Chapter 4:

Time to strike! - Preparation

Jet Black Rock

Dusk almost falls. Over the last few hours, the group has looked into Sen’s intel. From the conference building’s garden, entrances and layout, the headcount, and the expertise of the guards up to their patrol cycles and weapon usage. It looks like they have covered everything that needs to be known. They’re feeling confident.

The team atmosphere is great. Looking at Haiiro and Sen, you’d never guess that they’ve been apart for so long. It’s almost as if they’re sharing the same mind, finishing each other's sentences. The new guys, who arrived an hour ago; Aurora, Rocco, and Celeste, have all been working with Haiiro in the past and fit into the team perfectly.

Both Aurora and Rocco have experienced contact with Jet in the past, thus their abilities are slightly enhanced, but Celeste is up to par as well. They all seem to have a unique skill set. Rocco is a musclehead gorilla who uses his size and strength and is great at barehanded fighting.

Both Aurora and Celeste specialize in weaponry. Aurora is slender and great with blades. She fights primarily using her speed. Celeste is a timid girl who specializes in covert operations. She is a marksman sniper who can take out an enemy from over a mile away, without them even realizing it. Such a diverse team will greatly increase their chances.

It’s almost time and Sen goes over the finalized plan; “Haiiro and Rocco will act as the vanguard. You two will go straight through the front gate.” She points towards the map, specifically the main gate that separates the streets from the garden.

“Try to attract as much attention as you can and preferably, keep fighting outside. That will enable Celeste to cover your guys’ backs from the opposing tower and lay down support fire. If that proves impossible, Celeste will relocate to a new vantage point near the apartments across the building, allowing the cover of both teams.” “You can count on me.” Celeste says confidently.

Sen continues; “At the same time, Aurora and Yami will go around, sneak in from the south side onto the roof, and locate Akari as quickly as possible. Since Yami is not out front with Haiiro, they’ll expect you to come, but try to be stealthy for as long as possible. Our first priority is getting Akari out. Secondary, we’ll eliminate Kumoda but if necessary, we can deal with him later.”

“We’ll stay in touch using our communication modules and earpieces, but try and keep comms to a bare minimum, as they might listen in or try and block it entirely. As soon as Akari’s safe in the getaway van, I’ll give the sign to retreat and drive us out of there. We’ll move straight towards the safe house near the airport, where I’ve prepared a hoverjet to take us out of the city. If the escape route becomes obstructed, we’ll meet up at Kiyomi church in the west sector.”

Haiiro interrupts; “Old man Abraham still the main guy there?” Sen confirms, “Yes, I’ve spoken to him about our situation and he agreed to help us out and let us use the underground tunnels. We’re fortunate enough that one of them leads straight to the personnel elevator. So if necessary, we can ride it down and lay low in Suramachi for a bit.”

Yami puts his hand up. “If I may ask something?” He asks in a serious tone. Everyone is busy with their preparations. Haiiro and Sen are overlooking the building’s blueprints, Celeste’s in the middle of cleaning her sniper rifle scope, Aurora was flipping one of her daggers, making sure it was balanced, and Rocco was just flexing his muscles. They look toward Yami and put down their tools. “Sure”- Sen nods-” go ahead.”

Yami clears his throat, “I appreciate you guys helping in saving Akari, but what’s in it for you? I won’t be able to pay you, and to risk your lives, isn’t that too much to ask?” Rocco crosses his arms and is quick to answer. “You don’t have to worry about a reward. What’s inside you is valuable enough already. We can’t have you go on a suicide run and risk losing that.” Sen jumps in with her hands on her hips. “Oh you big doofus, there’s no weakness in admitting you want to help.” Aurora leans on Yami’s shoulder, “We’re here because we want to, don’t mind the small stuff. We’ll get her out.”

Yami’s delighted. “Thank you all!”

They finish packing as Hairro throws the last bag in the pick-up truck. “Last chance!” Haiiro yells as he closes the trunk. Rocco’s sitting in the open back holding an M246 machine gun that somehow looks too small for his body, and gives Haiiro the thumbs up. Yami, wearing all black, is sitting on the opposite side and Aurora is in the passenger seat in front. Sen is behind the wheel in the van behind the truck, with Celeste sitting next to her. The garage door opens and they start driving toward the conference building.

About two blocks away, Sen parks the van. She has attached cameras to everyone and will be able to oversee the operation from inside the van. Celeste gets out and starts climbing the nearest tower. Haiiro drives around and drops off Yami and Aurora, who stand by at the northeast of the building, waiting for the chaos to start.

As Haiiro drives towards the main gate, they already see some guards out front, stepping in front of the gate and signing them to stop. “Hold on Rocco!” Haiiro yells as he accelerates and crashes through the main entrance. The gate flies open and bricks and rubble is flinging everywhere. They have now entered the front garden and the fight is ready to break loose!

Rocco jumps out of the truck and opens fire on the startled guards. He handles the heavy M246 easily by gently swinging it back and forth like he’s watering a flower bed with a watering can. The gun is loud, smoking and the bullet cases are flying out rapidly. His primarily intend is to cover Haiiro by laying down suppressive fire, but it’s actually very effective in taking down the guards as well.

Haiiro opens the door, crouching behind it as he aims his custom railgun through the slit between the door and the car. He looks towards the front of the building, quickly asserting the situation. A few suits have come out and are setting up their defenses at the front door. Bzzzmt! Haiiro is able to take down two of them as they lined up at the door. Bzzzmt! Bzzzmt! Two more are down before they were able to take cover. Their bulletproof vests are useless against a railgun.

