Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Story This Far

(My other blog wasn't working, so I decided to transfer anything story related here and that other blog will be for anything else I feel like writing. I haven't gotten a chance to edit anything, but here's the drafts of everything I have so far. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave criticisms, suggestions, compliments, etc. Thanks in advance~!)


Clang, Clang, Clang...
       The heavy footsteps of the Hunter clanging out into the infinite darkness of the abandoned factory. Even as his mask muffled his breathing, the heavy exhales the soldier continued to make echoed into the darkness. Even so, the Hunter did not care. No matter how loud he stomped, he knew that it was nowhere near as loud as his prey's beating heart. The soldier had cornered him in the darkness, the game was soon coming to a close, and they both knew it. He was quick, efficient, and that's why he was always chosen to make kills like these.
       They may have been of the same species, but they were of the same in the way that a domesticated house cat and lion are. The Hunter was quicker, stronger, and above all, ruthless. Even with a mask on, his enemy could never see even the briefest glimpse of mercy from his eyes. This was no different. The Hunter had already sank his teeth into this one, now all that was left was to snap the neck.
       As quiet as his prey had been, the Hunter still was able to sense the faintest of sound and stopped a rusty pipe from being smashed against the back of his neck. He snapped around and caught it only to feel a sharp kick in the knee. The knee cap moved out of place, momentarily impeding all movement. His prey, that Rogue, jumped back into the darkness.
        His prey was getting desperate. Normally, none of them would resort to such low hit and run tactics. The Hunter knew that the Rogue had no other choice. The nasty bullet wounds in his side must've been bleeding out by now with no way to stop it. Not if he kept running like this. The soldier grew impatient knowing that if this lasted much longer, he wouldn't be able to kill his prey himself, firsthand, and he would die like an injured animal. He was not going to let that happen.
        Popping his knee cap back into place, only wincing for a moment, he let himself enjoy at least that much. Not only a sadist, loving the fear in the eyes of any opposition being topped only by their pain, he was also a masochist, reveling in his own pain. It helped him successfully overcome many obstacles as he learned to love the pain he often endured. Exhaling a sigh, he was disappointed. His kneecap was often so injured in a similar fashion in countless fights that he was becoming immune to even that much, and the joy was leaving him.
        Focused once more on the task at hand and eager to finish off this wounded animal, he turned on his thermal imaging equipped into his mask. The factory did not light up in any significant manner, but the crimson footprints that was his bleeding made it a vibrant trail to follow. It was almost like cheating, but it was necessary to do so.
       Jumping down a level, he followed the blood. It zigzagged across paths, moving sporadically. Then he seemed to stop as the bleeding thickened into one larger puddle, then continued to move on. It was too easy to read. A sick grin grew across the Hunters face as his stride and pace quickened to follow, feeling his pulse fire off. Twisting this way and that, the occasional stop as prompted by a puddle, then the prey moved again. This was easy.
       The thought prompted him to stop. As skilled as he was, nothing is ever this easy, given the circumstances. Why would he be stopping? How has he moved so fast? The questions were pushed out of his mind and replaced by a quiet caution as he better surveyed his surroundings. He removed his mask for a moment and knelt down next to a large puddle. He squinted and realized how foolish he was. The Hunter had soon become the Prey. He picked up a rat body, still warm, and it was no doubt that this place was crawling with the vermin. His prey must have found a way to catch rats, make them bleed and lead him around the factory...but for what? Where would this end?
        The Hunter knew his answers were right behind him in the form of a gun pointed in the back of his own head. The cold barrel was lightly pressed against the back of his skull.
       "It appears that the cat has learned how to hunt a lion", the Hunter chuckled at his own little joke.
       "It appears you don't take the situation you're in too seriously."
       He chuckled a bit more, "but how can I when you're such a joke"
       With fluidity, The Hunter flipped down his mask and whipped around. The gun shot off, deafening him, but he was still alive, a twisting satisfied smile creeping over his face behind his bulletproof mask. The shock delivered from a bullet being fired at point black directly at his face did not have its ill effects though. The Hunter's equilibrium was skewered and the force did snap his neck back, giving him whiplash and throwing him to the ground; above all still alive.
       His leg shot back and crammed into the stomach of the Rogue in front of him like a piston. A large scream of pain shot out from his victim, but he could not fully enjoy it in his deafened state. Regardless, the Hunter must have hit the bullet wound.
        The hunter groped the railing beside him and hoisted himself up. His legs were still almost jellified underneath him. He looked forward towards the Rogue just in time to see a knee right into the face. This was the most the Hunter had enjoyed himself all week. Even sprawled upon the ground, that smile stayed plastered on his face behind the mask as the magnificent pain fueled his adrenaline like fire.
       The Rogue must not have had his gun anymore, for instead of a gun shot, a sharp stomp to the ribs, breaking two of them, was delivered instead.
        This man must be a sadist sonovabitch as well, the Hunter thought to himself not allowing himself to scream for that man's pleasure as well as embracing his own vicious beating. Biding his time.
        The Rogue knelt to the Hunter and pulled the gun out from the Hunter's holster having lost his own. It was weighted differently from his own, but in this kind of situation, who would complain. Even so, the grip bothered him as he oddly held the piece up to the Hunter's head.
       "Not to be cliche, but do you happen to have any last words?", he clicked back the hammer and firmly held his positioning.
        "Yes. Too many words, too little action, and way too slow."
        The Hunter had regained his equilibrium, and his hearing was back as well. His arm swiftly swatted the arm away from his head, turned over and awkwardly pounced upon his enemy, prey once more. The gun was quickly coming back towards his face, but now the Hunter had the upper hand and control of the situation. Without even thinking, his muscles entangled the arm and snapped it freeing his gun.
       The Hunter picked up the weapon and jammed it up against the forehead of his Prey, confident in his win.
       "Now...do you have any last words?", purposely being cliche and cruelly ironic. The overwhelming feelings of victory swarmed his body. He couldn't help buy laugh. It was a great hunt, the most joy he's gotten out of a victim in a long time.
