own plane, because equipment need to stay warm. It's easier to use a plane than to unload into freezing tents and try heating the tents.))

21 Ivy [Note: This is a story-moving post, that places agents at the briefing tent and forwards the timeline.]

When Ivy Monaghan approached the communications plane she saw Lee Jordan standing at the entrance. He told her about the radio disconnection, and that the last intercepted message may have included an unknown voice and the sound of gunfire. This was the worse news she could possibly get so early in the game, and the commander felt her throat tighten in response. Scanning over possible scenarios in her head, Ivy decided they needed to act immediately. 

“Follow me to the briefing tent.” She told Jordan as they headed towards where ACME and V.I.L.E. were gathering.

The newly set-up briefing tent was utilitarian, consisting of only a few chairs, a central table, and a projector screen for information. As she entered, Ivy noticed that people sat according to their designated teams. Deric Storm at the front with Delta, Eugene Grovington leaning against a wall with the rest of Alpha, Medical personnel (Meridian) were next to their field equipment, and V.I.L.E.--who may still have lingering trust issues about this entire mission--stood close to the exit. 

"I'm sorry to cut formalities short," She spoke as soon as the metal door closed, her voice immediately drawing the crowd’s attention. "We lost contact with the infiltration team. They are presumed captured," or dead, Ivy didn't say aloud, "which means we're moving in right now."

On the screen behind her, a labeled blueprint of Torun Zamok appeared. It was almost unnecessary, for the past four days ACME had poured over these plans, committing every turn and corner into memory. Each team was briefed on their points of entry, objectives and finally the exit strategy. 

As the agents analyzed incoming data, Ivy looked up and only saw a stream of familiar faces. The people here have known her as a friend, instructor, and in the case of V.I.L.E., even an adversary. Through the unpredicted circumstances that brought them to Kamchatka, they now needed her to be a commander. That factor made her feel anxious and transparent, but there wasn’t time to dwell on it. Ivy inhaled, forcing herself into composure before giving the call to move.

"ACME, you know the mission and the risks. But there's a reason the agency sent us here instead of a pack of mercenaries: you are law enforcement trained in the Use-of-Force-Continuum. Your goal is containment and arrest, and you will shoot only when necessary. As agents, your duty is to keep the peace, and when you leave this place you will continue to uphold justice. Always remember why you are here." 

Mission Objectives Briefing Agents, please write your next post arriving at Torun Zamok with your team. Below are briefing details. These are only suggestions, plans may change as the story progresses. Have fun!

[Alpha Team: Ivy, Euge, Calina, Eleanor, Tomas (NPC)] Main Objective(s):  (1) Break through the Wedge and find The Silo. (2) Secure Weaponized C-5.
Secondary Objective(s):  (1) Find and rescue Chase Devineaux and Mikal Darsha
Ideal Entry: You will be inserted by CE-880 helicopter (fast-rope) to the north-east of Tourn Zamok, make your way on foot to the area called the Wedge. Demolitions will blast through the weak walls around the Wedge. 

[Delta Team: Deric, Gunnar, Nevon, Daniel, Nace] Main Objective(s):  (1) Infiltrate the Watchtower. Establish a safe zone for Meridian  (2) Take the North Tower and hold it from enemies. 
Secondary Objectives:  (1) Find and arrest Alfie N. Barber (Tweed)  (2) Open the front door for V.I.L.E. 
Ideal Entry: Inserted by CE-880 helicopter onto the beach (fast-rope), enter quiet through the drainage system at the Watchtower.  Establish a safe zone for Meridian to set up a temporary base, then make your way to the North Tower. The North Tower is a strategic point, it's critical you hold it down. Spare people to find Tweed if possible.

[Meridian: Sophie, Connie, Roux, Kidman] Meridian is the the only team consisting of both V.I.L.E. and ACME members. Remember that you will be protected by Delta, and establish a base at the Watch Tower. The watch tower needs to remain free of enemies, it will also be our point of extraction.

[V.I.L.E.: Vic, Patty, Joe Kerr] Main Objective: Check the worker's village and find Carmen Sandiego. Secondary Objective: Provide a distraction for ACME, or enter as support after Carmen is secure. Ideal Entry: Dropped off by helicopter a safe distance to the south-west of Torun Zamok, and make your way on foot to the worker’s village.

22 Flag (Collab post with Joe and Chase. Sorry that it took so long to post. Real life got really weird and kicked me around some.)

The woman, Lancaster, had led Flag down to the arena so that he could observe the "potential candidates" for their upcoming mission as they tested their skills against each other. She had not stuck around in favor of getting the helicopter ready, but had promised to return to great the team.

"All stuff someone in charge would do..." Flag observed under his breath.

"What was that?" Inquired Olga as she stepped up to the railing of the arenas observation deck.

"Nothing." He said as he turned to address his accomplice. "The meeting went better than expected. They're letting me pick our team."

"Oh wow! Seriously! That's... that's almost too easy.'

Flag nodded. "Yeah..." 

"You think we need a wild card?"

The Sivoan shrugged. "Maybe. What would you suggest?"

Olga pointed to a figure in the arena that had just dropped his opponent. "What about Karnak? They seem to favor him a lot."

Flag picked up on her tone. "Do you favor him?"

"Maybe..." Olga half admitted.

"Heh. Fine. Go ask him." He permitted. 

"Yay!" Olga exclaimed as she jumped the railing and skipped off in the direction of one of the compounds most notorious mercenaries. Like most of the elite mercenaries, Karnak had finished the session without much of a scratch. They had known from that start that they were being observed and seemed to share an unspoken agreement that going all out under these circumstances was unwise. Instead, they had split their time between respectful sparring and fending off challenges from the younger upstarts eager to make a name for themselves.

Karnak was smirking as he recalled the half-dozen upstarts he had just sent to the ICU, or at least wherever the Man in Tweed disposed of the weaklings that didn’t make the cut. His thoughts were interrupted by the approaching female mercenary that seemed a little too eager to greet him.

“Are you lost?”

"Not at all!" Beamed Olga. "We're going on a mission. Wanna come?"

Karnak didn’t know much about Olga; he had a measure of respect for her for being a woman in man’s world and being darn good at it, but at the same time he wasn’t looking to become best friends anytime soon.

“Funny, I didn’t hear anything about a mission from Umnaj or that stuck up b****.” 

Olga paused long enough to frown at that. She then turned and pointed at Flag standing on the observation platform. "That's weird. Melana just brought him down here to pick out teammates." 

“Last I heard, I was already in a ‘team’ with him” 

Karnak emphasized the last word by pointing at the approaching Umnaj. 

“We already have a ‘Tiger Hunt’ planned,” he added with a laugh.

To anyone else, that last statement may have been passed over as an inside joke between Karnak and Umnaj; Umnaj however, immediately understood the hidden message therein.

Olga had dawned one of her classic confused expressions and was about to ask about the inside joke she missed when the sound of a horn suddenly echoed across the grounds.

"Everybody grab your gear!" A voice shouted in English then Russian, and several other languages, "Gear and weapons! Get to your posts!" A woman named Morgan, leader of the Spanish/Portuguese team, appeared among the crowd and headed straight to Worawut, giving him a knowing nod before speaking.

"Forget whatever you're doing, we have men down," she said, "Upstairs wants us to do a headcount of our team members, then find the bastards dumb enough to infiltrate the castle.

23 DericStorm

Deric sat in the tent that served as the briefing room for the joint ACME-VILE operation. ‘Googly, ain’t that a trip,’ he thought not for the first time since arriving in Russia. Normally, the only place members of these two groups were in the same place would be in an interrogation room. However, the events of the past couple months have led to this strange alliance to face a common enemy.

‘The enemy of my enemy…’ he thought, looking around the room, waiting for the briefing to begin. He saw that pretty much the entire collective was sitting with their assigned groups. His team, Delta squad, were sitting clustered together near the front of the room. VILE, not surprisingly, was standing near the only way in and out of the tent. Deric wondered, when things got hinky, if VILE would cut bait and leave ACME to the wolves. He saw the medical team, his main priority once they had established a base inside the fortress, poring over their equipment. His gaze around the room finally brought him to Alpha Team… well, one member of Alpha Team in particular...


Deric did not like the fact that they were on opposite teams. He understood that his girlfriend’s explosives expertise were needed in Alpha’s primary mission, but the fact that she was going right into the lion’s den scared the hell out of him.

Locking eyes with her, he gave Cali a warm smile and motioned to the empty seat next to him. As she sat, Deric interlocked his hand with hers.

Cali's mind had been so much on the topic of infiltration that she was surprised to feel Deric's palm clasping her hand. She instantly understood that he wanted a moment, because some things do not need language to communicate. But because she didn't know what he really wanted to say, she began to feel a little anxious too. How could she be nervous now? At the moment when everyone must perform for the team?

Deric was about to say something encouraging when his train of thought was interrupted by the arrival of Commander Monaghan.

Ivy said:  "I'm sorry to cut formalities short," She spoke as soon as the metal door closed, her voice immediately drawing the crowd’s attention. "We lost contact with the infiltration team. They are presumed captured," or dead, Ivy didn't say aloud, "which means we're moving in right now."

On the screen behind her, a labeled blueprint of Torun Zamok appeared. It was almost unnecessary, for the past four days ACME had poured over these plans, committing every turn and corner into memory. Each team was briefed on their points of entry, objectives and finally the exit strategy.

"ACME, you know the mission and the risks. But there's a reason the agency sent us here instead of a pack of mercenaries: you are law enforcement trained in the Use-of-Force-Continuum. Your goal is containment and arrest, and you will shoot only when necessary. As agents, your duty is to keep the peace, and when you leave this place you will continue to uphold justice. Always remember why you are here."

“All right, boys,” Deric said, addressing his team, “time to mount up. Grab your gear and be back here in seven.” As the room dispersed, he found a quick moment alone with Cali. Not knowing what to say, Deric did the only thing he could think of: pull her into a quick hug and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“Tenha cuidado, querido,” Deric said to Cali’s retreating form as she joined her team for the mission.

24 EarlJr [Note: this is a story moving post that places Alpha team at Torun Zamok.]

The CE-880 was the latest and greatest thing to come out of ACME labs.  Touted as ‘low observability’, the helicopter had rotors that looked more like sawblades and an oddly shimmering silver finish.  The strange shapes, intended to minimize the noise signature, made it look like it had struck a few trees already.  To Euge, all it did was give the rotors a strange hissing tone.

“30 seconds to drop!” came the call from the pilot, prompting Euge to open the side hatch and grip the coiled fastrope line just a bit harder.  In the distance, he could see Torun Zamok rapidly approaching, its bright floodlights starting to wash out the ASP’s night vision even at this distance.  A quick zoom in of his visor showed sentries prowling the tops of the castle walls, but their attention seemed to be directed inside the facility.  ‘Maybe Chase is still giving them grief’, Euge thought hopefully.  

Abruptly, the helicopter pitched backwards into a hover; his cue to snap out of zoom and toss the cable to the ground.  Alpha had done fast rope insertions back at Alameda until it was instinct, and Euge said each of his teammate’s names in his head as he watched them grip the line.  His HUD confirmed his mental count of the rest of the team off the helicopter, and Euge gripped the line in preparation to join them when something at the castle caught his eye.  

Another light had come on at the castle, and started accelerating towards the sky.  Euge’s eyes widened slightly as he realized what it was, and he swung down the rope as the missile arced towards the helicopter.  The rest of Alpha was sprinting towards the fort when Euge hit the ground, and the pilot wasted no time in going evasive.  It was too little, too late though, as the missile detonated near the rotor head.

Alpha could do nothing but watch the helicopter dip below the cliff face and listen to the oddly calm mayday call, followed shortly by silence.  Euge was the first to break the quiet with a radio call; “Ironhead, Papa 3 is down.  Be advised, hostiles have anti-air.”

The call seemed to snap the rest of the team out of their stupor, and as one, Alpha covered the distance to their target; hugging close to the castle in order to keep out of view of the watchtowers.  There were still multiple sensors apparent on the walls of the fort, but a quick query to the network warfare team at base camp confirmed they wouldn’t be a problem.

They arrived at the designated section of wall, and Cali took a long glance before dropping to a knee and opening her pack.  Adhering a shaped charge to the wall, she flashed an OK hand signal and retreated to a safe distance while the rest of the team stacked up.  Euge would be first through the breach, allowing his heavy armor to soak up the brunt of the anticipated gunfire.  

The tap on his shoulder meant everyone behind him was ready, and with a steadying breath, Euge activated the charge.

25 Vic-the-Slick [Placing VILE (except for Contessa) at Torun Zamok]

So while the ACMEs got their fancy silver airplane that probably costed more than the amount of cash Vic's ever seen in one Vegas Casino's safe, VILE had their own stealth plane-helicopter hybrid with rotors encased in big circular doughnuts that acted like noise scramblers. One small craft, nicknamed Raven, could hold about four people including the pilot. Vic, Patty, and Joe put the aircraft at almost maximum capacity.

The same craft that once flew silently over museums world wide was now hovering quietly near a small village full of workmen. Fumigalli put the plane on auto pilot. 
Things were going peachy, until in the distance, one of ACME's aircraft met up with a giant ball of fire. It came out of nowhere, an anti-air missile, and the stealth copter went down in smoke and flames.

"Holy peanuts, they got anti-air," Vic muttered loudly, "Everybody rope down before they see us! Now-now now, let's skit!"

Off they went, three professional thieves, onto a location not too far from the village. With the sandy snow under them and the castle watching not far beyond, they were nearly invisible.

Then as Vic punched in a command on his remote control to have the Raven go land and wait for further command, a missile flared towards the machine. Being a smaller craft the bird was versatile, Vic hit the buttons on the controller and it twisted the rotors, went vertical, and dodged a bullet. Hopefully, it'd be far enough away by the time it landed.

"Alright, that was close," Fumigalli said to Patty and Joe, "We search for something here, anything," he looked around, "What say we stick together and we start askin' questions. After that anti-aircraft light show, looks like the villagers are all alert by now."

26 Contessa

Humming engines and human chatter in several languages filled the cold night's air, and Contessa was reminded of V.I.L.E.'s glory days of adrenaline filled heists.

As she saw Dr. Roux leave with the ACME medical team, her thoughts rested on what would become of his experiments should he perish in this dangerous mission. She suddenly smiled. No, people like Roux would not simply die so easily, the world could not put a man through all that so that he could have a normal end. In truth, she placed herself in the same self elevating category, but she wasn't going to risk her health entering the fray with V.I.L.E. Instead, Contessa assigned herself to stay at Lenino and ensure that their organization had a leg at base and a safe escape once all this was over. 

She waited where it was warm in the Comms Plane. As part of the temporary truce, both ACME and V.I.L.E. would share radio communications, it seemed the most basic way to prevent "funny business" as Vic-the-Slick would call it. Adrianna selected a soft leather seat which she found acceptable, forcing the previous owner to grab a metal folding chair as he worked beside her. She slipped the headphones over her ears and looked over the screen which showed basic information of where the teams were located. 

In her peripheral vision she thought she saw Lee Jordan. It surprised her that ACME extended an olive branch to the man,  he reminded her of a younger version of her late husband, always arriving when he was least expected, and being so difficult to rid of. 

A short message came over the speaker, one of the ACME pilots giving off a calm mayday call. It was followed shortly by confirmation from the ground team. 

Eugene said:   “Ironhead, Papa 3 is down.  Be advised, hostiles have anti-air.”

Contessa paused, thinking that the ACME agent's voice was oddly familiar. She then awaited a reply from V.I.L.E., hearing none, the Contess relayed a message to Vic.

"Darling, are all the children safe?"

27 Kidman

It was hard to pinpoint just where the sense of loss began. It could have been when Carmen disappeared. It could have been when VILE met a year later with nothing to show. It may have started even further back, upon the night the girl had failed to impress, or even further still, when she had withdrawn from the world.

Yet through it all, Carmen was there, somewhere. Physical proof transformed to spiritual, but it was no less valid to her. It was more, enough to drive a fearful recluse out into the unknown for her, but answers would not be granted without a price. From the moment the pen left Kidman’s fingers, the last vestiges of Carmen’s presence faded from her.

It happened so slowly that she didn’t notice the question of Carmen change from ‘where’ to ‘why’. She didn’t notice her growing aversion to speaking of her, about finding her, of anything that would imply she was still alive. Tunnel vision enveloped as training commenced, obscuring the shift from rescue to completing a final wish, even now as she sat in the flickering darkness of the tent.

Her fellows were with her now, but somehow she felt closer aligned with ACME. Deep within her heart VILE had become a warm but tragic reminder of what had once been, while ACME embodied the harsh reality of the future. Despite finding their reasons misguided, ACME’s directives more closely matched her own, along with providing the strong leadership she so desperately craved to achieve it.

And so as Commander Monaghan reiterated that she would not be traveling with her fellows in the search for Carmen, Kidman found no explanation for the strange sense of relief it brought. The fear of finding Carmen’s frozen form sleeping in a frost filled bunker still hadn’t broken through, nor would it as the meeting adjourned. The last threads of heady freedom pulled loose and she surrendered to the mission, but above, beyond the fog, her spirit made a promise to her lost divine.

‘Omnes qui transit sub meas manus vivet.’

 As Carmen would have wanted.

28 Joe_Kerr

In the darkness, Joe fumbled through the small pouch slung around his torso. His gloved fingers brushed across its contents until they came upon their quarry - a pair of night-vision binoculars, courtesy of ACME. 

On pulling out his prize, Joe was dismayed to find that it had been a wasted effort. As Vic had pointed out, the ruckus from the 'fireworks' had roused a good number of the villagers. In the distance, many lights could be seen flickering into life and their collective glow would act like a lighthouse beacon for the three thieves.

"Guess, I won't be getting to try out my new toy just yet," he said softly to no one in particular. Turning to his comrades, he continued in a whisper that was barely loud enough for them to hear.

"Hey, I was just wondering, anyone here speak Russian?"

29 Carmen

As morning hours swung like a pendulum from the dark winter skies of Kamchatka, an older woman hung a tattered rag out to dry over the smoke of a red flame. She called herself Esfir from Vilyuchinsk, but in truth she was born somewhere closer to Saint Petersburg and was given as many names as the kilometres she had traveled in the course of her lifetime. Her two sons, both naval mechanics, answered a call to work at the Torun; and as she found less reason to be useful back home, Esfir followed them here. Not many labourers were older than forty-five, and while she was not yet a babushka, she often felt like one.

The workmen's village was quiet now, but within the hour, a shift change would commence. These were the intervals dominated by women like Esfir, who made sure food was ready and clothes were available for personnel. 

"Mama Esfir," a gauzy voice called her name as if it had formed from the wind. The older woman turned to find a beautiful lady smiling back at her, "[I am Zoya. Where are your sons?]"*

Taking a few moments to gather herself, Esfir answered in the politest version of Eastern Slavic she could muster, "[Luka is fetching water, and Pav is inside, coming out soon. The lady want them for work now?]" Despite seeing this woman for the first time, experience taught the mother that she was not addressing a worker. Zoya's eyes hinted of scholarly virtue and her mannerism made her seem like a leader, lending to the notion that she must be from the fortress.

"Net," replied the visitor with a slight appreciative gesture, "[We're leaving this place before danger arises. I've heard both your sons are submarine pilots.]"

"[Yes, but--]" Before Esfir could finish her sentence, a distant horn sounded and her attention shifted to a glowing canon fire from the fort's depths. This ball hit an object barely visible in the lowlight, and the resulting explosion sent villagers into mild panic. Soon, another rocket charged towards a second target, this time closer to the gates and to the South.

"Raven," a whispered word unknown to the Russian escaped from the woman's lips and Esfir mistook it for a curse. As a parent of two boys, she understood well the body language expressed when plans change.

"[Mother, let me borrow your shawl]," Zoya promptly requested and Esfir complied, "[Stay safe]," instructed the younger woman in a sincere tone as she draped the scarf over her tight curls, "[Stay safe, keep your sons with you. I will find you.]" 

Before Esfir could verify her agreement, armed guards left their usual posts surrounding the village and began to shout in crude Russian. There would be no shift changing, and everyone was to go into the castle to be counted. The older woman turned back to gauge any reaction that might come from her new friend, but found no one. Wilfully, she checked her neck to make sure that borrowed cloth was gone; and that her sanity was not. 

*Bracketed text translated from Russian

30 Narrator [Special extra story post credit to: Chase Devineaux and Carmen Sandiego.]

Meanwhile, inside the fortress of Torun Zamok...

The entire compound was on high alert. Mercenaries divided into assigned teams with their own areas to cover. A few, either scattered or deflected, were unaccounted for; and an order was quickly issued to bring all the workmen from the village into the fortress for a full headcount.

Sitting over a control panel in front of a large display of security feeds, the Man in Tweed cupped a hand over the top of his cane and slowly rolled it as if he were stroking the head of some deceased pet. Behind him, the door opened with force and a lone figured entered.

"She's here," Lancaster announced as soon as the entrance sealed, "It's her, or else we'd find the intruders by now."

Barber nodded slowly.

"She's tricked that silver-haired punk," the woman assumed harshly, and then lowered her voice, "show me the tapes, I want to see everything."

"You give her too much credit," Tweed spoke softly, "if it's truly her, I doubt we'll find much."

Moving his chair aside, he revealed the central monitors.

"Lucky for us," Barber continued, "it's not her." 

The three screens each displayed loops of recently recorded events. One showed a barely visible helicopter hit by a missile, in the middle was a security feed from the Watchtower that flickered an unidentifiable human form just before the screen turned dark, and the last monitor showed a craft dodging incoming fire and disappearing from view.

"Wait, pause," Lancaster fully focused on the Watchtower's blurred face. There were only three frames of this man, but that was enough.
Her eyes marked instant recognition.

"You little cheat," Melana Lancaster accused an absent adversary, "…you had to bring him."

31 Flag

Although he had missed the details and call to arms, Flag knew something was amiss when his own personal envoy to Tweed came to collect him. Because he wasn't a mercenary or a scientist, he was to be counted among the workers from the workmen’s village that lay within the fortresses shadow.

"No.... I don't think so." He had told her before making a gesture that allowed one of the other mercenaries he stole, Ronin, to take her out. From there he had advised him to go find Randal and the rest of the team and meet him in the the reception area on the second basement level.

On more than one occasion, Flag had compared Torun Zamok to a colony of fire ants - a bunch of volatile creatures somehow living in agreement underground. Now that someone had effectively kicked the pile and sent the inhabitants scrambling to bite them, he was going to cut loose and make off with his treasure.

He and Olga had almost made it to the elevator when they heard a loud - and utterly indescribable - noise erupt from what seemed to be the mountain itself.

"The hell was that?!" Olga shouted at him.

"I don't know, but we need to hurry."

32 Joe_Kerr (Now for a little Mercenary action...)

Somewhere in Torun Zamok

Umnaj Worawut stared down each member of his group as he performed the perfunctory role call; Professional bounty hunter and former Lieutenant of the Filipino Army,  Fosco B. Onio stood at attention, watching Worawut nervously; To his right stood the former member of the Chinese Special Forces, ‘Cold-faced Killer’ Yi Wei; On the right of the two stood Marco Salamin, a former leader of the Indonesian Guerilla Forces, and on their left was a grinning Karnak. 

All four men stood clothed in the battle armour that their employer had so graciously provided for just such an occasion. Umnaj was in full “General” mode and glared down each man whilst walking up and down in his own battle armour. After he was sufficiently certain that there would be no threat of insubordination, he addressed his men.

“Am I to be correct in saying that each of the 8 men you have under you are all accounted for and ready to receive orders?”

“Sir, yes sir!” barked out all four Captains. 

“Good. I trust that each of you are aware of the current situation facing this place?”

Another affirmative was yelled out by the men before him and acknowledged by a small nod.

“From the reports we have received, there appear to be at the moment two or three individuals who have managed to somehow break into our location. Of these three, General Lancaster has issued orders that these two...”

Worawut showed them the pictures that had been relayed to him by Lancaster; One was of a certain woman with long dark hair and piercing hazel eyes, the other a screenshot of one of the intruders taken by the security cameras;

“...are to be captured and brought to her alive.”

Worawut made a point of glaring at Karnak who had just rolled his eyes at the last statement. Turning back to the others, he continued.

“Our anti-air guns have taken down one aircraft but we suspect there will be others. Sufficient to say that we expect our three current intruders to be joined by more reinforcements.”

Karnak licked his lips whilst Marco and Foscoe had their eyes light up; Yi Wei stayed true to his reputation by remaining impassive.

“Our orders are as follows: Guard the Silo at all costs. No one is to make it through us. If you spot any intruder, you may shoot to kill immediately. Am I clear?”

“What about those two that Lancaster wants alive?” asked Marco. “I said SHOOT TO KILL. Any questions?”

“NO SIR!!!” replied all 4 captains.

“Good. Dismissed! To your posts at once!”

Umnaj watched as his men scattered throughout the Silo and positioned themselves for the oncoming battle. He smiled viciously; No one who opposed his group would live to tell the tale.

33 thawkwood (Joint post with Deric, Nevon, Nace, and Danny)

Nace stepped from the tent, doing one last check on the SR-25 sniper rifle and the Sig Sauer P226 sidearm. He was thankful that the SR-25, like many Armalite rifles, could be broken down into two pieces and put into a backpack. He’d done that in Afghanistan numerous times so he could carry a more general purpose carbine like the M4 or SA-80.

