The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 1 - V-Project Unleashed

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Description: With the kidnappings in Mexico catching her attention, Kasumi has come to the Americas with Ryu Hayabusa, seeking to protect the innocent. In her investigation of Mexico, Kasumi uncovers a convoy of trucks across the US border. Watching the inspection process, she realizes that not only does the truck barely even get searched, but thermal imaging shows a number of people locked inside. Suspecting that the truck is ferrying kidnappees across the border, she descends upon the vehicle. But as she comes to the back, she faces one of Shadaloo's newest enforcers guarding the convoy: The mysterious agent known only as "V1."

When war broke out in Japan the previous year, the announcement of such was loud, drastic, and impossible to miss. The entire globe was watching from the moment the iconic Mt. Fuji was targeted by a nuclear blast until the last of the parties responsible for the atrocity of unleashing Gears on the land were routed out.

Now a new threat was looming and it was not one that announced itself so brazenly. Instead, it was felt, in the collective subconscious thought of mankind, that nagging sense that something is not right. Tensions between the gangs, sudden upheavals in international politics concerning the border between the United States and Mexico, a surge of missing persons reports and even one or two openly acknowledged mass kidnappings.

Trouble was brewing, and if left unchecked, there could be no doubt that it would escalate under the cover of shadow until boiling over into a calamity capable of overshadowing even last year's disasters. Fortunately, some had begun to move. Heroes from around the world had been called upon to lend their skill and strength to one Major Charlie Nash, designated head of the operation to root out the seething corruption, locate and rescue the missing people, and bring down the secret empire known more by rumor than open fact.

Ryu Hayabusa was no stranger to going up against impossible forces. And Kasumi was all too familiar the suffering evil cartels and megacorps could inflict on individuals who felt powerless to stop them. Grieving parents in the news, speaking of their missing children, family members distraught at vanishing kin... it was all too much to stay back and do nothing. If Charlie Nash was to be the beacon around which a counter force could be organized, then he would have the aid of the two collaborating ninjas.

Meeting with the Major was Hayabusa's task. This left Kasumi an opportunity to conduct reconnaissance of her own. One of the major conduits between the U.S. and Mexico is the target of her forward investigation - the large border security checkpoint south of San Diego, California, the busiest portal of traffic between the two sovereign nations. While it was likely that there was smuggling going on at many of the other check points along the extensive, newly reinforced and bolstered border, she also knew full well that sometimes hiding in plain site under the cover of too much commotion also tends to be quite successful. It's easier for a truck or two to slip by without a full inspection without anyone noticing when hundreds of vehicles are crossing back and forth across the border per hour, after all.

The secure point is quite the sight to behold - no fewer than fifteen lanes of traffic lined up to present IDs, paper work, undergo inspections, and verify right of passage. With so much activity, it is easy to overlook the presence of one photo-happy tourist atop one of the walls cordoning the outside lanes of traffic on the U.S. side of the security check point.

The brown baseball cap atop the young woman's head allows her copper toned long pony tail to drape out behind her back. Much of the time she is leaning against a stone railing, seeming to glance over her shoulder periodically as if simply marveling at the insane amount of traffic lining up to get through the checkpoint. The long sleeved, loose fitting, button up floral shirt worn over long, baggy kahkis hardly seems out of place in the sixty-five degree comfortable San Diego weather. The rose-lensed Oakley sun glasses conceal just how sharp her focus is when she makes her occasional glances, and her long hair covers her ears, concealing the ear bud communication device worn there.

Already skilled in such matters, her ability to reconnoiter was only further enhanced by the vastly improved access to technology her newly won wealth afforded her. In her hands, the infra red imaging device looked very much like an expensive, telephoto lens camera, and one could be excused for interpreting it the occasional pictures she takes of the traffic as being little more than that.

Turning to lean against the wall, wind whipping her ponytail behind her back, Kasumi lifts the device to her face once again, shifting its focus over the lanes of traffic. She almost missed noticing the convey for what it was, as each vehicle in the group is a different vehicle, making it less obvious that they were all moving together. But the behavior of the guard waving the first two escorts through without delay catches her eye. Shifting the device to the truck, she watches through the zoomed in lens as the vehicle rolls slowly right on by the inspection station.