       "Looks like this is a-" his last words were cut off by a gunshot. A large hole open, blood spatter and gray matter splattered.
       The Hunter cackled a rotten laugh of triumph. There was no feeling like it. The adrenaline, the endorphins, all of it practically replacing the very blood in his body. Completely satisfied, he tapped the communicator on his wrist, calling HQ for clean up orders.
       Then, as he punched in the last few numbers, his hearing finally was finally coming back. He heard small blips getting steadily louder. His heart froze in anticipation. Looking down, he saw in his dead prey's hand a detonator with a timer hastily counting down.
        A large wailing noise erupted from the small device. It was sharply cut off by explosions haphazardly bursting from various areas of the factory. It seemed that this was all a trap laid specifically for him. His ego was touched that they would go through such lengths just to trap him.
       The Hunter laughed one more time, only to be drowned out by the cascade of booms breaking out into cacophony around him. His only regret being he wasn't going to be around to kill more Rogues.

Chapter 1

     The Vengeful Spirit, Damian, walked with hard footsteps, metal boots slamming down onto the wooden steps. A mix of emotions were running up and down his mind. Damian was very pleased at the fact that the mission overall was a success. However, he could not pretend to be without trouble at the death of one of his most valuable comrades, Roland, The Shadow. His sacrifice hopefully would not be in vain and that the team could still accomplish their goals without him.
     As Damian stepped down to the concrete floor, the team he had assembled was staring back at him, all with different looks in their eyes. Each one of them a question or an assumption; about the mission no less. Damian, didn't even need his uncanny ability to search out details to realize that someone was already late to this meeting, setting a strain on his mind even further.
      The Innocent, Jack sensing the unease shrank down a bit. Jack was already nervous enough having learned that one of his friends had just died. Jack was named the Innocent for a reason. He ambled over to the corner of the room and aimlessly paced around lost in his own thought desperately trying not to make eye contact with his captain again. He pulled his hat over his eyes just in case.
     The Explosive Soul, Skylar, locked eyes with the Captain for a moment then broke it. Not out of fear or apprehensiveness, just out of sheer indifference. Skylar feared nobody, not even death's icy grip; not like any of them did at this point. It's not that she disliked others, it's just that she didn't care for them either. The death of one of their teammates was just another statistic in her mind. It was to be expected. If the captain was upset about it, it was his own issue.
     The Fire Breather, Anya, was the only one to keep eye contact with Damian. It was a soft gaze, yet focused. Questioning. Her eyes were the sharpest of them all, and Damian, or anyone else she set her sights upon, could feel it. Constantly prodding, seeking an opening of some kind in which to somehow exploit for whatever need she may have in mind. Her questions, whatever they may be, would be answered soon enough. Although, one had to be answered now.
      "Where's the Voice? Isn't he with you?", Anya spoke with a delightfully inquisitive tone unfitting for the atmosphere of the room.
     The door creaked open, "Yo, someone sa-"
     Damian pulled out a small firearm on his hip, a Sig Sauer, finger greased onto the trigger aimed at the door. The Voice, Xephyr, already had a small khukiri on the neck of his captain. Both of them had moved out of sheer reflex, but in the short range, it was clear who the victor was. Damian was disappointed in himself that he could have died right then, but elated that he still had a challenge. Even more so that one of his subordinates was able to move so swiftly in and sloped area.
      "Too slow, Captain", Xephyr said nonchalantly, slipping the knife back into his coat, "I hope that excuses my tardiness"
      Damian's first instinct was to hit Xephyr, but just like everyone else, he had his title for a reason. Even so, just about everything about this man made Damian grind his teeth.
     Xephyr took a seat on one of the couches in the basement that they found themselves in, kicked his feet up onto the table, and pushed his sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose. Always so casual. It was abnormal. Always slacking off, being relaxed. It should have been a crime how carefree someone could be. If it wasn't for how very few there already was, Damian would not hesitate even for a moment to kick him out of here.
     "Everyone, please, take The Voice's example and lounge about on the sofa's so we can get this meeting started", making the sarcasm as heavy as possible, though it was intentionally lost upon Xephyr's ears.
     "As all of you know we lost Roland. He gave up his life defeating the Hunter. Let's not make his sacrifice a bigger loss than it is. The Hunter was one of the biggest threats to our plans. To have vanquished him by himself is commendable. We shall honor that by moving forward quickly."
      Damian pulled out various maps and documents, "This will be our first target. It's called Alexandria."
     "Oh, is that the place in Egypt?", Anya chimed in. Jack made an attempt to say something, he opened his mouth, but in the end said nothing and just pulled his hat deeper over his eyes.
      Damian raised his eyebrows, "That is correct. It is the second largest city in Egypt with many admirable sights in its own right. Our primary target is one such place called the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. As the name says, it is a catacombs and is thus underground. It is a major tourist hotspot so there we will easily be able to blend into the crowds. It will be easy to get down inside."
     "Uhm...to do what exactly...sir?", Damian couldn't help but smile. He wasn't sure whether it was form how cute he found Jack sometimes or if he was just excited to be able to tell them of his plan.
     "I'm very glad you asked. That's where you", he referenced the silent Skylar, "are going to earn your keep."
     "You want me to blow it up", not so much a question as it was confirmation. Damian liked that about her. No questions unless absolutely necessary.
     "Correct. We're going to quickly move in there, plant some explosives at the lowest levels, implode it. We need to keep the casualties to a minimum."
     As soon as Damian mentioned that word, the eyes of Jack deadened a bit. It almost hurt to look at him. To tell him he's going to be apart of this. Anya stiffened up a bit, but barely even noticeable, especially when she was next to Jack. If Xephyr had some kind of after thought on this, his body didn't show it. His eyes hidden behind glasses and his body still looking relaxed as ever. Skylar remained stoic.
     "Wait...you said we? Why we?", Jack piped in.
     "Because we're a team. We need to be there for Skylar whether she needs it or not and whether she likes it or not. Plus, we don't know if Revenant won't have some way of intercepting us. We need to be able to support each other. Each of us are very crucial to each mission with something vital that will be important to have in battle."
