Description: Stray and two of his compatriots in Skull Cross travel to one of Kira Volkov's bases, and see a product demonstration of captive Darkstalkers. Both Kira and Stray part from the experience displeased.
The first thing anyone notices when they arrive in Africa is the heat.
The doors of the bulky armored gunship slide open after touching down on the landing pad and the oppressive humidity rushes to invade its interior immediately choking out the meager offering of comfort the onboard climate control can provide. All of the members of the small crew begin to sweat in moments but pay this change no mind and instead hop down onto ground and spread out in a defensive pattern their heavy assault rifles resting loose and ready in their hands. The last member of the entourage to step down turns and motions at the 'guests' lingering within indicating that they should follow suite.
The jungle stretches out as far as the eye can see around their landing point, little more than a large concrete block in a clearing admist a sea of dark green and brown. How far had the helicopter taken them after they were picked up? Impossible to say. There are no windows in the rear compartment that would have allowed them to keep track of the terrain and the cockpit is sealed by a thick bulkhead essentially rendering them trapped until someone felt like opening the doors again. Any electronic devices that might have provided GPS data return only scrambled static and wildly shifting information; some sort of jamming, obviously.
With a predatory smile on her face, Kira rises slowly into view at the far end of the platform as the chopper dislodges its cargo. The sharp whine of the propellers slowly dies out as they churn to a stop overhead only to be replaced by the deep hum of the larger machinery that works to lift the large cargo platform upon which the mercenary stands to the level of the surface.
She lingers in place to give Stray and his men a moment to stretch their legs and get used to the surroundings, though she imagines those more used to the moderate climate of North America will be happier to get out of the heat as soon as possible. Which is exactly why she intends to take her time and let this Russian bastard sweat. Eventually, Kira strides forward to meet the gang boss at the center of the platform, arms clasped casually behind her back in military fashion.
"Gentlemen. Welcome to the jungle. Are you ready for the fun and games?"
Stray is traveling with two individuals. One of them, the Vulture, is dressed in green and black camoflague, with a Colt .45 holstered on his hip and a machete secured on his back. The other, Dr. Burghardt Brandt, is dressed in a light tan British jungle explorer's outfit, complete with pith helmet. He carries a brown briefcase with him, rather slim, containing the team's radio transmitter. Stray, being the electronics expert, is carrying a high power camera and stand in a black duffel bag. Stray has elected to remove his typical purple glove-spike knuckle combinations and his trenchcoat, dressing only in a t-shirt and black jeans. All three of them feel the heat and moisture, none of them looking particularly pleased. The Vulture steps out of the helicopter first, followed by Stray, and then Dr. Brandt.
Stray looks left and right as he slowly saunters towards Kira, Vulture staying to his left and a head of him, as Brandt meekly takes up the rear. "Volkov," Stray says impassively, frowning as he adjusts his rectangular sunglasses. "We are. Let's see what you have to offer." The Vulture, meanwhile, is looking around the jungle and the landing platform for danger points, as Brandt tugs at his collar with his free hand, watching the various mercenary soldiers attached to Volkov's outfit. It's obvious that Brandt is not a fighter, given how uneased he is at the sight of guns. However, he is also the most at home in this environment, indicated that he's very well traveled, and has probably been to Africa before. He sprays himself down with insect repellent, and offers two more bottles to Stray and the Vulture, who do the same.
Kira watches the discomfort displayed by her guests with an amused smirk but says nothing until they've finished dousing themselves in copious amounts of aerosol chemicals. It's not a bad idea. The local insects carry all sorts of nasty diseases and, even if they didn't, getting bitten by an African mosquito is pretty unpleasant. Naturally, all of the soldiers are innoculated against just about anything viral, bacteria, or otherwise that could infect them, including Kira herself. The real secret to avoiding pesky insects, however, is not to be outside.
"Very good. Follow me."
The industrial elevator easily accomodates the handful of passengers. Several large crates are unloaded from the cargo hold of the transport by the crew and these too are piled onto the platform over the next few minutes. Kira turns her back to the rest of the world while this happens and lingers at the far edge of the elevator, peering down into the dark maw of the shaft that descends into the ground below them in quiet thought until one of the men informs her that the preparations are complete. With a nod, she waves him off and their journey into the underground begins.