Her finger flicks a switch, shifting to the infrared filter. In the cargo bay of the large vehicle are two rows of human-sized heat signatures, each spaced apart slightly at even intervals.

Kasumi closes her eyes for a moment, breathing out a soft sigh. She was only supposed to try and find the leak at the border, a point from which they could start to unravel the conspiracy thread. But the thought of caged people being rolled deep into Mexico, terrified, powerless, each individual likely leaving behind loved ones on this side of the wall...

Lowering the device, she slings it into a bag that had been sitting on the ground at her feet. If she was to act, she would have to move fast.

Through the check point, the five vehicle convey pulls away from the border, easing further along the roads, moving off onto less traveled roads that afford them the ability to move less hindered by traffic. With two escort vehicles in front, and two in back, the transport truck in the middle has eyes on it from both sides.

Crawling out from beneath the moving grey toned SUV at the back of the convey, the young shinobi climbs up from the back of it. The tourist attire is gone - in its place, black body armor covers the ninja from neck to toe. A dark blue mask covers the lower half of her face, leaving her hair and chestnut colored eyes uncovered. A sword is sheathed behind her waist, crimson tassels dangling from the pommel whipping in the wind as she grips to the top of the SUV.

She should try to find where the convey is going... but every minute the victims remained trapped in the truck ahead was a minute too long for the headstrong kunoichi to wait.

Sucking in her breath, she springs forward, lunging from the back of the SUV to the front, then down to its hood, before launching off into the air in a acrobatic leap for the blue SUV ahead. As she does so, she presses her left forefinger against a pressure point in her left glove and an explosion detonates out from beneath the grey SUV she had just left.

While the detonation is not enough to obliterate the heavily armored vehicle, it is certainly enough to destroy its rear axle, leaving it completely disabled as the convey rushes onward.

Clinging to the roof of the lone remaining rear escort vehicle, Kasumi sets her eyes on the truck ahead. With the detonation, she has certainly announced her presence, and with two front escort vehicles, and the one in the rear she's clinging to the top of, the truck is hardly defenseless!

Kasumi's explosives more than do the job, causing the rear vehicle to bounce and tumble out of control. Even with the usual safety gear inside the vehicle, the momentum and whiplashing motion from the impacts is enough to kill everyone inside. The convoy, however, seems to have its orders.

"It's a distraction," the man giving the orders states over the radio, "Continue mission. Kilo Two, Kilo Three has picked up a hitch hiker. Fix it." The man's voice is cold, matter-of-fact, and there is something both wrong and possibly familiar if Kasumi is listening in.

With that, the second vehicle leaves the line long enough to pull alongside the vehicle Kasumi is riding atop of. Two men lean out of the passenger side windows, brandishing automatic rifles that are unloaded upon the kunoichi while all four vehicles continue driving. The young woman will have to force the bus to stop before they arrive at their destination if there is to be any hope for a happy ending.

With the wind whipping past her, Kasumi glances over her shoulder briefly just to verify the rear vehicle has been successfully removed from the convoy. The wreck that transpires from the detonation is... more than enough to confirm that indeed, there will be no chase from that direction.

Her fingers and toes press hard against the surface of the vehicle, special pads built into the fingertips of her black, protective gloves and the toes of her footwear giving her extra grip against the smooth paint. The technology allows the nimble ninja to stay put on the slick, fast moving surface without requiring anything to actually grip hold of, as long as she continues to flex her fingers and toes hard enough to keep her put.

The earpiece in her left ear is cycling rapidly, scanning for frequencies with any traffic at all. It picks up the directives at '-inue mission...' and pauses its scanning there. The voice of someone in charge then. A voice devoid of emotion, cold, and in control... yet something in the back of her mind suggests it doesn't match the speaker. Either way, if she can remove this one from the equation, odds are, coordination will tank significantly from this group.

There is a more pressing urgency, however, as the convoy rearranges itself to respond to the threat, operating under the command of the one in charge. Perched on the roof of the vehicle now in the rear, she is in prime position to watch the adjustment take place. Of course, at the cruising speeds they're moving at, the transition is fast, and before she knows it, she's got another vehicle adjacent to her.

