“Shots fired, shots fired inside the office,” Fox called.
“Anybody got eyes on?” Yamamoto asked.
“I can’t see inside the office from here.”
“Negative visual here,” Wood said. “Lycan?”
“I’m…” He inhaled sharply. “I’m tapped out. Sorry.”
“We need to go. Now,” Connor said.
“Agreed,” Yamamoto said. “Deadeye, send us a snapshot of what you can see.”
A photograph appeared on Connor’s argees. Streamed from Fox’s rifle sight, it showed four cars parked in front of the office, and six gunmen kneeling behind them. The shooters had formed a semicircle, oriented outwards, covering the main entrance and the pedestrian gates.
“There’s two suspects unaccounted for,” Connor said. “Is there another gate?”
“Affirmative,” Lycan said weakly. “I spotted a rear gate, on the white side of the building.”
“Any other entry point to the office?”
“Negative. There’s only the front door.”
“Black Watch, listen up,” Yamamoto said. “Deadeye and ZT will provide overwatch. The rest of us will make entry from the rear gate. We will breach the office and rescue the hostages.”
Yamamoto climbed into the driver’s seat. Connor shouldered his assault pack and slung his carbine. The van accelerated, making a hairpin turn, a second turn, and shot down the road.
“Exit to your left. Say again, left,” Yamamoto said.
“Left, roger,” Connor said.
“Assaulters, state red.”
Go fast, go hard, don’t stop until the rivers run red.
The van shrieked to a stop. Connor flung the door open and jumped out.
Two suspects stood by the rear gate. Connor read them in a millisecond—plate carriers, carbines, black ballistic helmets—and snapped up his carbine to high ready.
“STS! HANDS UP NOW!”
Connor sidestepped right, brought up his weapon, saw red crosshairs on a black lens, pressed the trigger once twice, pivoted left, a helmet filled his sights, bang bang.
He peered down at the bodies. Blood burbled from the holes in the backs of their heads. Good. The helmets couldn’t stop SLAP rounds.
“Gate guards down!” Connor shouted.
A car screeched to a halt behind him. Wood, Mustafa and the team Mastiff. The operators fell in on Yamamoto and rushed the gate. A sturdy steel padlock secured the bolt.
“Shotgun!” Yamamoto called.
The team made room. Connor pressed his shotgun’s muzzle stand-off device up against the lock, racked the bolt, and fired.
The lock disintegrated in a fine metal powder. Connor undid the bolt and swung the gate open, and the team poured in, weapons up and scanning.
“Four targets have peeled off and going around the back of the building,” Fox reported. “Two on either side.”
“Farmer, Lycan, go right!” Yamamoto called.
No sooner had he said that when Connor spotted two men appear around the corner of the front of the building. Both were armed and armored. Connor snapped his carbine to the closer one and stroked the trigger. Two to the chest, swing right, the other guy ducked behind cover, swing back the original target, two more shots to center of mass.
And the son of a bitch was still up!
Didn’t matter. Connor reached the near corner and dropped to a knee, rifle rising to find the target’s face. The target’s rifle barked. Concrete exploded above his face. Connor flinched. Shrapnel bounced off his glasses, leaving faint scars. Yamamoto’s carbine erupted above and behind Connor, the muzzle blast washing over his bare hair, and the target deigned to drop.
Connor recovered and scanned. No more threats. He rose and—
So did the bad guy.
Crosshair on face. Finger on trigger. Fire.
Double tap, grouped so tight Connor knew the two rounds would have formed a single ragged hole. The target’s snapped back. He dropped.
And he extended his rifle with one hand—
“Motherfucker!” Connor exclaimed.
Advancing on the threat, Connor and Yamamoto blazed away, hammering his head over and over and over with aimed single shots. After burning through half his magazine, the threat finally went still.
“What the hell?” Connor muttered, swapping in a new magazine. “Was that some kind of fucking zombie?”
“Or an Elect,” Yamamoto said.
“Boss, we have a situation,” Wood said. “A target ate multiple headshots. I think we’re facing Elect.”
“I saw the same thing over here,” Connor said. “We have to assume the bad guys need lots of killing.”
A dark thought crossed his mind. Connor peeked over his shoulder.