The elevator moves at a steady but slow pace, loudly humming as it electrically glides down rails built into the concrete walls. The brilliance of the midday sun dwindles until it is little more than a faint glow from above and that too vanishes when a heavy armored door slides closed over the top of the tunnel. In stark contrast the powerful jungle heat the depths of the elevator quickly become filled with a biting chill, which Kira and her men once more ignore with quiet discipline.
After around ten minutes of constantly moving downwards, the platform comes to rest against the bottom of the tunnel. Bright spinning yellow klaxon lights dot the length of a disembarkment bridge which is itself painted with a diagonal candy-stripe pattern of black and yellow to indicate the potential hazard of being too close while the machinery is in motion. They are met by another large group of men most of which are unarmed workers who quickly move to begin shifting the cargo off the platform and onto the large docking bay to be unpackaged and sorted. A half dozen of the figures that greet them, however, are quite different. Covered from head to toe in thick body armor and armed with enough firepower to start a small war, they stride confidently up to the edge of the bridge connecting the two platforms and wait stoically for Kira to disembark.
Ignoring Stray and his men, Kira marches directly towards the armored group and addresses one by name. The man in question inclines his head and steps forward smartly.
"I trust everything has been prepared as I instructed?"
"Yes, ma'am. The subjects have been moved to the arena holding pens and staff are standing by for your order to begin the trials."
"Excellent." Kira's smile returns and she takes a short step closer to speak in a low tone to the guard. "I don't expect our new 'friends' will cause any trouble but keep a close eye on them and make sure they don't leave us any surprises."
With a dismissive nod, Kira turns away and waits for Stray to catch up. The cadre of bodyguards, for that is what they must be judging by their gear and the way they protectively hover around their leader, spread out in a semi circle behind her, fingers resting lightly on the grips of their weapons as they turn their unreadable armored masks towards the mobsters. The body language is obvious - you are being watched.
As the chill takes over, Vulture is the only one that shows discomfort, and it is mild. Brandt has prepared himself for a variety of African environments, and Stray grew up in the Ukraine. Stray and Vulture stare quietly as the platforms spends what seems like forever going deep under the earth, as Dr. Brandt looks around curiously, his head craning this way and that as he adjusts his round spectacles. As the elevator stops, Stray leads the way disembarking with his two friends, lugging his black duffel bag along. Vulture and Stray ignore the heavily armored men as they follow Kira, while Dr. Brandt occasionally eyes them nervously.
"This is quite an operation you have arranged for yourself," Stray says, his awkward grasp of English showing, despite his nearly fluent accent. "This looks to be a former Soviet base, if I'd have to guess," he muses as he briskly moves along with his men.
"Or American," the Vulture adds suspiciously, the word 'American' said with hateful disdain that only comes from decades of living oppressed by the Central Intelligence Agency's puppets. Dr. Brandt remains silent and unobstrusive for the moment, since he is unfamiliar with military matters. But he seems rather excited at the mention of 'holding pens', anxious to see a Darkstalker for himself. He's heard many things about them, and has studied them extensively since the Majiken incident proved his life's hypothesis to be correct, but that's different than actually experiencing your life's work with your five senses.
"Technically, you are both correct," Kira answers. "It has changed hands a few times, though the Soviets were the previous tennants before my...aquisition of the facility." Her lips part slightly in a toothy grin at some personal joke. Low chuckles escape the armored masks of the guards around her in response but they remain alert and ready to pounce at a moment's notice.
"Regardless, this is but one such facility in my possession. It's location is remote enough to serve as a useful staging point for operations in this area without drawing unwanted attention - which makes it perfect for our purposes. Come."
Turning on her heel, Kira heads deeper into the facility. Two of the guards take up position at her side while the other four motion for Stray to his men to follow taking up the rear guard behind them. The group passes through several impressive looking compartments of the deep bunker including a hangar with filled with several modern battle tanks, ATVs, APCs, and another armored gunship like the one that brought them here. For the most part, the corridors that connect the various parts of the base are a sterile and colorless mix of concrete and steel offering little detail to distinguish one long narrow hallway from another.