     Jack slowly nodded in understanding. Damian went over the rest of the details of the plan. How they would move, rendezvous point, second rendezvous point should there be need for one and where to meet afterward. Various points in where to retreat, vital equipment, and most importantly, at least to himself, time. They said very little, which was odd in the case of Xephyr.  It was a shorter meeting than expected.
     "That will be all for this meeting. Get some sleep. Needless to say, it'll be necessary."
      They all stood up in their own pace and walked up the stairs ready for slumber, each mentally preparing themselves for the tolls the mission would place on their minds.

Chapter 2 (So far)

     Xephyr found himself in an odd stupor, not saying a word and listening to the hum of the engine in the car he wound up in. Damian decided it would be best if they had all split up and gotten to Alexandria in their own way. He decided he would hitchhike. Normal people would advise against doing such a thing, both going out to hitchhike and picking up one, but Xephyr was not a normal person and the man who had picked him up must have been different in his own way as well. Perhaps too trusting? Naive? The words pondered back and forth in Xephyr's mind.
     The man had tried starting conversation, trying to make Xephyr feel comfortable, or maybe it was just for the man's own need for companionship with those around him. Xephyr being lost in his own thoughts about taking down Revenant only nodded and said a couple words when they seemed necessary. He felt bad, cause he knew that this man was nice enough to pick up a stranger, especially as suspicious as he looked.
     Xephyr had walked down highways, thumb up towards the morning skies. Xephyr donned a white tank-top and black jeans along with his two usual items, a special black trench coat and his signature indigo sunglasses. Sometimes, he wished that the trench coat wasn't so necessary, but it had saved him almost every time in the few battles he had been in after escaping Revenant. It carried four firearms along with sixteen magazines; four for each. Various snacks and water packs. A zippo lighter. Two medium length Katanas, his prized Kodachis, were amazingly enough sowed into the hip. It hid a cache of goods that would scare almost anyone if they found out, especially on a hitchhiker of all people.
      "...Catacombs?", the voice broke Xephyr's deep zone.
     "Sorry, what'd you say?", trying to sound like he had just misheard that one question instead of never listening to him at all.
      "Why do ya wanna see the catacombs? 'Scuse me if I'm wrong, but you don' look like the type who just packs up ta go see da sights on a whim", the man chuckled a bit. Xephyr chucked himself at the irony of it. That pretty much hit the nail on the head-except for the part where he'd be part of destroying the sights too.
     "Actually, I have my history major and Egypt always piqued my interest. So I decided to fly down and decided to check it out. I had a rental car, but it broke down. "
      "So ya just left'er there on the side of the road?"
     "Yeah, I really didn't have an option.", Xephyr smiled his genuine smile. Perfected over the years.
     "Odd...I don't remember seeing a car on the side of the road...but maybe someone took it 'ey?", he winked at that last statement. This was a very peculiar man, very perceptive to things.
      Xephyr stayed silent for a few more moments, staring out into the shimmering horizon of the waters as the afternoon sun glistened upon it. He rolled down the window a bit and felt the wind whip his hair about. This was one of the few times he was grateful his memories remained intact from his first life. Xephyr was still able to appreciate all the little things; like air dancing between his follicles and twirling on his scalp, massaging his face. He meant to close his eyes for a moment but became an unexpected victim to sleep.
     Roughly an hour and a half later, he was awoken by the gentle nudging of his driver.
     "Hey buddy...You awake?", Xephyr's eyes snapped open and his hands immediately shot towards his weaponry. His left hand flicked off the safety on his gun and right hand on the hilt of his kodachi and both of them were almost drawn until in the next instant he remembered where he was.
     "Yeah...I'm sorry, I just don't like to be woken up by other people", he forced a natural laugh like it was a natural mistake, which it was.
      "'Ey, no worries. I just thought ya might like to know  that we've arrived", and indeed, Xephyr had found himself at the Catacombs.
     "Oh, thanks man. Here, let me give you some cash for gas", He had begun to go into his pockets for some cash, but the man had waived it away.
     "Nah, keep it. I was goin' this way anyway. 'Sides, I can tell you got somethin' serious to do. You just got this look in yer eyes. Just try not to hurt anyone capiche?", Xephyr was kinda flabbergasted that a normal human was able to see so much out of him. It almost hurt as he stepped outta the vehicle.
     "Oh, yeah, and even though it's underground, it can get pretty hot down there. Be careful and get some water when you can. Nobody wants to get heat stroke'"
     "Thank you sir", Xephyr waved with sincerity and walked towards the entrance looking for anyone who have may had already shown up.

     Skylar was in an unsettled state of mind. She was on her way to the catacombs coming from the North on a bus. Cars was already on the list of dislikes and having to share the vehicle with noisy, obnoxious passengers just annoyed her even more. She couldn't stand the naturally obtrusive public, and she let out a small groan in dissatisfaction as she saw a mother of two noisy, probably bratty, children walk onto the bus and right past her. One of the children looked barely old enough to walk, but was still enough just old enough to irritate her. As the child ambled on by, it reached up and tried to touch her, but with a sharp glare, the mother ushered the child away. However, to Skylar's dismay, to sit right behind her.
     Skylar shrugged it off as much as she could. It could have been worse. It could have been some old men, or even young men for that matter, oggling her. That was what she had a problem with. When she was looked over with lust. She was a pretty specimen, but she always tried to dull her appearance, especially in this case to blend in with the crowd. Skylar had worn her hair up in a messy pony tail, no need to do anything elaborate. She sported a tanned button up with short sleeves to if anything be able to blend in with the various sand and stones a bit. A pair of loose fitting khakis was just thrown onto match with some white tennis shoes. The thing that she made sure to be particularly careful of was the large backpack she had.
     It looked normal enough, just a pack that any high school or college student or even a tourist would sling across their back. The inside however was anything but. There was only two contents in the bag, but what they were were the most vital of the mission. Stowed away were explosives, enough to take out a city block at the least and the laptop that would detonate it. She made sure to keep that away especially from the two kids that decided to take residency in her vicinity.