He checked the ACME Assault Rifle, a design based around the SCAR-L, a weapon he’d had some familiarity with thanks to training with the SAS. This would be his entry weapon until he got set up on the tower’s roof where he would pull the SR-25 out, reassemble it, and establish sniper overwatch.

He’d caught a brief look out of a corner of one eye with Deric and Cali’s little encounter and felt a tug at his own heartstrings. He had some letters, for his siblings and for his parents he’d left with ACME’s Human Resources department to send to his family in case he should die.

Shortly after he’d gotten his kit together and headed over to the tent. He headed over to Deric and said, “In case I buy it, mate, would you mind looking after Goliath. And ensuring my nieces don’t tie too many ribbons into his fur.”

“Aw,” Deric mocked, “I think he looks adorable with the ribbons.”

Nace chortled lightly at the remark, “Evidently the girls think so. It never fails. Every time they did that when I was in Afghanistan, Rey would e-mail me the sodding pictures. Speaking of the lot, I’ve got some letters back in San Francisco that Human Resources is to send in the event I don’t make it.”

Deric knew the traditions of soldiers to write a letter to be delivered to their next-of-kin in the unfortunate event of dying in the field. “I have mine in my locker.”

They’re for my parents, my other four siblings, and for Clementine and Katie when they’re old enough. Another’s got instructions, for some flowers to be put on Evey’s grave, this last bouquet’s got a message from me: “I’m here love.”. Nace nodded soberly.

“Well, hopefully they won’t have to be sent. I plan on all of us coming back.”

“Always a good plan. But as your Yank poets say, ‘the best laid plans’.” Nace replied half sardonically.

“I prefer ‘No plan survives first contact with the enemy’”

“That works too, mate.” Nace replied.

Daniel Ainsworth waited by the ACME CE-880 helicopter and made sure Shelob was loaded in. He wondered for a moment where the blond from V.I.L.E. was and if she was going to be heading out on one of their funny little aircrafts with Vic-the-Slick. He didn't think those things looked very stable. Dan tried not to worry, V.I.L.E. wasn't supposed to be in any real danger anyway.

Seeing the rest of his team arrive he raised the visor of his helmet and gave them an informal salute. ACME didn't have any official greetings other than the usual waves or hi-fives, but over the course of training they had invented various ways to show camaraderie. "Hey, we're ready for lift off. Delta teams on Papa 1, Medical on Papa 2. Alpha is already en route."

Nace headed over and returned the informal salute. “Ready for all this, mate?” Nace asked calmly.

“Ready,” Deric responded, tightening his gear, “All right gang, let’s mount up.”

“Right.” Nace replied.

34 Sophie

Doctor Sophie Conrad sat very still and very straight in the helicopter she had been ushered into, her gloved hands unmoving on her knees and her pale freckled features calm and grave as she listened to the radio transmissions and the rhythmic beat of the rotors in the background. Within the shell of the aircraft, they seemed isolated from the world outside and the quickly approaching silhouette of Torun Zamok. She glanced at the three other members of the mobile medical unit, only her eyes moving behind her protective goggles.

Beside her sat the youngest member of the team of medical professionals ACME had despatched into Kamchatka, Constance Kitlyn, who had trained very conscientiously for the operation. Opposite her, two members of V.I.L.E. sat – Doctor Acton Roux, a man of impressive scholarship, and a smaller figure who had been simply named ‘Kidman’.

The team that ACME despatched into Kamchatka had been divided into two units following brief instructions from Sophie – one to be mobile and the other static. The mobile team would consist of Constance Kitlyn, Kidman, Doctor Roux and herself; and were assigned the call-sign, Meridian. The static team would remain on the Lenino base, in preparation to receive casualties, and consisted of one doctor and one nurse; they were assigned the call-sign, Zenith.

Having only met the representatives from V.I.L.E. a mere half-hour ago, there had been little time for lengthy introductions, in-depth assessments, or a search for the devil in the details - case in point, she wondered why it was that the doctor from V.I.L.E. seemed to watch her with such intent, though she could not see his eyes from behind the abstruse mask he wore. It was only some unfathomable and unspoken faith in the individuals who had chosen the path of healing that made Sophie believe her new companions knew their places and roles, even as she distributed the supplies to them with a succinct greeting.

While every member of Alpha and Delta had received one for their personal use, Constance and Kidman had received two of the black-coloured IFAKs that could be attached to their belts or backpacks – one for themselves and an additional one that could be used on any casualty they chanced upon. In these pouches were pertinent items that could be used to halt (or at the very least, slow) haemorrhaging wounds and, rudimentarily, secure an airway.

The pack she wore on her back, however, was more extensive and similar to that which she had issued to Doctor Acton Roux. In that, she carried advanced airway equipment, limited bags of intravenous fluids and single-dose syringes of germane drugs, and a higher-level of supplies that were capable of dealing with more extensive injuries.

Unlike everyone else who had signed the SOUL contract, Sophie had not spent all of the past month training in San Francisco. As was the annual tradition of her life since she was sixteen-years-old, she had returned to the family compound in Rockport, Maine, for Christmas.

Her friends and colleagues in San Francisco knew very little about her family, apart from the prominent portrait she had in her living room and Sophie, naturally taciturn, did not often speak freely of them. Her father, however, had been a Navy SEAL and a CIA operative, and there was no one in the world whom Sophie trusted more to prepare her for the undertaking in Kamchatka. And so it was, that after the initial – and expected – concerns and objections, her father had taken to instructing her with utmost diligence and she had dedicated herself to gleaning as much off his experience as she could in the one week that they had together.

Turning her gaze to the two masked and armed personnel who were riding with Meridian as their chaperones for this leg of their journey, Sophie thought about her father, carefully recounting all he had taught her, and silently determined that everyone who would enter Torun Zamok under the banner of ACME – including the representatives from V.I.L.E. that she was now in the company of – would return to their families as they were. After all, it was how she had resolved to return to hers.

35 DrRoux

The plane ride with Contessa Coverenzi left Dr. Acton Roux highly strung and evidently weary. This woman, of power and for power, was perhaps dangerously toying with the prospects of additional power.

As he exited his own plane and surveyed the surrounding area, he caught sight of many men and women doing the same. It did feel to him like the beginning of a long anticipated battle. One red haired medical professional was at her post checking storage boxes. She seemed recognisable to him, but he knew not from where. From mild investigation in the form of questioning a young ACME agent, he learned the trivial information that she was Swiss, and a doctor.

Minutes passed by and everyone entered a briefing tent. Here, Acton Roux noted the team he had been assigned to, and the same freckled woman stood not far from him. He remained mostly unanimated, his confining mask and lack of expression kept him from much interaction but a few nods and mumbles of pleasantries. Acton was insulated well under his dark cloak, and while many left him alone as an oddity of VILE, a young man did stop by to call him "Darth Vader," a character Dr. Roux was not at all familiar with.

The mask he wore for this adventure was largely made from a light but strong aluminium alloy sealed with tight reinforced polymers, a design that a well-paid Italian friend from Maranello had procured for him. It was cast from a handcrafted sand mould not unlike the finest heat-resistant machines known to man. The metal compound, weighing less than half a pound, formed the curved beak and covered his cranium while varying porous polymers and carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics ran the length of the main mask to secure it tightly against the doctor's head. A black leather hugged the metal, leaving open the matted silver triangle of the beak's tip. The lenses through which his eyes saw included thermal imagery, but he had hoped to use it only very little. The heat produced by the feature could render his entire mask very uncomfortable.

As the teams began to load their medical supplies into packs and ready themselves for the journey to the grounds of the war, Acton began to recall that the woman he thought he knew was not a doctor, but a researcher. Her familiarity to him seemed secondary to the task at hand, hence he did not speak. The answer to his queries should come in due time.

36 Ivy

Sparks of burning straw flew past her visor as the initial blast from Calina's explosives ripped open the wall.

Ivy's utility launcher was ready with it's first shot: a smoke grenade that would serve to cover Alpha team's entry. Half a second after the blast, she launched a cannister in, allowing the compressed white mist to spread quickly through the building's interior. 

The room clearing strategy was simple: Eugene and Tomas entered first, with team members providing cover-fire. Ivy would then try to break through the line and disarm any distracted threats. 

As soon as she was at the edge of the smoke, the Commander activated her S.T.U.N. suit's camouflage function and ran towards the furthermost corner. She advanced beside the figure of a thin man, who shot carelessly in the direction of the breach. In a swift move, Ivy reached for his Kalashnikov. Her open hand slammed the barrel-side toward the ground, causing the butt-stock to fly upward and connect sharply with his jaw. Disarming the weapon she threw an elbow at the side of his face knocking him unconscious. Her suit flickered. A sign that her window of technical invisibility was almost up. 

There was a target in the far corner, but before Ivy could reach him he was taken down by another member of Alpha. Involuntarily, she tensed. If she had more time to think it would have registered as the first man she'd ever seen shot in front of her, but adrenaline was a good inhibitor of such secondary emotions. With a signature arc of electricity all

the agents who had active camouflage manifested from the shadows. Her eyes scanned the room. Clear. For Now.

"Over there." Tomas whispered harshly as he pointed to a wall. 

The S.T.U.N. sensors picked up and clarified what Tomas was gesturing at, an infrared marking of a triangle encased in a square. Their main objective was to secure the C-5, but if the symbol was any indication--Chase and Mikal were alive and close. The upward pointing triangle symbolizing that they were above this floor. Her heart flipped. It was the first truly good news since landing in Russia. 

Ivy knew she needed to establish contact immediately, and clicked a signal to an open channel, "All teams, Alpha is in and heading to the second level. We may have found Infil."
Footsteps and yelling from the far entrance betrayed an oncoming force.

"Get the lights," Ivy commanded. "All of them."

With a nod, several members of the team shot out the incandescent bulbs that lit The Wedge, blanketing the area in darkness. Then without further delay, Alpha disappeared up the stone stairway to the top floor.

37 (Joint post by Danny, Deric, Gunnar, Nace, and Nevon)

Nevon watched the entire compound from the air. It was so peaceful, and beautiful, in a way he’d never thought of before. What a nice place, too bad we have to go in there and get shot at.

The Swede sat nearest the open door of the helicopter, tensing as he leaned for a better view over the beach. At this segment of the raid, he would act as pointman until Nace hit ground. Therefore, he was first to jump.

Once they reached the beach, the helicopter hovered as the team prepared to rappel down. Deric looked at his team as they hooked up their harnesses. “All right crew, once we hit the deck, make your way to the cliff face. From there, we scale the wall til we get to the access point  we saw in the schematics. Let’s roll...”

Given the signal, Gunnar gripped the cable and slid down. Upon hitting and grinding into the ice-encrusted sand, he activated his S.T.U.N. suit’s active camouflage to keep himself momentarily hidden as he awaited the rest of the team’s arrival. He shivered inside his suit as he fully realized his vulnerability should he be spotted.

As soon as they landed on the beach, Dan heard a huge explosion. Looking up he saw some lights coming over the cliff, but wasn’t sure what was causing it. Then a radio call came through to them.

 EarlJr said: “Ironhead, Papa 3 is down.  Be advised, hostiles have anti-air.”

“Woah, that’s not good news,” Dan looked to the rest of his team. At least Mr. G didn’t say anyone was injured.

That report sent chills throughout Nevon. The picturesque calm he had felt earlier was fast replaced by adrenaline.

Deric’s eyes widened for a moment as he processed what Eugene just broadcast. His heart was firmly in his stomach until he heard that Alpha were all safe on the ground approaching the fort.

Gunnar’s respiratory rate increased when he heard the call, but his eyes stayed with the beach, scanning for any possible assailants through his SCAR-L’s night vision attachment.

“Remember our mission, mate.” Nace said quietly to Nevon. To be honest, he too felt the icy dread. He’d felt this on his fair share of occasions as well, in Afghanistan whenever he was in a helicopter. Especially given those wankers had their share of anti-aircraft weapons as well. And this lot of wankers has something more on the anti-aircraft front than the Taliban ever did, Nace thought.

Nevon nodded back to Nace and tried to calm himself. He’d never been in real action like this before, and naturally, Nev looked up to more experienced agents.

Just as planned, they continued to climb the frozen waterfall into the sewage system of the Watch Tower. The team suddenly stopped when they heard footsteps and two people speaking in a foreign language that Dan couldn’t understand.

Nace gestured to get behind cover and stay quiet. Contrary to films, killing sentries could bring on a host of issues, especially if someone was expecting them to report back. Killing them was going to be a last resort.

Being lead scout, as the SAS term stated, meant keeping his eyes and ears open was of paramount importance. However he had made sure that the SCAR-L’s suppressor was put in properly if the deed was to be done.

“Bacon,” Deric said as quietly as he could, rolling his eyes at the inane callsign Ainsworth chose for this mission, “prep the drone. We need a ‘distraction’.”

Daniel saw Nace’s gesture and crouched in silence. He remembered taking lots of classes with Nace on sniping over the past weeks, and the South African always stressed how important it was to not go gung-ho. He also remembered Commander Monaghan’s words that the ‘goal is containment and arrest, and you will shoot only when necessary.’ Bearing all this in mind, Dan set up Shelob, and let the spider bot crawl to a distant area away from the rest of the team. When he felt it was safe, he let the robot turn on it’s audio-mode, which created a loud static pop to distract the two guards.

Nevon Blair took deep, slow breaths. He tried to bring up as much of his training as possible. As soon as Shelob was out of sight, Nev signaled to Gunnar. They were both in the best position to take these guys down while Nace watched their backs.

Gunnar’s finger had nearly been affixed to his gun’s trigger ever since they had first landed on the beach, but he understood the situation and followed Nevon in a quieter approach.

When Shelob made the loud static pop, Blair and Svensson went out at the same time, pulled the two men down with gags, and locked a tranquilizer shot to their necks.

“He’s down,” Nev confirmed.

Gunnar confirmed his own task was complete. “Down.”

“All right,” Deric said as the rest of the team entered the corridor, “stow the bodies somewhere and let’s move. We gotta secure our primary position and then take out those googly cannons.”

38 Calico

Cali Corranos, in her STUN suit, followed Ivy and the rest of the team. Her fight training had been about self defence, and her entire team knew that she was not expected to perform in combat. Her job, first was to breech, and second was demolitions.

When the smoke of the first battle cleared, the Brazilian started to fully understand where she was. There were enemies that shot at her, and would shoot at her the farther they go in. It was a relief for Cali when Ivy called out that there was a signal left for Alpha from the infiltration team. She did not want to hear bad news that they lost anyone yet.

"Hey bomb tech," Tomas Nassau in his ASP called to her before they continued up the stairs, "you come to walk here in front of me and behind Eugene, we stay in formation."

His voice through the helmet was fuzzy like a radio in the rain, but she understood him. Tugging at her pack for reassurance, Cali continued with her teammates.

39 Narrator


Somewhere in the old castle was a makeshift lab. Here, a mousey little man worked tirelessly to perfect his own part of the organisation's master plan… biological warfare. He wasn't exactly the genius his boss had hired, and instead of making anything on a massive scale, he worked only on his own passion. 

With the resources available to him, Dionisio Genovesi, otherwise identifiable by his hamster-like disposition, attempted to make medication that would induce mind control in patients -- based on the coveted cordyceps sinensis fungi.* 

Genovesi had failed repeatedly at the stage where the binding substances in his serum attached to conducting sodium ions at the surface of a cell's plasma membrane. Instead of performing its duty and transferring new code into the cell, the concoction would succeed in paralysing his subjects only to stop them from breathing hours later. The synthesis worked more like a toxin than complex medication, and the Italian had yet to find something that did more than stun the nervous system.

But now that Torun's defenses were under attack, possibly by law enforcement, Dionisio had to get rid of the bodies.

He wheeled them in a cart; all four former workmen, tucked and wrapped like bundles of mummies from the castle area towards the shafts in the silo that dropped straight from ground level into searing lava tubes below: instant incineration.

"Hey, where you going?" a young mercenary yelled out when the scientist almost ran into him, "breech is that way!" Just out of jail recently for injuring an officier during a masquerade one Blue Moon in Venice, Achille Mondadori, another Italian; was ordered by his team leader to scout the second floor.

No reply came as the cart pusher hurried off.

Through the noise and gunfire, the hamster scurried, using the second floor and its small rooms to shuttle physical remnants of the experiments. All would be well, and he would return to his lab soon to finish his cleanup. He wished to keep some samples, and of course, all his papers. While he was unable to find the answer now, he may strike gold… soon.

*A fungi species that inhabits its host, slowly replaces host cells, and eventually sprouts from the dead host.

40 Vic-the-Slick [Cooperative post. Credits: Carmen, Vic, Joe, and Patty]

Just outside the Workman's Village South of Torun Zamok

Contessa said: "Darling, are all the children safe?"

Yeahum, things lookin' purdy," Vic replied, "both kiddies still alive." He referred to Joe and Patty. They were still just outside the village, but now with guards shouting something that Fumigalli translated as "Go inside now!" Vic wasn't sure how they were going to find Carmen in this mess.

Joe Said: "Guess, I won't be getting to try out my new toy just yet,"
he said softly to no one in particular. Turning to his comrades, he continued in a whisper that was barely loud enough for them to hear. "Hey, I was just wondering, anyone here speak Russian?"

I get Russian," Vincent responded, he'd spent enough time dealing with Northern Asia to understand the language spoken in most their cities, but he wasn't entirely sure of the dialects spoken here in Kamchatka (or elsewhere in Russia for that matter), "I just don't know if I can speak it here."

Already ill-equipped so early in the mission?" a voice spoke, not too loud and not too soft, but familiar enough for Vic to freeze.

A figure wrapped in a shawl stepped forward and signalled them to follow her.

Patty knew exactly who that was, and she knew both Vic and Joe recognized Carmen too, but aside from the blond's little heart skipping a beat or two, there wasn't time to rejoice. She followed her leader to a thicket of dead trees and old logs behind the castle.

From their makeshift hiding spot, the thieving quartet were able to discreetly observe a mass of guards rushing into the castle. In the dark, Patts lunged forward and gave the longest, quietest hug of her life to the woman with the scarf. As the sound of explosions filled the air, the Jester turned to his beloved employer.

I guess this isn’t the best time to mention that we came to rescue you?

As the organisation's premier lead, Carmen surmised the root of her friends' actions. While she internally wished that they were able to withstand disarray long enough for her to return, her unplanned hiatus of one full year was more than any modern leader might afford. In reply, she took a deep comforting breath, reached out for Vincent Fumigalli and touched her cheek against his. She did the same for Joe Kerr, and finally for the young woman clinging to her waist.

She needed no rescuing, but was grateful for the support.

While you're here, let me put you to use," she smiled through a mist, her nose and cheeks reddened from the perceivable cold. "I need all the workmen here dropped off at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky."

Vic nodded in agreement, "
Can do, do we have a contact we need to find?"

A man named Nikolai Zhovtis," she replied, "Thick peppered beard, early forties, ashy-blue cap, deep-set brown eyes, heavy build; he's extremely important, make sure he's with you. There's also a woman called Esfir, late fifties, five-foot-five, mole on her left cheek, and she's missing her right first premolar. Both of Esfir's sons are submarine pilots, we'll need them too."

VILE was good at this, finding people, and Fumigalli had no problem with the short instruction his boss gave, but he did have questions. "
So we leave ACME with this Saints thing?"

Carmen turned sharply to Vincent, and the conman sensed he was being visually interrogated.

Devineaux told us, I guess"

Chase Devineaux told you?" her reluctance to believe that information instigated a clarification.

So there was these files of dead agents with saint names Barbara Rosen wanted in exchange for co-op." Vic didn't want to say more, it really wasn't his business, "Ima just puttin’ together two and two."

If Carmen assumed correctly, then Barbara Rosen went to the warehouse in Hawaii, confirming her suspicions that the right people have already linked the weaponised C-5 with ACME's ill-fated 'Saints' program. While this assured one thing, it raised alarms elsewhere.

Is he here, then?"



Yeahum… He went in first, but ACME lost contact with him, that's why we're here so fast."

Of course, this is usually how it starts.

“Boss, I hate to break it to you but Chase isn’t the only ACME agent here. There’s a whole army of them heading into Torun Zamok now, and they’re more than a little pissed off after what happened at Nob Hill last month.”

Yes, nine dead at Nob Hill," as a well-informed woman, she was given the news through Fedor Mikhailovich, "ACME has a tight lid on it, but I'll find out more soon enough."

Ivy’s leading our entire mission,” Patts added.

Ivy Monaghan?"

They’re calling her Commander now.

For a perfectly verifiable reason Carmen wasn't happy with that idea, and her first thoughts gravitated to who might have backed this path for the redhead.

While everyone was quiet, Patty slipped a rubber bracelet up her boss's left hand. The ringleader slightly discountenanced the object when it snapped tight on her wrist.

My vitals and my location," the leader identified the device as she brought her hand to eye level. A clear thin rubber band held two round circles against her pulse, one was a lithium-ion battery, while the other was a heart rate monitor and positioning system, "I won't protest now, but it's coming off at the end of the day."

Patty giggled. Every VILE member here had this tracking device, it was only fitting that their lead had one too.

Joe smiled; some things never change. Reaching inside his bag of tricks, Joe pulled out a small respirator and a pair of knockout gas grenades.

“I assume you’re going in where Chase probably is now. Consider these a gift, in case things get a little...messy”

Pressing the gifts into Carmen’s hands, he gave her a hug before pulling back.

Anyone or anything else you want us to look out for?”

Mercenaries, lots of them, be wary," she paused. "And Flag… if you see him, do not make contact. Leave him to me."

Vic looked worried, but he nodded anyway. He hadn't heard from Flag for just as long as he hadn't heard from Carmen, so it was best to do what she instructed.

I'll be in touch," once again wrapping the shawl around her head, the thief parted.

Patty hoped that was true.

Ok gang," Vic announced quietly, "let's take ACME's way in, they probably already cleared  parts of it."

Alpha this is Rebel," he sent a radio to Ivy, "We made contact with our primary, ah… we're comin' in through the wedge, villagers all taken inside, our new objective's to gather 'em, ah? I mean, over."

41 Chase [Credits: Chase, Mikal, Euge, Ivy.]

Inside Castle Grounds

"I left signal for Alpha," Mikal reported as he reached his teammate, "they will find us."

"Hostiles just shot down a helicopter," Chase gave the news to Darsha. Prior to this, a total of 8 nodes were planted at various sections of the Zamok’s electrical circuit with hopes that Lee’s team of hackers could remotely tackle the main system.

The two men were in a relatively safe position, a secluded roof section over the ceiling of the second floor. With a red flashlight to preserve night vision, Devineaux looked over the floor plans.

"We--" he paused at the sound of an explosion, gunfire, and incoming footsteps.

Mikal heard it too.

Alpha, having cleared the wedge with a minimum of resistance, began working in earnest on its objectives.  Previous information relayed to them indicated the weapon they were after might be housed in the silo structure to their immediate right, but the fluorescent mark left on the wall wasn’t something they could simply ignore.  On the chance the infiltration team was still alive, folding them into Alpha would increase the odds of success.

Sweeping methodically up to the second floor, Alpha encountered only minimal resistance.  It would make sense for the balance of the opposing force to be at ground level, but Euge expected to at least find roving patrols searching for further infiltration.  

The apparent lack of opposition was disconcerting.  A portion directly above where Alpha had made their entry was without power, necessitating a return to the grainy light amplification mode.  Euge, walking point, tensed as the suits picked up intermittent signals from low power IFF broadcasts.  Within a moment, onboard computers triangulated the direction of the signal and placed an arrow on his HUD, indicating they were... in the roof?

Above the ceiling of the second floor, Mikal tensed.

Hostiles?” he whispered.

With a better view of the ground below highlighted through his thermal vision, Devineaux made out the clearly identifiable angles of an ASP.

Friendlies,” Chase somewhat chuckled. He tapped an identification ‘It’s me’ in Morse against the sides of a metal grate.

Mikal removed himself from a defensive position and opened a second grate three meters from the tapping. First, he put hand out to signal he was coming, then he climbed down. Chase followed.

Tomas Nassau, at the back of the team, ensured things were cleared then pulled up his ASP helmet to get a better view.

“I have lost a bet to the little VILE blondie,” Nassau commented, “we find Infil in less than an hour.”

Ivy eased her stance upon seeing the no-longer-lost infiltration team, smiling inwardly she greeted, “Do you two have any idea how much trouble you’ve caused?

Does not look like you were very worried, yeah?” Mikal made a mental count of the heads in Alpha. “Good that you brought a big team with you. There is small change of plan now.

Right, there are two nodes,” Devineaux began, “We already scouted the ICE-Module*, it’s in a cold lab on the second floor. The HELL**, according to info, should be somewhere real toasty... deep in the lower Silo. Both units fuel the C-5 device controlled by a panel in floor B1 of the Silo, we don’t need the control unit.

So we need to destroy both these units, correct?”  Euge clarified.

No, you secure them for transport. Extraction will come with a heavy lifter, and we’ll--

You’ve got to be f-ing kidding me.” Ivy retorted.

These two units need proper disposal,” Devineaux resolved, “We can’t leave them with the enemy, and we can’t just blow them up.

Environmental factors,” added Mikal.

Tomas gave a huff and placed his helmet back on.