Inside their armored SUVs, they're safe from many of the options at her disposal. While she might be able to eventually kick her way through the bulletproof glass, it's certainly not something that can be accomplished in short order. And she has no doubt the tires are run-flat, and simply stabbing them will do nothing to curtail the convoy's mobility.

But when the windows come down on the adjacent vehicle, she sees her next chance to strike. Though her publically shown fights had always been a display of the young shinobi's skill with kicking, punching, and grappling... the armed men who push themselves out of the safety of their vehicles are given a rare chance to see Kasumi's fangs bared.

She moves as a blur, even as they swiftly move their automatic weapons to bear. One moment perched atop the rear vehicle - Kilo 3 as it were - and the next moment, there is a surge of motion, the sound of steel drawn from smooth leather, and a flash of her blade as she comes to rest on top of the other vehicle, having relocated, drawn the Shrouded Moon sword from her back, and slashed at the two men who took the risk of leaning out of their vehicle all in the same instant.

When she comes to rest, it is with only her left hand planted, her right hand still holding the sword, its crimson tassels whipping in the wind, its polished blade glowing with a soft blue energy almost imperceptible beneath the bright noon sun. Her eyes dart back to the vehicle she just moved from, then toward the truck ahead. How did the speaker she heard know exactly which vehicle she was perched on? From what angle could he have seen her?

Stopping the vehicle transporting the captives is the top priority, but what good is bringing it to a halt if there's still armored men to keep the prisoner's trapped anyway?

Eyes dart over the environment, taking in the adjacent buildings, the speed the vehicles are moving at, and the likely number of armed men remaining in them. Beneath her blue mask, her lips press tightly together. She needs to find the one in charge!

The two men pit their steel against Kasumi's. and pay a steep price for both their obedience and their arrogance. They slump as blood sprays. The driver lets out a scream as the two men go limp, the vehicle swerving a bit before regaining control.

"Kilos One and Three," the voice states over the comms, "Put Kilo Two off the road. We're continuing on to the collection site."

The front most SUV pulls out in front of Kasumi's borrowed ride while the vehicle she just vacated moves toward the side of Kilo Two. The led vehicle slows down slightly, forcing her ride to tap the brakes. The second vehicle, though, keeps its speed as it slams its side into now penned in SUV with thunderous impact.

Kasumi will have about a second to bail from this vehicle while the bus continues to drive.

Fortunately for the shinobi clinging to the top of 'Kilo-2', she can barely hear the comms chatter over the rush of wind blowing past her. Using lethal force to cut her way through these defenders is not the young woman's normal way of taking care of business. But she is no stranger to the necessity either. In this case, she can have no reservation.

Anyone who deals in the business of human trafficking must have accepted the risks that come with drawing the world's ire down on them. Just as she has accepted the risks of rising up to fight them... alone. Perhaps Hayabusa would have something to say about this course of action when... if they should reconvene afterward. But it's not like his track record is clean of taking extreme risks in order to save someone.

Crouching lower for a moment as the initial panicked swerve passes, she processes the barked order, mentally keeping tabs on the vehicle identities based on the context. Kilo-1 and 3 were given orders to take Kilo 2 out of play... That means the one issuing the ruthlessly efficient orders is almost definitely not in Kilo 2. And since he barked them over comms, it's possible he's not in 3 or 1 either, though she can't rule that out.

Her eyes settle on the large vehicle with the prisoners inside. For a moment, she finds herself wondering 'why'? Why take these people? But that doesn't matter now and the thought is dashed from her mind as the two other armored escorts move into position in the front and side of the one she's on top of.

With their windows up, their bodies armored, their tires too reliable to take out, she can't try to eliminate them for now. But she can at least deal decisively with the one she's atop. Her right hand slides he sword into the sheath at her waist, then slips further up her back. An extremely slim backpack is fitted against her armor - the perfect stowage place for a few other crucial utilities and as she presses her fingers to the left bottom corner, a small silver pen-shaped object slips into reach.