      As the bus slowed to a halt at the next stop, a man across the seat got out freeing it. The woman as well as her two children moved over to the next seat with the smaller of the two children sitting on the mother's lap by the window and the older closer to the aisle. Skylar didn't have to look at the kid or even acknowledge him to feel the pushy gaze that the kid bored into her face. It obstructed everything in her peripherals and took up her concentration.
     Skylar took an icy breath through clenched teeth, closed her eyes, and let it out. She tried to ignore the kid and dully focused a bit more on the white noise all around. A woman talking on her cell phone towards the back. A man snoring unusually loud somewhere. The voices of a few teenagers roaring in laughter over some asinine joke no doubt. Yet, Skylar had learned that those were the times they lived in and that there was no escaping it. She tried to dampen the noise with her own thoughts and tried to meditate on her own goals at hand for a moment when something poked her cheek.
     Eyes snapping open, she saw the staring kids finger still lingering in the air, pointing at her, eyes accompanied by a blank expression. Any older, and Skylar would've broken it right then and there. Even so, she was still contemplating it, although she knew she couldn't draw any attention to herself whatsoever.
      "Missus...Whasin the bag?"
     Skylar opened her mouth to mouth off at the kid, something cliche about how the kid shouldn't be talking to strangers or something trite and cliche, but the mother quickly sensed the disturbance and drew her kid in with her hand, clasping it over the kids gaping hole. At least the mother was smart enough to know when someone ought not to be bugged.
     "Michael! What have I told you about keeping your hands to yourself?! I'm terribly sorry Miss"
     "Oh, no, don't worry about it. I don't  mind it with inattentive mothers let their kids poke me in the face and stick their noses in my business. It doesn't bother me one bit", the mother seemed apologetic enough, but that wasn't going to prevent her from being bit into.
      Luckily, Skylar didn't have to wait for a response. She saw the catacombs looming ahead and pulled the string to get off the bus, but not before giving the little boy another dagger tipped glance.  As she stepped out into the noon Egyptian heat, she regretted not bringing a hat, already feeling the intense heat bearing down on her long blonde hair. Draping the backpack over her shoulder carefully, she set off towards the catacombs.
     Skylar passed by a couple places to sit, and her lazy tendencies were a great temptation. She decided against it when she looked down at her watch and saw the time creeping by when they were all supposed to meet near the entrance. Skylar didn't want to be late and be seen in anyway similar as The Voice, so she walked on.
     Speak of the devil... She thought to herself seeing Xephyr in his 'signature' black trench coat and his purple hair. Sighing, already knowing that the captain was going to say something about how he specifically told us all to blend in well and thus was going to have to chastise Xephyr was something that Skylar was getting annoyed with just thinking about.
    Anya kicked up small puffs of dirt as she stepped forward on the side of the road. The empty road. A small sigh was released from her lips as she looked forward in discouragement. At this rate, she was scared of being later than everyone else, if she could even make it that is. She looked ahead with a scrutiny that even the other Ghosts could only dream of and still saw nothing. When Anya turned around, she saw a small blue box rapidly becoming larger. She didn't let her hopes get up too high however, nobody else had stopped beforehand.
     Anya regardless stuck her thumb high up in the air in the hopes that someone would at know what that meant and pull over. This was probably the only time her past life would have been more of a convenience. She always had men tripping over themselves just to say hi at the cost of having any female with decent eye sight green with envy for her gorgeous figure. Anya always hated that, it was so taxing to have to be pulled around by everyone's invisible strings of expectations, but at this time, it would be a lovely surprise.
    The car engine got louder and louder until soon she could tell that it was going well over the speed limit and could be coming straight at her. Whipping her head around, the car was one hundred yards away, which given the speed, it would be at her side in a moment to spray the shrapnel of the ground directly at her if she didn't at least do something. Anya saw nothing to shield herself with and instead jumped more over to the side and hid her face away from the road.
    The car could be heard speeding by and she felt the small pebbles pepper against her legs and the dirt went into her hair. Long and thick, she couldn't do much with it in ways of styling it and so the debris found welcome refuge in her locks. Disgusted with how long it was going to take to clean up later, Anya had to repress the urge to take a gun out of her pack and fire it off.
    That suppression may have been for the best for the car had stopped a ways down, turned around and was now coming back. Maybe luck was finally smiling down upon Anya. Never wanting to look sloppy, she tried to shake out some of the dust from her tresses and pick out what small rocks she could before the car had pulled up.
    Anya didn't know too much about mechanics outside of weaponry, but from the logo, she could tell it was a Hyndai. Regardless of the dust covering the sides, it still appeared to be new. It was a bright red color and although the windows were tinted, she could already predict the type of person who would be rolling down that window.
    As the window slowly slid down, a tanned man in his early nineties with spiked blonde hair with low lights accenting the tips and a huge grin was inside. He had lust in his eyes, Anya had seen it countless times before, especially in men like him. He was the type of guy who was handsome and waelthy, moderately intelligent so as not to look foolish in front of company. Probably sleeps with women for status and vice versa. These were by far the easiest to manipulate.
    "Hey little lady. Whachu doin' all the way out here in the heat? Though I gotta say, things are startin' to feel kinda cold in comparison to how hot you are", and he added in a wink and a smile, no doubt seemingly perfected with all the practice Anya was sure he had. Unfortunately for him, she had perfected her art as well.
    "Well, my boyfriend and I were fighting and like an asshole he dumped me on the side of the road and I've been walking ever since! I called up a friend and she said to meet her at the Catacombs of Kom el....Shakah?", she said sounding as distraught and panicked as she could.
    "Yeah, that place, and", Anya stepped up to him, put her hands on the door and bent over a bit to put their faces inches apart, "I just can't seem to find anyone that would be nice enough to give me a ride", she hated flirting, but if it got her there on time, she'd suck it up a bit.
    He chuckled a bit, "it looks like it's both of our lucky days cause I'd be willing to give you a ride down and it's just a pleasure to have a tart like you driving along with me."