Inside the building, Kumoda is holding a meeting with government officials. One of the scientists present is displaying blueprints for new weapons. The slide they’re currently on is about an experimental injection that infuses the skeleton with Jet, allowing the user to make the fullest of the substance. One of the meeting participants, an older man wearing high-ranking military clothes, looks very intrigued by the concept. You can tell he’s set to obtain this tech, no matter the cost.

Jake, whos standing on the right of Kumoda, touches his earpiece as a message is coming through. After confirming what he heard, he leans in and whispers in Kumoda’s ear. He nods. “So, they’ve finally shown themselves.” Kumoda says to himself. “Gentleman, it seems as if our proof of concept has arrived.” An alarm goes off in the hallway.

He stands up and gently asks them to follow him to the safe room, where they’ll be able to follow the experiment in great detail. Before Kumoda leaves the room, he instructs Jake to inform their special Canadian guest of the visitors' arrival. “Tell him he’s allowed to intercept them as he deems necessary, but I want the kid alive.” He says.

Outside, a group of enforcers is closing in the truck from the left side of the building. “Six at your left, eight o’clock!” Sen says through comms. Haiiro responds, “Roger.” And rotates towards the back of the vehicle, grabbing Rocco by the collar, and guiding him towards the right side of the truck. Haiiro changes the battery of the railgun and turns a knob.

Bshhhht! He shoots at the group but instead of a straight solid beam like the ones that were fired earlier, a crooked lightning-like beam comes out. The beam hits one of them and continues spreading along the other group members, shocking them and knocking them all out as they fall down on the grass.

People are moving on the roof. One of them crouches down near the edge and takes aim at Rocco, who’s standing in the open with his back towards the building. As he looks through his scope, a bullet flies through. He’s taken out by Celeste, who’s laying down at the opposite tower, and continues to take out the ones on the roof.

Click click! The sound of an empty M249 is heard as Rocco checks the ammo tray. “I’m out! Let’s move!” Rocco yells at Haiiro. Rocco drops his gun and takes a sawed-off shotgun from the truck, sprinting to the front door. One of the suits pops out to take a shot. Bzzzmt! Haiiro hits the guy’s gun, which explodes in his face.

Rocco’s on the porch now, blasting down two of them immediately. Another suit tries his luck by running up to him with a hunting knife in hand. Rocco can intercept by swinging his shotgun towards his head, knocking him out. The prominent double door swings open and three more suits take aim at Rocco.

Bzzzmt! Haiiro shoots the guy on the right through the chest. Thump! Celeste decapitates the guy on the left. Rocco hurls his shotgun at the remaining guy, diverging his aim. He closes the distance, takes hold of the guy’s head in his giant hand, and smashes him into the marble tiles. Another group comes out and Rocco engages in hand-to-hand combat, easily using his martial arts skills and body weight to defeat them.

Rocco glances inside and doesn’t see any movement. So, he activates his earpiece and tells everyone he’s going. Sen is quick to respond, “Haiiro, Move up and cover him. Celeste, relocate to vantage point B!” Haiiro responds, “Roger!” But Celeste doesn’t respond. Then, a loud metal-screeching sound scares Sen as the van’s roof is crushed. It’s like something fell on top of it.

A few minutes earlier, while Celeste was sniping the one at the main door, someone was standing on the roof right behind her. “Nice shot.” The lady in foreign cloaks whispers softly. Celeste, who was laying down alongside her rifle, reacts by rolling on her back and shooting at the woman with her sidearm twice. With movements barely seen by the human eye, the unexpected visitor dodges to the side, leaving a brief afterimage where she stood.

“Aren’t we a little short-tempered?” She says playfully with a wide smile. Celeste adjusts her aim and shoots a few more times. The woman’s cloak dances in the air as she dodges the bullets like they’re paper planes flying through the air. Every time she moves, a dark smokey afterimage is left, making it harder for Celeste to control the situation. With every shot, the woman moves closer.

Click click click! The sidearm is quickly discarded as it’s out of ammo. Celeste puts her hands above her head and spins her legs into the air, kicking up dirt and making a break-dance-like move that allows her to stand on her feet in one smooth motion. While doing so, she pulls out a second sidearm from the side of her boot and tries to take aim again. Yet, the gun didn’t even reach half the intended distance before it was kicked back down again. The woman closed in on her and forcefully grabs her by the throat.

Celeste pulls the trigger, firing into the roof’s gravel. Though a second shot is impossible as her opponent grabbed the top of the handgun and the slide is unable to move back. “W-who…”- She gasps for air as she’s struggling to breathe-” who are you?” “It’s nothing personal, but letting you live would prove difficult later.” The woman responds. She starts squeezing Celeste’s neck and lifts her up over the edge.

As a last resort, Celeste is kicking her feet and scratches the woman’s arm, but the woman doesn’t seem bothered by it at all. The deep scratches turn black and heal instantly, like water parting and becoming whole again. Snap! A loud sound. Celeste’s scratching stops as her arms fall down and her feet stop kicking. The attacker stops putting pressure and releases Celeste from her grip, dropping her from the building.

Back down on the street, Sen has exited the van and is horrified as she sees Celeste’s lifeless body on top. “Celeste! No!” She screams in agony.