Taking it in finger and thumb, she presses the button on its side and slides it up and leans over the side of Kilo-2 for just an instant to toss the now gas-spewing cylinder into one of the open windows. Even if the vehicle isn't completely eliminated from the convoy by the incoming slam, the driver will not be able to keep driving it for long before he's choking on blinding fumes.

With no where else to go, Kasumi lunges forward, sprinting down the hood of her mount and springs into the air to land on the lead vehicle. Glancing over her shoulder for only an instant, she verifies the outcome of the slam, continuing to assess the state of the convoy. Her right hand stays planted while her left hand reaches back to draw something else from her slim pack, focus veering toward the bus itself!

Kilo 2 completely loses control between the impact and the gas in the cabin area, and is sent into a barrel roll thanks to both factors. Kilo Three takes too much damage from the collision as well, and is forced to stop. The two remaining vehicles continue driving for a moment before the SUV slows down a bit, and then eventually stopping.

The bus continues slightly further, but also comes to a halt a bit later. It is larger, and actually seems to care (somewhat) about the people on board. A long moment passes, then that voice comes over the radio.

"Kilo One, return to the border crossing," the voice commands. "Miss, I know you are listening, why don't you come to the rear of the bus. The door's open."

The SUV does not wait for Kasumi to dismount before executing a Y-Turn to start heading north again.

After briefly verifying that at least one of the vehicles behind her is no longer pursuing... and discovering that the other one is likewise out of the picture, Kasumi turns her attention forward. She knows full well the smart play for the last two vehicles to make is to separate. If the SUV put distance between it and the bus, she'd have to find some other means to catch back up to it.

A small hook attached to fine, black rope slips into her left hand as she starts to draw it from the bottom of the pack on her back. Before she gets more than a foot of rope free, however, the voice in her ear calls out new instructions, sending Kilo-1 away. Gritting her teeth, she prepares to make her last connecting leap when suddenly she realizes she's being addressed directly. No doubt, some of her timely reactions tipped this savvy leader off to her eavesdropping.

A soft grunt. Being welcomed in is actually worse than having to try and fight her in. At least with a fight, she knows what to expect.

The vehicle beneath her begins to swerve into a sharp, high speed turn, and the shinobi in black springs from it to land on the ground not far from the back of the bus, landing easily in a half crouch, her hand releasing the hook and allowing the rope to rewind back into the pack with a soft whirring noise.

Standing up slowly, as if anticipating some kind of attack coming her way, she finally strides forward, every sense alert for signs of danger. She doesn't get directly behind the door, instead bracing against the rear panel of the bus with its metal surface at her back. Her right hand reaches behind her back, closing over the grip of her short sword while her left hand snakes out to pull at the door's release hatch and tug it open, all without moving into view of it.

Only once it's open does she draw her sword, turning to hold it lengthwise across the open door, using its polished surface as a mirror with which to see into the bus without sticking her face into the opening.

"You're not taking these people any further!" she yells into the vehicle.

There are people bound and chained to the seats, with bags over their heads. They stir when at the sound of the door being opened. Kazumi can make out the shape of a man, his featured masked by some kind of visor covering his eyes, ears, and most of his nose. He is seated, and facing the doorway. He is wearing an immaculately tailored business suit, with his forearms resting on his knees. He is empty handed, and watching the movements outside very carefully.

"I beg to differ, ma'am," the even voice says as he stays seated. "They are going where they are meant to go." Then he sighs, and stands up. He starts to walk towards the back of the bus, carefully removing the suit jacket before he drapes it over the shoulder of one of the passengers. "But I already know that you will not back down," he says in a tone that suggests he understands completely as he starts to roll up his sleeves. "That you feel you must rescue these people from a fate worse than death."

"I can respect your resolve," he says. "So I am going to give you two options. You can either leave now, unmolested, or you can surrender and accept what follows." He cracks his knuckles slowly, stopping just shy of a short lunge from the door. "Otherwise, I take you down, and you accept what follows whether you like it or not."

He slides into something like a ready stance, hands just off the hips in a fairly belligerent stance even as a palpable aura of menace starts to wash off of him. "I would choose wisely, and quickly, if I were you."