    "Aren't you just the charmer", it was her turn to wink this time, "just promise me you'll take it nice and slow"
    "Oh don't worry", he popped open the door, what a gentleman, "I wouldn't want to scare a pretty girly like you", she mentally cringed at that. Anya's fingers were twitched, burning to pull out the small Taurus she had on her just to show how scary this 'pretty girly' could be, but she hid that away. Instead, she batted her eyelashes and buckled up.
    "This isn't going out of your way is it?", trying to sound genuinely concerned.
    "Actually, I was planning on meeting some buds over at Alexandria to tour the city. I'd love to have a cute girl like you on my arm and if your friend is even as half as pretty as you are, she's free to come along as well. I know I'd love to show you around."
    The hand he couldn't see was clenched in a tight ball but with her other hand, she lightly grazed his shoulder, "Maybe, we'll have to see", a perfect lie slithered through her teeth, him none the wiser as he started the car and they drove away.
    He's driving just as fast as he was earlier. The liar...

    His attempt at making small talk was abysmal though his ego was monumental. Anya had a fun time trying to gauge how much money he must've had to talk this highly of himself with such large confidence. She feigned interest, trying to remain transfixed on his every word like she was sure countless girls had done times before, albeit for obviously different reasons. It almost scared her to think she could have been like one of those kinds of girls.
    Anya played her part well; laughing, nodding, touching, responding at all the right times. Acting like this made her stomach a bit queasy. Fortunately for Anya, she did not have to have this burden on her nerves very much longer. With his speed, they made it quicker than she had originally anticipated and Anya was more than grateful for his haste. Deliberately getting out of the car with sloth, she stretched her stiff muscles. Having been up at Revenant HQ for so long when this life started, Anya started to resent any kind of smaller spaces.
    Anya stood up on her tip toes and extended her arms upward. The cold steel of the various guns on her stomach, sides, and pelvis were embraced her skin. It was a feeling that made her body flutter. Anya could only relax when she had a firearm somewhere on her person or within arms length. Her clothing perfectly reflected the ability to hold everything she needed. Her underwear, men's boxers, and a tight fitting shirt were sown with holsters in them. Tan cargo pants were quite baggy, probably more than necessary, but luck favors the prepared. Inside each pocket was more magazines with ammunition for each gun she carried on her person. Anya wore another shirt, black, over her first one and a light vest to carry more ammo and to better conceal her weapons. To top it all off, she wore a pair of black, calf high boots.
    All was meant to look like a tourist, or at least a civilian, and from Dylan's (the driver) reaction, she had done just that. Anya had her doubts however, Dylan didn't seem to be the most intelligent guy on earth, then again, it had been awhile since she had been, so that may have been what it was like now. Anya hoped that that was not the case. She could only press on, what was done was done.
    "So Mandy, I don't see your friend anywhere...you comin' along or what?", somebody was impatient.
    "I'm so sorry, but I have an obligation to my friends. I gotta go look for her. Thanks for the ride though.", she turned and ran out into the crowd before he could protest. Anya heard something shouted behind her. Whether it was a good-bye or something else, she barely even cared to know.
    Anya wandered around for a couple minutes, completely enamored with the size of the Catacombs and the crowd of the tourists themselves. It was a popular place indeed. She was almost discouraged and didn't think she'd find anyone until she saw Xephyr's tall black coat. Anya's face met her palm. She almost laughed at this guys sheer indifference. Everyone knew to show up inconspicuous, and she may have been wearing some black clothing, but he had a thick trench coat. Just looking at it made Anya sweat. On the bright side however, she quickly found the group and migrated over.
     While everyone else on the team had their own ordeals with finding transport, Jack had an easy time getting here. He figured the easiest was to find a truck stop, find out where it was going and climb on top. Chances are, there would be plentiful, or at least a few, truckers heading over to Alexandria. It is the biggest city in Egypt after all. Jack didn't expect the whipping of the wind to be so fierce however, so it was a good thing he at least brought a backpack to shield his face. That and his genetic tampering to help the recovery process.
     Jack wasn't too stealthy about getting off the top of the truck, he was starting to feel sick and wanted to get down as fast as possible. The look on the truckers face was something he had not expected nor wanted. The trucker had an odd mix of fury, worry, and confusion. Most of all, the man was speechless, just making slight sounds with his mouth, completely shocked a thinly built boy just withstood being on top of a semi-truck's cargo for a few hours.
     "Um...Well, I guess it's sa-safer than hitchhiking", the trucker seemed to demand an explanation and that was at least some form of truth. With that, he walked off.
     Jack was hesitant to ask anyone for directions and so just wandered around the town taking in the various sights, engaging himself with the city. With the little pocket cash he had on him, he grabbed a small snack, sweet and salty trail mix, and found a map only to find he was walking in the complete opposite direction of his intended goal. Jack was just glad that he had more than enough time to make it.
     When Jack arrived at the catacombs, the way they lumbered over him was a bit intimidating. He couldn't believe that he'd be partly responsible for demolishing part of this. It caused his pulse to quicken and deepen in guilt. He looked down at his watch; about a half hour till someone else showed up. Jack took his time surveying the surroundings, looking at various exits, but as he did so, it only did more to increase his level of guilt. As Jack traversed the perimeter, he saw parents with smaller kids. Locals most likely trying to get their kids to appreciate this rich piece of history. There were older college kids, people who were just as young as Jack was that had dreams of their own, like Jack once did.
     It was actually quite a coincidence. A year ago, this very day, it was Jack's own birthday. It was one of the few things that he started to remember ever since his memory stopped being so fuzzy. It came in bits and pieces, but whether it was due to the moment, the stress, or just an overwhelming coincidence, it was a very vivid memory today.

     "Happy birthday Dear Ja-ack...", his mom barely managed to choke out over her sobs.
     "Happy birthday to you...", his dad tried to finish off strong, but it was still quiet.
     Jack remembered the pungent smell of the matches his dad used to light the nineteen candles on his modestly sized cake. It was more than enough for Jack, he was almost in tears himself, though it wasn't out of sadness. It was an odd feeling. He was happy that he lived another year, a naive hope filled his heart that maybe he could keep on 'just living another year'.