Seeing that there was no time to argue Ivy reluctantly nodded, “Okay, we’ll split to get the modules. Tomas, Chase, and Mikal secure ICE from the second floor lab... Calina, Euge and I will go to the Silo and take HELL.

With the new set of orders, the reformed teams broke to tackle their individual objectives.  Things didn’t stay simple for long though, and another curveball came in the form of a message from Vic.

Vic said: "Alpha this is Rebel," he sent a radio to Ivy, "We made contact with our primary, ah… we're comin' in through the wedge, villagers all taken inside, our new objective's to gather 'em, ah? I mean, over."

The fact that Torun Zamok’s workforce was being brought inside only meant that the hostiles were looking to keep hostages. Ivy swore softly, "Rebel, The Wedge is clear, but you're on your own when you get there. Keep your night vision on. Alpha has contact with Infil, we're heading to the Silo now."

* ICE-Module: Isochoric Compression Emissions Module ** HELL: High Energy Liquid Laser

42 Lee-Jordan

Lee Jordan raised his eyebrows inquisitively at the monitor when radio signal arrived that Infil team was found. This meant everything was still on track and the electrical nodes were planted and ready for signal interception.

The risk now, was that if they start linking too soon, the Hostiles would have more time to trace the signals back to Lenino. But if they don't link now, while all the teams were already in the fort, lives could be lost. This was Jordan's call, so he called it.

"Activate the signals, let's start those nodes," Lee said to his team of hackers.

"Should we wait for Alpha to clear the security center in the castle?" The Russian suggested.

"Not if we can't even tell them where or how many security controls there are," Lee barked. "Link it!"

They did, and slowly, nodes confirmed the received signals one by one. Only six of them turned on. Two others, one at the western castle area, and one at the north tower, weren't responding.

"Get started with codes, video feeds, anything you can grab," Lee said while he picked up his radio unit.

"Commander," he was never going to get used to calling Ivy that, "we have six nodes confirmed, problem with two other nodes... Can't connect." The map of linked nodes and dark ones were sent to Ivy's HUD. "We'll make the best of it, but one of those nodes might be our link to the main controls in silo b1."

The computers were now busy cracking the signals intercepted from the planted nodes, soon, the comms plane should be able to send ground teams a partial tactical map.

43 Flag

The elevator had already been rendered moot point by the time that they had reached it. Personnel of all sorts were rushing around the walkway surrounding it as they opted to use the adjacent stairs. Considering that the bottom-most basement level seemed to be nothing more than a playground for bored mercenaries, this new level of activity seemed out of place to Flag.

Olga clarified that certain groups had been instructed to meet here in the event that something happened to the fortress. "They're just following orders. Come on. This way."
Together they backtracked around the arena's outer walkway and stopped at an alcove which contained a single enclosed ladder - similar to those that lead from to the fly loft in some theaters - that could be used as an emergency escape route if something happened to the silo. Carefully, they climbed the levels until they reached the second basement, where they nearly collided with a man pushing a cart.

"What the hell, Genovesi!" Olga shouted as she jumped back, nearly knocking her ward back down the ladder.

When her ginger-haired associate didn't answer, she followed him in the same joyful manner that she presented to Karnak. This no longer phased Flag but he was growing annoyed that she darted off as she did.

"Glebovi! To me!" He shouted after her as he stepped off the ladder. "We have a meeting to attend ourselves. Let him run his errand. He'll be back."
According to Randall,  the hampster was a part of their squad and would have to report in or get pulverized for defecting. It didn't really matter that they were secretly answering to a new employer.

Olga had seemed a little upset about not being able to mess with Dionisio like she wanted, but before long she was skipping to the lobby as she was instructed. When she got close enough to see her teammates, she squealed in excitement and dashed towards the back wall, where Matthew, Ronin, and Randall were making last-minute adjustments to their equipment.

"What are those?" Olga danced in place as she questioned the power suits that the others were wearing. Matthew didn't seem to think she was funny and shot her a look that immediately straightened her out.

"Don't play dumb. We don't have time for that."

"Yeah... I know. Sheesh." The no longer bubbly Russian-American said as she grabbed her power armor from Randall. "I just wanted to have a little bit of fun before I had to fight."

While she suited up, The team's leader filled them in on what was happening.

"We're being attacked." Matthew said almost casually, as if he were talking to friends at a bar. "There aren't many of them,  but they hit hard. They're also wearing armoured suits, so it's probably that technology-stealing group from San Fran. When you run into em, be excessive."

He turned to Olga, who had only just managed to get her suit on and was trying to find her helmet in thr box of stuff that Randall had carried with him. "You're staying with Flag. He'll need protection as you guys go get the diamond, and thensome afterwards."

Flag smiled somewhat at the mercenaries foresight. That was exactly what his plans were now that they couldn't go on their previously planned rendezvous.

"Wait until Genovesi get's back. He knows where it is." The team leader then gestured toward the rest of the squad. "We have to go pretend to defend this base with the other groups. We'll meet up again once this is over."

With that they unlocked their weapons and dispersed. Olga had only just activated the power to her helmet. "Should we go find him now?"

Flag took in a deep breath, held it, and then released it slowly. He really hadn't counted on the hampster coming back and had just said so in order to keep Olga from delaying. He really did not want to go track him down, but now seemed to have no choice.

"Yeah...let's go get him."
(Mathew,  Ronin, and Randall can be played against if you guys like. I only ask that I get to write their deaths if/when we get to em.)

44 Nevon (By: Deric Nace Dan Nev Gunnar)

After getting the order to get rid of the anti-airs, Daniel, Nevon, Gunnar,  Nace, and Deric headed up the Watch Tower. Setting up his sniper rifle just like Nace taught him to, Dan waited for Nevon  (who was their team’s spotter) to give him a read on the situation.

Gunnar positioned himself inside the tower at the top of the first flight of stairs, crouched low and leaning into a recess in the wall. He would be watch of the exit point to protect against a possible ambush. His breath was heavy as he surmised that he would likely be the first of Delta to be killed if they were attacked.

Pressing himself into the stone back of the alcove, Gunnar tapped his special watch for luck before removing a thin item from his suit’s latched thigh pocket. He held a picture of his girl, snugly embedded in the plastic toploader which had contained his favorite Ulf Samuelsson trading card for years. He gazed at it while casually pointing the MP5 strapped over his shoulder in the direction of the stairway.

Nevon Blair, to the best of his abilities, marked where they last saw the anti-air devices while flying past the castle on the tactical map. One of them was on the North Tower, and the other looked like it was on the West Tower.

“The first one isn’t far up guys, but--” he stopped when he heard some shouting and was relieved to know it wasn’t anywhere near them, “but I don’t know if we can get an angle on the other one...”

Dan peered through his scope. “Copy Steak, I’ve got a clean shot on the ammunition crates on the North Tower. Does Dingo have a clear shot from the west tower?”

“In position.” Nace said quietly as he set himself into position. He took the SR-25 from the backpack, reassembled it, and unfolded the bipod, setting the rifle up, looking towards the West tower, hidden carefully on the Watch Tower.

“This is Calamity. If Dingo doesn’t have a shot, I do.”

“Calamity, I’m set in position.” Nace said, eying the West tower through the telescopic sights of his SR-25.

“Copy that. Fire on my mark, in three, two, o...”

Daniel’s heart was pounding as he saw the men standing near the ammunition crates. He tried breathing the way they did in sniper practice, inhaling and holding the breath long enough to stay steady but not long enough to exert his muscles. Even though the targets were far away Dan was sure he saw one of them pointing towards the Watch Tower. That panic caused him to squeeze the trigger a moment earlier than the count, and the next thing he saw was the ammunition exploding from the North Tower in a white burst, the men who were standing there ducked for cover. Dan realized then that he had made a big mistake. The Ammunition crate from the West Tower didn’t blow up in sync, and that meant whoever was there probably had their eyes on Delta.

Wanker. Nace thought as he heard the explosion of a round into the ammunition crate. Nace centered his crosshairs on a mercenary operating one of the missile launchers and squeezed the trigger. Thanks to the suppressor screwed into the barrel the SR-25’s shot sounded like barely a thump. He saw the merc hit the ground and noticed that the rest of the crew was trying to level the missile at the tower.

“Googly,” Deric swore when he heard a shot ring out before he could say ‘Go.’

Nace cracked off another round, hitting another of the crew members, firing rapidly. Despite his accurate shooting, the last crewman managed to fire a rocket just as Nace drilled a hole through his skull with a round from the SR-25.

“Calamity, someone’s fired early. Suppressing the wankers on the West tower.” Nace said calmly, as though ordering a sandwich at a cafe.

While he wasn’t sure what happened, Nevon saw the events unfold like a slow movie. Flash here, shooting there, a rocket...?


“Bollocks!” Nace swore as he ducked away to find cover.

“Damnit,” Deric swore as he also ducked behind a parapet, “who the hell fired first?”

Hearing the chatter over the radio, Gunnar peeked up and down the stairs uneasily and hastily pocketed the photo that had owned his attention. “Calamity - situation?”

“Somebody fired too bloody soon,” Deric barked, “They know we’re here.”

Nevon scrambled, gathering himself into a small huddle. The sensors on his STUN suit went crazy for a bit, readjusting to the situation.

From where he stood, Dan saw a trail of fire and smoke headed straight towards them, and his ears registered a loud screeching sound. His eyes widened as the rocket headed straight for the tower... then passed, missing the stone wall by what looked like less than half a yard.

“Sjutton--” The lone man inside the tower startled as he heard the deadly hiss from the ballistic projectile. Dropping himself flat on the floor, Gunnar grasped his SCAR-L and aimed it down the stairway. “This is Fish,” he called in panic. “Situation?!”

Dan looked up after the missile passed, it seemed the other towers were clear. While the anti-airs were down, he realized he was going to have to deal with the consequences of screwing up that first shot. Somehow it was better than thinking about what might have happened if that rocket had hit the tower. “Bacon here,” he patched into the radio, “It was my shot on North Tower. Is everyone okay?”

“Right,” Nace said, he’d have a talk with Dan later, but that would definitely have to wait, “We can worry about recrimination and that whole lot later.”

“Agreed,” Deric growled, shaking his head slightly. “All right, let’s go set up the site for Medical.”

It didn’t take long to secure the rest of the watchtower. Besides the guards they encountered when they first arrived, the bulk of the manpower seemed to be centered in the main part of the castle from what Deric could tell. ‘Thank ya Jeebus for minor miracles,’ Deric thought sardonically.  With any luck, they would be too busy worrying about their now non-functioning cannons than hunting down intruders. Looking over the blueprints he was given, Deric confirmed that there were only three viable access points: the sewer they originally came through, the roof access, and the tunnel connecting the tower to the rest of Torun Zamok in the tower’s basement.

With the anti-air cannons out of commission, Deric figured it would be safe for their choppers. “Delta One to Base,” Deric spoke into his communicator, “Delta One to Base. Watchtower is secure and Enemy air defenses have been neutralized. Meridian is a go. I repeat, Meridian is a go.”

45 Sophie [This is a collaboration between Doctor Roux and Doctor Conrad.]

"Meridian is a go. I repeat, Meridian is a go."

In contrast to the chaos that had transpired below, the voice of Deric Storm was transmitted clearly over the in-ear communication device that Doctor Sophie Conrad wore and she took a deep breath in acknowledgement, tapping the device to activate its microphone, before turning her eyes toward the masked man that sat opposite her. “This is Meridian,” she replied calmly, “confirming to go.”

It had been earlier, during the terse briefing that had occurred at the Lenino airbase, that Sophie had assigned each member their positions for the rappel from the helicopter onto the roof of the watch tower that stood on the north-eastern flank of Torun Zamok - Dr. Acton Roux would exit the aircraft first, followed by Kidman and Constance and, finally, herself. This ensured that the most senior members of the medical team enveloped their operations at times.

Sophie nodded at Acton then, even as she tightened the strap of her helmet and tugged at her leather gloves: “À vous, Paris.”

A member of the helicopter crew who would be their rappel master opened the side-door of the aircraft...

Dr. Acton Roux made very little effort to consider what may come before he tightened his grip on the rope and rappelled down from the helicopter.  The heavy riding cloak was a classic attire to match his mask. It draped down with little reaction to the wind, as it would on a horseman of centuries past.

When his boots touched the stone grounds of the tower, he released his hands from the rope. As he looked around, Acton gauged this tower as a middle 18th century building, and he was very well versed with this sort of defenses. However, he was unsure of the modern day enemy they faced.

Dr. Roux nodded to the men on the ground, neither faces he recognized beyond the meeting in Lenino. Then he moved as instructed into the tower's opening.

Sitting on the edge of the helicopter with her legs dangling free, Sophie embraced the sensation of adrenaline speeding through her veins as she awaited for the hand signal to begin her descent.

She watched the landscape around the aircraft, tracing the external structure of Torun Zamok and the frozen sea beyond - taking advantage of the view her elevation offered -, and appreciated the scene below her as Deric Storm and Nace Bilby shepherded the first medical entrants into the shelter of the structure they were infiltrating.

On the 'go' signal, she pivoted herself on the skids of the helicopter and pushed herself away from the aircraft, taking a moment to smile in gratitude at the crew member who had led her team and her thus far. Although she had attended the rappelling workshop conducted by the ACME Academy to train all who had signed the SOUL contract, and had performed unremarkably in the following assessment, this was not her first time doing a rappel and she regulated the rate of her descent with ease. She did not pause when her feet touched the ground and gazed up to signal for the helicopter to release the rappel rope. Then, nodding once at Deric Storm - a man she remembered from a previous expedition to Brazil -, the intrepid doctor picked up her backpack and ran towards the designated entrance of the Watch Tower.

46 Patty-Larceny

After watching their leader leave, alive and as pragmatic as ever, Patty Larceny reconfigured her monitor to include Carmen's activated wristband into the frequency. VILE's system was riding on ACME's because there wasn't any other communication tower around that they could conveniently hijack. This meant that if any in-ranged ACME refreshed, they would also see another team member pop up. Not entirely safe, but it was a suitable solution for the circumstances.

"Guys, it's Beamer," she said her codename into the common radio for both ACME and VILE, "New node one-eleven is Friendly. I repeat, 111 is a Friendly node."

The blond didn't go into details, but she wouldn't need to in this case. A new node call was normal protocol. Entering the Wedge area with Vic and Joe, Patts could see a lot of dust and a few bodies. She hesitated.

"Really don't want to go in," she whispered to herself, but her head told her to do it, she was already here.

Walking around, the smell wasn't pleasant; this hint of ash, dust, and old musty things mixed with freshly burned things. Patty figured that if outside wasn't so freaking cold, the smell would be a lot worse.

"Should we find the mess hall?" she suggested to her team while referring to their digital map, "if they're counting 30 or so village workers, that's a nice open area."

47 Kidman

Kidman had been in and out of countless helicopters in her short life, and like the rest she had undergone the rappelling training, but when the scent of burning sulfur came in upon the cruel winds whipping over the foreboding bulk of Torun Zamok, she momentarily froze.

‘We could all really die here.’ She thought with frightening clarity as she looked past the masked doctor in the doorway to the violent reality below. But it passed as quickly as it came, and with a quiet promise to her lost leader, she fell into the night.

It was a hard landing, but she knew it would be. A month’s worth of training could teach her the skills, but upper body strength would not be so easy to come by, and she swore under her breath as she ran after her teammates into the tower.

With any luck, she thought with a grim smile, a sprained ankle would be the only injury she’d have to contend with tonight.

48 Joe_Kerr

Patty-Larceny said:  "Should we find the mess hall?" she suggested to her team while referring to their digital map, "if they're counting 30 or so village workers, that's a nice open area."

Without a word, Joe carefully walked over and started to search the bodies of the fallen guards. After about 10 seconds, he pulled out his prize - a security pass.

"Just because ACME's going in guns a-blazing doesn't mean we should. We're thieves, so let's do what we do best. This should help open a few doors for us, at least the lower security ones like the mess hall I assume we are going to try and locate."

Further conversation was interrupted by the sound of gunfire overhead; suddenly looking for cover seemed like a good first step.

49 Ivy

Lee Jordan said: "Commander," he was never going to get used to calling Ivy that, "we have six nodes confirmed, problem with two other nodes... Can't connect." The map of linked nodes and dark ones were sent to Ivy's HUD. "We'll make the best of it, but one of those nodes might be our link to the main controls in silo b1."

"I read you." Ivy acknowledged Lee’s message. How times have changed. Her life--all their lives--were being gambled on the bits of data provided by Jordan, and somehow that felt natural.

One of the things Ivy was not fully prepared for was the amount of information she had to process while actively advancing through Torun Zamok. The map Lee sent to her HUD showed that the missing nodes were located at two spots, one near the second floor lab and the other on the North Tower. She made the quick call to split up their teams.  

Ivy broadcasted to all channels, “Delta, I need you to send a technician to the North Tower to see if they can get the security node there to respond. Hackers at base will take it from there. Alpha will split and do the same for the second floor lab.”

She turned to Chase, a man who was just “rescued” for a total of ten minutes, “I guess this means you’re off again,” since most of the chatter came through the S.T.U.N. suit’s helmet, she tossed him her spare radio. Ivy clicked her tongue, “This’ll be better with you than me. Good luck.”

Chase caught and pocketed the radio, “I’ll need Tomas to go with Mikal if you can spare him.”

Ivy nodded in confirmation. She then motioned to Calina and Eugene, “Alpha 2 and 3, with me. We’re going to HELL.”

50 Joe_Kerr

"Get ready. Intel says we got a team of hostiles coming our way"

"Roger that"

The trained eyes of Fosco B. Onio peered through the scope of his MSSR. Like him, the eight men under him were also equipped each with an MSSR and hidden amongst the foliage that surrounded the Silo. Fosco himself was also sporting a H&K MP7 though he didn't expect it to come into play.

Two men from Marco's team were patrolling the top of the silo whilst the others, including Marco, waited in ambush in the conduits. 

Umnaj had been quick to spot that in addition to the main entrance to the silo, the conduits would also be a great point of access. They had been originally built to allow maintenance easy access to any part of the missiles in the silo but now housed several mercenaries ready to pounce on their unsuspecting and unlucky prey. 

Gloved hands gripped AK47 rifles with experience and familiarity; as Marco and his crew waited for their cue to pounce, he wondered briefly what kind of fools could survive Umnaj's deadly trap, not to mention their own armor piercing rounds.

Elsewhere in the silo...

["Stupid Worawut!!! Why do I have to guard this place? It's freaking hot down here!!!"] 

[Note: words in square brackets are uttered in Thai]

[Note 2: Team Alpha, I'm open to suggestions on how you want your encounter with team 6 to go down.  - JK]

51 Narrator

[Narrator post, credit: Euge]


Since arriving at Torun Zamok, Achille had found himself unceremoniously thrown into a hodgepodge group, known only as ‘Team 5’.  His employer suggested he would be a good fit with the existing squad members, but Achille suspected it was because his team leader was the only person who could both speak Italian and was willing to speak with him.  Speaking may be a stretch, as Felicita was currently yelling at him over the radio to get back with the rest of the squad.

“[Italian curse].  What am I, the token lamb for the slaughter?”  Achille cursed as he dodged through the shadows, weary of the approaching gunfire, in search of the rest of his team.  Every other senior squad member was wearing some sort of strange full body armor, but Achille’s tardiness in signing on with this venture meant his equipment consisted of little more than a surplus plate carrier, two grenades, and a CETME that was much too long to be used indoors.

Rifle slung across his back, Achille took the stairs down into the castle only to be met halfway by a furious teammate, who seized him by the shirt and dragged him bodily back upstairs.  His relief at being reunited was short lived, as a blindly fired bullet missed him and flattened upon the armor of Ivan’s chest piece.  In a flash, training and instinct took over and the entirety of 5 ducked around a corner as more rounds shattered into the stone beyond.  Noting a lull in the fire, Achille chanced a glimpse around the corner.  Seeing a shape that was much too large to be human duck across a distant intersection convinced him he really was in some sort of house of horrors.

52 EarlJr

At the opposite end of the corridor, Euge silently swore to himself.  A snapshot replay of his mission recorder revealed the round connected.  It also showed at least three tangos wearing something that looked suspiciously similar to the STUN suits worn by his teammates.

Peeking out from his new hiding spot, Euge saw a mercenary bravely creeping around the corner and promptly put two rounds into his helmet.  The man ragdolled to the floor, shattered visor of his copycat STUN suit vividly illustrating the effectiveness of Euge's SCAR-H.  The corridor erupted into gunfire in response, and Euge retreated around the corner again.  The ASP was rated to handle anything smaller than a point blank .50 BMG, but he wasn't eager to find out firsthand.

The volume of fire and sheer numbers was too much for the three members of Alpha to handle, and a retreat to ground level was quickly devised.  Emptying their utility launchers as quickly as they would cycle, Ivy and Cali set up a smoke and chaff screen designed to baffle both the naked eye and the enhanced imaging systems likely used by the opposition.  Knowing this would buy them precious little time, Euge waved his teammates off before reaching into his bag of tricks.

A lifetime of experience had taught Euge not to go into any situation without a backup plan.  With this in mind, he had packed a few improvised weapons of his own, hastily constructed off ACME time.  Sever pipe bombs, hooked to optical trip wires, were placed at every junction.  A few more were thrown into the smokescreen for good measure.  No sooner had Euge placed his last mine than a rapid double thunderclap indicated a close by detonation.  The mercenaries would be moving slower now, watching for more booby traps and giving Alpha much needed breathing room.

With the pressure off momentarily, Euge caught up with Ivy and Cali in an anteroom to the silo, almost next door to where they breached the wall.  "I've bought us a minute, maybe two, before we need to move again." He reported.

"We have to get through them and downstairs, and a doubt the two mercs in there," Ivy indicated the silo beyond with her thumb, "are the only ones.  There's multiple hot spots showing on thermals."

At this, Euge sighed.  "We'll have to draw the rest out, and quickly.  The three of us can't fight on two fronts."  Another blast echoed from upstairs, indicating their pursuers were getting smarter or more careless.

A moment was taken to check ammunition before Euge stepped into the silo doorway to find the two hostiles inside sitting atop overturned crates, and he wasted no time in perforating both.  Backtracking quickly, Euge could hear the shouting and slamming as more enemies revealed themselves.  'I thought respawns only happened in the shoot house,' he mused to himself before glancing at Cali.  

She already had a flashbang primed, and nodded once before chucking it around the corner.  Euge wasted no time in following up, and took three more hostiles down before ducking back yet again.  There were only three left by his count, and they were bunched up near the back of the room.  It was close, but perhaps far enough for a M430 to arm.  

Deciding to risk it, Euge stepped out yet again and loosed a 40mm grenade.  His aim was true, and the HEDP warhead faithfully turned the stragglers into a bloody pulp.  "Room clear!" he yelled back, and hustled into the silo.

Walking in, Ivy glanced around.  "I don't see a way into the lower levels from here.  We might have just cornered ourselves.  We should-"  

She was cut off by Cali, who had moved to the back wall and was examining a pipe that had been holed and was hissing steam.  

"Look at this!" she yelled excitedly.  

Running to meet her, Euge and Ivy saw what she was indicating; the floor in the wall chaseways was open, covered only by a poorly fit steel grate.  

Cali bent down and grasped the grate, which gave way with minimal resistance.  

"These conduits go deep, maybe to the bottom?" she suggested.  

Euge glanced down the now open maw.  It would be a tight fit for him in the ASP, but he should be able to persuade the smaller pipes into giving him the few extra inches he needed.

A nearby blast, the last of Euge's mines, indicated they were out of time.  

"Go." Euge said, indicating the pipes.  "Those crates were full of ammunition.  I'll rig them to blow and be right behind."  

Cali nodded and passed him a brick of C-4 hooked to a timer, and in an instant the two women disappeared down the conduit.  Making sure they were clear, Euge turned to the crates and upended their contents onto the floor.  He would only get one shot at this, and took his window to arrange the crates to cover the pile of munitions before sliding the C-4 brick underneath.  In another few heartbeats, a curious merc stuck his head through the doorway, and Euge answered with a quick burst from his rifle.  

That was all it took to provoke them, and the remainder of the pursuers began to pour into the room as Euge thumbed the detonator and backpedaled to his exit.  Gripping the pipe like a firepole, Euge hammered smaller pipes out of the way, dimly noting the sound of bullets impacting the back of his suit.  A final kick gave him the room he needed, and he dropped with two seconds left on the timer.

53 Chase

Through icy stone walls echoed the distant fury of battle. The muffled ruckus was unsettling, and Chase Devineaux's stern expression hardened disapprovingly. To his left was Mikal Darsha, who seemed to see the situation matter-of-factly -- that the far away noise meant less focus here. And while that thought should hold for any operative, Chase was slowly fuming. 

Behind both men walked Tomas Nassau. His ASP, a second prototype, was half a year younger than the one suited by Grovington. The Spanish only had 14 days to understand his armor, and virtually logged zero hours of field testing. For this leg of the mission, he was the slow moving tank, and he took that role proudly.

Now in the western area of the castle, Devineaux prepared to trace his steps back to the defective node as reported by Lee Jordan. He signaled the split up to Mikal and the Israeli began taking Nassau down another path towards the cold labs. They barely took three steps when a loud static click came from the PA speaker overhead, abruptly ending the wailing alarm.

A chilling silence took its place.