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn has started a fight here.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-------|

Studying the commanding individual via the reflection of her sword, Kasumi adjusts the angle of the weapon to get a look, as best as she can from outside, at the passengers. She can only imagine the terror they're feeling. What were these people up to before their lives were upset like this? What normal day had they been having? Even now, one has to wonder if they are recounting their regrets as hopeless acceptance sets in, reflecting on words left unsaid, thoughts unexpressed.

There is a professionalism about the visor-concealed man. Did he rise up the ranks of the shadow cartel? Or is he hired muscle? Everything about his demeanor makes him hard to read. She doesn't see the fanaticism of a zealot, but she doesn't see the easily shaken loyalty that tends to come with those who work just for money either.

He lays out the terms clearly enough. She knew when she decided to act the risks she was shouldering. To ignore the risks is foolish... but to be crippled by them is not the way of the shinobi.

"So you do understand!" she calls back in, still not showing herself in the entrance. She could get away, she knows. With the other escort vehicles and their armed men gone, the only one left who could possibly pursue her would be this man... and she suspects he would let her flee rather than leave the captives alone. But that simply isn't an option.

"This isn't personal." Her right hand slips against the slim black pack affixed to her back, pulling out another small, cylindrical, pen-sized object. "But it is something I have to see through." He might hear the quiet click as she activates the device. He would definitely hear it clatter against the floor of the bus where it slides under one of the rear-most passenger seats when the ninja lobs it in through the door at an angle.

Unlike the choking vapors she used to incapacitate the the unfortunate driver of Kilo-2, this smoke proves to be more innocuous to breath - a thick vapor that gives off no odor - but also far thicker. A smoke screen.

Within two seconds it has billowed out from under the seat, completely cutting off sight of the rear panel of the bus, including the now open emergency exit. Only then does Kasumi make her move, gripping her sword in her right hand and flicking it to a reverse-hold. Her fingers of her left hand close over the left frame of the door.

Sucking in her breath, she pulls hard, vaulting herself in. Confident in the concealment of the smoke cover, her foot touches down on the back of the bus before she launches herself, flipping forward such that her feet touch the ceiling. Two steps carry her forward, upside down, along the ceiling, aiming to get the drop on the trained fighter.

Of course, she hasn't the slightest idea that he need not rely on sight alone to anticipate exactly where she'll be.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi has joined the fight here.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Kasumi

When the smoke grenade comes bouncing in, the man seems to make no move to prevent it from happening. He waits for a moment, and as the smoke roils over the people in the bus, Kasumi can clearly make out the man's close-cut white hair and a scar poking out of the top and bottom of the visor over where his left eye probably is.

"I do understand," the man says calmly. "This is not personal." He takes in a deep breath. "But you would have been better served by running. I can promise you that you will not enjoy what follows."

He hand snakes up toward Kasumi with eerie accuracy, before a wave of purple energy reaches for the kunoichi!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Zach Glenn's Charged Combo.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0           Kasumi

With smoke covering the back section of the bus, Kasumi was definitely trying to get a literal drop on the man in charge of seeing this delivery get to its destination in spite the interference. She would dart out of the smoke, moving along the ceiling with swift speed, visible for only a split second before she would attack... but somehow, he already seemed ready for it, counter attacking with a dangerously accurate attack before she can even get into position.

Pushing off from the ceiling into a spinning fall that should allow her to land on her feet, the young woman narrowly avoids the initial reach of his arm but the wave energy clips her side, knocking her slightly off balance. Slipping back two feet, she starts to recover from the lean just as the convoy commander steps forward to take advantage of the limited opening, bringing his foot up to deliver enough unmitigated kinetic force to send the slender ninja out the back of the bus.

Turning her left side into him, her right foot bracing behind her, Kasumi allows his foot to grind into the thick, sturdy black armor over her forearm integrated into the body suit she's wearing.

In the same instant she absorbs the blow, allowing her body to move with the force, she twists to the left, bringing her right arm forward, attempting to slam the pommel of her sword into the well-dressed man's rib cage. The window of opportunity to land a clean hit is narrow, and in the same instant she attempts, she slides backward from the force of his kick.