     The dark room was only dimly illuminated by the flickering candles. It caused Jack to smirk the tiniest bit. He just know understood the dark humor with whoever decided to start placing candles on cakes. The tiny wavering flames was something he found he know had plenty in common with.
      "C-c'mon hun...blow out your candles....make a wish."
     Jack was almost positive that she wanted him to wish for a longer life. His only wish was that his mom and dad wouldn't miss him too much and they could move on.
     With a small gust of breath, he extinguished the candles. His mom gave a small clap and his dad started removing the candles and brandishing the knife. Jack turned on the light and wiped the couple of tears sliding down his face. He was just glad his roommate wasn't there to see the ridiculous mess he was. Jack had previously talked his roommate out of the room and to go along for the night and they would 'party it up' the next night. Although Jack knew all it would be is them hanging out at some local club, his roommate trying to get him drunk, Jack refusing, then his roommate 'getting drunk enough for the both of them'.
     Jack had not realized how great he had it.

      Now, he stood at the front of the overwhelmingly large catacombs towering over him. His mission was to blow up this historic landmark in one of - if not the most- important cities in Egypt. Kill the lives of civilians, of innocents. He never imagined this is what would become of his 'life'. Jack wasn't even sure if all of this was worth being brought back to life by Revenant anymore. He was grateful for his new existence, but not at the costs it brought. Being robbed of his humanity by becoming a Ghost for Revenant then having to do something so foul as this.
     Of course, this was due to Jack's own naivete. Jack had figured this was a war between ghosts, all he had to do was at the very least lay support for his own comrades as a conscientious objector or at most fight other ghosts. Instead, winding up here at a place where he was going to take part in killing innocent humans. Humans that he was no different from just a short year ago. Humans that had no idea him, the ghosts, or the organization even existed.
      This won't be in vain though....right? Jack thought to himself. He tried to reason to himself, to convince himself that this wasn't as terrible as it was, but no matter how many times he tried to figure it out in his head, everything else just screamed that it was so terribly wrong. Yet, how many humans would end up like Jack? Refused the right to die in peace. Deprived of a peaceful afterlife. Perhaps the human casualties might end up saving many in the future. It could possibly be outweighed by a more peaceful future. That was the end of it.
     At the very least, this is what Jack had to tried to believe for himself. He did not want to go down the road of uncertainty and freak out before the mission started. Looking around, he saw that maybe, just maybe, there wasn't as many as there could be. It wasn't a time of the year many visited Alexandria; not too many tourists lurked around. He knew that among the few in attendance, the Rogues would not stand out very much from the humans. Jack himself was very plain looking. Wearing a very loose fitting shirt that said "Make Believe Not War", which considering all things seemed a bit ironic, tan cargo shorts, and a pair of dull black boots. All that, and of course, his lucky hat, though that was something that he rarely was without.
      Other than the low key aesthetics, Jack had chosen the outfit for good reason. The shirt was loose enough to fit the small, yet very uncomfortable, gun holstered underneath. His pants had large pockets that were large enough that were able to hold the makeshift medical supplies inside. Bandaids, a small amount of rubbing alcohol, Neosporin, Gauze, thread, needle. Everyone knew, even when he was a ghost, that he lacked the physical capabilities of being a soldier. His steady hands and knowledge of medics in general is what caused him to be recruited as a medic. Jack was in charge of making sure everyone got back in one piece, more or less. He may not have looked like the most enthusiastic, but when it came to helping others, Jack tried to be consistent.
      Jack's hands remained almost inseparable from the inside of his pockets, rarely lifting them out unless to change the angle of his hat from the sun glaring down upon his face. Walking around the entire perimeter and observing all of the people who were at the Catacombs, Jack didn't see anyone else part of his group. This came as no surprise, Jack was always one to over prepare out of anxiety, however, this day he preferred it. He was but an acquaintance to everyone. Sure, he had met some of them briefly, but he never really spoke. Now, he was going to be in contact with them all.
      Everyone was very imposing in their own ways; Anya was so overly perky, Skylar always seemed threatening, Xephyr was a bit too obnoxious, and Damian was just a scary person in Jack's eyes. Jack wanted to look tougher to at least seem like he wasn't useless, but it was a bit hard to do so for someone so small. Jack felt more like a pet, ready to lick everyone's wounds rather than any real help.
       Jack waited around fifteen more minutes before he finally saw one more person; Xephyr. Out of all of them, Xephyr was probably the only he didn't mind being alone with, even if a bit over zealous about things. X spoke rather loud, but at least he was a pleasant person otherwise.
       Jack was going to wave to greet him, but he didn't think X had seen him yet. After all, Xephyr's large black jacket made him stick out quite well compared to Jack's commonplace appearance. It was almost unfathomable how Xephyr even made it here without heat stroke. Although his smile had seemed genuine and that is what Jack was grateful for. Xephyr was always nice to be around. That attitude, even from afar, put Jack's mind at ease a bit.
      Xephyr walked towards the Catacombs, looking for at least one familiar face. Walking around provided him with the faces of a diverse group of people. Everyone was of different sizes, ages, hues (although everyone was shaded with a tinge of purple due to his glasses), gender. There were people there possibly alone, taking pictures for their own reasons. Teenagers with backpacks. Parents or grandparents with children. Couples holding hands, None of them realize how lucky their lives must have been up until now... Xephyr thought to himself with a hint of melancholy.
       As Xephyr strolled through, he caught small awkward glances from people, no doubt questioning the out of place attire. Most people might have been a bit self-conscious; possibly insulted. He on the other hand looked back with a small grin. One out of courteousness, pinnacle of humility. Xephyr even got a smile back from a cute girl. Too bad this wasn't another life.
      Finally, Xephyr noticed the cross upon the hat that was the signature of another Rogue, one named Jack, labeled the innocent officially, but labeled a conundrum in his mind. Jack seemed to be innocent, and even after undergoing the training and augmentation of Ghost, considerably weak. It must have been a miracle for him to even get through regardless of his status as a medical support. Such a gentle soul Jack must have been, anxiety was shining from behind a painted smile.