The gate guards were still down.
He heaved a sigh of relief.
“Deadeye to all callsigns, the security team is moving around their cars. I see five of them. They’re setting up to pop you the moment you turn the corners on the black side.”
“Roger,” Yamamoto said. “Here’s the plan. Assaulters, once we reach the corners, we’ll deploy flash-bangs. Farmer and Lycan will pin them, Boomer and I will flank them. Snipers, once the bangs go off, fire at will.”
Connor reached the corpse. A huge pool of blood surrounded the gunman’s head. Half his helmet had been blown away. His rifle was a shattered hunk of polymer and metal. Connor’s center of mass shots must have destroyed the man’s weapon. Only reason they hadn’t taken any fire yet.
“Boomer set!” Connor called, planting himself by the corner.
“Bang and go!” Yamamoto ordered. “Banger out!”
The team leader stepped out behind Connor. A stun grenade sailed across Connor’s field of view. Two seconds later, it detonated with a blinding flash and thunderous roar, in sync with a second grenade.
“GO!” Yamamoto shouted. “Snipers, weapons free!”
Connor rounded the corner, weapon high.
Five targets behind four cars. Two CRACKs rang out, two heads vanished in red, and now there were three.
Connor rushed for the nearest car, Yamamoto two steps behind him, sights rising to the nearest threat’s face. He pressed the trigger, once, twice, saw a burst of red, moved on.
The two remaining gunmen pivoted in place, finally reacting, way behind the curve. Connor fired, Yamamoto fired, and his head turned to red pulp. Connor spun to the next target, just as a high-caliber round exploded it.
Connor kept moving, rounding the engine block, pivoting to face the office—
And the body sprawled across the engine pushed himself off the hood and aimed his weapon at Connor.
Connor smacked his rifle away with his own. Punched his muzzle into the man’s throat. Fired.
He staggered away. Connor fired two more shots, riding the recoil up into the man’s head. The SLAPs punched clean through the helmet, exploding outwards in a geyser of gore and fragments. The target went down again.
“Get down! Get down!” Yamamoto yelled.
Connor hit the deck.
A blitz of steel washed over his head, shattering the windows, puncturing tires, perforating the car doors. Cursing, he pushed himself off the ground and duckwalked a few more inches, putting the engine block and the tires between himself at the threats still in the office.
Connor glanced around. Yamamoto was curled up into a deep crouch behind the rear wheel hub. Puffs of dust erupted from the road, but he seemed okay.
“We’re pinned down!” Connor shouted.
“Banger out!” Wood called.
Light and thunder and shattering glass. The incoming fire eased—but it didn’t stop. Connor fed his optics to his argees and lifted his carbine above the hood.
Full-length window, riddled with bullet holes and webbed through. Behind it, a pair of gunmen aiming through the glass, standing tall and proud. A third shooter dragged a hostage away from the window.
Connor’s sights fell on the closest target’s unprotected groin. He cracked off a quick double-tap, turned to the next. That guy hosed down the window, backing up to a desk. Connor gave him a pair of groin shots, lifted his aim, blasted him in the face. Went back to the first customer, saw him stagger away, stitched him up the side with one two three shots and he fell out of sight.
“Moving!” Wood shouted.
“Move!” Yamamoto replied.
Carbines cracked to Connor’s left, the rest of the assault team moving up. Connor squinted through the crazed glass. He thought he saw movement, but he didn’t know if it were hostile or friendly, and held off the trigger.
Dark gray clouds billowed from the shattered windows and under the glass. The smoke quickly filled and obscured the interior of the office. Men and women choked and screamed. Connor’s gut wrenched, but he saw nothing he could shoot.
“Smoke!” Wood reported. “They popped smoke! No contact over here!”
Connor twisted left, aiming at the glass door. But he didn’t have a good angle, and he saw were tendrils of thick smoke.
“Can’t see anything from here too!” Connor reported.
“Moving up!” Yamamoto shouted.
“Move!” Connor called.
Yamamoto sprinted out of cover.
And a human juggernaut stepped out the door.