Unless prevented, the momentum of his own kick would carry her backward, sliding clean off the back of the bus though she'd recover in time to land in a quickly salvaged stagger on the pavement itself.

The ache in her left arm communicates plenty about the striking power of this opponent, even when mitigated by ablative armor, now cracked slightly on her forearm. But it's the pain in her side from just a grazing hit of his energy that sticks out the most in her mind. Mind racing, she knows she's encountered its kind before. So he is one of those... Hayabusa had warned that the shadow empire was loaded with individuals with that potential. Training verses psychic threats was part of her upbringing, but it was difficult to field test due to how scarce it was. Well, she exhales softly, now seems like as good or bad a time as ever to find out how she can handle it!

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn blocks Kasumi's Evasive Strike.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0           Kasumi

The man brings an elbow down to catch the pommel of the weapon on the meaty parts of his arm. When Kasumi rides the force of the kick off the bus, the man Shadaloo's files refer to only as "V1" stalks off of the bus, more of that violet energy seeping off of him. He hops lightly off of the bus, his knees flexing slightly to mitigate the landing before he continues to stalk towards the ninja.

He raises an empty left hand, and some of that loose energy spools and spins into his hand for a moment as he takes careful aim at Kasumi before releasing a circular beam of psychic energy about as wide as a basketball at her!

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn successfully hits Kasumi with Caladbolg ES.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1           Kasumi

By the time the young man has hopped down out of the bus, clearing out of the area obscurred by the smoke grenade, Kasumi has readied herself, body tense, left shoulder forward, right hand gripping her sword at her side and a little behind her, placing it in a good position to strike hard from rather than defend from.

"What's this to you?!" she exclaims back, an aura of sapphire blue the same shade as her mask shimmering over the surface of her readied sword. "A job? Is it just money?"

His left hand is extended, palm outward, and her eyes flick toward it. She already knows he has talents with energy. She's seen that well enough in action, so it is natural to anticipate a projectile coming her way.

"Would you just accept a better offer? What would it cost to let them go?!"

Every nerve on edge, she watches energy build, swirling as it answers his call, ready to react. But it isn't a projectile that comes her way, but rather a beam firing at her with the speed of light. No matter how superhuman fast she may be, the only opportunity to evade would have been to already been moving. Unlike the energy attacks she's more familiar with, there's simply no tell she can sense before the beam is unleashed, no uptick in intent made manifest.

It strikes her dead on in the chest, energy blasting into and through the young woman. The nature of the attack allows it to pierce any form of trained defense she can muster. No effort of aura projection can blunt the sheer, piercing pain of the soldier's attack. Blasted back, Kasumi is sent reeling, managing to just barely stay on her feet as she ends up on her toes at one point before coming back down.

Her left hand lifts, coming to rest over her chest without looking down, her mind half expecting to find a gaping hole there, so fierce was the intensity of this man's attack. Her legs go weak and as her shoulders slouch, Kasumi falls forward to her knees, looking about collapse face down against the pavement from that single strike alone.

But as her armored kneecaps hit pavement, she catches herself, left hand slamming out, clapping against the road as she pushes back up to her feet into a sprint directly back toward the operative, teeth grit, corners of her eyes watering at the sickening aftershock of his powerful blow.

Silently, she dashes in, attempting to slip close by, swinging out her azure coated blade in a slash so swift as to be almost invisible before she would come to a stop some ways past the man if not prevented!

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn fails to interrupt Stormbringer Dragon EX from Kasumi with Soaring Dragon EX.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1           Kasumi

The man's brow furrows as Kasumi tries to appeal to him. The woman dashes in before he can even think of a response. His right hand is back and coiled to intercept, but the woman is faster than he can even unleash his own response.

The slash rips across his chest, spraying blood on the pavement, dropping him to one knee. "I cannot be bought," the man replies. "The mission will continue, regardless of your participation in it." He stands up again, regarding Kasumi carefully.

"Clearly, your victory against Duke Burkoff was not a fluke," he says, as the wound carved into his chest starts to close. "I will take that into account."