       Jack had already seen Xephyr and already started walking over. Xephyr decided to at least try and meet him halfway, gliding through the small crowd like water through cracks.
      Jack was content with a small wave when they finally met each other. Alternatively, Xephyr threw his arm around Jack's shoulders, "Hey there Jack! It's great to see you! I'm surprised to even see you at all."
       "Yeah...well...I'm here", Jack managed as best as he could. Even though Xephyr's grip was very light, he still seized up, muscles tightening. His tone was forcibly light, and he forced himself to relax. X was an ally after all, he had to start trusting them all. Although, Jack was at least happy to have someone there with him.
       Xephyr saw Jack turn a bit red and give a sheepish smile from underneath the cap and so decided to at least give the kid some space. Jack was the shy one after all. Regardless, Xephyr was not the one to shut his trap.
      "You and me the only ones here so far?", Xephyr poked his head above the crowd, scanning to see if there was any of his other teammates around.
       "So far...yeah, I thin-oh, wait! I think I see Skylar!", Jack attempted to raise his hand to wave, but when Skylar locked eyes with him and didn't even so much as twitch in recognition, he grew discouraged and decided to make it appear as if maybe he was just running his hand through his hair.
      His eyes stopped on the icy beauty Skylar approaching. The face had only been seen a couple of times, but those piercing stares she gave was enough memory to match the name to it. Skylar slowly sauntered through the people, though most people just had that innate sense that she was not one to be so much as touched and gave her adequate space. Even for someone like X, there was something about her that made him uneasy, but a comrade is a comrade. Xephyr then regretted falling asleep during briefing and whispered to Jack with a tone of caution, "What's she doing here?"
       Jack was a bit confused. They were all at the meeting, was Xephyr really that empty headed? Jack wondered if X had any knowledge that they were here for anything aside from the fact that they were here to make some kind of stand against Revenant. He had thought that X's carefree attitude was possibly just an act, but now he had his doubts about that.
      "She's here for the...", Jack hesitated a moment, not sure of how to continue the sentence, "the fireworks."
      "Mommy! Mommmy! Did you hear that! The man said there's going to be fireworks!", a little boy had overheard, "I wanna go! Can we go?"
      Jack's attention was ripped away and looked straight at the screaming little kid. He could feel his heart stopping; he had already botched up the mission. He was hoping that maybe the mother would just ignore her kid and drag him along, but it seemed she got tired of trying to shush him.
      "I'm sorry sir, my son is so persistent", she gave him a small courteous smile that Jack returned, though he felt disgusted inside with himself, "did you say something about a fireworks show later?"
      A nervous grin formed on his face, and he nervously rubbed the back of his neck, quickly trying to think of an explanation, "Um, yeah. My friends and I are looking around the city, taking in the sights, and we're planning on maybe seeing the fireworks that we heard of in the newspaper I think", Jack could tell that he was already rambling on and needed to wrap it up, "but I heard the best view is from the other side of El Matar Lake"
      The woman gave him an odd look, maybe she saw through it, but her son piped in, "Oh can we please go see it? It would look soooo nice over the water!", she decided to take a moment to think about the distance, but seemed to eventually cave in.
       "Alright, alright, we'll see. You have to be a good boy though okay?", as her son grew the biggest smile and jumped in excitement, they began to walk away, "Thanks sir, you're very kind."
      Those last words at away at Jack. He knew inside that he was a monster. Sure, he saved the lives of two, but he was still going to be partly responsible for the deaths of so much more. He had to fight the urge to panic knowing that there was something more important that he had to do.
       Xephyr put his hands on Jack's shoulders, "Don't worry kid, you did good. At least they're gonna get outta here. Every life counts", Jack had completely forgotten about his existence, but his words made him feel a bit better.
      By this time, Skylar was standing by, lightly putting her pack down onto the ground. She looked at the ridiculous cowering form of Jack and Xephyr's foolish attitude and said nothing. No greeting, it'd serve no purpose. Instead, Skylar pulled out one of the few things that had nothing to do with anything of the mission, a stick of gum, popped it in her mouth and slowly started to chew. It was nice to have on hand; it kept her mouth moist. She leaned back and felt her back crack to relieve the pressure that was from the pack and although wasn't eager, Skylar wanted this to be done as soon as possible.
      Xephyr was still confused as to what Jack meant and so asked straight out, "Hey, what's in the pack?"
      Skylar could already tell how this was going to be with Xephyr. She didn't even bother with a reply. She just blew a bubble, picked it up, and revealed the contents of the pack. Even he couldn't be that dense. He should've been listening at the debriefing, but there was no helping that now.
      The words suddenly came back to Xephyr as the realization started to kick in. She's here for the fireworks she's here for the fireworks she's here for the fireworks... The words kept on ringing through all corners of his mind with a terrifying echo. Already he could hear the screams, the terrifying screams. The words reverberated and bounced in every corner of his mind, creating a cacophony of yelling and terror in his head. Xephyr could already see in his mind's eye everything that would unfold. The deafening booms. The fiery plumes of smoke and flames. The bodies of innocents flying around in a sick mix of blood and debris. The acrid taste of death in the air. It would all be his fault. That thought stabbed deep into Xephyr's chest the most. 
       In the small area of time, Xephyr could already start to feel his lungs tighten, all breath exhaled unable to come back to him. His chest felt like it was going to implode inside of his skin. It felt like God had replaced his warm blood with liquid nitrogen. He could feel a could sweat starting to form underneath his clothes. Xephyr's fingers started to twitch and started to rub small circles in the middle of his palm; a tell of anxiety. Though most of all, as he grew tense, his eyes changed. Even though he was losing sense of things for a moment, he could feel the world grow sharper but dimmer. His eyes started to sink into the back of his skull.
      Skylar grew a bit uneasy-even more annoyed if anything. That dreadful look in Xephyr's eyes and the way Jack looked at her; both of them looking at her as if she was going to enjoy this. She didn't want to do this anymore than they did for sure, but she was not naive enough to fret about it. They looked at her almost with bewilderment as if they could not understand how she could be so calm. Skylar just tried to be a bit more detached, it was a job after all.