He was huge. Seven feet tall and three hundred pounds, all of it stupendously overbuilt muscle and bone, and a ridiculously tiny head. A steel gray ballistic mask protected its face. A plate carrier just barely covered his chest, the fabric stretched to the breaking point. His right hand held an assault rifle, his left a pistol.
Then a second one emerged from behind him.
The juggernaut on the right aimed at Yamamoto.
Connor fired first, walking the rounds up his groin, skipping the chest, going for the throat. Blood pulsed and jetted from the wounds. The titan sucked it all up, spun around to face him, and rained full-auto fire on Connor’s position.
A bullet smacked against the hood. A burning fragment seared across Connor’s exposed fingers. Cursing, he jerked his arms away. Shook his hand and—
A black blur shot past his field of view. It resolved into an emaciated man in a mask and plate carrier. Huge boils on his back spewed clouds of dark smoke. His rifle was raised and pointed at Connor, there was no way he could respond in—
The Elect’s head exploded.
“Tango down,” Fox reported.
“Thanks,” Connor breathed.
But the Tango wasn’t dead. Before Connor’s eyes, the huge exit wound in his temple clotted over. Bone knitted itself together. And he sat back up.
“Stay down!” Connor snarled, and blasted him twice in the head.
The gunman rolled over and went still.
A juggernaut bellowed with a voice like thunder. A barrage of heavy footfalls shook the ground. Connor spun around, saw a juggernaut bulling towards him.
Connor jumped away. The human tank crashed into the car, flinging it aside as though it were mere paper. The Elect turned to face Connor. Connor raised his rifle—I shot him! Where are his wounds?!—found his face, pressed trigger—
A half-beat later, the Elect’s head exploded.
Connor released his rifle, snatched up his pistol, and hunted for more threats.
The second juggernaut loomed over Yamamoto. Yamamoto shot him in the face with his carbine but the Elect kept coming. With a bone-shaking roar, the Elect reared up and loped his fist around, spiraling it in towards Yamamoto’s face.
Yamamoto dropped to a knee. Steel flashed. Blood spurted from the juggernaut’s lead leg.
The giant toppled, falling on Yamamoto. Yamamoto had his left hand up, and its colossal mass crashed into his forearm. Yamamoto didn’t resist; he spun around in place, grounding one knee and raising the other, cutting down with his forearm to guide the Juggernaut headfirst into the ground.
The ground shook with the impact. Yamamoto pounced on the juggernaut and cut his throat.
“Samurai! You okay?” Connor shouted.
Yamamoto got up, completely unmussed.
“I’m fine!” Yamamoto yelled back.
Connor scanned. Wood was taking cover behind a car. Mustafa was in his wolf form, aiming at the juggernaut. A second smoker lay right by the werewolf.
The smoker stood up.
“CONTACT!” Connor yelled.
He punched out his pistol and fired, loosing a hellstorm of high-velocity lead. A burst to the groin, a burst to the face, and the smoker went down.
And got up again.
“Son of a—”
Mustafa pounced, arms outstretched.
The beast smashed the Elect to the asphalt and shot his jaws into his throat. He reared his head back, flinging away a bloodied chunk of flesh. The Elect went still.
“On me! On me! Breach and clear!” Connor shouted.
Reloading his pistol, Connor leapt through the broken window.
A group of hostages were huddled in a tight knot by the far corner. Nearby, a man groaned, grabbing a wounded ankle. Blood seeped through his pants and between his fingers, pooling around his foot.
Connor ignored them all and flowed along the wall, covering his area of responsibility. The other operators burst in right behind him.
The assaulters swept through the office like a hurricane of flesh and metal. There were two rooms here, a storeroom filled with boxes and stationery, and the manager’s office. All clear.
Wood tended to the wounded man. The remaining operators hustled the hostages out to the parking lot and proned them out. As Mustafa covered them, Connor and Yamamoto searched and cuffed them.
“Why are you doing this?! We didn’t do anything wrong!” a woman yelled.
“Standard procedure ma’am,” Yamamoto replied. “Don’t worry.”
“Where’s David? He’s been shot! He needs an ambulance!”
“An ambulance is on the way,” Connor said. “We’re applying first aid to him now.”
“Who the hell are those… Those Husks?” another woman demanded. “Why did they do this?”