Sliding out of her strike, the wouldbe rescuer spins on her left leg, coming back around to facing V1 from about six feet off all in a single step, leaving minimal windows of opportunity to catch her from behind in spite the aggressiveness of her attack. Her stance is loose and fluid, clearly designed to transition between offense and defense in an instant without overly committing to her position to the point of being unable to maneuver.

The Shadaloo operative declares that he cannot be bought, which raises the question of what motivates him. Is it personal ethos, to not betray a client? Or is it true loyalty to the cause?

"You're a talented fighter." Kasumi states, her expression hinting at the perplexing puzzle she finds the man to be. "And in possession of convictions that cannot be impugned." Her mien changes, the shinobi in black seeming to come to a decision. "I apologize for suggesting that money alone could be enough to tempt you from your path."

He knows who she is - well, as much as anyone might know. Kasumi, Shadow Dancer, Mist Sparrow, any number of other identities by which she had been known, none of which will lead anyone down a particularly thorough path to actually identifying where she came from. Living the ninja code even while in exile, hers is a life shrouded in secrecy.

Still, his clear and certain knowledge of her identity is a matter worthy of consideration. Did he recognize her sword? She was wearing it in the match against Duke Burkoff. If he caught that detail and made the connection, his attention to minutia is commendable. Does he, instead, recognize her fighting style in spite the obfuscation of transitioning to the use of a blade instead of hands and feet? If so, his instincts for combat are exceptional.

"I cannot understand how your convictions have brought to a point where these people are to be your victims." Her sword arm sweeps behind her for a moment, the tip of her blade pointing toward the parked bus. "But understanding is not necessary here, only action."

The gesture with her sword could be mistaken as just being used to point toward the bus for emphasis, but to assume that's all it was is to miss the way she steps into her forward stride, bursting from a stand still to full speed, the Shrouded Moon already in position for her next attack.

Closing suddenly, Kasumi sweeps her sword out again for the front of V1, a one handed strike as she pivots from right to left. The momentum reverses itself smoothly into a second backswing, attempting to catch him off guard from another angle, and then into a pirouette on her right foot as she completes the combination sequence with a third, final, and much stronger slash following in the path of the second!

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn blocks Kasumi's Departing Wind Blade.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-======|=======\===----\1           Kasumi

It is quite possibly a combination of all of those things; there are just as many reasons this man was the first field-ready subject for the V Project. "Apologies are not needed," the man states. "Things are as they are. You have your task, and I have mine, and that puts us in conflict."

More of that violet miasma flows of his arms as he deflects the first strike, then the backswing. The third slash is simply caught in a hand sheathed in that strange power, caught in the V made with his thumb and the rest of the left hand.

"Your understanding is not required either," he admits agreeably. "Though I would appreciate it if you ceased your resistance." His right hand snaps down to one side, the energy of his will stretching to form what appears to be a blade that extends past his fingertips to about a foot in length.

"It would expidite matters greatly, one way or the other," he says as he thrusts the blade directly at the kunoichi's head!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi full-parries Zach Glenn's Swift Blade!!

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/=======|=======\=====--\1           Kasumi

His defenses prove formidable in spite her aggressive speed. He would see clearly that the first two strikes were designed to harry his guard, to force him into reacting two a quick back and forth rhythm, clearly trying to get him to anticipate the third swing being a reverse strike back the same direction as the first.

But as Kasumi whirls in the space of a single step into her third strike, V1 demonstrates that not only did he see through the initial sweeps of her shimmering blade, he can read the path of her swift movements well enough to risk placing his hand in harm's way and literally catch the hardest slash of her combination attack.

Her weapon caught between thumb and forefinger, his hand wreathed in that energy that she knows from first hand experience is remarkably potent, Kasumi pulls back with violent speed, snapping the Shrouded Moon the other way before too secure of a hold can be made to curtail her movement.

Such instant reaction proves crucial as she faces the hand-blade of pure, weaponized will he strikes back with. While her right hand is busy pulling her sword free as she twists to the right, it's her left arm that whips out, narrowly delivering an open handed press to the inside of V1's swinging arm, moving the blade of psionic energy just enough to slash through the air immediately adjacent to the nimble ninja rather than directly into her.