Kira navigates this maze without any difficulty taking them past several checkpoints of armed guards until they finally reach their destination infront of a pair of large mechanical doors that look more like armored bulkheads. More yellow-black warning stripes decorate its surface along with the easily recognizable symbol for bio-hazards stenciled across their center. The merc walks over to a large console beside the doors and taps on its keyboard a few times. A gentle female computerized voice requests a presentation of authorization which turns out to involve a retinal scan, hand print indentification, and a voice-matched password which she subvocalizes into a small microphone. Satisfied with the identification of user, the computer beeps a few times and the doors hiss open on pnumatic hinges.
Past the ominous entryway lies something out of every science-fiction movie ever made. Rows and rows of server-banks blink with an endless series of colored lights, each tied together by a carpet of interwoven cords that would give even the most seasoned computer tech nightmares. Several smaller doors line the far sides of the large room, each marked with its own warning symbols and tags of various sorts and each filled with unique machinery dedicated to some form of research - most of which appears to be explosive in nature, judging by the burn marks on the walls.
The room is mostly empty when they arrive save for a dozen or so workers in coveralls with toolbelts strapped to their bodies; technicians for the machinery, no doubt. A gaggle of individuals in the stereotypical white lab coats of labratory technicians look up from a discussion when the doors slide open to reveal the entourage. Upon spotting Kira, most quickly rush off to look busy while a pair of them straighten their jackets and move up to greet her.
"Dr. Moss, Dr. Yang." Kira nods to each of them, a man and a woman, respectively. Dr. Moss turns out to be an older man of European descent, his white skin creased with the wrinkles of age and his head devoid of all but a few patches of scruffy hair. Despite his apparent age, he walks spryly without the need for any assistance and returns the greeting with a quick bow. The woman, Dr. Yang, is obviously Chinese. Short and slender with slanted eyes and brown hair tied up in a neat bun, she practically oozes professionalism as she strides alongside her college, greeting the mercenary with a curt nod.
"The preparations are complete, Commander," she says without being asked. "Both subjects have been moved to the waiting pens. We're just waiting for your permission to begin the demonstration."
"I would like to note," Moss chimes in as Kira opens her mouth to speak, "that Subject 41 has proven more difficult to control lately. He's starting to show resistance to our usual methods." Yang gives him a sidelong glare but doesn't disagree, instead offering a dismissive shrug. "We would have simply upped the scale of punishment but Moss felt it would be best to wait for your personal approval."
Kira snorts. "Misbehaving again, is he? Turn up the current and give him a good spanking. Feel free to remind him what's at stake, while you're at it. Our friends have traveled quite a distance for this and I won't have him throwing a tantrum."
Both scientists nod and turn to carry out her orders. Kira turns back to Stray and smirks again. "Sometimes I feel like I'm running a zoo here. Don't worry, you'll get your show."
Stray seems to watch closely at the security measures, before his jaw quietly drops at the complexity of the computer system that Kira has. As he calculates the cost of all this equipment in his head, he looks around swiftly and furtively while following, amazed at the kind of operation that Volkov is running here. This is a large investment of technology and personnel for a simple mercenary operation. Vulture and Stray exchange suspicious glances quietly, nodding in agreement at something silent between them. Dr. Brandt, meanwhile, looks to Yang and Moss, taking them in and offering them professional smiles. Fellow academics are always nice to see, even if they work in applied sciences and he works in more of a theoretical field.
Stray tugs his duffel bag upwards. "We have a camera and remote satellite uplink, so my superior can watch the demonstration personally. I have seen to the security of the transmission personally." A slow smile creeps over his lips. "It will be a needle in a haystack that the NSA is not even looking for." He looks over his shoulder to Brandt, who lifts his slim briefcase and begins inputting a combination into a digital lock beneath the case's handle.
Kira wags a finger in response, resting the other hand on her hip like a mother scolding a small child. "Ah ah ah, can't allow that I'm afraid. For one, this entire facility is wrapped in a jamming field that I'm pretty sure your little toy can't break through. And for another, we're so far underground there's no way a transmitter you're carrying in one hand would have enough power to reach the surface." She holds her arms out in a welcoming fashion. "Feel free to record the demonstration, though. Your boss will just have to wait until it comes out on cable."