"Teams," came a sharp female voice, "this is Mike Echo Lima," American in origin but cleaved down in tone at the last word. Chase marked the woman as foreign educated, but this wasn't new information. He already assessed MEL's identity. 

The enemy continued calmly, "These intruders are very far from home. Charlie-1-6 Kilo Oscar Sierra. Don't disappoint them."

Following the announcement, the absence of sound left a ringing in Chase Devineaux's ears.

"What is C16KOS?" Tomas asked quietly.

Mikal shook his head. 

"Charlie-1-6 is vague," Devineaux shrugged, "but I'm guessing Kilo Oscar Sierra is kill-on-sight."

54 Vic-the-Slick

The PA said:  "Teams," came a sharp female voice, "this is Mike Echo Lima. These intruders are very far from home. Charlie-1-6 Kilo Oscar Sierra. Don't disappoint them."

Vincent Fumigalli's younger days were full of moving around in tiny circles in big arenas fixing deals and filching loot, but the one time in his life he really thought he was gonna die, was in the basement of a sausages shop waiting for part of a once notorious Italian mob to leave him be. The Baresi gang hassled him for days on a deal gone sour, which really was all his fault, but he wasn't going to admit to something that stupid. Instead of owning up, a 16-year-old Fimigalli ran to a cousin, a butcher, who helped him hide. Short story shorter, Vic learned exactly what kind of messages get spoken over PAs like this one.

"Ey... I think we're in deep," he told his team.

At least his other story had a happy ending. Members of the Baresi gang were captured and jailed before they could pound him. Here, he's not so sure.

"Patts, Joe, let's go high over the mess hall. It should be somewhere south, see if we can't get a better look o' where the workmen are and how many guards are keepin' 'em."

Vic led his team carefully up the stairs, hugging the walls. Beyond and below, he could hear shouting, how the heck were they gonna get 30 people out of this mess unscathed?

55 Flag [Takes place after PA Announcement]

Dionisio Genovesi, known for his mousy demeanor, had never been more aggravated. His months of study was literally going down the incinerator. He returned to his lab, at the frozen western side of the castle’s second floor and began to count his regrets. If his original employer ever found out he considered going with the white haired catman, they would make a short stubby example of him faster than he could scurry out excuses.

"He better be In here." Came a voice from the hallway. "I think we checked everywhere else."

They’re looking for him, the Hamster recognized the voice of his employer’s other hand, Olga Glebovi. 

“I can’t help you anymore,” he said angrily, “go away!”

"Awwwww!!! Come on! We just need to check in real quick with ya!" Olga's playful voice penetrated the cracks around the door that she started banging on. "Unlock this thing and we'll be outta your hair lickity split!"

"You just want me for the diamond," he said almost with an indignant huff. 

The diamond itself was located not technically in this lab, but just above it, with a little machine called the Isochoric Compression Emissions (ICE) Module. That module was kept in freezing temperatures, and the only way to access it was still through the mousy man's lab.

"He can't know I gave you access," Hamster referred to Tweed.

There was a thunk on the door cause by the small, armed woman, leaning on it. For the first time since arriving at the fort did she let seriousness slip into her voice. "Dion. He's probably already ditched us by now. Just let us in."

"Ditch?!" Genovesi sounded scared, in his mind, his boss would never ditch him. But Olga was always stupidly practical about these things, so he opened the door.

Olga would have fallen inwards when the Hampster opened the door had she not used Flag (who had been standing next to her) as a post to balance herself on. Not wasting any time, she darted into the room and positioned herself near a table so that Genovesi couldn't push her back out of his lab. The Sivoan simply followed her in while not taking his eyes off the only member of his team that he didn't trust at all.

"So how do we..." Olga started before becoming distracted by a strange gun she saw laying on the table she chose to lean on. "What's this?"

"Stop touching things!" the labrat protested, "you've already ruined everything!"

Olga frowned at that. "Excuse me?! I'm not the dolt that couldn't..."

"Enough!" Flag interjected. "We can't afford this right now."

The female mercenary pouted but kept silent as her newest employer circled around the table cautiously. "Where is the diamond?"

"Upstairs," he pointed to the ceiling, "but it won't matter, none of us are getting out."

 "Huh?" Olga let slip. Flag was a little more articulate. "And why is that?"

Silently, Hamster pointed to another part of the ceiling, a corner camera. 

"She knows," he whispered, "and she controls everything in here."

Flag crossed his arms while Olga waved to the camera. "I find it hard to believe that you can't override such things in your own lab." 

"No one can! You've been here a month and you haven't figured that out? Take out the main camera and she can still see you with hidden thermals."

Flag glanced at the camera that the hampster man pointed out to breifly ponder why their being observed would even matter at this point. Olga walked around the lab to explore various things and after a moment she paused at a computer when she couldn't find any obvious control panel hanging around.

"This how you get in?" She questions and she began poking keys.

"Stop touching things!" The poison expert nearly launched himself at the woman, "just turn the stupid handle, it's already got key access. I did that before the control room went into lockdown."

The female mercenary darted to the side as Dionisio bore down on her and grabbed his hands before he could swat hers. She then twisted and used the momentum of his lung to fling him into the nearest solid object - in this case, a wall - and pinned him against while she spoke to Flag.

"You heard him, it's open. Go ahead."

56 Joe_Kerr

Vic-the-Slick said: 

Vic led his team carefully up the stairs, hugging the walls. Beyond and below, he could hear shouting, how the heck were they gonna get 30 people out of this mess unscathed?

Through the infra-red lens of his new toy, Joe was able to pick up the thirty odd heat signatures of what he assumed were the workers; he also made out at least three or four that were probably guards. Given that the workers hadn't jumped the guards yet, it was a safe bet the guards were armed and dangerous.

"Handy thing, switches between normal, infra-red and night vision. We really should get one of these for ourselves." 

The jester turned to see that his attempt at lightening the mood hadn't quite worked.

"Look, the way I see it, we should treat this like a heist rather than a rescue mission, albeit with significantly less resources than we're used to.

In other to 'steal' our targets, I see three options: take them out from under the guard's noses, incapacitate the guards, or make the guards bring our targets to us then intercept them.

So what will it be?"

57 Ivy


As the grappling hook wrapped around a ceiling beam, Ivy Monaghan pushed herself off of the ledge of the Silo's conduit and into gravity's loving arms. She could hear the distant sound of pinging gunfire and the drag of wind passing by her helmet. Her vision came as a blurred stream of steel piping until she saw an oncoming lit opening. Shifting her weight Ivy launched herself in, landing in a room with Calina Corranos following closely behind.

As she regained her stance, the explosion Euge promised rocked the Silo. Immediately, Ivy checked her heads up display and saw Eugene's marker at the conduit. To her relief Grovington landed soon after, sliding down one of the pipe lines.

"That was too close." Ivy turned to assess the situation.

The small room they stood in was filled with equipment and more piping. Next to the conduit were yellow stenciled letters that read 'B4' and a sign which indicated no flammable materials should be used in the area.

"No explosive chemicals detected. The warning is maybe for something else," Calina whispered.

Ivy nodded. "These pipes are messing with my thermals. I think there's activity ahead. Stay sharp."

As the three turned a corner, Ivy spied two men guarding the next room, each carrying large machetes instead of firearms. If the locals didn't want to set off a bullet down here, it must be for good reason. Ivy signaled for Eugene to stay back, and for Calina to hit her active camouflage in 5 seconds.

Once the suit's invisibility flickered on, Ivy and Cali raced towards their opponents from behind, disarming the immediate threat of the machetes first. Stepping on the fallen weapon, Ivy then kicked it away from reach. The mercenary closest to her wisened as the STUN suits flashed, and threw a near perfect punch to Ivy's side. She winced from the sharp pain, but the impact would have broken ribs if not for her armor. Cali already had her man in a choke hold, and Ivy followed soon after. The move blocked blood flow to the brain, incapacitating within seconds. It wouldn't kill, but at least remove them as threats for a long time to come.

Rushing onward, Alpha found the stairs and geaded down to Basement Level 5. Unlike the previous areas this one was labeled "The Arena" and seemed to only be a wide empty space. Dried blood clung to the surfaces. A floor hatch indicated that there was an even lower level.

"This must be where HELL is." Cali pointed.

Attached to the hatch’s door was a thermostat which displayed the temperatures necessary to sustain the High Energy Liquid Laser module. It was the kind of searing heat than an average person, even one in a S.T.U.N. suit wouldn't be able to withstand--but the heavy armor of Euge's ASP would do just fine.

"Guess you're up." Ivy turned to the pilot. Despite all that happened, sending him in alone hit her in the pit of her stomach.

"Guess I am."

"It's an incinerator down there. Our sensors aren't going to detect you, and the radio will only work within a certain area around the opening," Ivy repeated the protocol as quickly as she could. "So you better get back up here quick. And don't forget to double check your equipment," she wanted to say one more thing, but couldn't bring herself to.

"Bali," Eugene eased her with a single word. Nearly meaningless out of context, Ivy used to mention the Indonesian island when she thought he was being overprotective during training. "My equipment is fine."

Smiling behind her visor, Ivy bumped her helmet against his. Then watched him disappear down into the hatch below the silo. She exhaled and with that breath, released a small measure of her anxiety.

"Commander!" Calina suddenly shouted.

Turning, Ivy saw several figures approaching the entrance of the Arena. They wore heavier armor than the other mercenaries, with rifles slung on their backs and long steel blades gripped in hand. These men had darker hair and looked distinctly shorter, though in no way less intimidating. One of them seemed superior to the others, donning a ballistics vest with the name ‘Yi Wei’ scrawled across the front

"What do we have here?" Yi Wei laughed upon seeing the two women, "...superheroes?"

58 Contessa

Adrianna had been listening in as the ACME and V.I.L.E. agents made their way through Torun Zamok. If it were up to her, they would simply leave the hostages, take Carmen and get as far away from this place as possible.  Unfortunately, she knew it was unlike Sandiego to allow innocents to be left to the wolves.

Joe Said: "Look, the way I see it, we should treat this like a heist rather than a rescue mission, albeit with significantly less resources than we're used to.In other to 'steal' our targets, I see three options: take them out from under the guard's noses, incapacitate the guards, or make the guards bring our targets to us then intercept them.   So what will it be?"

While watching Lee Jordan relay information to the ACME teams, she noticed odd signals heading towards V.I.L.E. 
Pulling a message to Vic she spoke in her usual calm voice, "Rebel, what ever you decide to do, choose quickly. People are headed your way." 

59 DrRoux

[A cooperative post with Sophie Conrad, Kidman, Chase and Dr. Roux.]

Doctor Acton Roux settled with the medical team on the second floor of the Watchtower. It was an oddly arranged place, a moderately preserved former prison tower with two circular structures attached by rectangular rooms. The area they were now in seemed to have been used as a temporary study. Two chairs and an old wooden desk held a translated copy of The Rubaiyat, and an old illegible newspaper, covered with tea stains, in Russian.

Its windows allowed in some breeze, but not nearly as harsh as one might expect from ocean-facing towers. The stone portal themselves were light slits that now deteriorated into wider holes. While they are not large, a man of his size may certainly fit through, and Roux made note of this should he need to escape.

Upon arriving in the room and receiving the assurances that the Watch Tower, for all intents and purposes, had been secured by the men of Delta as a base for the mobile medical team, Doctor Sophie Conrad took a moment to appraise the location.

They were on the distal edge of Torun Zamok, facing the sea and was not offered a view of the main castle buildings - where, she presumed, the bulk of the conflict was now ongoing. Choosing not to remove her backpack as yet, she placed a hand-held battery-operated lantern onto the wooden desk and turned it on, illuminating the room. Shadows shifted and she marked the entrances and exits, and moved to test the strength of the two dust-covered chairs. As she ran a hand over the back of the second chair, an echoing announcement reverberated through the complex and she became still as she listened to it, a frown forming on her brow at the following interpretation given by the Director of Operations...

As Acton prepared what may become his station, a crackle came from a speaker with a malicious-sounding voice. Immediately following the message, a global text message from Chase confirmed the doctor's fears.

"Charlie-1-6 unknown, Kilo Oscar Sierra is kill-on-sight"

A high-pitched clink in the stone opening next to him sparked Acton's curiosity, but not without caution. Turning on briefly his thermal imaging, the doctor could see bodies of men climbing the tower towards the second storey window.

"Mes amis," he said quickly pointing to the window, "nous avons de la compagnie."

Sophie turned out the lantern, plunging the room back into relative darkness, and touched Constance Kitlyn once on the arm - reassuring both women that she was still present. As her vision adapted and her thoughts quickened, she moved towards Doctor Roux, "Can you tell how many there are?"

Acton shook his masked head, “Non, I see three climbing, there must be more on the ground.”

Kidman didn’t know French, but she could easily surmise the situation.


“Already?” she muttered as she pushed over a burst of panic for options.  Her first reaction was to throw the heaviest thing she could find, but neither the desk nor the chairs would fit through the windows, and even if they did,  it would be impossible to aim without coming into view.

Below, a man named Sarno DeSalva led the mercenaries. Their tactic was to move in from the second floor while another group led by Horatio Barabbas would use brute force to enter from the basement. The objective, clearly, was to reclaim the watchtower.

“The roof. If we stay low on the roof,  we should be safe,” the girl said as she refastened her hood, then searched about one of her medical packs. “and if we can find their grappling hooks, we might be able to cut them with the emergency shears.”

"We're climbing to the second floor," Sarno told the other team. That would be the last communication they heard from one another.

She headed for the stairway, then paused to look at her fellows earnestly. “And if you can find any loose bricks, bring them up with you if you can.”

"Je vais lâcher le morceau," Acton admitted in a less alarming voice, "I have never been in this situation before."

In the cover of darkness, one of the men on the ropes began calling to his boss on the radio.

"Sarno, [I hear voices]."

60 Flag

Flag hadn't wasted any time darting through the security door into the frozen laboratory that the Hampster had failed to protect. The first thing that greeted him was a hallway with walls the reminded him of the temporary barracks that he stayed in at the beginning of his time at Torun. With luck, this would be the last time he sees them.

Moving forward, he soon found himself in a small room filled with large equipment and just like at the auction, he was able to sense that the diamond was within it. Unfortunately, since it was not readily marked, he didn't know where to look.

As he moved around the room to inspect labels and components, he realized that this was the first time all month that he found himself alone. A part of him wished that he could enjoy this moment, but he finally found the label that he was looking for.

It read "Dye Laser" and went into detail about how to load organic dyes into it. Next to this device was another that read " Diamond Raman Laser." He looked for a label with loading instructions similar to those on the dye laser, but he settled on one that said "resonator cavity" simply for the fact that this component was removable.

He flipped back the prongs that held the enclosure in place and pulled it out. He looked it over, said a prayer of sorts under his breath, and flung it as hard as he could on the ground. The piece of scientific equipment exploded on impact and Flag finally spied the object of his obsession.

It was disheartening. The diamond had shrunk - expertly filed down into a 8 millimeter thick square. Where the remainder of it went, he did not know.

After taking a moment to fight back his rage and disappointment, he bent down to pick it up and immediately dropped it again. It was as though it bit him. The sorcerer inspected his hand and found that where his fingers had touched the diamond started to blister.

He swore loudly and searched the laboratory for something to hold the diamond. Eventually he found a small container that held a number of microscope sides, which he upended. Flag burnt his fingers again getting diamond into the box, but at least now he could carry it and he shoved the small package into the pocket of his hoodie.

Olga had been waiting patiently outside the cold lab for her charge. When he finally arrived, she turned to him and smiled.

"What'd you do? Fall in?"

"What..." Flag had started to ask, but decided against it and gestured towards the door. 

The female mercenary picked up the silent cue and made her way to check the door. As she did this, the Sivoan spied the Hampster's body on the floor. A large dart was embedded in his chest.

"Is he dead?" he found himself asking.

"Not yet... I think. Soon though." Olga held up the gun she spied on the table earlier. "There's some sort of neurotoxin mixed in with the tranquilizer. Don't really know what it does, but he seriously freaked out about it until he passed out."

"Sounds like fun." The Sivoan muttered as he made his way up to the door.

Once again on point, Olga stuck did a visual sweep of the hallway. After not finding anything or anyone in it, she stepped out. "Come on. We've got to make our way to the helipad somehow."

Flag nodded and followed. "Lead the way." 

61 Carmen [An unintended collaboration between Carmen and Chase]

Navigating the corridors of Torun Zamok, Carmen Sandiego stopped at the end of a narrow hallway in the western section of the castle. She hadn't planned to be here, but as she listened to the roofing structure above, a slight shuffling kept her standing in the same spot for several seconds.

"Chase," she finally spoke to the ceiling, "It's me."

After leaving Mikal and Tomas to find the ICE Module, Chase Devineaux headed down the western corridor to fix a node reported by Lee Jordan as defective. He thought he was quiet, but apparently, not quiet enough for all ears.

"Me who?" he responded to the familiar voice.

"Open the tile," she requested.

He hesitated, and then did as instructed. The square opening was cut during construction stages and its cover came loose with moderate effort. Below was a dark void. At intervals, cold light flickered from distant clamor, almost too far away to perceive. She comes with thunder, fittingly.

"Hello Seraphim," Carmen smiled when she saw his eyes, "pull me up."

Chase offered her an arm, then lifted the woman into the roof's wooden crawlspace. She sat next to him, observed the broken node on the wall in front of them and exhaled.

"I'm glad you're alive," she said through a mist.

Devineaux questioned that statement without a word.

She continued, "I've wanted to tell you that since the moment you replied to my code."

Chase recalled very well the Morse code message that half eased his mind and half drove it mad four weeks ago. He was glad then too; to discover she was alive. Knowing the sentiment was shared should make him happy, but like every revelation this past year, it left him stranded.

"How did you know it was me?"

"With Nob Hill damaged and ACME staying silent, I thought...," she shrugged with her brows, "But then the two-way lit up, and the first thing you signaled was 'How are you?'."
She laughed lightly, and eventually, he mirrored it.

"You should have told me Lancaster was behind this," seriousness weighed in his tone.

"I did."

"Directly!" he raised to a harsh whisper, "No clues, no coded messages, just talk to me."

"Do you trust me enough for that kind of communication?"

He waved the question off and returned to the defective node, "We'll never know."

As he raised his arm to work on the transceiver, she held his wrist to secure his attention. "Rosen only wanted the weapon neutralized, and nothing else?"
He seemed impassible. "Chase," she insisted on a reply, and when his expression hardened, she felt the answer kindling at the back of her mind.

"I'm sorry," he apologized, "for whatever happens."

She considered her options, "Then... I'm sorry too."

"So," he said as he studied the electric node, "are you going to tell me where she is?"

"Silo," Carmen said with resolve, "Level one. There's a connecting crawlspace under the castle, I've marked it for you." As she spoke, she moved closer to him and the artificial light source on his shoulder, "The ducts are relatively secure, and will take you to an electrical unit adjacent to the control room; but you'll be moving through live wire, be very careful."

"Door code?"

"Five-oh-eight-three, but it won't matter," her heart raced with a surge of pre-mission adrenaline, not for herself but for the man under briefing, "More than likely, she's expecting you."

"Good to know," he accepted, "Did you get to study the security module?"

She looked up when he asked with a thoughtful pause, and Chase suddenly noticed that her head was inches from his. 

"Kiss," she broke the silence.


"KISS," looking back down at the wires, she clarified, "Kinetic Intelligence Security System, it covers movement, heat... practically activated by the blood flowing inside a living organism..."

An emergency message interrupted on the radio reporting that a team of hostiles were be closing in on the watchtower.

"Christ," Devineaux breathed, "I should go to them."

"I'm faster," she voiced, "Take Melana, I'll clear whiskey-tango for extraction."
Lithely using his muscles to support her ascent to the higher beams, she followed an eastern conduit and was gone.

Robbed of a proper good bye, Chase stopped to consider the irony: VILE's leader securing his team's exit. Refocusing, he deconstructed the node and relinked its transmitter to an external battery. These things were designed to be disposable, and in the process, left some of the connections weak. When a dim blue light indicated it was live, he turned off his radio to minimize disruption, and headed north to the control room in SILO-B1.

62 Joe_Kerr

Contessa said: While watching Lee Jordan relay information to the ACME teams, she noticed odd signals heading towards V.I.L.E. 
Pulling a message to Vic she spoke in her usual calm voice, "Rebel, what ever you decide to do, choose quickly. People are headed your way." 

All three thieves had heard the warning and immediately began looking for the nearest form of cover. On realizing that they had no viable options for cover, Joe instinctively ran through his inventory - four knock out gas grenades, a couple of flash bangs, a pair of infra-red/night vision goggles, and his trusty Jester's staff with a tazer at the base (to be used as a last resort only). 

It wasn't much but as long as there wasn't a full battalion to deal with, maybe they still had a chance; more than that, if the approaching guards were wearing some sort of standard uniform, just maybe, the intrepid trio just might be able to con their way into gaining custody of the workers. Everything depended on just how many hostiles were coming their way.

"Duchess, this is Puck. Could I know roughly how many hostiles are headed out way? I may have a way to deal with them if the number isn't too great."

(OOC: Contessa, I hope you don't mind the codename I gave you. If you have issues with it, I can change it. Thanks)

63 Ivy - Credits: Calina, Ivy and Yi Wei is Joe Kerr's Mercenary 

 Yi Wei (Mercenary) said: "What do we have here?" Yi Wei laughed upon seeing the two women, "...superheroes?"

There were eight men with Yi Wei. It seemed like a long shot to try to attack them all at once, but Ivy knew she was quick... and if timed right, they'd never see her coming.

She clicked her tongue twice as a signal to Calina.

On the order, Cali activated her camouflage and  jumped up, snaking her away around the ceiling's scaffolding. Her ascent punctuated by sparks of ricocheting bullets as the mercenaries aimed upwards.

One bullet burst open a steam pipe, and the leader yelled for them to stop shooting. Ivy took this opportunity to rush at the distracted men. She knew to grip their wrists and twist limbs, mangling their bodies together before knocking them out. To confuse their line of sight she ducked and weaved in circles around them.

Inevitably arcs of electricity from her suit's prolonged camouflage state gave away her position again, and a less subordinate mercenary ran towards her firing his weapon. She grabbed the gun's hot barrel in time to lift it up, opening his body to her direct kicks. Ivy was surprised when he suddenly went rigid, then realized that Calina had shot him with a taser dart from above.

Before she could thank her backup, the Commander saw a flash of light and dodged what would have been a fatal stab from Yi Wei's katana.

He chuckled, "You do not kill."

Hoping that Cali would have another shot, Ivy tried to stay clear of his blade. She could see that he was skilled with it, the steel working as an extension of his body. If he had a gun, she knew the additional STUN armor may be able to take the impact, but a blade like this could easily cut through her bones.

Yi Wei spoke again, "Your beliefs makes you predictable."

A smoke grenade dropped from above, and the room slowly filled with mist. It wasn't what Ivy wanted to see... because it meant Cali was out of ammunition, and she knew her suit wasn't ready to go invisible again so soon.

"Don't hide," the mercenary mocked, "I like a good fight."

Backing up towards the HELL module's hatch, Ivy grabbed Eugene's SCAR-H. Pulling it over her just in time to use it as a shield against the katana. The sword sparked against the aluminum receiver, and Ivy rolled to avoid another strike. Above, she saw a shadow moving down the scaffolds, undoubtedly Cali trying to make her way down to help.

Then she felt it. A sharp cold blade ripping through her left arm. It made her drop the rifle, and she wasn't sure if she heard Calina scream, or if it was her own voice. Ivy kicked her opponents legs and brought him to the floor, forcing him to tear the katana away from her. In an instant he regained his balance, but now his sights were fixed on Calina.

Her mind on survival mode, Ivy gripped her utility launcher and fired. She had no lethal charges left, only the grappling hook. It launched straight through Yi Wei's back, the metal claw appearing on the other side of his chest. He dropped to his knees.

She breathed a sigh of relief.

"Are you okay?" Cali rushed over, checking her arm.

"I'm fine… nothing medical can't patch up," It was only when she felt Cali's hand on hers that Ivy realized she was still holding the utility launcher, and that she was shaking. Somehow she forced herself to dislodge the attachment and wordlessly sank down against the arena's wall, her eyes fixed on the man she killed.

64 DetectiveAwesome Post credit: Gunnar, Daniel and Flag's Mercs

Ivy Said: “Delta, I need you to send a technician to the North Tower to see if they can get the security node there to respond. Hackers at base will take it from there. Alpha will split and do the same for the second floor lab.”

Daniel knew about mechanical hardware from his time at the ACME Technologies and Gunnar was enrolled in a field computing course prior to the raid, making them the only two technicians on Delta qualified to go after the node in the North Tower.  With Nevon watching their back, the three Bunker Boys carefully made their way through the fort and towards the broken node. Dan was happy that they were going the stealthy route and avoiding most of the turmoil. Once in awhile, they’d hear an explosion or gunfire in the distance and listen in the radio to see if everyone was okay. So far ACME had been extremely lucky.

For the second time, Gunnar was pointman. Daniel tapped into camera feeds whenever they turned a corner to see if it the way was clear for him, he cringed each time he peered around a corner. Gun always ready, he thought over what would happen if he shot or was shot by another tonight. He was not certain if he was ready for either experience.

A female voice over the loudspeaker: "Teams, this is Mike Echo Lima, These intruders are very far from home. Charlie-1-6 Kilo Oscar Sierra. Don't disappoint them."