“I don’t know ma’am,” Connor said. “What happened before we got here?”
“They came in and started shouting at us. They said they wanted us to let them into the basement. But we don’t have a basement!”
“Yeah, yeah,” the first woman said eagerly. “We kept telling them that, but they didn’t listen. They didn’t believe us. One of them, the boss, he shot David in the foot and said that if we don’t show them how to go downstairs, he’ll keep shooting him!”
Connor and Yamamoto exchanged a look.
“Ma’am, everything will be fine,” Yamamoto said. “We just need you to stay here, and breathe, and relax. The situation is under control.”
When they were done, Wood emerged from the office, carrying the wounded hostage in his arms. Connor reloaded his carbine.
“Black Watch, ACE report,” Yamamoto said.
Connor patted himself down. No injuries. Or, at least, no major injuries. He had two spare magazines left, plus a half-full one.
The other assaulters were bruised and cut up, but still in the fight. Fox and Tan were fine. But somewhere along the line, the Mastiff had been blown apart. As Yamamoto updated Pearce on their status, Connor knelt behind a car and covered the elevator. Wood joined him.
“What the hell kind of Elect were those?” Connor muttered.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Wood replied. “My money is on the Liberated.”
“Biomods are up their alley. Their Elect favor organic weapons and armor after morphing.”
“You saw how they regenerated their wounds?”
“Yup. Spooky shit, brother. I’m thinking the only way to kill them is to bleed ‘em dry.”
“Or cut their heads off.”
“Or a headshot with a heavy caliber,” Fox chimed in.
“Heavy enough to destroy the head completely,” Connor added. “Thanks for the assist.”
“No problem. From now on, I’m taking the big iron everywhere we go.”
“Just don’t expect us to carry it for you,” Tan said.
Yamamoto’s voice cut into the radio net.
“Black Watch, switch to channel 3.”
Connor rotated the channel dial on his radio. Yamamoto didn’t want anyone listening in. This was going to get interesting.
“I’ve called in the situation,” Yamamoto said. “Our orders are to escort the civilians to hospital and abandon the stakeout.”
“What the hell?” Connor muttered. “Why?”
“Pearce said we’re needed elsewhere. Another team will follow up.”
“Bullshit,” Fox said.
“I concur,” Tan added. “I checked my laptop just now. The security cameras around the office are linked to two accounts. One of them is probably a computer in in the basement. They know we’re here.”
“If we leave, the bad guys will execute the hostages and flee,” Mustafa said.
“I agree,” Yamamoto said. “I told Pearce as much. But he said we don’t have a warrant. Without one, we don’t have authorization to make entry.”
“You gotta be kidding!” Connor exclaimed.
“I told him that too. But he’s standing firm.”
“What do we do now? Stand down?” Fox said.
“Our priority is to protect the civilians. That means we stay put and take security positions until the ambulances arrive.”
“And after that?” Wood probed.
Yamamoto sighed so loudly Connor heard him across the parking lot.
“The timing of this raid seems suspicious, doesn’t it? Barely thirty minutes after we confirmed the presence of a House of Shadows, the Liberated roll in heavy.”
“Yeah, it is suspicious,” Connor said. “And they were demanding that the hostages show them the way to the basement. The hostages didn’t know about the basement. How the hell did these guys know?”
“Do you think the TOC has been compromised?” Fox asked.
Another loud sigh.
“It’s the only logical explanation,” Yamamoto said.
Connor’s blood ran cold. He knew the agents of Public Security were as flawed as any other human, as susceptible to bribery and pressure as any other civil servant. Maybe more. He knew all too well that there were PSB agents who colluded with the New Gods.
But STS were handpicked and meticulously screened. No one on the STS had any connection to the New Gods. The only exceptions were psis pledged to minor powers, powers deemed independent of the New Gods.
How far did the rot go? Had it penetrated the STS?
“What’s the plan?” Fox asked.
“Our mission is to save lives, and the lives of the hostages in the basement are at risk. I intend to carry out the mission. Who’s with me?”
Phrased like that, there was only one choice.
“We all are,” Connor said.
If a brutal-yet-realistic dungeon crawler is right up your alley, check out the Kickstarter of Dungeon Samurai here.
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