Vulture frowns very, very deeply and narrows his eyes, before Stray raises a hand and speaks. "Very well. Although he will not pleased. You must understand, being a soldier of fortune yourself." Vulture looks left and right in a surly fashion, as Brandt ceases entering the combination. He presses a button, and the lock on the case re-engages, before Brandt lets the brown case hang at his side again. Stray, being the tactical commander placed on point for this mission, makes the final call. "We will record your demonstration, so he may view it. I hope for business' sake he appreciates your security measures." Stray looks slightly prepossessed, most likely thinking of how to structure the conversation with Black after they get to the surface and initiate direct communication.
Kira offers a smile that isn't at all meant to be comforting and motions towards one of the many doors in the wall indicating that they should continue to follow her as she takes off in that direction. The door opens into another corridor but instead of another long winding trip through maze-like tunnels she leads them a short distance to another door and guides the group through.
This new room turns out to be some sort of observation deck. Another bank of monitors and machinery line the wall closest to their entrance but the far side consists entirely of large reinforced windows that offer a clear view onto what lies below. That turns out to be a large circular room. Roughly fifty yards in width, the chamber is laid out in the fashion of an arena. Patches of thick vegetation relocated from the jungle provide several places that offer cover and concealment amidst a mostly open field of grass, dirt, and shrubbery. Several large doors break the clean white surface of the metal walls, one on every 'corner', each marked with a large number in yellow paint from one to four.
Yang and Moss are both already in the room when they arrive busily moving from various computer stations to check readings or tap information in where necessary; neither acknowledges the group's presence, too wrapped up in their work. Kira motions to a row of comfortable looking seats lined up infront of the windows. "Take your pick, boys, you get the best seats in the house."
Stray takes the lead, moving towards a corner seat and placing his duffel bag on it crosswise. He unzips it and removes the camera first, setting it aside, before he pulls out the tripod. He sets it up beside his chair, and places the camera atop it, locking it down, then ratcheting the height upwards and tilting it to peer downwards into the arena. He steps behind the camera and peers into the eyehole, before he sets it on record. Stray takes a seat, before Brandt follows him. Vulture stands behind both of them with his hands behind his back, frowning and watching over the arena. He looks the most paranoid out of the three, whereas Dr. Brandt has clearly relaxed and is looking positively giddy, briefcase in his lap. Dr. Brandt looks to Kira, the German grinning and speaking only now.
"I am quite excited to see your specimens in person, Miz Volkov. I have staked my entire career on the existence of such creatures!" He has a mild German accent, leaning towards academic rather than the low German heard from the working class.
Kira stands to the side while the gangster sets up his equipment, gazing idly out the large windows to survey the arena. The layout is a design of her own, a combination of the field games the FSB used to train their agents as well as several likely scenarios created from her own extensive personal experience. One just like it exists in almost every one of her bases and the personnel use it extensively for their own training or entertainment.
Brandt's excited chatter draws her gaze towards the scientist and she gives him an equally enthusiastic smile that possesses an element of friendliness that has been absent thus far from her expressions. "Glad to hear it, doc. I think your going to find this quite enlightening." Her hawkish eyes shift towards Stray. "Maybe you can convince your boss to share some of that enthusiasm."
A few moments later the lights above two of the doors, the ones marked one and three and set opposite from each other, shift from red to green. "Commander, we are ready to proceed." Kira looks to make sure her guests are ready and then nods at the old man. "Go ahead, doc. Let our first subject out of his cage."
Door number four splits down the middle and quietly whisks open, the two halves retracting into the walls on well-oiled mechanisms. Several moments pass before a large well-muscled man with short blonde hair steps into the open. Dressed in a plain t-shirt and long baggy pants, the figure moves hesistantly forward. His eyes dart back and forth at his surroundings, taking note of the enclosed pen into which he has been thrust. After a few dozen feet, Kira presses a button on the console infront of her and speaks.
"Hello, Mr. Torres - or should I say, Agent James Thomas of the International Police Force. I hear you've been looking for me."
The stout man stops dead in his tracks, casting his gaze around until he finds the blocky protrusion of the observation deck above. His expression goes sour but he keeps his cool. "The Black Dragon, I presume?" His voice echoes through the room via a system of speakers.
Kira turns to the others and says, "He can't see us. Don't worry." Transmitting once more, she anwsers, "That's right."
"Then I suppose you know why I'm here. You can't evade the law forever. My disappearance will be noticed. More will come after you."