“What do you think that means?” Dan turned to his friends. “Fish, Steak,  you understand their code?”

Gunnar shook his head. “Charlie-1-6 is a codename for some officer, maybe?” He blinked and looked to his left as a laser red arrowhead began to blink, indicating he was very near the Bunker Boys’ current mission object.

“Yo Fish [Gunnar], the node’s over here.” Dan could see that it was pretty busted up, but there didn’t seem to be anyone guarding it. “I can probably start rewiring this so that our base can get a signal. But you’re going to have to help them hack it. Steak [Nevon], watch our backs.”

Dan looked under the console, the wiring was relatively straightforward and he with a buzz, beep and static charge the node was transmitting again.  Now it was up to Gunnar to send the signals back to Lee Jordan.

Though he had received sufficient training for the sort of circuit and programming aspect of their mission, Gunnar could hardly be counted as confident in his skills or ability to work under such pressure. He snapped an SD memory card into a slot in the node and ran a scan for errors in the device hardware. One sector was not found. “Bacon, a part was not installed correctly, kanske?”

“Oh yeah, you’re right. If we override it, it should work.... Bingo!” Daniel yelled as Gunnar got the nodes working. He was about to do the Bunker Boys secret handshake when he suddenly heard people behind them. Turning he saw three mercenaries, all wearing what looked like the old version of the STUN suits, even down to the original black outer layer. “Crap.”

Pointing his gun towards the detectives Ronin produced a cheshire grin, “Hey, what was that thing Matt said to do if we find any of these technology stealing idiots from San Fran...?”

Randall returned a chuckle, “I think he told us to be excessive.”

65 Contessa

Joe_Kerr said: "Duchess, this is Puck. Could I know roughly how many hostiles are headed out way? I may have a way to deal with them if the number isn't too great."

Contessa scanned over the screen before her. While Lee Jordan's team worked hard to translate the information coming in from Tourun Zamok, she could only relay what she saw to V.I.L.E. and that was limited at the moment. 

Suddenly the two missing nodes lit up, signaling that Chase Devineaux's team as well as the team headed by Daniel Ainsworth and Gunnar Svensson had succeeded. This gave her a much clearer picture of what was happening on the ground.

"Four hostiles headed your way, Puck," Contessa's voice rang through to her teammates, "And another three should arrive in less than five minutes after them. Do what you can." 

66 Joe_Kerr

Contessa said: "Four hostiles headed your way, Puck," Contessa's voice rang through to her teammates, "And another three should arrive in less than five minutes after them. Do what you can." 

"Roger that."

Three plus four equaled more than Joe was confident of being able to confront properly but maybe, with some strategy and a little luck, it just might work.

Turning to his comrades, Joe gave them what he hoped was not his last words to them.

"Vic, I trust you brought the present I gave you. Wait upwind and pray that I come back. Do not come running after me. If I don't return, hopefully my gift will buy you two some time to escape."

Having said his peace, the Jester spun 180 degrees and walked purposefully towards the approaching hostiles with his staff in hand.

Waiting behind a corner, he heard the first four hostiles arrive. Praying under his breath, he carefully reached into his bag and pulled out a flash bang. Silently, he pulled the pin and tossed it in the general direction of the hostiles.

Joe heard the flash bang go off and a lot of cursing follow soon after. Taking that as his cue, he rushed into the hostiles and ran past them whilst purposely knocking one over. As he did so, he noted that none of them wore gas masks and that they all wore a standard armor suit somewhat similar to what the ACMEs were wearing. He also noted that each of them carried a machine gun. He wasn't sure of the type but he knew it was probably lethal.

Yelling out a taunt to get them to chase him, Joe ran towards where he figured the oncoming three would be arriving from. As he predicted, the four goons ran after him, wildly firing their weapons; lucky for him the flash bang seemed to still be affecting their aim because he was still alive and unscathed.

Unfortunately, as he turned the next corridor, he ran into the path of the three hostiles he'd been searching for and they had not been previously stunned by his flash bang. Joe immediately spun around and ducked the oncoming shots but this time he wasn't fast enough and two of the bullets hit him - one in the left shoulder, and one in his left arm. 

Falling to the ground, the Jester grasped his left arm in pain as he dropped his staff; 

'Well at least I still have my throwing arm' he joked to himself. 

The Jester looked up to see seven less-than-amused men. Unfortunately for these seven, they made the mistake of not killing Joe straight away and instead opting for the age old cliche of taunting their victim, which is an absolutely idiotic thing to do, as Joe was about to demonstrate. 

"Look what the cat dragged in," drawled one of the seven which Joe nickname 'dopey'

"I hate clowns," chipped in another whose face reminded Joe of roadkill.

"Let's just shoot him and look for the others," said another who seemed to have an Hispanic accent.

"Wait, I want to see what he looks like under the mask," came the reply from yet another one with an accent that Joe thought was either German or Austrian.

As said goon reached down to take Joe's mask, Joe seized his opportunity and pulled out his patented knock out gas grenade. Without a word, he threw it on the ground and set it off. Soon, a cloud of sleep-inducing gas enveloped the group and only the Jester was left standing, well, attempting to stand.

Picking up his staff with his only good arm, the Jester radioed his comrades in on his plan. He didn't know how much time they had till the next wave of goons showed up and Joe was already low on ammo as it was. They needed to get the workers out now, and hopefully, one of those armor suits would fit Vic to a tee...

67 Mikal

"What happened here?" Mikal Darsha opened the door to the 2nd Floor lab.

There were clear signs of a struggle, with the body of a small man who reminded him of a rodent lying prone on the floor--a dart sticking out of his chest. 

"Looks like a murder... and a theft," Tomas pointed to an open machine that once held a flawless diamond. To the eyes of the ACME agents however, it only looked like an important part of the equipment was recently taken out. "I hope that is not the ICE-Module."

"It is not." Mikal corrected, "The ICE is above it, over there."

"How do you know what it is?"

"Post-it Note." The Israeli pointed, "Do not touch the Isochoric Compression Emissions Module - Dionisio."

Tomas shrugged, and walked towards the machine. "It's not even locked," using the strength of his ASP he pulled open the door. 
There was a sudden beep and Mikal's eyes widened as his brain registered what was happening. "Tra--"

Before he could finish, an explosion ripped from the ICE Module chamber. White fire seemed to wrap around the silhouette of Tomas before pushing him back against the wall of the lab. Mikal was far enough away to avoid the flame, but  he felt as if he was dunked in freezing water. The sensation was familiar to the Israeli, it was a trick of the human nervous system to register extreme heat as cold. 
As he tried to stand, his ears rang, and Mikal struggled to find his footing in a daze of vertigo. Looking around the now charred lab, two things became clear. The ICE Module

was completely obliterated.. and Tomas was was lying motionless. Fearing the worst, Mikal rushed over to his fallen ally. The ASP’s life support system showed no heartbeat and no intake of oxygen. 

Pausing for a moment Mikal weighed what he needed to do. 

His previous field work required that no evidence be left behind, he would either have to disguise Tomas as one of the mercenaries or carry his body back. Obviously, ACME would prefer the later.

“I am sorry my friend. You were very brave,” Mikal said as he looked for the latch to remove Tomas’ helmet. The ASP would only weigh him down. 
Finding the lock he snapped it off, only to be surprised by a breathing, and somewhat annoyed Tomas.

“You idiot! You thought I was dead?” Tomas seethed. 

“Oh. You are alive.” 

“The armor malfunctioned, it locked up.”

“Can we fix it?” Mikal asked.

Tomas shook his head, “Get me out of the ASP and then we’ll need to destroy it.  What about the ICE?”


“So we trashed one of ACME’s most expensive technologies, and failed our mission objective. Wonderful. You better call it into the Commander.”

“What? Why me?”

“Because you can move...”

Mikal exhaled and hit the button on his radio, "Eh... Commander," the damaged speaker produced just passable quality, "I have some very bad news."

68 EarlJr (And now for another episode of Powered Armor Shenanigans, with special guest star Karnak, as played by Joe Kerr.)

The ASP was out of its element.

Every aspect of the powered armor was designed for an open space brawl, and while it could handle extreme environments, the  cooling system had been configured ahead of time with the assumption of subarctic maritime conditions; a far cry from the sweltering pit he was in now.  The onboard computer was rapidly adapting the suit to the temperature swing, but there was only so much that could be done in software.  As a result, the ASP reacted sluggishly.  Each movement seemed agonizingly slow and laborious, despite still being fractionally faster than an average person.

Stepping off the bottom rung, Euge withdrew a combat knife and carefully scanned the area.  The room might have been as large as his apartment, but piping and electrical conduit constricted it down to a narrow corridor with several alcoves branching off.  The module that reconnaissance designated as the High Energy Liquid Laser sat at the end, spiderwebbed with various cables and tubes.

Blade at the ready, Euge carefully plodded towards his objective.  He would have much preferred having his rifle, but the high temperatures imposed too much risk of the ammunition cooking off.  This fear, combined with the tight spacing, effectively restricted Euge's arsenal to his blade and harsh language.

Reaching the HELL, Euge knelt down and carefully examined the device.  It appeared to be active, as passing his knife through the beam caused the tip of the blade to spark and glow in the ultraviolet beam before ablating away.  Mentally noting which part of the HELL was 'hot', Euge flipped his knife over and began to slice through the lines powering the device.  He had cut two leads before a hammerblow forced him forward, the beam grazing across the side of his helmet.  On reflex, Euge drove the combat knife over his shoulder, spinning around to face his opponent as the blade lodged firmly into the arm of his assailant.

Euge took a split second to size up his enemy; a solid brick of scarred dark skin with telltale blood splatters across the front of his armor and unsheathed machete.  Karnak grinned as if he had already won, and Euge took the opportunity.  Pouring as much power into the ASP as he could, Euge launched himself into Karnak and both men smashed through a set of electrical cabinets.  Karnak was no pushover, and attempted to drive his machete into the faceplate of the ASP, blowing out a camera in the process.

The temporary blindness gave Karnak the opening he needed, and he disappeared into the darkness before Euge could draw a bead on him.  Rushing towards where he thought Karkak went, Euge realized too late he had been suckered into a trap.  Karnak embedded the machete into the leg of the ASP, attempting to cleave his attacker's leg off.  In the haze of adrenaline, Euge couldn't tell if it had reached flesh.  The force of the attack was enough to unbalance him, and stars erupted in Euge's vision.

Not giving his quarry time to recover his bearings, Karnak quickly went over to retrieve his machete for a killing blow.  Instead the machete broke apart leaving a fuming Karnak to give a couple of hard stomps on the injured leg and a stiff knee to Euge's face.  Then inexplicably, Karnak walked away.  Euge fought to regain his balance and follow, but another electrical cabinet toppled over, pinning him in place.  Karnak, upon seeing Euge's predicament, came around and attempted to roughly pull the helmet from the ASP, no doubt wanting to deliver a final blow and opening himself up in the process.  Reaching up, Euge yanked his knife free and drove it through Karnak's foot before grabbing onto his arm and breaking it in one swift motion.  Karnak's eyes widened in surprise before he collapsed to the floor and began to drag himself away.

Grateful for the brief respite, Euge took his chance to free himself, and with some creative lifting wrenched the stuck limb out.  The armor casing around his right leg was punctured and dented, with his ankle hanging at an odd angle.  Even as he tried to stand, the ASP's health monitoring systems compensated for his fresh injury, immobilizing the joint and allowing Euge to walk.

Not wasting his chance, Euge chased after his wounded opponent, tackling him to the ground just out of reach of the HELL.  Knee on Karnak's good arm, Euge applied careful pressure to his throat.  It would be easy to crush his spine with the ASP's enhanced strength, and Karnak may know something useful, if he could be convinced to talk.

Satisfied Karnak wouldn't be waking up anytime soon, Euge carefully bound him tight before resuming work on the laser.  Successfully disconnecting it, Euge faced his next dilemma; getting both his assailant and the HELL up the ladder.  A further moment's consideration saw Euge binding the laser carefully to Karnak's back before hefting the man into a fireman's carry and mounting the ladder. 

"Christ big boy," Euge wondered out loud, "What did you eat for breakfast? Cement?" Before climbing steadily up to rejoin Ivy and Cali.

69 Contessa

On the screen before her, Adrianna could see that the immediate threat of mercenaries had been dispersed by what appeared to be Joe's knock-out gas. Unfortunately her display also showed that  Joe Kerr was no longer moving.

"Puck?" The Countess' voice showed a hint of worry. It was then that the Jester radioed in with a plan and her mind was put at ease again that all members of V.I.L.E. were still alive. 

Suddenly, the ACME side of the communications plane went abuzz as news appeared that Mikal and Tomas were in an explosion. From what Adrianna could see they were far away from others, and had lost a crucial piece of equipment. The reports of  injuries seemed to be piling up. There was no doubt the medical team would have their hands full soon. 

Luckily, she could see that Carmen was on her way towards Kidman and Roux. The master thief was being tracked as node '111' via the  bracelet that Patty snapped on Carmen's wrist when they found her. "Meridian," Adrianna called to the medical team, "Keep an eye out for 111 and other teams headed your way." 

70 Ivy

(At the moment, both ACME and VILE are well into their raid of Torun Zamok. I think it's a good time to give an overview of what's going on right now in case people are lost. If I left something important out, let me know.)

  • Ivy, Euge and Calina are in the basement of the Silo after having faced Yi-Wei and Karnak. Karnak is still alive for questioning. The team also successfully retrieved the HELL module. 

  • Mikal and Tomas have failed to get the ICE module intact, and Tomas lost his ASP. They are now on their way to link up with the nearest team.

  • Contessa and Lee Jordan are still overseeing everything in the communications plane. 

  • Carmen and Chase met up some time ago, Carmen is headed towards the Watch Tower to see the Medical team. Chase is headed to the Silo in hopes of confronting Lancaster. 

  • Daniel and Gunnar have fixed the node near North Tower, but have been found out by the mercenaries are are being held at gunpoint. We do not yet know where Nevon Blair is. 

  • The Medical team Meridian (Kidman, Sophie and Roux) joined up with Delta. They are all in the watch tower. While the medical team is setting up, Deric and Nace are guarding the only entrance from below. 

  • Flag and Olga have retried the diamond from the lab and are looking for a helipad to escape. 

  • VILE (Vic, Patty and Joe Kerr) entered the castle through The Wedge. They already linked up with Carmen and are now subduing mercenaries as well as saving the hostages. 

71 Nevon

While Daniel and Gunnar were busy with the security node, Nevon noticed that their spider robot Shelob was stuck in a corner. As smart as the root was, she always seemed to have trouble keeping up. Since the coast seemed clear, he decided he should go and push her out. 

Just as he was returning with the arachnid, he saw his buddies at the wrong end of three guns and some mean looking guys. Nevon's heart felt like it was going to burst from his chest, but he remembered what Chase Devineaux once said to him about panicky agents getting killed first

Just then, an older man came from behind to stop the mercenaries. Nevon's eyes widened instantly. It was the man they had identified as Alfie Barber, a.k.a. 'Tweed'. 

"Hold on." The man said, breaking the tension. "I need these two."

One of the mercenaries looked upset, "But she said--"

"I don't care what you think she said, I'm telling you what to do right now. Bring them to the courtyard."

With a grumble the mercenaries pushed Daniel and Gunnar, keeping the detectives at gunpoint as they walked away. Nevon wasn't sure what to do, so he followed closely behind, hoping that an opportunity would arise for him to get his friends out of danger

72 Flag (Many Thanks to Euge for helping me where my mobile apps could not. :D )

They had just reached the bottom floor of the castle's main stairwell when the sounds of an explosion echoed in from the top.

"Looks like we got out of there just in time." Olga said over her shoulder.

Flag, who had been following her merely grunted enough of an acknowledgment to get her moving again. Their route ran them through the women's barracks , where Flag noted that they had a better view of the workers camp outside. It was then that he noticed that all of the workers were missing.

"Where did the villagers go?"

Olga glanced out the window and shrugged. "That's a good question. They were supposed to be brought inside, but I haven't seen them... wait here."

Flag did as he was instructed and watched as Olga took point for the entrance to the hallway. He started as he saw her jump and squeek as the barrel of a rifle came into view. She then laughed and waved him on. He followed.

Another female mercenary had been standing guard and recognized Olga before she shot her. They were engaged in a brief conversation about the way ahead when Flag arrived.

"It's clear now, but step carefully. The structure is badly damaged." Advised the unknown merc.

"And the courtyard? Did Melana get the helicopter?" Inquired Olga.

The stranger shrugged. "I don't know. I was in the silo before I was placed here."

"Well, okay then." Olga turned to Flag, "We're just going to have to chance it then."

The Sivoan shrugged. "I'm not surprised. Let's go."

With a quick salute from Olga to the other mercenary, they were off. 

73 DetectiveAwesome [Quickie filler post with a bunch of easter eggs. Enjoy everyone!]

Tweed Said “I don't care what you think she said, I'm telling you what to do right now. Bring them to the courtyard.”

Great. Dan wondered if they were falling out of the frying pan and into the fire. He turned to his fellow bunker brother. Gunnar was known for being a little jittery and Dan wasn’t sure how long the Swede would be able to stay calm.  Dan wasn’t even sure how long he could stay calm either. They say your life passes before you when you’re about to die. He didn't have any flashy visions on the march to the courtyard. All he could think of was all of the things he never got to do. Like go to that Snowdonian place that Bran always talked about, finish the Bunker Boy theory wall  or watch Mr. G interrogate someone like they had planned to do in Home Economics class.  At least Nevon wasn’t captured with them, and since they were still alive it meant they still had a shot. 

Off the corner of his eye, Dan saw Shelob crawling along the walls after them. If he wasn’t controlling her and Gunnar wasn’t either, that meant Nevon wasn’t far behind. Spirits lifted he tried to hint to Gunnar that help might be on the way. 

“Maybe we’ll get to have that steak dinner after all” He whispered before being shoved by one of the gaurds. 

74 EarlJr

After a laborious climb, Euge managed to reach the trapdoor and unceremoniously shoved Karnak through.  A look around before Euge emerged saw the last traces of a smoke bomb fading from view, several more bodies, and most worryingly, Ivy and Cali slumped against a wall.

His mind filling with increasingly worse possibilities, Euge propelled himself across the arena floor, only relaxing slightly when his HUD displayed both women were alive and well.

Ivy stood when she saw Eugene's rushing forward, her immediate reaction was to ready for another possible attack, but when he paused, she eased.

"Are you limping?" She asked without thinking.

Ignoring Ivy’s query, Euge drew her into a tight embrace.  The sum of all his fears seemed to have been simultaneously confirmed and put to rest for now.  Taking notice of Cali averting her gaze bought Euge back, and he released Ivy just as quickly.

"Ow. Easy there, big guy." Ivy winced as Eugene pressed against her newly wrapped wound. It was the first time he let his guard down since Lenino, and she managed a smile to let him know all was okay.  Remembering that Calina was still there, Ivy scratched the back of her neck with a hint of embarassment. All too soon her attention turned to the man on the ground. From what she'd seen of Eugene, he wasn't one to take prisoners, "...Is he--?"

"Someone doesn't hang around on their own in a place like that without knowing something." Euge said while checking his rifle.  It appeared to still be in working order, and a quick function test helped to clear his head.  Walking over to the prone man, Euge placed a foot on his good hand.  It would take quite a bit of prying to get answers out of him, and Euge wasn't sure if they could afford the time.

Lifting Karnak up by his scalp, Euge wasn’t able to see the door to the arena floor burst open.  What he did see was Karnak’s eyes roll up as his neck erupted with gore.  Holding the now limp body as a shield, Euge hefted his SCAR in his free hand and opened up on their attacker.  Watching him duck back behind the door, Euge threw the body aside and charged up to close the distance, all pain temporarily forgotten.  Reaching the door just as Umnaj stepped out again, Euge grabbed the barrel of his rifle and pulled him forward.  Catching him by the neck as he fell, Euge snapped it with a twist of his wrist.

Stepping back, Euge let the body fall and jogged to the staircase.  Pausing at the base, he stood stock still and listened.  There were voices, and they were getting closer.  Euge chuckled to himself as he realized the theft of their crown jewel wouldn’t go unanswered.  Stepping back into the antechamber, Euge made an experimental call to the control team.  To his great surprise, the call went through and a handler came back to him amongst a din of familiar background voices.  In another heartbeat, every possible path back up was highlighted on Euge’s HUD.  Mentally dismissing most of them, the display flashed with the elevator shaft, and Euge motioned for his teammates to follow.

Prying the elevator doors open, Euge flipped on his spotlight and looked around.  The elevator itself was bottomed out; positioned perfectly for them to climb the cables.

The elevator shaft?” Ivy questioned, carrying the HELL module which was once strapped to Karnak. “I don’t like this idea, we’d be lined up for them.

Euge didn’t respond at first, merely jumping down onto the roof of the elevator car, before turning back to Ivy.  “We would be lined up for them on the stairs as well, right where they expect us to be.  At worst, we can get up to the next floor and wait them out.

With a breath Ivy followed Euge down. They had come this far on instinct, and a dangerous way out was better than none at all.

Right behind you.” She confirmed, grabbing an elevator cable.

Nodding once, Euge watched carefully as Cali set the charges that would sever the counterweight.  Seeing everyone was in position, Euge tightened his grip on the cable and gave the thumbs up.

He wasn’t ready for the shock though, as the counterweight began its freefall he thought his arm might rip from its socket, and quickly glanced to his sides to confirm his teammates were still holding on.  Looking up, Euge watched as the top of the shaft approached uncomfortably quickly.  Suddenly, with a deafening clang, the ride was over. Alpha had stopped their wild ride up, and was dangling midway between ground level and B1.  


Look.” Euge said as he nodded at a convenient service platform.  “Let’s swing over.”  Starting a swinging motion, Cali lept onto the platform first, followed by Ivy and finally by Euge.  It was a simple climb up to the ground floor door, and a quick look around with a fiber optic scope showed the coast was clear.

Dragging himself out of the shaft, Euge leaned back and assisted his teammates out before letting the doors spring shut again.  “That actually worked better than I thought it would.” Euge muttered to himself as he stood, earning himself a glare from the women before they set off again.

75 DericStorm (a co-post with Nace Bilby)

“Okay, that’s the last crate,” Deric said, muscling a wooden crate into position in the tunnel connecting the watchtower to the rest of the castle. “What now?”

“Right mate, I’ve got a couple surprises for the wankers that might try for us.” Nace said as he primed a couple C4 charges and stuck them into the crates, taking care to place them behind supplies that would explode into fragments.”

“Niiice,” Deric said with a bit of an evil chuckle, “I’ll bet that makes a terrible bang.”

“It should.” Nace replied, “I was on the receiving end of a similar device in Afghanistan. The sods blew it too early and that saved our lives. Talk about turning the tables.”

Deric chuckled at the gallows humor until a noise from their “MacGyver”-ed early warning system alerted them to people coming. “Take cover,” Deric barked, “we got incoming.” The two agents quickly moved to the far end of the tunnel closest to the door leading up to the watchtower and took cover behind the crates they piled there. The way they set the crates up along the tunnel created multiple choke points, making the tunnel easily defendable..

From their position Deric could see the group enter the tunnel. It was a three-man team led by a Latin man who dwarfed him. He could tell by their mismatched attire that they normally did not work together.

“Throw down your weapons and you won’t be harmed,” the leader spoke in accented English. Deric could hear one of the subordinates say to the others “Sim, vamos fazê-lo rápido e matá-los na cabeça,” which caused all of them to chuckle.

Nace saw that even Deric laughed a little bit at that. Not recognizing the language, he asked his partner what they said.

“It’s Portuguese,” Deric answered, “Basically, they’re gonna try and kill us the first chance they get.”

“Right then.” Nace said, and then raising his SCAR-H and firing, sending one of the smaller men flying backward, with a hole blown through his throat and a second just underneath the nose.

“They’ll have my weapons when I’ve fired off all rounds accurately.” Nace replied.

“I’m down for that,” Deric said with an evil gleam in his eye. “‘Rapidamente’ isso, burro,” he yelled at their quarry before laying down suppressing fire, which was returned in kind. Deric ducked behind the crate he was using for cover, so as not to end up like the one his partner ventilated.

“Portuguese-speaking men wanting to kill me,” Deric sighed with a hint of sarcasm as a bullet flew by his position, “what a shocking change of pace.”

“As opposed to other wankers trying to do so?” Nace remarked, as rounds streaked by his position, “And would that be Cali’s family that’s trying to off you, mate?”

“Let’s just say I wish I had one of these STUN suits with me when I first met her father,” Deric said, shuddering slightly at the memory.

“Bloody hell. I assume that her father travelled with a rather large contingent of angry nasty wankers speaking Portuguese a half step above or below this lot of wankers?” Nace said, firing his SCAR-H at the Brazilians, ducking as more fire came back at him.

“Yeah,” Deric answered before returning fire, “except his wankers are all military.”

“Sounds bloody petrifying. The only thing that could be worse is if they were South African Parabats or British Paras. Nace replied, firing several rounds.

“Getting back to our scheduled programming,” Grabbing his communicator, Deric said, “Lemme see if we can’t get a little help here.”