       At the basest of all things, Skylar loved to blow stuff up. The force it took for the destruction was magnificent, something that was actually able to get her excited. She loved blowing things and whoever deserved it to bits. However, she was not heartless enough to feel indifferent about the killing of innocents and civilians as she was other things. In a battle, the warriors participating should have some idea, some preparation that they were going to die. These people had not the slightest idea. Some of them probably weren't even planning on coming here today, maybe didn't even want to. Yet, Skylar had to remain cool in spite of these facts.
      Her ability to keep calm despite the surroundings are probably what allowed her to be such a skilled demolitions expert, the explosive soul. You can't just get trigger happy when it comes to her area of weaponry. It would get you and your comrades killed without even hitting your target. You won't even have time to regret it.
      Xephyr stayed in his own state of mind, a voice festering in the back of his head. It began it's mumbling and instantly he knew he had to get back to the moment. Xephyr took a deep breath and closed his eyes. His lungs expanded normally, blood became warm, and his body was no longer as tense. He knew that in order to successfully carry out the mission, whatever it might be, he had to remain cool and collected. He couldn't succumb to those voices yet. He took one last deep breath and felt the tension roll off his fingertips like streams of sand.
      Jack noticed the tension in Xephyr which was highly unusual for him. Maybe he wasn't as carefree as he thought. Jack gave a small smile, which Xephyr instantly returned. He knew that Jack would buy it, his code was 'The Innocent' after all. He was already aware of the fragility of the human mind and body.     
       It then dawned on him that something had to be done. It was going to be something complex, but something he had to figure out fast. He couldn't let all these people die. He pushed his shades up the bridge of his nose and took a quick scan of all those around. All these lives, extinguished before they could even start. All these innocent lives he'd be claiming. It was sickening.
      I was given this body for a reason. I have to do something, I cannot waste the gift I was given. I can't let more innocents die for the name of someone else's 'justice' or 'peace'. But if I turn against my own troop, I'll have nobody with me and even more against me. What...do I do? What can I do?
       "Hey guys!", a voice took them all by surprise and snapped Xephyr back to his senses. Anya had finally managed to catch up with the group. She was surprised that she was the second to last one there, but was at least happy that she got there before Damian did. She already knew of the back lashing she'd get if that happened.
      "He-hey there", Jack was startled a bit from the sudden appearance of a new member.
      "Hi there gurly", Xephyr was a bit overzealous.
      Skylar, of course, was silent, but this is how she expected all of them to react to her arrival for the most part. She wondered if they had all just gotten there or if they were waiting long, but her eyes dropped down on the pack sitting at Skylar's feet. So that must be where the bombs are... She thought grimly, but tried to push it out of her mind for a moment.
       Skylar regretted not getting their later. She wished she might have been the last one to arrive. Instead, she had to deal with each of them giving her unnecessary glances and glares at her. It was irritating the way they looked at her, as if it was her fault that this was all going down. If they wanted to glare at someone, they should've glared at their leader who was putting them in this compromising position. He was the one that assigned this. Did she want to blow up this place? No. Did she really have a choice in the matter? Hardly.
      Jack and Xephyr instinctively took a second look at Anya. Jack could see that she was quite pretty, but she also looked like she tried to hide it. She didn't seem like a bad person, or at least like she wouldn't be hard to get along with like it would with their other female member. Xephyr was just relieved that there was at least one person who seemed upbeat here.
       "So...was the trip up here pleasant for you?" Jack asked, wanting to make small talk until their leader got here, hoping to pass the time quicker.
      Anya immediately let out a groan, "Not really", she gave a bit of a frown, "Nobody seemed to willing to give a friendly girl in distress a ride", she waved her hand indiscriminately, "but luckily a kind local pulled over willing to give me a ride."
       Anya's mind immediately went to that guy. D...D something. She dismissed almost sequentially. He was a boring human without any interesting qualities or stories. She knew the chances of her meeting him again anytime soon, if ever, was slim to none. She also knew that he might be one of the many humans that might die today, and she really didn't want to start dwelling on that and stopped her mind from lingering on that thought about that any longer. Instead she turned her attention to Xephyr.
      He didn't seem as cheery as he usually did. Something about the older male made him seem troubled. Then Anya decided what her side job was going to be, the unofficial Rogue spirit lifter. She looped her arm around her blue haired ally and smiled up at him.

      "How 'bout you X? You get here alright?"
      The question was lost on him for the briefest of seconds. Xephyr almost jumped out of his skin at the contact with his fellow teammate. This was admittedly the first flesh to flesh (well, even though he was wearing his jacket, he still counted it the same in his mind) that a female has intentionally made with him in years. It was relaxing, but nerve wracking at the same time to feel warm skin pressed up against him. It was almost nostalgic. He felt the contrast between his tightened muscles and her smooth ones and realized how much he needed to really loosen up. He looked down into her lavender eyes, trying to gauge what she could be thinking.
      "Well, yeah, some guy came and picked me up. We chatted. It was a nice little...talk...if you could even call it that."
       Xephyr broke eye contact, a bit embarrassed. He felt his face grow warmer and silently prayed that it was due to the Egyptian sun. He made a mental note to talk to more girls. This was ridiculous on his part.
      "Well, it's good to see you all made it alright", a firm voice spoke.
      Their leader finally made it to the catacombs, though he did not seem happy that they had all made it promptly on time. He noticed their lounging around the entrance and was instantly disappointed by Xephyr and that huge jacket, not that either was anything new. Damian was going to make sure to yell at him for that later. His vanity was making them obvious, him and that 'signature' jacket of his.
       Not only that, but Jack's anxiety as well as Skylars overall coldness was making them just as suspicious. Unfortunately, none of that could be helped. Damian pinched the bridge of his nose and inhaled a bit and released his breath trying to relax. It wasn't going to help if he was going to be mentally dissecting every flaw, he would just have to work with it. Later on, he would have to tell this rag tag bunch of Rogues what blending in means.

If you made it through this huge ass wall of text, I greatly appreciate it. I make this all just for someone to read it.