Kira's laughter rings out haughtily. "Please, Mr. Thomas, jokes are best left to the professionals. You are not the first and you won't be the last." Her voice takes on a more upbeat pitch. "You are in luck, however! You see I have a few guests with me today and they are in desperate need of entertainment. So I have arranged for you to play a little game."
The agent stares at the floor quietly before looking up and nodding. "Alright. Not that I have any choice. What is this game?"
"Quite simple. You will be pitted against one of my agents. A bloodsport."
He grunts. "And the stakes?"
"You win, you get to leave this room alive. You lose, well... it won't be pleasant."
"That's about what I expected from a psychopath like you."
"No need for insults, Mr. Thomas. I simply abide by the basic rules of nature - survival of the strongest and the fittest. Let's see if you can meet those standards."
Stray sees the demonstration that Volkov has in mind, and goes considerably paler, swallowing slowly as he feels faintly ill. They're going to kill a man like this? Brandt is rapt on the demonstration, not caring, but the Vulture is watching Stray's weakness with disapproval. Stray looks around quickly to see if anyone's noticed, catching Vulture's glare. Stray tugs at the collar of his green t-shirt, before discretely wiping his palms on the thighs of his black denims. She's killing Interpol like this, in cold blood. He suddenly gets paranoid as his knees push forward and he slouches in imagined scrutiny from Agent Torres, knowing what penalty killing an agent of Interpol entails. He looks at Volkov's seeming nonchalance at this act. He's right, she's a psychopath. This is dangerous. Stray purses his lips as he runs a hand through his long purple hair, sitting up again and watching. He now knows that he's misjudged the dangers of dealing with Volkov.
If Kira noticed the sudden shift in demeanor from her spectator she doesn't show it, though there is a strange glint in her eyes now that the main event has begun, and the eerily smug grin she's been wearing the whole time takes on a sinister new look in the face of what she's about to commit.
Holding a hand up, the merc snaps her fingers and the two scientists responds immediately by tapping a command into their computers. The light over door One shift from yellow to green and it too slowly peels apart to reveal its contents. Immediately a thick rolling mist of gray smoke pours forth from the dark interior obscuring the far side of the room in a light fog. A deep gutteral growl follows after it, the inhuman noise amplified for those in the observation deck by the array of microphones spread throughout the arena.
Down below, and repeated on a large monitor for their convenience, a large dark shape darts from the doorway and into the fog-wrapped jungle, offering only a brief glimpse of its bulky silhouette. The thick cluster of trees and vines rattle and crack as whatever it was that emerged moves rapidly amidst the dense foilage remaining unseen for the moment.
"For our first test," Kira says, speaking only to those in the room, "I will demonstrate the tightly controlled training that our products receive." Holding down the transmit button again, she says, "The game begins now, Mr. Thomas. Subject 41 - restrain and capture without harm."
Upon hearing the animalistic noises, the man in the arena suddenly begins to sweat. Holy shit, what has he gotten himself into. He begins to regret his bravado in accepting the mission. A shot at fame and a definate promotion - like everyone who came before him hadn't thought the same thing. Swallowing hard, the agent rushes towards the nearest bit of cover and crouches down behind some logs and tall fronds.
"Hey, aren't you even going to give me a weapon?!"
"What's this? I thought all special agents were supposed to be trained in unarmed combat. Anyone can pick up a gun and be dangerous, Mr. Thomas. Besides, that would hardly be entertaining to watch, now would it?"
Dr. Brandt sees the shape darting into the trees, adjusting his glasses. "Beautiful," he says melodically, as if he's just seen an angel in flesh. To Brandt, Darkstalkers are a possible source of the legends of angels and demons. Stray, meanwhile, is tapping his fingers on his right arm rest, releasing some nervous energy as he watches. He's mostly just hiding his disgust with this entire thing, a gladiator hunt of a live man. And as for the Vulture, he slowly crosses his arms as he realizes this is not a fair match. Actual combat conditions involved armed opponents, potentially with far more skill than Torres. He squints as he looks over at the two scientists skeptically, before he slowly moves his attention back to the arena. As an experienced VEVAK commando, Vulture is an expert at the environments these creatures will be used in, versus Stray who is mostly a business representative, and Dr. Brandt who is only along as part of his arrangement with Black.