Deric changed the channel on his communicator to try and contact one of the other teams for assistance. The first channel he turned to was the one Ivy’s team was working off of.  Before he could say a word he heard a woman’s voice scream in pain. There were only two possibilities as who that scream came from, and his mind immediately went to the worst-case scenario.

'Cali...' he thought, his heart dropping into his stomach. From that point, Deric felt like he wasn’t in control of his own body. He just began to fire indiscriminately towards the team that was keeping him from the door leading to the rest of the fortress. His shots seemed to find more wood than flesh as the crates he had help set up to create a choke-point were also being used by his enemy as cover.

He was starting to get frustrated. Every second spent here was one less he had to find out what happened to Alpha Team. Also, another problem loomed; as the invaders kept moving forward, they were moving out of the danger zone that he and Nace had set up. They needed to drive the two remaining invaders back. ‘I wish we still had the...’ he thought as he gazed around the tunnel until he saw it.

The utility launcher... on the ground, 15 feet away from their current position.

I’ll be damned,’ he thought, ‘they left it behind.

Seeing his ‘golden ticket’, Deric made a split-second choice. “Bilbs, I’m goin for the launcher,” he said as he made his way towards the launcher, firing a few shots with the SCAR-H to keep the bad guys honest. Grabbing the weapon, Deric scrambled to get back behind the crate.  He was almost there when he felt a sudden, searing pain on the outside of his left arm. As he lay on the ground, he fired a blind shot, striking a nearby stack of crates, causing their attackers to move back. 

Nace, who up to this point had only been firing his SCAR-H with accurate single shots was now firing in bursts of rapid fire. He grabbed Deric by a protrusion on the STUN suit, firing his SCAR-H one handed as he dragged his wounded teammate to safety. 

“I’m good,” Deric hissed with pain as he touched the spot on his arm where he got grazed, “Blow the crates.”

“Right.” Nace nodded. As the two mercs approached, Nace squeezed the detonator and the C4 charges exploded with a loud bang that threw shrapnel into the group of armed men.

*Sim, vamos fazê-lo rápido e matá-los na cabeça - "Yeah, we'll just make it quick and shoot them in the head"

*‘Rapidamente’ isso, burro - "Quickly" this, jackass

76 Flag

[written with Gunnar and Nevon (with more to come :) ]

The Swede was not happy at all, feeling discomfort as his weapons were confiscated and turned against him. But he was not worried so much about himself. He was afraid of the heartbreak that would be felt by his family and that someone so dear to him. At this point, he recanted of his SOUL, though it was far too late.

Gunnar clenched his fists, tensely considering if his final opportunity had passed already.

Nevon followed his friends and the mercenaries when Shelob’s camera suddenly made a mechanical whirl. One of the mercenaries looked up and spotted him and out of instinct (and extreme fear) Nevon shot his utility launcher at the man. The quiet STUN dart incapacitated him a little further away from his comrades, and they seemed too preoccupied to notice. Nevon breathed a sigh of relief, and wondered if he could continue to help his friends from the vantage point above.

As they reached the center of the courtyard, Barber ordered a halt and surveyed the open area in the middle of the fortress. It was relatively quiet here and a thick blanket of snow covered everything, including the small helicopter that had been moved out of their makeshift hangar only a couple of hours ago.

He knew that it was generally unwise to expose oneself this way, but he was also confident that any potential assailants would hesitate when they saw he had hostages.

The limited intelligence he had received since the start of the attack indicated that while they were heavily armed, they were relatively small in number. This meant that they really couldn't afford to lose people.

"I know you can hear me!" He bellowed into the night.

"Loud and clear!" Responded an overly happy voice right behind him that caused him to jump.

As he whirled around, he saw the female member of the assassin team he commandeered smiling at him - somehow - through her helmets visor.

"Damn it Olga!" He wanted to lay into her, but stopped himself when he spotted the punk she had been escorting  throughout the castle.

"I know what you did..." he warned Flag as he marched through the snow towards him.

He was of course referring to the murder of Dionisio, who obviously had been a close friend of his. Before the VILE traitor could do anything in his defense, he grabbed him and shoved him in the direction of the other two hostages.

The man in Tweed then stuck his face into that of one of the other mercenaries.  "If any of them move, shoot them."

Flag had been ignoring the scene that Cane had been causing up until the point where he grabbed him and threw him at his hostages. Unlike Alfie, he didn't think that the fighting would stop because they had captured two members of the opposition.

"No... that's not happening." he said to the man in Tweed.

Alfie soon found the business end of a pistol pressed to his temple. In a mere moment, the leadership for Torun's first mercenary team had changed hands.

"Probably should have paid us in real money," Olga said enthusiastically as she took over holding up Ronin's hostage.

"Does your girlfriend know you betrayed her?" Barber retorted as he was marched over to take Flag's place beside his captives.

"I didn't betray her. You're stupid." She stuck her tongue out at him.

Flag ignored their banter and turned his attention to Randall. "Where's Matthew?"

77 DetectiveAwesome [Post by: Yours truly, Gunnar, Nevon and Flag!]

As Tweed and some of the other mercenaries seemed to be in-fighting, Dan figured it was the Bunker Boy’s best opportunity to escape.

He tapped Gunnar on the shoulder quickly, “Dude, it’s now or never.”

Seeing that the woman who talked bluntly to Tweed was closest to him, he lunged and tried to take her gun away. Unfortunately Dan misjudged his stance and sent the gun flying out of her hands. The woman seemed rather unhappy about this and the next thing Dan felt was her knee knocking the wind out of him. He tried to aim a few punches at her but missed one after another until he felt her sweep a leg under him and knock him on his back.

Gunnar reacted with timing he exhibited on the track, jolting away from his current captor and charging at Danny’s. He sprang forward, leading with his left shoulder and allowing his entire body to crash into the ryska, shoving her sideways and away from his comrade. Landed halfway on top of Olga, Gunnar struck his elbow to her face to disable her for the moment, bloodying her nose. He then scampered to fetch her dispatched firearm.

From his position on the floor, Dan saw the mercenary they called Matthew on the ground with one of Nevon’s shock tasers stuck to him. Suddenly he heard the sound of an explosion, but wasn’t sure where it was from.

Nevon first tried his best to imitate the growl of a zebra, which was the traditional bunker boy signal, but with all the noise no one could hear him. “Bacon! Bacon!” Nevon whispered harshly and finally got Dan’s attention. He took this opportunity to throw Danny his spare HK-MP5 and was happy to see his buddy taking hold of it.

Dan gave a thumbs up to Nev and checked the weapon.

Ronin couldn't stop himself from laughing when Olga got knocked over, but that didn't stop him from helping her out. After a quick check to  make sure that his superior was aware of the situation, he came up behind the speedy invader and leveled his rifle at the back of his head.

As soon as he had clasped his hands around the gun, Svensson paused, sensing the enemy looming behind him. Reluctantly he drew his arms back from the weapon, uttering subtle curses.

Flag spun around to face the sudden commotion and spotted something flying at him from the corner of his eye. Instinctively, he threw his arm up to block the blow, the head of a cane landing hard just above his wrist. Cursing loudly, the Sivoan grabbed the weapon of opportunity and yanked on it in an attempt to throw Alfie off balance. The man in Tweed didn't fall for it and used the momentum to land a punch in Flag's face.

He reeled backwards and barely managed to keep from falling over. The sudden attack had completely caught the sorcerer by surprise, but the slight distance now between them gave him just enough time to regain his composure. When Alfie attacked again, Flag ducked the cane and jabbed at the man's chest with his open palm. A split second layer, his assailant was laying on his back - twitching in the snow as though he had been hit with a tazer dart as well.

With his head spinning from the blow it took, Flag staggered back towards Olga, who had rolled over and pulled herself to a standing position when the man who had pinned her had made for her rifle. Now that he was once again subdued, she kicked snow at him and retrieved her dropped weapon. Whatever small sense of victory she felt was erased when she stood up and saw her commander, Matthew, laying in the snow.

"Uhhh... guys." She noticed some movement amongst the smoke coming from the entrance  that connected them to the castle. "I think we should go."

"What about them?" Ronin asked as she dashed by to stand in front of their employer.

On that mark Dan shot at the mercenary. He knew the bullets were lethal, so his aim went towards the enemy’s AK47 in an attempt to disarm the weapon.

"Kill em. We can't afford..." Flag was interrupted as the well placed shot knocked Ronin's rifle from his hand and another knocked him to the ground. Randall stepped up and shouted over his shoulder for them to "get outta here!" Agreeing with the logic, he dashed towards the helicopter while Olga provided cover fire.

78 Carmen [In collaboration with Kidman and Chase (writing Sarno DaSalva).]

Meanwhile, at the waterfront watchtower...

Kidman dashed up the stairs with stark determination as every second brought them closer to the abyss. The wind cut across her face like knives as she reached the top, but it was soon protected by her fur-lined hood as she pressed herself low on the roof. She quickly ruled out cutting the lines; it would take too long, even if the bricks hit their marks, and so she left her brick behind as she half crawled, half slid up behind the closest rampart. Once there, she ran her gloved hands around the inside perimeter until she found what she was looking for; a hook braced over the edge of the stone, no doubt one of many.

In an ideal world she would have had her fellows dislodge all the hooks at once, but in an ideal world they wouldn’t be there to begin with, and so as Kidman laid on her back and braced her boot under the hook, she only prayed she could kick enough free before the hostiles realized they weren’t slipping off by chance.

The gravity of the situation became very clear as soon as VILE's leader spotted the watchtower. Several men were ready for attack at the base, others already moving upwards to the stone structure's dismantled openings, and a deep rumbling indicated fighting somewhere in the lower floors.

In the cold, and on the ground, Sarno DaSalva heeded his men's report about hearing voices inside the tower, and signaled another team member to bring up a thermal camera. With the exception of Sarno's computer-controlled body armor, electronic devices don't operate well under the temperature blanket of Kamchatka.

Kidman drew a deep breath as she positioned herself, disregarding the splintering pain in her ankle as she sought leverage. Then, with a good sharp kick she set it free, along with the heavy stone it had once gripped.

For an instant, thinking to use the gas canisters Joe Kerr had so kindly given her, she touched the mouth of a Russian cloth bag slung over her shoulder. Then she recalled what she had learned over the past month of the mercenaries, and decided to broaden her chances.

"Sarno DaSalva," She called from her corner, taking strides towards the men at the base of the watchtower, "Parlem-ne!"

DaSalva turned around sharply at the feminine voice. 'Let's talk about this,' she said in Catalan, and he wasn't inclined to shoot down anyone speaking his home tongue.

"[Who are you?]*" he asked, and barely finished, when the sound of shouting interrupted. One of the grapnels had come loose, and a man fell a few meters, his remaining rope held tight by a climbing piton wedged into the stone wall. "[Hold it! Hold!]" Sarno instructed his climbers, then pulling up a rifle at the woman, he poised, "[You said let's talk, so talk.]"

Carmen walked forward, when a muffled explosion thundered from the ground below. The fighting must have escalated underneath the watchtower, and without proper diffusion, it would lead to more fighting here.

"[They're police,]" she reasoned about his opposition, "[You can kill them all but it won't end here. If you leave now, you won't be trapped, like the other team.]"

"[What kind of police?]" the Spaniard was told these attackers were another agency, but government attention was the last thing he needed.

Loud shouting and gunfire rose in waves from the fortress.

"[Certainly not the same jokers in Barcelona.]"

This woman was lucky. Sarno had suspected something was wrong with this group of mercenaries when that Italian Hamster started asking for humans to test on. In addition to her words, he was easier convinced.

The mercenary lowered his gun and started walking away.

"¿A dónde vas?" a follower shouted.

DaSalva raised his right hand then motioned it westward, "Los camiones!" he replied without looking back, "[Do whatever you want, I'm leaving this place.]"

That caused a small confusion followed by the classic desertion move -- guns slung over shoulders and a hesitant trot away from confrontation. Climbers on the wall slid quickly down and then rushed to keep up with the others.

Watching the men disperse, Carmen breathed, but the air was too cold for much relief. As she approached the watchtower, she noted a rope swaying in synchronisation with the sound of a distant thumping.

"Hello?" she called to the roof, "We're cleared down here, stop kicking. I'm coming up."

*[] Brackets translated from Catalan

79 Ivy [and the story continues with Dan, Nevon, Gunnar, Euge and Ivy]

Seeing the woman and her partner rushing for the door was a good sign. It meant they were at least out of immediate danger, and Dan slapped a pair of handcuffs on the first Merc that Nevon took down. He saw the one they called Ronin start to get up and rushed over to cuff him as well. 

Nevon jumped down from his vantage point and helped Dan restrain Ronin. “Are you okay, guys? What do you think happened? A mutiny? We should probably tell the rest of the teams to look out for that Russian girl and hooded guy.” 

Daniel wasn’t sure what would have happened to them if the Mercs had their way, but he knew ACME was above mindless killing. These guys would eventually stand trial and a jury would decide their fate. They were small fry, though. The real prize was Tweed, who was now lying next to Gunnar Svensson. 

Gunnar seethed as he came to have his own personal time with Alfie. Lifting his helmet’s visor, he realized a sort of bloodthirst and considered various brutal ways to satisfy his own sense of justice. He deliberated in applying any blows as he remembered that he was being monitored by his fellow agents, and reluctantly quelled his desires and resorted to fuming. He only ‘accidentally’ crunched his boot on the fallen man’s wrist before sitting him up and binding his hands together.

He hissed into Tweed’s ear, “If you can hear me just now... Best to hope you never hear me again. I don’t like you.”

Having completed their objectives, Alpha edged cautiously towards the courtyard.  The plan had called for rendezvous at the watch tower for extraction, but their HUD’s showed friendlies in the courtyard.  Coupled with the sounds of a firefight in that direction, it was an easy decision to go and assist.

Sprinting in the direction of the noise, Euge paused at the last corner as the sounds of combat tapered off.  IFF tags indicated every friendly in the courtyard was still alive, but that still provided no information on their condition.  Taking a chance, Euge peeked around the corner and was immediately rewarded with a stray bullet fracturing the stone next to him, prompting him to duck back again.  His short glance told him what he needed to know; the Bunker Boys were successfully beating back the hostiles, and had even managed to capture a few.  Two mercenaries had managed to escape, and were making a mad dash towards a helicopter at the far end of the courtyard.  

Dropping to one knee, Euge bought his SCAR up and took a potshot at the fleeing duo, cringing in disappointment as the shots went wide.  Not deterred, Euge adjusted his damaged scope to best guess at the new point of impact.  By the time he was able to refocus, the duo had already ducked behind the helicopter and lost themselves in the castle.  Realizing it would be pointless to attempt and find them in that maze, he flagged the escapees and forwarded the new intelligence to control, before sighing.  Standing, Euge slung his rifle and gave the all clear before jogging to meet with the Bunker Boys.

Ivy followed close behind Eugene, making a visual check of the HELL module strapped on his back to ensure it wasn’t damaged. When she reached the courtyard, her eyes widened at the sight of Alfie Barber in cuffs. Smiling, the commander looked at the Bunker Boys who seemed slightly scuffed but otherwise uninjured. Amazingly, their small mission to fix some security nodes in the area ended up turning the tides of battle. 

“You know you boys just captured ACME’s most wanted?” Ivy knelt down to look at Barber, he  was definitely ‘The man in Tweed’ identified from photos back at the Masonic Chapel, though he looked much less menacing now. It was hard to believe he was responsible for the destruction at Nob Hill.  Standing, she clicked on the radio, “Alpha has the HELL module and Delta has Tweed. We’ll converge at Watch Tower. What’s the situation there?”

80 Chase [I had help with this one. Collaborator: Carmen as Melana Lancaster.]

--- The control room:

Chase Devineaux made his way here several minutes ago, navigating against dangerously buzzing electrical boxes and entering through a maintenance panel. Despite precautions, the target he sought stood facing him. He was expected -- exactly as his enigmatic contact warned.

She wore black: An armored suit strikingly resembling the nano covers used by ACME's infiltration team. This high up the tech scale, things were meshing, but at least Devineaux knew what to anticipate. Behind her, neatly aligned monitors flickered -- the events of Torun Zamok unfolding in panorama. 

"Why aren't you dead?" Melana Lancaster spoke through her gas mask. 

Self-preservation reminded him of the mouth filter attached to his belt. 

Lancaster cocked her gun and Chase lunged forward to thwart her aim. A silent bullet left Melana's stainless steel AWC Amphibian, perforating a brass pipe. Escaping steam filled the room with an enervating shriek -- volcanic emission from the grounds below. 

One -- in low cover, he counted the shot while applying the portable breathing apparatus. 

An opaque cloud quickly covered both figures. In the haze, Chase continued to moved quickly, relying on memory. Some convoluted lifetime ago, this fight played out countless times in a sparring room. He remembered well that she liked her guns, and used them as a natural extension of her limbs. Every strike she made would be accompanied with a shot, or two. Her favorite combination came in threes: foot, heel, and the handle of whatever silencer she felt like sporting.

Fog dispersed as Lancaster attacked where Devineaux once stood, landing a bullet into a wall panel and another inches from the first. 


He couldn't see her reaction, but decided he had to end this quickly. Chase moved up behind Melana but she spun around, firing two rounds that Devineaux barely dodged.

Another double tap -- five.

"You're wasting bullets," something inside of him wanted to level with her. 

"And you're," she searched for his voice, "a f***ing waste of time."

"Time you could spend with vengeful physicists?" Extend this, he thought to himself, keep her talking.

"Vengeful?" Lancaster granted that a trailing chuckle, "Then you do recognize him."

Chase exhaled. He hadn't peg Tweed as San Michael's brother, until just now. This was starting to make a lot more sense than he was willing to admit. With the alias, even Barbara Rosen didn't seem to link the two... or maybe she did, yet another reason to pressure her trigerman into this mission.

A sudden kick through the smoke grazed his jaw, followed by a heavy heel that missed his shoulder. Predicting the gun in queue, Devineaux readied to catch her arm. 
She changed directions, but it didn't matter. Melana wasn't a fast attacker, but she was deadly. Her style provided extra security. Every move ensured she had multiple ways to hit an enemy. Insurance was why she needed guns, and insurance was wasteful.

Before she could execute another double tap, Chase countered. He locked her arm but she shifted her balance, preventing him from a successful grapnel. He pulled and she pushed, rolling him to the ground and temporarily pinning his back against it. Feeling her weight on his chest, he estimated the mass of her body and where she would land. Then he struck.

Knocking his opponent into a steel control console, he heard her grunt. Contrary to Melana, Devineux's primary advantage was his speed. But to take full benefit of this, he would have to successfully disarm her. The fumes made it hard to judge, and as Chase felt her right shoulder tense, he made the snap decision to duck into the smog.
Lancaster pulled the trigger twice -- near-misses.

Six and seven.

Then she followed his silhouette, releasing one shot every 2 feet.

Eight, nine, ten, and the firing stopped. Devineaux knew that she was at the end of her clip, he had seconds while she reloaded.

He charged, confident that the game was his.

"Eleven!" shouted Melana Lancaster with the barrel of her silencer squared at his head.

Then Chase suddenly remembered: the AWC Amphibian had a 10-round magazine...  and one extra bullet in-chamber.

81 Patty-Larceny [Hey guys, Vic and me were working on this for a long time, so we thought we'd fix it up and post it.]

Joe said: "Vic, I trust you brought the present I gave you. Wait upwind and pray that I come back. Do not come running after me. If I don't return, hopefully my gift will buy you two some time to escape."

While Joe Kerr took it upon himself to solve the 'approaching danger' problem, Vic pulled Patty away from the ruckus and down a small corridor. It was always better to run, no offense to anyone. Of course he didn't have much time to think of their next steps, a burly man with an ashy blue cap started peering at them from one of the corners.
Vic nearly screamed, if it weren't for Patty's quick wits.

"Nikolai Zhovtis?" the blonde instantly recognized this man from Carmen's descriptions.

"You are with Zoya?" Captain Nikolai, his face white with urgency, asked in hushed tones.

"Who?" Vic asked back.

"We are," Patty nodded, she learned some time ago to play along no matter what (and Zoya totally sounded like a name Carmen would pick), "She gave us clear instructions to get all the workers to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky."

"We must do this now," the Russian came out of hiding, "there is for certain a submarine docked nearby, but we will need to escape to the beach."

"You got all the workmen too?" Vic needed to know. Carmen asked them to do one thing, take the workers to the city, so this was priority. Fumigalli hoped they would rendezvous with her later.

"My crew can subdue the guards, the villagers will help us, but they are detained in the mess hall."

Ivy said: “Alpha has the HELL module and Delta has Tweed. We’ll converge at Watch Tower. What’s the situation there?”

"Perfect," the conman quickly grabbed his radio and replied to Ivy. 

"Yeahum, Team," Vic said, "We're go on our secondary objective, getting the villagers. Then we probably won't be rendezvousing with ya. We're moving to the beach for water extraction."

"Joe isn't online for me," Patty tried her radio.

"Just leave 'im a message, he'll know what to do: we need to be bustin' the villagers out before things get too hairy. He can meet up with Alpha at worst."

"Joe, if you can hear us, get to Alpha in the courtyard!" Patts used a cellular network for the voice inbox.

"And don't worry about the villagers," Vic shared a message to Joe, "we got 'em."

"Quickly," the Russian captain called, "Our timing must be right, I don't know what else they have planned."

The big guy led, followed by a skinny conman and a petite blonde. Around a far pillar, they met up with the rest of Nikolai's crew, who were ready with a plan to tackle the mess hall. If this all went well, they'd be out to the ocean inside an hour or two.

82 Joe_Kerr

Patty-Larceny said: 

"Joe, if you can hear us, get to Alpha in the courtyard!" Patts used a cellular network for the voice inbox.

"And don't worry about the villagers," Vic shared a message to Joe, "we got 'em."

After taking out the bunch of armed guards, Joe had radioed Patty and Vic and tried to get them to employ an old grift known as the Trojan Horse. Basically it involved Joe posing as a captive to a disguised guard played by Vic. Patty would sneak in, find the captain and get his assistance to get the workers to turn on the guards on their cue. The idea had been that Vic would persuade the guards to bring the workers out to a different location, going through an open area where one of the VILE members would use a remote controlled Raven as both distraction and the cue for the turnabout. The three thieves would then lead the workers to where Carmen had indicated the submarines was.

It was a risky but ingenious plan except for one minor detail...Patty and Vic had heard none of it. Not even Contessa had heard it. Apparently whilst dodging bullets he had busted the communications module without realizing it. Joe had then walked back to where his fellow thieves had been only to find them missing. Eventually, it was through fiddling with His special VILE communicator in a last ditch attempt to communicate that he heard the message left behind.

The Jester had to laugh at the irony - the duo had been just fine on their own and apparently, the old VILE luck was on their side. 

Chuckling to himself, the Jester made his way to the Courtyard where he assumed Alpha was - if all had gone according to plan. Deciding to do his best to conserve the only remaining flash bang and the lone knockout gas grenade he had, Joe has taken extra pains to sneak as best he could around where he saw cameras and guards. He had also learnt the hard and painful way that attempting to sneak around with an injury was a most unusual and excruciating form of torture. On more than several occasions, Joe had had to duck down quick to avoid being seen. Unfortunately each time he did so he also hit his bad arm and had to bite his lip to avoid giving away his position with the scream of pain he so desired to release.

Eventually, after using up the single shot of smokescreen in his staff in order to get past some cameras, Joe arrived at what he assumed was the courtyard. In the distance, he could make out a bunch of ACMEs gathered together. One in particular stood out due to her red hair and poise. Ignoring a few of the looks and gun barrels pointed at him, Joe made his way to her.

"Hello Commander. Aren't you a sight for sore eye?"

83 Kidman

Kidman slumped against the rampart, undecided. The voice below felt familiar, but an ally would’ve used their radio. Then she glanced at her own, and it occurred to her that she hadn’t heard anything from it yet. She tried a few repairs, but to no avail.

The figure now coming over the wall could be anyone.

Carmen made her way up the tower and, glancing over her shoulder to ensure Sarno had complied to his end of the bargain, proceeded to finish the climb and landed solidly on timeworn stones. This high above ground, the wind picked up and the thief considered how well the weather would hold when time came for extraction.

“Who are you?” She asked it warily, her face still concealed and a gun close at hand. “Are they gone?”

Of course, this was a surprise. Carmen thought she recognised the voice, but the poise and the gun seemed out of place.

"It's all right, they're gone," she assured, but she hesitated to introduce herself so she pressed a light question, "are you here with someone?"

It had been so many years since she had last heard that voice, and as the warm bell tones stirred all she loved and lost, her vulnerable heart called Carmen by another name.

“M... Mama?”

"I'm... afraid not," she answered. At the same time she reconsidered the situation and the type of mentality that would drive someone to ask for their mother in (what may well be) a war zone. Carmen added another question, "Are you hurt?"

“You’re... alive?” Kidman asked instead, still reeling, then paused in horror. Only then did she realize she had given up Carmen for dead, and waves of grief and joy crashed over her as she quickly exposed her face.

“Are you real? Are you well?”

Recognition came quickly. The last time Carmen spoke to this henchman was years ago, but Kid Kidman would not be here unless she had passed Vincent Fumigalli's tier of trust. The leader may have to speak to her favourite conman later on this.

Reacting to present situation, the thief smiled, "I'm well." She checked the shorter woman first with her eyes, then she moved to fix Kidman's collar, "Are you?"