Unsure of how to proceed, Thomas slowly begins to work his way around the other edge of the arena, sticking to cover where he can. The Interpol training shows in his movements which are swift and controlled but without a weapon it's obvious that the agent lacks confidence.
The creature, however, suffers from no such problems. The jungle continues to rustle and shake with hidden movement and thanks to the enclosed space it becomes difficult to pin down precisely where the noise is coming from. The scientists naturally have no problems tracking the monster with their infrared cameras and its implanted homing beacon but they keep that information locked to their own monitors on Kira's orders to make the display all the more exciting for the onlookers.
Subject 41 makes its way in an opposite circle along the jungle from Thomas, steadily closing the gap between them without his knowledge. However, it isn't until the agent finds himself at a break in the cover and forced to make a run for the next bit of concealment that it finally strike. Moments after the man rises to his feet and begins to run, a massive furry shape erupts from the brush not thirty feet to his left. The creature lets out a deafening howl as it charges and the Interpol agent is stunned into inaction by the sight that greets him.
The furry thing collides with him head on and bowls Thomas to the ground in a single blow, sending him sprawling into the dirt. Shaken out of his stupor and suddenly fueled by terror, he attempts to scramble back to his feet, but the monster is on him again before he can rise more than a few inches off the ground. A massive claw slams down against the man's back, pinning him to the ground with inhuman strength and knocking the wind out of his lungs.
Finally motionless and in the open, the gansters get their first look at a real Darkstalker.
The beast towers over the man, dwarfing him with its sheer bulk; perhaps seven or eight feet tall, it's difficult to tell with it hunched over. Though it stands on two legs and possessess obviously man-like arms, its legs are bent into a 'digitgrade' reverse joint and the creature's head is that of a terrible wolf. A long snout filled with razor sharp teeth drools sticky spittle into the dirt as it growls and gnashes its teeth menacingly at the air as if in some sort of bestial rage. As anyone is likely to be able to tell at a simple glance, the creature is obviously a werewolf.
Kira watches the reactions of those present, smirking at Stray's clearly plain nervousness. "Good job, 41," she says into the microphone. "Release and retreat."
The werewolf growls in response and retracts its massive clawed hand before howling and and darting into the cover of the trees once again.
Stray leans back in his seat at the howl, as Brandt leans forward, recognizing the creature before he can see it. "Werewolf," he whispers loudly, his eyes widening. Then, as it displays itself, Brandt grins at Stray, looking at him. "They were once rumored to be in league with gypsies. As you can see, they are perfectly intelligent, and capable of following orders." Brandt's attention returns to the arena as Torres is freed. Vulture, meanwhile, dispassionately states, "Countered by a tripwire and attached explosive. But the speed is impressive. I do not think the man being armed would make much of a difference." Vulture, for his part, keeps his arms crossed, still a skeptic.
Kira's smirk spreads to a sadistic grin. "Shall we find out?" The intercom crackles to life. "Not a great showing, agent. Maybe you'll do better with some familiar gear."
A panel on the wall near the man slides open and he pushes himself back up to go inspect it. Neatly held in place by pegs and clips is a bullet-proof vest and two hand guns - the same equipment he had when he was captured. Grunting in approval, though he'd have been more happy with an assault weapon, the agent slides the vest over his shirt and takes a gun in each hand along with a pair of spare clips also provided. Thus armed, he returns to the center of the arena.
"Round two, Mr. Thomas. The rules remain the same - defeat your opponent." She pauses and turns to smirk at Vulture. "Subject 41 - repeat order. Disarm and capture unharmed."
The Vulture narrows his eyes at Kira, not liking her, just like last time. The Black Dragon is playing with the devil, to Vulture. He turns his attention back to the arena as Torres is armed with his gear, watching more intently. Brandt explains to Stray, meanwhile, "The rumor is that a werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet. This is likely a way of saying that they are vulnerable to something like mercury poisoning, due to a variety of potential medical factors." Stray looks impassive as he watches, still horrified at this, but also skeptical of Dr. Brandt's claims. To Stray, these things are just unusual mutants. Brandt returns his attention to the arena. "In all likelihood, dealing with a werewolf drafted into a battle against its will would be highly dangerous, they traditionally show far more intellect than regular wolves in legends about them attacking villages, and wolves are quite deadly in terms of their hunting skills."
"You just have to know how to...talk to them, doctor."
Kira turns her attention back to the arena and waits with crossed arms for the show to begin anew. To his credit, the agent becomes much more calm and focused now that he knows what he's up against and possesses a means to fight back. Working his way around the arena, Thomas chooses to stay in the open this time, guessing correctly that the wolf has the advantage in the dense jungle.
The next couple minutes are tense but uneventful. Gun in hand, the agent slowly stalks about, his head swiveling back and forth in constant motion in reaction to every small noise that rises from the trees. A couple of times he even fires a few rounds into some shaking bushes but both attempts to wound his hunter are met with nothing but a gutteral growl and more noise.
The stress of not knowing when to expect the attack quickly begins to wear on the agent. Sweat pours from his body in sheets staining the shirt and pasting it to his muscular torso. His arms whip from left to right almost chaotically, seeking out a target that refuses to show itself.
The hunt ends rather anti-climatically. As he moves about in spastic aimless patterns, one of the trees from a nearby cluster of jungle shakes hard. The agent whirls and fires blindly into the underbrush but too late he realizes his mistake as the shadow of the massive werewolf comes down on him from above. The darkstalker crashes into him like a ton of bricks, smashing him flat into the ground. The guns go off a few more times but the shots are completely wild and accomplish nothing. With an almost disdainful flick of its wrist, the werewolf snatches the weapons away from Thomas and crushes them into scrap with its bare hands.
"Check and mate."
Stray looks around nervously as Torres is hunted, clearly sweating a bit at perceived scrutiny from people around him. He does not enjoy showing weakness, but it is very clear that he is not used to death. And his image in Skull Cross relies upon his abilities as a leader of soldiers, thugs, and mercenaries. Brandt, meanwhile, can only smile as the werewolf displays just the intellect Brandt had predicted, nodding slowly as the hunt ends. The Vulture appraises the hunt, before nodding. "Excellent. But if there is a lesson you must learn from the history of my country, Iran, Black Dragon, is that forcing one to support your views only works for so long. Especially when they are designed to hunt and kill." The Vulture turns his attention to the two scientists, looking rather dour, before looking back at Kira. "You meddle in the affairs of Shaitan, Dragon."
Kira sits back to study the faces of her prospective customers. Stray's unease is somewhat disappointing and she's starting to think that it might have been a mistake to approach some low-level thug, even if he does have ties with a larger organization. It's pretty clear he's not familiar with how things operate when you involve mercenaries. Breaking kneecaps and spraypainting walls seems to be level he's at. Fortunately, his companions look more appropriately impressed.
"One on one, this breed of darkstalker is a match for almost any trained soldier. I've pitted them against my own men in their full battlegear with similar results. They're quick, clever, and tough - and more importantly, most people don't even think they exist. While there are countermeasures to be used against such creatures, you'll not find many in this world paranoid to have anti-werewolf defenses among their security measures."
The mercenary tilts her head at Vulture's warning and her sinister smirk returns. Turning back to the intercom, she presses it with her thumb and casually leans against the wall as she gives another command.
"Looks like you lose, Mr. Thomas. Subject 41 - finish him."
The werewolf growls with feral hunger at the order but something in its posture indicates some hesistation. However, after a few brief moments of contemplation, it reaches down and plucks the barely conscious man off the ground by the front of his vest. Pressing its fingers together into a deadly wedge, the darkstalker rams the razor talons into the agent's throat and clear out the back of his neck. A quick snap of its wrist pops the head right off with a sharp crack as the spine severs and a spray of dark red arterial blood paints the jungle.
Kira watches this, her grin never fading, and when it is done she stalks over to the gangster to stare him in the eyes. "You have it backwards, Vulture." The woman's eyes practically sparkle with deadly intent, her tone soft and full of amusement.
"It is /I/ who invites the Devil to dance."