It was so terrifically loaded a question that Kidman found herself unable to speak, but when Carmen touched her collar, the dam broke.

“Oh Master, I’m so sorry” she croaked. “I brought them here, the ACMEs. I went to Chase for the missing files and traded myself for them. You were gone so long, and the dreams of the boat-, I feared for you!”

The thief's head turned very slightly at the title of 'Master'. That must be fixed. While she was a woman of many names, she preferred to only be called by the ones she had chosen.

Kidman didn’t notice for she was lost in her confession, one that omitted the rest of her fellows for their protection. She saw no need for others to suffer their boss’s possible anger, especially when she still felt responsible for the lot of it.

“-and then the explosion, and Rosen said, and then I lost your pen, and then you... faded away from me...”

Carmen listened without much reaction. This henchman is lost, that too, must be fixed.

With both her free hands, Carmen retrieved a clip from her dark strands. She had cut the curls earlier this year, but they were starting to grow to that point between manageable lengths and she found herself more bothered now than before.

"First," she said as she pulled up her hair, "I'm not 'Master'. Call me by what I want you to call me, my first name, but politely."

She fastened the pin to her folded tresses and smiled, "And you have nothing to be sorry for," she stepped forward, "You're here now, so thank you, and let's make this count."

Carmen’s reaction was so understated that Kidman wondered if the woman had caught all of what the she had just said, or even understood how much distress her disappearance had caused to so many. But this wasn’t time to press, and Kidman swallowed her concern for the sake of the mission. Carmen was alive, well, and smiling, and the girl was determined to keep it that way.

“Yes, Ma-. I mean...”

But she found the woman’s name simply refused to be spoken, and Kidman turned her head to cover as she followed dutifully behind.

Doctor Acton Roux arrived on the roof. He had long wondered how his hindrance in revealing his dis-employment note to the rest of VILE would fare with its leader. When he spotted her, the coldness of Kamchatka became more apparent, and the man behind the mask felt effectually small.

84 Narrator

Melana Lancaster pulled the trigger and disabled her attacker. His head cocked back on impact and the man dropped to the ground. In the end, she might admit that he was right about her wasting bullets, but that only made the killing shot more satisfying. 

The fight had damaged her gas mask, her next few steps would have to be quick. Scanning the monitors, she could see much of the enemy in the courtyard of the fortress, but her feed from half of the facility was cut. A few deserters, Sarno DaSalva and the team she had sent to deal with the Watchtower, were heading to the garage area likely to loot what's left of her equipment and escape with the trucks.

A short yard away from the body of her would-be assassin, a radio's green light pulsated. Lancaster picked it up.

The voice of a woman came through: “[static] has the HELL module and Delta has Tweed. We’ll converge at Watch Tower. What’s the situation there?”

So they have Barber.

Melana was at a suitable dilemma, salvage loyal men or kill the cowards before they steal from her. The subterranean cloud seeping into her respirator was no help, either way; she would have to leave. She moved out of the sealed control room for clearer air, and then made her decision.

Not one to backtrack, she ransacked a storage area for weapons. Lancaster would take down DaSalva and keep her investments, then use it to destroy the teams converging at the Watchtower.

85 Flag

The second that Olga had noticed the caliber of the shots being fired at them, she had grabbed Flag by the arm and forced him into the nearest door she could find. Once inside, she pushed him to the ground and ducked so that she could keep a low profile while observing the courtyard.

"What the fu...?" She breathed as she spotted the heavy armor of the ACME mercenary that had been shooting at them. She had been advised that the enemy (when they would eventually meet) would have powered suits like the one that she wore now, but what she saw was nothing like what she had been told to expect.

When the focus of her quandary had turned its attention to her ex-hostages, she leaned into the doorway to unleash a volley of bullets of her own, only to hear the terrifying click on a jammed rifel.

"Seriously?" She jumped back into the cover that the heavy brick walls of the fort offered her and checked over her gun, just before casting it aside.

"What happened?" Her ward asked as he pulled himself up off the ground to match her sitting position. 

"Thing's wrecked. I'll have to try and fix it later." She turned and glanced out the door again to make sure that nobody was coming their way quite yet. "I guess we'll have to wait until they're gone before we can get to the helicopter."

She then crawled to a point where she felt comfortable with standing up, geasturing that he should do the same. "But... it's probably not a good idea to do that here. There's a snack counter in the other room. Lets wait it out there?"

"You're not concerned that they will find us there?"

She shrugged and pointed a thumb over her shoulder. "The fighting is back that way and besides, they're using non-lethal rounds on non-threats. What are they going to do? Steal our doughnuts?"

"I'm going to pretend that's code for some sort of plan."

"Works for me!" She smiled while shifting her gear around so that she was jolding the stolen tranquilizer gun as a primary weapon, leaving her assigned L85A2 dangling uselessly at her side. "Let's go get some snacks!"

86 Lee-Jordan

Lee Jordan had done his job, like the model ACME employee that he was. Once Chase Devineaux fixed the broken node over the castle's western area, Jordan was able to re-route the security feeds into the command center at Lenino.

He watched Adrianna do her part, casually pointing out incomings for her team, and Lee had to wonder where a woman like that learned to do all this. Under all the fancy coats and manicured nails, she looked like she knew how to command a small army. Back when he did join VILE for a good fraction of a year, he didn't know of any Adrianna, but something about her was still familiar.

A feed from the watchtower got cut as an explosion rocked the area. Then the screen to his right showed the courtyard, and a conflict that solved itself just in time. The  command center gave a cheer for that, and a bigger cheer when Ivy sent her message: 

"Alpha has the HELL module and Delta has Tweed. We’ll converge at Watch Tower. What’s the situation there?"

"Time to send extraction," said Jordan to one of the engineers, and the guy left to alert the pilots. Earlier in the mission, when one of the helicopters were shot down, Command released a backup team to pick up the pieces. All injured personnel of the downed aircraft were now safely back at Lenino, and the backup team would now lead the way back to extract agents.

While the plane that was ACME's temporary mission control center buzzed with excitement, Jordan decided to explore all other video feeds. He wasn't able to track everybody and wanted to make sure he at least had a visual.

Eventually, he found the enemy' control room, but significant feedback kept him from seeing anything. Skipping it, he explored other areas of the castle, and found that the signal from the radio Ivy gave to Chase was on the move. Zeroing in on it, he saw the person carrying the radio, and she wasn't ACME's Director of Operations.

Pressing a button to privately send to Ivy's communicator, Jordan reported what he saw, "Commander, you gave your backup radio to Director Devineaux? Someone else is carrying it... tall blond female, wearing black, heading west."

87 DrRoux [cowritten with Carmen]

When Carmen saw the masked doctor she quietly took a sharp intake of air. While they had their differences, and a healthy margin of distrust, she felt vaguely assured by his aleatory appearance.

"The intrepid Dr. Roux," she greeted, "I'm honored."

"I…," Acton voiced with difficulty, "Yes, as am I." He was uncertain of what she had meant by 'intrepid'. Could she be hinting of his boldness to show his face after having been so gracefully asked to leave the organisation?

VILE's year without its leader had opened the group to events that always seemed to teeter at the border of chaos, yet her presence now was impressively calming. He could see it most of all in the way she eradicated the cloud over Kidman. Yet the woman's own status was difficult to comprehend. Her infallible stance and unwavering demeanour were held by a thinner frame. The slight smile on her lips did not coexist in her eyes, and Acton found himself wishing very much to appease her.

His radio came alive.

Ivy said: “Alpha has the HELL module and Delta has Tweed. We’ll converge at Watch Tower. What’s the situation there?”

Vic replied:  "Yeahum, Team," Vic said, "We're go on our secondary objective, getting the villagers. Then we probably won't be rendezvousing with ya. We're moving to the beach for water extraction."

Hearing that, Carmen exhaled. "Good news so far," she stated, and then asked for the communication device, "May I?"

Acton, as quickly as possible, handed her the object.

"Commander Monaghan," VILE's leader broadcasted, "If you're heading to the watchtower, I'll meet you midway."

As Carmen moved to climb down from the watchtower's stony roof, she looked at  Kidman, "Rappel down and follow me to the courtyard, I might need a hand."

Dr Roux watched Carmen leave, he nodded briefly to Kidman, and decided he must stay at the watchtower for now and facilitate the arrival of both the injured and the extraction helicopters. 

88 Contessa

Once the nodes were fixed the command plane's monitors instantly lit up with video feeds coming in from the castle. It was hard for Adrianna to make much sense of them, Vic and Patty naturally avoided the cameras and the Countess only saw their shadows as they worked to save the hostages. Kidman and the elusive Carmen Sandiego however, were absolutely no where to be seen. 

Her eyes then landed to the courtyard feeds, where Joe Kerr barely made it to the ACME teams. It  seemed her side was still holding the cards, and that was good enough for Adrianna. 

"Puck has found Alpha." Adrianna relayed to Vic and Patty, who clicked their radio in response. 

 Lee Jordan Said: "Commander, you gave your backup radio to Director Devineaux? Someone else is carrying it... tall blond female, wearing black, heading west."

The Countess watched from behind Lee Jordan's shoulder as the woman he spoke of kept on the move. If she was heading west did this mean their enemy was on the retreat? No, something about that didn't seem right. Why would a mastermind suddenly start running from the centre of action? The only logical answer was that the enemy had something terrible planned for those left behind. 

Adrianna suddenly stood and snapped, "You! Whatever your name is..." she spoke to her butler of ten years, "Go on that helicopter that's headed to the watch tower. Make sure to bring Doctor Acton Roux back with you."

"Yes Madam." Answered her burly butler, who often acted as a bodyguard and general right hand. 

Contessa pulled him towards her by the collar, "I mean it. Do it quick, bring him back here... whether he wants to come or not." 

89 Sophie Doctor Roux said:

"Je vais lâcher le morceau," Acton admitted in a less alarming voice, "I have never been in this situation before."

Sophie Conrad was in the action of picking up the darkened lantern from the table when Dr Acton Roux spoke. She paused, only very briefly, her head turning slightly to consider the silhouette of the cloaked man. There was something familiar about the words he had uttered but she could not pinpoint its exactness at this point. Nevertheless, it did not seem an opportune moment to dally in thought about it - the smaller of the V.I.L.E. pair had a seemingly sound idea and was already taking steps away to embark on it.

Attaching the lantern to her backpack, Sophie moved towards Acton quietly. “Regarder son dos,” she murmured, turning her line of sight momentarily towards the disappearing figure of Kidman.

Grateful that he made no argument against personally ensuring the safety of his teammate, she watched until both figures had disappeared in flight towards the roof before slipping into a shadowed corner of the room. There, she took a moment to relay a distress code to the command centre back in the Lenino airbase before closing her communication device, effectively silencing it.

The position she had selected for herself was barely half a metre away from the only window in the room - which, as a result of its architecture and position, appeared more trapezoid than rectangular, thereby offering her a completely darkened corner in which to appraise the unfolding situation from without having to immediately act. Of course, the gap to which she referred to as a window - as it must have been once - had now devolved, whether through natural or man-made circumstances, into a rather large, irregularly-shaped hole that might fit a man, should he choose to enter sideways. Someone of her build and stature, however, might fit comfortably through it. It was enough of a tactical advantage for her.

Without any further hesitation, she laid down her backpack and withdrew an advanced airway kit from its depths, relying on what little light that streamed through the opening nearby for vision. Though a corner of her mind fretted about her situation and her heart beat faster, her attention was completely on the plan that was forming in her head, already quickly cementing. By now, her eyes had already sufficiently adapted to the shadows to allow her ease of movement. Unzipping the satchel, she chose with much forethought from the selection of supplies and remained crouched in her hiding place as voices approached.

Whatever her plan was, the rather resolute doctor would not - and it was with great relief that she realised this - need to execute it. A secondary figure had intercepted the assailants that were scaling the tower walls and, though Sophie did not comprehend all that transpired between Carmen Sandiego and the would-be antagonists of Meridian, nor could she from her position identify the V.I.L.E. leader, it was with commensurate gratitude that she watched Sarno DaSilva and his team abandon their mission...

90 Kidman

Kidman rushed to keep up as she sorted through the buzz in her head. Carmen was here, Carmen was alive! Carmen, Carmen Carmen. But amidst those 'Carmen's were 'Master's, and even 'Mama's, and she had jammed once more when responding to Carmen's command that she follow.

She had always considered Carmen as 'Master' and 'Mother' in a vague sense, but it hadn't become so concrete until she was speaking to others, or even, that she had spoken to her. She had never thought she would actually speak to Carmen. She was just a common blue-shirt. But Carmen herself decreed otherwise, so why couldn't she let go of it?

Kidman gazed at the woman as she started her descent.

Because Carmen was the Master. She was masterful at everything. One couldn't just call a person like that by their first name. It would be disrespectful, especially if done by someone like her, who hadn't mastered much anything. She couldn't even call her 'boss'. She could be boss to Vic, to Joe, to anyone else, but a boss was someone who controlled a job. A Master was someone who controlled a life, and Kidman's wholly depended on Carmen's goodwill.

She served Carmen in return; lovingly, willingly, serving her nature, her cause, her ideal. It was all Kidman could do for someone that embodied all that was Good and Wise and Strong to her, like a mother, or even, and angel.

But that wasn't what Carmen wanted. She wanted to be called by name, and as Carmen's well-being was paramount, upsetting her over something so trivial could not be allowed.

Kidman sighed in exasperation as she popped a few pain-killers and followed her leader down the tower.

So seemingly trivial.

"Carmen" she murmured softly once sure the woman below her couldn't hear her.

She was sure she had said 'Carmen' at some point, possibly when the tower was taken. Then she had felt more the mother, or at least a concerned friend. She could elevate to concerned friend if no one else would. She could do whatever was needed for Carmen. She could go to Kamchatka and fight mercenaries with bricks for Carmen.

And oddly enough, she could ever so slightly inch her way between the masked Doctor Roux and Carmen for Carmen.
Kidman tried her very best for a soft landing at the base of the tower on her good leg, and succeeded.


She had never had any concern about him before. Sure he had an odd presence and a creepy mask, but so had she not too long ago. VILE was filled with all sorts of characters like that. But with Carmen, his appearance on the roof elicited the sound of a hissing cat in her mind, and she was grateful that Carmen kept her distance.

And then the radio. The HELL had been found? Tweed was captured? Hostages at the submarine? How much had she missed on her dead radio?

It would all have to wait, all secondary to the figure running slightly ahead and the irony that her first mission with Carmen was running towards Ivy, not away.

91 Flag

The wings of the fort basically consisted of a string of large halls connected by simple doorways. Each refectory was decorated in an odd assortment of tools and appliances. The one that they had taken refuge in appeared to have been designated for the workmen's village and was littered with heavy tent supplies and furniture.

Everything had been piled so high against the western wall that Flag almost couldn't see the frozen-over windows it housed. This lack of view was why he was surprised when his escort suddenly stopped in the open corridor that separated the storage space from the snack hall.

The sorcerer recognized Carmen more for her posture than anything else. She wasn't dressed with her usual flair, but instead wore something to combat the cold - more function than form. She would have been a ghost amongst them had she not singled herself out.

Flag heard movement at his side and turned his attention to Olga in time to watch her reload her stolen dart gun. Their eyes met and after a quick moment the female mercenary smiled at him.

The two of them took off like a shot, running as fast as they could with VILE's ringleader in their sites.

92 Chase [Note: Everything in this post was pre-approved by the persons quoted, may contain plot spoilers, reader discretion is advised.]

--- Sitting in a small white area, he waited expectantly. The room was so silent he could hear his own heart. When the door finally opened, it revealed a man of Japanese descent, his small stature carried the full weight of his expression -- grim but thoughtful. This man's features were easily recognizable, but Chase remembered him much older.
The panel closed, and the interrogator remained fixed next to it. 

"Do you know what you did?" an emotionless question.


"Do you understand the full extent of what you've done?" the question was asked again, louder. 

"Yes," spoke a voice that wasn't his. It sounded off, young and disoriented.

Pathetic, Chase thought, you're doing it wrong. Just stay quiet and it'll all disappear.

"What happens after?" this uncertain voice added.

That's enough kid, this guy's about to tear you apart.

"Nob Hill," said the man, "Nine bodies there, scores more injured. I'm one of them."

Wait, that wasn't entirely me.

"It might as well have been all about you," the speaker in front of him was now a stern older woman holding a clear glass of gin."Your lack of judgment started this mess."

Lack of-- are you reading my mind?

"Even I'm here because of you," said a short-haired redhead with a bitter frown on her lips, "Thanks for Killer though."

You're... welcome?

"Can I have your stereo?"


"You put us all in danger," someone spoke from a crowd that gathered where a two-way mirror should have been. He thought he recognized the faces, "you left us with the alien."

What alien?

The redhead was now a silver-haired oddity. Devineaux remembered seeing this person in the surveillance feeds from the stolen tower, but something was different. Its ears flickered and its eyes glowed from yellow to red. "Truth or Consequences," it seethed out the words.

You..., he wasn't sure if the thought was entirely correct, took something from me.

Undecipherable experiences rang about him like distant battles. In the midst of it all was some kind of arid desert. His ears began to register a loud, almost unbearable buzzing.

"You should get up now," a more reasonable statement drowned his senses and brought him back to focus. On cue, he tasted wine.

I'm fine, what's the hurry?

"Kamchatka is over a convergent plate boundary."


"The fumes will kill you. Volcanic emissions here have higher chances of water and chlorine concentrations, remember?"

Hydrogen Chloride?

"Among others."


Things around him began to take shape. Distinctly, the ceiling of the control room blinked on and off with broken tubes of fluorescent lighting. A door panel was wide open, partially neutralizing exhaust from the broken pipe. 

That taste of Riesling, sweet as it was, morphed into stinging iron and he spat it out. His jaw hurt, and the entire left side of his head felt like a radiator. The breather he wore was nearby: its mouthpiece torn in two, and a .22 caliber bullet lodged in the only metallic component of the apparatus.

Chase tapped the slug and was reminded of the Klondike incident in April of last year. Two coast guards were murdered to prevent a mayday from what he now understood to be a Russian cargo ship carrying US technology. Lancaster's style of exacting death was apparent. And though Devineaux wasn't chuckling just yet, he appreciated the fact that her uncanny precision finally worked against her. 

Movement on the monitors diverted his attention and after a painful amount of adjusting his vision he could see Lancaster making her way west. Judging from her speed and distance he wasn't out for very long.

He also saw Alpha tugging the HELL module and part of Delta with Alfie Barber in tow. Watching his teams gather gave Chase a warmth that most would consider as pride, instead he took it as a sign to check the accumulating fumes -- still neutralized.

Devineaux stood up to look for his radio. When he couldn't find it, he spotted the next best thing: the PA system. Testing the controls, he found it broken. Something somewhere must have shorted out during all the chaos. 

So much information, Chase thought as he looked over the floor-to-ceiling displays, but no way to relay any of it. Where was Mikal when he needed a tinkerer?
A corner screen to one of the courtyard's entryways showed something much more reassuring -- a familiar figure, marked by her posture. As soon as he identified her, two other mercenaries did the same, and within what seemed to be seconds, one held her down while the other took aim.


The colored monitor suddenly flickered with a red glow. Bright bloodshot capillaries flashed in chains from the narrow entryway into the courtyard. Devineaux recognized the male attacker as a VILE agent -- one that was with Vincent Fumigalli for the theft of ACME Tower I -- That was all he needed, why this agent was holding his own leader hostage was irrelevant. 

Tearing a way through the control room and its adjacent castle, Chase used the roof to get faster access to the courtyard. From above, he ran past the two ACME teams. As he entered the corridor, the smell of cinders stung his nostrils, but nothing was burning. He spotted only Kidman and a female mercenary in the area.

The silver-haired thief and his employer were gone. ---

93 EarlJr


Ensuring there were no further threats in the courtyard, Euge scanned the area while half listening to the radio.  Multiple parked trucks sat idling and partially loaded, betraying the logistical reach of these bandits.

Carmen said: "Commander Monaghan," VILE's leader broadcasted, "If you're heading to the watchtower, I'll meet you midway."

Lee said: "Commander, you gave your backup radio to Director Devineaux? Someone else is carrying it... tall blond female, wearing black, heading west."

“Don’t answer.” Euge snapped.   “If someone has our radio we’ll be caught with our pants down.  Let them think they have us for now.”


Ivy turned her communicator off broadcast and looked around the courtyard. The V.I.L.E. jester was injured and with several restrained mercenaries under their charge, ACME had only a handful of able agents.  “So our secure communication is limited to the people here now. We need to ensure our primary objectives are safe.”

“How long till the choppers arrive, Commander? Or are they even an option?” asked Joe. The Jester had overheard the radio conversation and was willing to pitch in where he could, injury and all.

“They could set up an ambush for us on the way to the watch tower.” Ivy replied, then noticed Eugene looking at the large trucks. “Let’s not wait around for them to find us. Euge, think you get everyone out of here on these trucks?”

By the time Ivy’s gaze had found him, Euge had already clambered into the back of one of the HEMTT flatbeds and opened a crate.   “Sure.  Shouldn’t be any trouble getting through those doors.”  Standing up, Euge pulled a recoilless rifle free of its packaging and quickly loaded a tandem charge warhead.  “This should work.” Euge mumbled to himself as he fired at the door.

Ivy ducked at the sound of the blast, when she opened her eyes the door was a mess of splintered wood. “Okay, load all detainees and injured first. Euge, Bunker Boys... you’re on the truck. Cali and I will wait for the others before heading to the Watch Tower.”

“Got it Commander.” Dan nodded. He was happy they were finally getting out of this crazy fortress. He began loading the arrested mercenaries in first while Gunnar stood guard over Tweed. Next came the heavy HELL module. He made Shelob the spider bot perch on it so they had tracking and a camera view of the cube at all times.

Tossing the spent launcher aside, Euge wedged himself into the driver’s seat.  His first instinct was to protest being ordered away from the fighting, but Ivy’s tone triggered a more base, overriding reaction.  Leaning out,  Euge revved the engine a few times.  The assembled group got the idea and soon enough only Joe was left standing with Ivy and Cali.

As Joe went to board the HEMTT, a thought occurred to him. “Commander, if I may, could I borrow your radio to send a message to Carmen? Mine’s kinda out of commission.”

Monaghan cocked her head and looked at the Jester, she briefly considered V.I.L.E. planting bugs or compromising ACME’s future communications, but with the clock ticking she went with her gut and tossed the radio to Joe. “Make it quick, you should have been out of here ten minutes ago.”

“I know you have no reason to, but trust me.” replied the Jester as he took the radio in his good hand and turned it on to the ‘secure’ frequency they had been using to communicate. Instead of speaking however, he began to hum a tune that he hoped Carmen would be able to identify as “All Along the Watchtower”. The song and it’s first line would be the secret message in itself.

Daniel thought the Jester humming a Bob Dylan tune was a bit odd, but he’s never been one to try to understand V.I.L.E. He also didn’t want to leave the Commander and Calina alone against all the mercenaries, but it felt like the right move, and he was a lab boy not a military strategist. Pulling up the tailgate he locked it and took one last look at the courtyard.

“You got Tweed secure, man?” Dan turned to Gunnar.

Gunnar closed his visor and nodded firmly, hiding his emotion. “Yes.” He grasped Tweed’s wrist bindings with his left hand and tapped his recovered and hip-latched HK MP5 with his free hand to signal he was prepared.

Dan tapped on the wall of the truck to signal that everything was loaded. He heard Mr. G tap back before the vehicle shifted and began rolling down the road.

With the HEMTT just out of earshot, Ivy and Calina’s attention suddenly turned to a crimson flash of light from the second floor. It was too soft to be an explosion, and too still to be fire. Seconds later, Chase Devineaux ran across the hallway above, his shadow flashing through the balustrade. There was a moment of hesitation as Ivy looked at Cali, whose face had the same confused expression.

94 Kidman

(Items in brackets are in Russian)


[What... Just happened?]

Olga stood just outside of a ring of melted snow and scorched Earth that had not been there only moments before.  Her now empty tranquilizer gun lowered at her side,  she attempted to understand what she just witnessed.

She saw Flag grab her target, a lot of red, then they were gone.  Did the volcano... no.  There were no cracks, holes,  or fissures.  Did the dart explode?  No. Dionisio wasn't that cool.  Maybe...

The dart! That's right! She watched it hit her mark. That was all that mattered. Excited by this remembrance,  she activated the radio on her suit.

[ Holy crap! Linka! We got her! Just like you said, he... OW! ]

That was the last straw. Kidman suffered the loss of her mother figure not once, but twice, and now, after finally seeing her smile, after hearing her voice, after feeling that finally it would all would be okay, ...Mother was dead.

“What did you do?!” Kidman screamed as she ripped the empty dart gun from Olga’s hand and swung it at her.

Olga had not even seen the smaller, mostly gray person until the butt of her own gun smashed hard against her shoulder. Without thinking,  she reached out to catch the second blow.

"Where did you come from?!"

Kidman used the caught gun as leverage and threw her weight behind a kick to the stomach.

“[What did you] shoot her with!? [Who] was [‘he’? Who is Linka?]” she demanded in a mix of Russian and English without noticing the difference.

Olga let go of the gun when the tiny person -  a concept she couldn't let go because she  was probably the smallest mercenary in all of Torun - had yanked back on the gun. She laughed when this caused the kick to fall short and used the time bought to grab the jammed gun at her side.  