Stray looks away with a wince as the man is decapitated, but Dr. Brandt can't be more pleased. "Wonderful, simply wonderful," he says, as if in a dream. The Vulture shakes his head at Kira, as if confronted by a teenager making mistakes he's seen in the past. "It is easy to say that from a superior position, Black Dragon." He then looks to Stray. "What do you think, Mikhail?" he asks, forcing his younger comrade to produce an answer at the proper timing, as a show of calm support. Their relationship appears to be that of an experienced soldier helping a young officer earn his confidence. Stray looks to Kira. "This shows promise. Our commander will make the final decision." Stray, despite his disgust, has fast eyes, and caught the moment of hesitation. Enslaved Darkstalkers are one option. Dr. Tessitore and the cult around Jedah Dohma is the other option. Volkov is more rational and easier to understand, but Stray sees the potential for a disaster without the proper handling procedures being implemented 24/7. Jedah Dohma would offer them willing Darkstalkers to assist them, but his motives are quite alien to mortals. Especially sane mortals.
Dr. Brandt has noted the hesitation as well, and looks like he's pondering something deeply. "The creature seems to have more humanity than I had anticipated. This is simply groundbreaking to my research."
Kira snorts, a trace of anger beginning to show in her usually smug expression. "Shouldn't the fact that I have the superior position indicate something to you? These beasts did not simply wander into my cages."
The moment passes but it's obvious that her mood has been ruined. The mercenary frowns and fishes a cigarette from one of the pouches on her armor, firing the smoke up with a plain looking metal flip-top lighter. She glances at the entralled Dr. Brandt again but the enthusiasm she showed before is no where to be found.
"They're quite a bit like us. They even have families. Don't make the mistake of thinking that they're people though." She exhales a thick stream of smoke into the air filling the room with the dusky smell of nicotine and ash. "All it takes is knowing where to apply pressure to get them to turn into the animals they are."
Turning to Moss and Yang, the merc gestures with one hand and they both understand her meaning. Warning lights flare to life within the arena and the werewolf quickly scampers back to the door and into its cage without being told.
"We'll have Subject 41 cleaned and inspected within the hour. Should we prepare to move him back to the main pens?"
Kira nods. That performance was a lot more sloppy than she'd wanted. It took minutes for the wolf to accomplish what she could have done in a few seconds, but it didn't need to happen that way. Subject 41 had intentionally dragged things out; but why? Was it afraid? Challenging her authority? It had also hesistated on the kill order. Godamn mangy mutt. She'd have a nice long talk with him later.
Turning her attention back to Stray and crew, Kira continues to frown around her cigarette. "Alright, show's over. You don't have to go home but you can't stay here."
Stray rises and turns the camera off, before removed it from the tripod. He begins packing up as Dr. Brandt rises, briefcase still in hand. The Vulture merely watches, nose wrinkling at the smoke. He uncrosses his arms, moving his hands to his hips and watching Stray work, a little doubt on his face. Stray has ordered several murders so far, but this was his first look at real blood. He does not doubt Black, but he is a slight bit skeptical about Stray's fitness to command something of such importance.
Dr. Brandt, meanwhile, smiles to Kira. "Thank you for the enchanting evening," he says with a faint bow at the waist, his right hand over his left breast, before he moves towards the door. Vulture waits, as Stray packs everything up.
Stray zips the duffel bag shut and hefts it up, moving to the door. Vulture follows silently, a look of disapproval on his face. Stray reaches into his pocket, pulling out a piece of paper with a VPN number and ten digit password written on it. "We will contact you on this private network server, with this password to access it, in exactly seventy-two hours. The server is located in Belgium. It will be our final decision on the matter." Stray steps out the door after Brandt, and Vulture follows them, as they walk towards the lift.
Kira takes the card and tucks it into a pocket without much enthusiasm. Well, atleast there's still some hope she might have another customer. It's unlikely these punks are going to be the window into the Western market that she wanted, however. What a waste of time.
Rather than personally escort the group out, the merc turns to her bodyguards and gestures for them to follow. The four that had taken up the rear guard usher Stray and crew out, leading them back through the base and up to the landing pad where the gunship eventually carries them once more to their original meeting point.
The Dragon watches them leave with a cold stare but as soon as the door slides shut behind them she whirls, planting the heel of her combat boot through the nearest monitor. Yang turns and raises an eyebrow at this but the old man just dutifully continues to monitor the subject's progress through their automated system.
After thoroughly stomping the shit out of the computer terminal for several seconds, Kira takes a step back and exhales slowly.
"Someone get me a fucking drink before I break something else."
Log created on 19:08:11 12/28/2015 by Stray, and last modified on 01:44:46 12/29/2015.