"I'm not telling you anything." She proclaimed smugly as she aimed her useless rifle at what may as well have been a kid.

Kidman fell back, then lunged at the woman with a fury, knocking the barrel aside. She didn’t know the rifle was jammed, but it wouldn’t have mattered if wasn’t. The vision of Carmen’s struggling form consumed in arcing fire burned behind her eyes, and for the moment she knew nothing else.

“How could you, you &$@#&! You took everything!”

"Oh well!" Olga sang as she let the momentum off the swing push her gun up into the air, where she let it flip so that she held it by the barrel. She then swung it like bat at the kid's head with all her might.

Kidman managed to strike back at the incoming rifle, but Olga’s swing was too strong and she smashed the deflecting gun back against the girl’s skull. Lightning splintered behind Kidman’s eyes and she hit the ground. For a moment the world grew very small. and when it came back she found herself leaning on her gun for support.

“Why? Why would you do this?” she begged the woman standing over her, desperate for answers and time.

The mercenary wasn’t going to answer as she didn’t feel it was worth the time or effort. Instead she readjusted her grip on her gun for another devastating blow.

Kidman managed to pull herself up out of the way in time, but her balance was compromised and the girl’s next swing went wide. What else could she do? To stay still was to die, and she wasn’t ready just yet.

Olga spun in a circle with the force of her swing, but she knew enough of her situation to keep from going out of control. Instead she charged forward and brought her rifle down on her dart gun as it was raised against her. A loud crack echoed against the walls when they collided and the barrel of the dart gun bent in a funny angle over her L85A2. She then yanked back on the mass of metal to free her assailant of her weapon.

Kidman gasped as she was pulled forward, but she clung on to the twisted dart gu, and threw her weight against Olga’s chest in an attempt to wrench it back.

The female mercenary held out her hand and grabbed the kid's face and pushed her head back try try and wrench her off. After a brief moment of struggle, she changed grip and grabbed her throat instead, but the girl dug her heel into Olga’s instep, and even with her armored boots, Olga tripped and fell on her hostage. Instead of scrambling to get back up, she leaned in and applied more pressure, hoping to be done with this soon.

Something hard and cold dug into her hip as Olga crushed her from above, and it was only too late that Kidman remember she was armed. And then that shooting the woman would have been useless anyway due to her imitation STUN suit the ACMEs had told her about in training. That fighting a trained, armoured mercenary in the middle of a frozen Siberian night when all she had was a winter coat and a pistol was one more task doomed to failure. The woman had destroyed all she loved with a smile, and the girl could do nothing to stop her.

Then something whispered in her ear, an ancient voice that reached from the coming darkness.

[Remember, Seryye, all that can be healed can be broken.]

‘Mama....forgive me...’ she thought and gave the last of her energy away.

Just as Olga was beginning to enjoy the idea of watching the life leave this little brat's eyes a little light (with accompanying tone) on her heads up display started going off. Annoyed enough to pay it some mind Olga had to stifle a laugh. It had to be a malfunction, there was no way her heart rate would be that elevated. Even as she wrote it off, she realized that her breathing was ragged and she was shaking.

She ran through why this would be in her mind. Was she having that much fun with this kill? No, that felt different. Did she have any energy drinks? Yes. How many? Two. How long ago? Almost 10 hours. That wasn't it. As acid reflux started kicking in, she realized what was going on.

She was having a panic attack. She hadn't had one of those since she was in grade school!

The mercenary tried her best to complete her task, but as her strength gave out she jumped off the kid and ran a few feet until she saw another unfamiliar figure emerging from the service hallway. At that point she collapsed to her knees and started screaming into her radio.


95 Narrator Olga said: 

"Ohuiet, Linka! [unintelligible] -luchili devushki, Tak zhe, kak [unintelligible] , on -- OW!"


"Melana! Mne pomoch'!"

That wasn't entirely reassuring. 

The message came while Melana Lancaster was in the process of winning an argument with 5 of her former employees. Sarno DeSalva led the uncooperative team, and the killer reasoned that she had no choice but to put them down. 

The process was simple, she began with marginal talking, but as soon as Sarno mentioned a tall woman speaking to him in Catalan, Melana felt her powers to convince fall short against that of Carmen's. Her former ally was a negotiator, and one that always seemed to get to the heart of whoever she spoke to. Unsuccessful with words, Lancaster resorted to her second option. The men were armed, but Melana was prepared. She executed two, incapacitated their leader, cut the throat of another, tagged a runner with three solid taps to his back and head, and then returned to finish off DaSalva.

Within the same momentum, Lancaster entered the truck carrying her investment and drove it out a few yards from the garage. In the open air she cut the fastened straps to unveil the tarp from its cargo. The mini helicopter was first designed as a means to carry one of Barber's most prized inventions, a medium-ranged, silent gas powered machine gun. It was now a weapon on rotors and its load would secure Melana's place against her enemies.

Powering up, the bird's folded blades began to straighten. Within seconds she was off the ground and heading to the watch tower. 

96 Mikal

Mikal and Tomas were heading to the courtyard as instructed, when the sound of someone trampling across an upper floor alerted the two men to investigate. The Israeli immediately saw Chase, and prompted Tomas to follow.

Calina Corranos tapped the snow and mud from her shoes with the utility launcher then ran side-by-side with Ivy to where the red light had appeared. When they got there, they found a female mercenary calling for help on her radio and an injured VILE agent. From the stairs to the second floor of the fort descended a bloodied Chase Devineaux with Mikal and Tomas close behind him.

In the middle of the snow, Mikal saw what looked to be a dead VILE agent and a female mercenary screaming for help. There were no other markings in the snow, but the air smelled faintly of ash. It was not the worse scene he had witnessed, but something told him to be weary. Chase Devineaux did not seem to have that same sense and the Israeli saw him bolting to the site. Mikal grabbed the director of operations in a choke hold--a reflexive reaction--to keep him back.

“Wait! There can be contaminations.” He yelled.

Chase, thrown from his height, removed himself from Mikal's grip and took in much need air. The Israeli stood blocking him, and Devineaux wasn't in a position to retaliate.

Ivy Monaghan turned to see Mikal holding Chase back. He was right, no one knew what that red light was or what exactly happened here. She knew Kidman was still alive, her small beating heart showing up as a heat signature in the S.T.U.N.’s HUD. “No CBRN threats detected,” Monaghan confirmed.

Hearing Ivy's confirmation, Mikal nodded to Tomas, "Hey you get that one," he pointed to the gray figure. The Spaniard gave his friend a look then headed out to pick up Kidman.

Cali Corranos stood with her gun pointing to a gasping female mercenary until Ivy came over and cuffed her. There was surprisingly little resistance from the woman and the Brazilian wondered what really happened.

"Where is Carmen?" Cali asked.

"Gone," Chase answered flatly. He picked up the dart gun Olga wielded, and the radio she used to desperately call her boss. It was a solid multi-channel encased in hardened polymer adjusted for high frequency transmissions. Something like this was easily its own tracking device. The projectile gun contained room for single shots only, but held another set of ammunition at its base. Three of five were left, and Devineaux concealed one for his own resources, leaving two as evidence.

The sound of rotors soon woke him from thought, but he realized that the unfamiliar rhythm wasn't that of the promised extraction helicopters. Chase's eyes darkened.

Ivy's STUN sensors buzzed with information as she targeted the helicopter. “Not ours, take cover!”

Into Olga's radio to Melana, Devineaux opened communication but stalled without speaking.

Melana Lancaster heard her device crackle without a transmission, this struck her as familiar and her vision narrowed on the figure of Chase Devineaux. For a second she hovered - near ready to blast him into the ground. Then her heart lightened. Olga did report the successful death of another, and she once hoped he would live long enough to see his own failures, perhaps this was meant to be.

For having survived their last encounter, she won't kill him, but she'll need to ensure proper distraction or risk him turning the table.

Quickly disengaging from the courtyard, she aimed for the watch tower, blowing up the roof and supporting columns with the ballistics on her helicopter. Old and already unstable, the tower began to crumble. Robbed of its load-bearing walls, half of it tumbled into the icy sea below like a sandcastle devoured by the rising tide.

The devastation, from above, looked enough to kill anyone left in the tower.

Calina screamed and rushed to the ruins, but she was held back by the Director.

"Acalmar," Chase told his bomb tech to gather her wits, "Go with Ivy, check the tunnels."

Ivy tapped Cali's shoulders and began leading her under the cover of the fortress's walls towards the tunnels. With luck, they should find a way to reach survivors.

At the same time, Lancaster pulled back. While she knew Olga was with the detectives, she was smarter than to endanger herself with a rescue.

A younger version of Chase Devineaux would have invested in hunting the helicopter, but he now had more at stake. When he noted Melana's retreat, he turned to Mikal and Tomas, the later immediately handing his radio to Chase.

"Watch the prisoner and Kidman," he said to the Spanish agent, "Mikal, check the ruins for stability, and find another area safe for the extraction teams."

"Sitrep!" Devineaux quickly broadcasted into Tomas's radio, "Everybody report for a headcount, now!"

97 Sophie

It was in the darkened corner on the second floor of the weather-worn watch tower that Doctor Sophie Conrad had remained for awhile, relying solely on her senses to evaluate the unfolding events - the sight of shadowed figures moving to and fro, the sound of scattering ammunition, the smell of burning gunpowder, the taste of the sea on her lips, the sensation of tremors brought about by ignited explosives... All these, she considered for long moments before deciding when it was safe enough to return her communication device to full functionality and relay an all-clear signal to the command at the Lenino airbase. There was no immediate reply but she did not require one.

Weeks prior to the execution of the mission at Torun Zamok, it had been articulated that all of the ACME personnel dropped into the fortress were to converge at the watch tower for interim medical assistance and subsequent extraction. Sophie understood that it was her duty - with the assistance of Deric Storm and his enthusiastic teams - to maintain the integrity of the location for her colleagues and friends.

Still in the dark, she took up the lantern from the side of her pack and stood from her position. Then, with a final glance out of the window nearby, she cautiously made her way towards the narrow spiral stairs that served the southern half of the watch tower. Checking the dim dark-green digits on her wrist-watch, she recounted the minutes and decided on her course of action. She had no clue as to the condition of Dr. Acton Roux or Kidman and had since decided that the communication blackout from the others of ACME had been purposefully enacted for reasons beyond her knowledge. The hostile sounds that had echoed through the fortress were quieter now, and buoyed by her recent escape from direct conflict she chose to believe that ACME had gained what they had travelled all this way for, whatever their overall or personal motives were.

She transferred the lantern in her hand to hang it via a small notch against the dusty wall, just adjacent to the stairs. The steps that stretched downwards were bathed in black and she knew that, should Deric and his teams be sufficiently conscientious, it was only ACME and its allies that would be emerging towards her. Selecting a soft button embedded within the base of the lantern, she turned on the device. Rows of LEDs flooded the proximate stairwell with light, creating a blue-coloured meridian through the center of the structure.

Satisfied that she had provided the necessary visual cue to guide ACME towards extraction, she moved to investigate the status of Dr. Roux and his petite companion. It was then that she glanced through the window again and sighted the compact rotor-craft carrying Melana Lancaster, rising from the belly of the fortress. She paused then, unable to keep herself from watching as it hovered and took aim at a target of lower origin. The craft neither looked nor behaved in a friendly manner and sudden anxiety formed a knot within her - there was nothing she could do to stop a hostile aerial attack. Then, as soon as that realisation registered, Sophie watched the rotor-craft turn, ever so slightly, redirecting its payload towards the watch tower - and towards her. She took a step back, her thoughts turning immediately toward the two of VILE whom she had sent to the roof. With that, she bolted for the stairs.

Sophie had barely taken a step and a half towards her intentions when the first projectile hit the watch tower, puncturing its stone walls without hesitation. A shadow emerged from the stairwell - a beaked mask with its unchanging gaze, regarding her with as equal an intensity as it had while they were on the helicopter in... The doctor reached for the approaching figure, raising her right hand towards him. The ground beneath her crumbled and she followed.

98 DrRoux [Always, thank you to M. Chase for being my corrector, and thank you Dr. Conrad to help with the story.]

Acton Roux caught Dr. Conrad as she reached for him, but as the structure languished and he needed balance, the ACME doctor slipped from his clasp until they were connected only barely. Acton's position in the narrow stairway was reinforced by two rows of walls on each side. Where the walls ended, the stairwell cut off, leaving the masked doctor with his right hand clutching one of the tower's few wooden beams, and the Swiss woman struggling to hang on at his left arm.
In the span of seconds that seemed like minutes debris fell mercilessly and the sound of stone groaning so loudly was one Dr. Roux had never heard before. Acton was not a strong man by most means and soon his mask began to feel suffocating. The materials were designed to give much room for heat exchange, but it did not account for this particular extreme situation.

Sophie Conrad, as she clutched to his arm, suddenly stopped moving and the plague doctor looked at her. She was focused on his mask, but he had the feeling she was trying to look past his goggles as if to tell him something. Under her protective helmet, Sophie's eyes moved from his to the empty grey skies above and she released her part of their grip. Dr. Roux compensated by sliding further backwards. The towers soon began to settle and much of it was gone, leaving only the stairwells intact. Acton pulled Dr Conrad to the supported landing and immediately removed his mask to breathe cool air. 

As he replaced his signature beak back on, Roux began a primary assessment of the Swiss doctor's condition. Her helmet had no breakage and the only point of clear impact was at her upper back; if that is the case, ACME's doctor was safe.

"Sitrep!" Chase Devineaux's powerful voice blasted through the radio attached to Acton's side, "Everybody report for a headcount, now!"

"This is... Acton Roux, I am accounting for two," he replied in his well formed Brittany English, "Doctor Conrad is with me, she is unconscious, but she is stable."
Soon after the transmission, the Frenchman noticed Mikal Darsha coming to inspect the damage. Acton waved. His stairwell and landing dropped off from the second floor several meters to the rubble below, at best, he will have to rappel down. He hoped Mikal brought something of use.

99 Joe_Kerr [Hey all, here's a combined post from Gunnar, Dan and Joe Kerr. Enjoy]

As Joe sat in the back of the HEMTT, his thoughts drifted to his Carmen and he briefly wondered whether his employer and friend had received his message to evacuate. He looked down at the cable-tied figure of Alfie N. Barber which had been dumped unceremoniously on the floor of the truck.

Alfie’s eyes glimmered with hate which Joe assumed was his motivation for all the chaos that occurred. The Jester however was quick to note that Alfie’s posture seemed contrary to their previous theory that he was the mastermind.

In Joe’s experience, people in charge always had a certain poise about them; they always had an air of confidence and strength around them; the man on the floor in front of him however did not have any of that.

Before the Jester could ponder more he was interrupted by a loud crash of sorts coming from Torun Zamok. Looking out the back of the HEMTT, he was stunned to see the tower collapse before his eyes.

He knew Vic and Patty were out of danger but he was only too aware of the fact Kidman, Roux and most importantly Carmen were still at the tower...or what was left of it.

Silently, he prayed that his family, especially their scarlet clad matriarch, was safe.


Even with this new rise in commotion, Gunnar never let his eyes wander away from his prisoner. The corners of his mouth quivered as the frigid wind tore at his face, but he never turned. He would see this through.

Dan was watching the frozen landscape speed by when he heard the crash. He turned to see half the watch tower tumbling into the sea. He knew medical and the rest of Delta was still in there, and that Chase and Alpha were on their way there when the truck left. Was it ACME that blew up the tower or did the mercs get a hold of explosives? Was anyone still inside?

Suddenly he heard Chase Devineaux over the radio calling for a headcount. “We’re all okay in the truck.” Dan relayed over his ACME radio. He breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Roux say Dr. Conrad was alive too, but waited nervously to hear from the rest of Delta.

100 DericStorm

(co-op with Ivy, Cali, and Nace)

"Sitrep!" Devineaux quickly broadcasted into Tomas's radio, "Everybody report for a headcount, now!"

That was the first thing Deric heard after the shaking and parts of the tunnel falling stopped. Opening his eyes, Deric found he couldn’t see anything. Feeling a slight twinge of panic, he quickly felt around his head. Feeling no damp spots, he then brought his arms in front of him and pushed the button on his watch that illuminated the face.

He let out a little sigh of relief when he saw the faint blue glow. Using the faint light he was able to locate the SCAR-H he dropped in the commotion, more importantly, the flashlight that was attached to it. With the more powerful light, Deric was able to get a better grasp of the surroundings.

“Bilbs,” Deric called for his friend, “you okay?”

Nace blinked his eyes, feeling his ears ringing. Deric’s shout first sound like a tiny buzzing in his ears before he heard the ‘you okay?’ line.

He immediately checked himself over for injuries or burns. No spots of dampness or warmth, and other than a mild ringing in his ears he felt alright.

“Yeah, I’m alright.” Nace said, reaching into his pocket and turning on a flashlight, “Are you injured? Is your radio working?”

“I hope so,” Deric answered, scanning the area where he was prone, trying to find the device in question. “Cuz if yours' is busted, we might be up a certain creek without a paddle.”

“Let me check, bru.” the South African replied and tapped his radio, “Delta 2 to any ACME callsign, do you read, over?”

Ivy and Calina had just reached the watch tower when Nace’s voice came through the radio. “Delta 2, we see you. Hang tight.”

Taking the radio, Deric pushed the 'talk' button and said, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Running towards the signal Ivy could make out two figures under loose rubble, one with a radio and the other laying on the ground seemingly unconscious. With the assisted strength amplification of the STUN suit, she lifted up a sheet of metal that shielded Deric and Nace from most of the debris. It was Calina who ran in first to help pull them out.

The dust and familiar voices made Ivy’s mind flash back to Nob Hill. She could see that Nace didn’t have any notable injuries, but Calina was still hovering over Deric. “What’s wrong? Is he alright?”

“I’m alright.” Nace remarked, standing up somewhat shakily, “I take it the sods that tried to get after us aren’t in the area?”

“I’m good,” Deric grinned, “but it’s been 30 minutes, where’s my pizza?” he joked with a goofy grin.

Cali noticed that Deric was okay, but she did not want to verbally ask him anything until she was sure. Searching his body with her flash light, she poked one bright beam into his eyes after Ivy's question.

"Tu és bem?"

Seeing him wince in reaction, Cali shouted back to Ivy.

"He's fine!"

Then she gave him a kiss on the head.

"Come on, menino, let's go home."

101 EarlJr (Note, this post assumes everyone at Torun Zamok has successfully made their way back to Lenino without further incident.)
(A collaborative post with Contessa, featuring a cameo appearance of Acton Roux.)

12 January 2013, 2230 Zulu.

As people buzzed around her in Lenino, Adrianna remembered an old adage her uncle used to tell her; "Never be the first to arrive or the last to leave."  Carmen had disappeared again, and no doubt Roux and VILE would try to seek her out.  Contessa on the other hand, had more pressing matters to deal with.  She needed to get out of this wasteland with Roux's plane, serum and vat intact.

When the ACME truck arrived with their agents and Alfie Barber, Adrianna couldn't believe her luck.  The driver, who had hidden his face all this time behind the mechanical suit was now recognizable.  She knew he had fallen off the radar of his usual circles, but hiding in ACME?  That thought nearly made her laugh.

Ignoring the bustle of the unloading truck she walked straight to the man.  "It has been a while since Marrakech hasn't it?  Seems I need to call in that favour."

Suppressing the slight tinge of annoyance Euge felt, he remained stubbornly at his task.  His helmet was back in place, both to keep the biting wind off his face and ensure the ASP would remain active in order to support his mangled ankle.

"Adrianna."  His voice was neutral to the point of apathy.  "I'm busy.  Come back and see me again during normal consulting hours.  I'll be free sometime between eternity and the heat-death of our universe."

"Don't be curt," Contessa scowled, then smiled.  "I need a pilot who can fly a passenger plane.  Do you really wish me to twist your arm about it?"

Her tone was less of a question than a statement.  The pilot was not an easy man, but she always knew how to get what she wanted.  In this case, Adrianna simply preferred coercion to bribery.  She had far too little information to go on, but her mind worked quickly to parse what it could from overheard conversations.  "Men who don't live up to their word often get ill surprises.  Perhaps you'd find one yourself back in San Francisco... or what was it, Bali?"

Euge didn't react at first, digesting the statement in his mind as he continued to stow equipment.  The inventory was a process he had always found to be cathartic after a long job, and Euge deliberately finished repacking his gear before standing straight and turning to regard her, his rapidly cooling expression concealed behind the battered ceramic faceplate.  "Looks like what I wish doesn't matter for now," Euge replied, carefully schooling his voice into professionalism.

Grabbing his rucksack, he inclined his head towards a haphazardly parked private jet, obviously the last to arrive and positioned to depart before everyone else.  "That's the one?" Euge asked simply.  It was a rhetorical question, as a lookup of the tail number revealed it didn't map to any of the other VILE aircraft present.  Not waiting for an answer, he set off towards the jet, fumbling at the latch with his oversized gauntlet.  Stepping in, Euge was slightly taken aback at the amount of medical equipment on board.  Perhaps his assessment had been off.

The Countess smiled and methodically checked her manicure in the way she did when things fell to plan.  Her bodyguard Borodin was now returning with Acton Roux.  Though he seemed slow, Borodin was fiercely loyal and she nodded a signal to let him prepare for take off.  Wrapping her arm around Eugene's to draw his attention away from the medical equipment, she guided him two steps closer to the cockpit.

"We need to go to Calcutta, then... here,"  Adrianna pointed to a map marker on the GPS, an unassuming red flag to the north of Tanzania, "Bukoba."

Letting out an audible sigh, Euge wedged himself into the right hand cockpit seat.  Keeping one eye on the preflight checks, he watched with interest as a man wearing a plague doctor mask was pulled away from the group rescued from the watchtower and roughly forced aboard the private jet.  This was quickly becoming an eclectic group, although such attire hinted at a slightly less convoluted explanation for the cargo.

Trying desperately to ignore the flash of red hair from the helicopters, Euge gripped the throttles tight and spun the jet around for departure.  Lined up, he firewalled the throttles a bit harder than necessary and sent the jet screaming skywards.  Unclenching his fist from the throttle quadrant, Euge settled in for a long haul, not noticing the palm print he had embedded into the controls.

02 Chase

"So what, he just left?"

Inside the medical plane Chase Devineaux yelled to a grounds controller at Lenino Airbase about Grovington's quick exit. 

Things were spinning around him, and he could only see half of it as medics worked on his injuries. Although Melana's eleventh bullet damaged the respirator instead of his skull, it made an impact. For the moment, his head felt like it was pressed between jagged sheets of hot ice.

Ivy Monaghan sat nearby with people tending to her arm. She cast a worried look to Devineaux and he did his best to return a reassuring one. Throughout the raid she showed admirable strength. For whatever reason Eugene Grovington had to leave with Adrianna Covrenzi, Chase knew Ivy would be fine. He found himself focusing on the Commander, in part to try alleviate something more painful that he hoped to ignore.

Deeper inside the plane was Sophie Conrad, still unconscious. She survived the tower's collapse but suffered a falling projectile's collision with her upper back. The consensus was in centimeters, any closer to the left and her spine might have taken damage. Constance Kitlyn was nearby, aiding the medics.

Beyond Connie's station was Calina Corranos, Deric Storm, and Nace Bilby talking over their conditions with a field nurse. Closer to the entrance were the bunker boys. With their injuries patched up, they helped the teams pack and load the last of their equipment. They were smiling, happy to be alive and functioning despite the cold.

Prisoners were loaded into another plane. Devineaux could almost feel Barber staring at him through the thick steel. When the evacuation helicopters met the trucks, Chase saw a distasteful, arrogant look in the physicist's eyes when Olga exited and there was no sign of Melana Lancaster. Seeing that again in his head created a slow but tightening pressure against his chest.

Diverting his attention to the plane's windows, Chase could see VILE's helicopter heading south to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky where they'll rendezvous with the team that rescued the workers. If he knew this was the last he would hear from them for many months, he might have made more of an effort to communicate.

"Sir?" one of the navigators entered, "We're ready to proceed."

"Comm plane first," Devineaux instructed, "then the prisoners, then medical, follow through with the rest."

Lee Jordan and the communications plane carrying the HELL module was leaving first. Any data that couldn't be transferred would also have to be hand delivered to Barbara Rosen.

Somewhere in San Francisco...

Barbara Rosen, in her private residence, read thoroughly the transcription of every radio message that came through from Lenino Airbase in Kamchatka. The raid was successful, at least one module of the weapon was secured while the other was completely destroyed. Her gamble had paid off, now everyone was coming home.

It was rather unfortunate that VILE's leader, a former student, was unaccounted for; and in contrast, terribly disappointing that Melana Lancaster lived. She had doubts about VILE's involvement, and the intervals of silence from Chase left much unanswered, but in the end, the thieves played their part. 

Now it was her turn. 

Another clean up raid will go through Torun Zamok again from top to bottom without the interference of hostiles. Over the next few days, perhaps even months, while the agents are granted their mandatory rest period, Barbara Rosen will be going over the books. Legally, things must be iron-clad.

Next to her was a briefcase of files retrieved from the cache Vincent Fumigalli revealed in Hawaii. Rosen removed the papers, and one by one, placed them into the fire behind her.

[Co-written with Mikal's narrator, this ends Seraphim. Thanks.]