In her line of business, the Mugen Tenshin exile had come across many unsavory sorts employed by the shadow empires, cabals, and cartels that preyed on those who could not defend themselves. Never had she come across someone like this though - a consummate professional, it was hard to sense open evil intent from someone as calmly composed as he was. No zealotry, no sadism, simply a man with a job to do and a ruthless dedication to seeing it done... it would not be hard to imagine the same skills put to use for a better cause...

There's no room for hesitation, however. The entire exchange, he had proven to be remarkably hard to find openings against. And finding, then exploiting openings is inherent to the Mugen Tenshin Tenjinmon Ninjutsu that she has lived and breathed since childhood. But in this brief moment, she believes herself to be inside his guard. There may never be a better opportunity to capitalize.

In she same instant she saves herself another brush with V1's fight-deciding power, Kasumi demonstrates the talents that saw her through the King of Fighters 2017 tournament - not just superhuman speed beyond that of most fighters in her caliber, but something beyond: Divine Speed.

Exploding into a blitzkrieg of attacks, Kasumi bursts forward, whipping her body back to the left, her sword arm coming around with the momentum as she aims to slash into V1's side as an opening. Following the momentum, her leg snaps out, targeting his knee in a bid to hobble him long enough for her to complete her own ruthless assault.

In an instant, she moves forward as a blur of black except for the trail of azure left by the movements of her heirloom sword and the wake of swirling cherry blossoms marking the path she surges past V1 with, sliding to a stop a few yards beyond before springing into a backward flip, blade projecting from her flip like a whirling buzz saw laced with sapphire chi.

Her fall would bring her back toward V1 from behind, aiming to clip him with another fierce slash before landing, sliding to a second stop, and winding up all of her momentum as she turns.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs, lunging toward the front of him with her weapon now gripped with both hands for greater striking power, sword tip first, leaning into the strike and applying all of her strength, speed, and expertise into what is designed to be a finishing blow!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Zach Glenn with Godchaser EX.
- Power hit! -

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Zach Glenn       1/--=====/=======|=------\-------\0           Kasumi

V1's eyes track every movement even as the body shield of purple energy slides back over him. Each blow strikes true, even as the man squares up to meet each strike. More blood splatters the asphalt, but still V1 stands as if being held upright through sheer willpower. There is, even in the face of hauling people off to some ignominious fate, not a shred of evil or even malice from the man. He is not even enjoying the fight or the conversation. It's as if he has been separated from such petty things as emotion or morality.

There is only the mission. The mission will be accomplished.

Kasumi's finishing thrust slams into V1's chest, failing to pierce the skin but still delivering a massive impact that sends the larger man skidding back several feet on his heels. He finally stops, his shirt and pants cut in several places, with blood seeping from his skin. The wounds are still trying to close themselves, but it's obvious that there are limits he is rapidly approaching. He drops to one knee, his breath heavy but not rapid.

"I thought I already told you," he says in an almsot chiding tone. His left hand grips his right wrist as all of the energy surrounding him collects in that open hand. There is something there, present, just beyond Kasumi's senses. It collects, and builds, and the pavement around the man starts to rumble.

"No apologies."

V1 launches at Kasumi, his body parallel to the ground before it starts to spin impossibly, leading with that hand laden with a disturbing amount of psychic force. The mass of energy starts to distort and stretch before covering the spiralling man as he rockets towards the kunoichi!


COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Zach Glenn's Psycho Crusher.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Zach Glenn       0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0           Kasumi

Though she committed everything into that final stab, the ninja prodigy transitions back into withdrawing following the attempted execution of V1. It is clear at a glance, however, that while some of her surface strikes did draw blood, he poured all of his will into warding off the lethal potential of her final strike. There is no time to be disappointed, or to marvel that his projected power is capable of such iron-walled defense. The ninja must be prepared for any possible outcome of each action and reaction, after all.

Skipping back another step, she lands left shoulder forward, gripping her sword with just her right hand once again.

He's right, she realizes. No apologies. No remorse. There is merit to his dispassionate approach to his objective... no emotions to get flustered by, no haze of anger to cloud his judgement. With each step, he will simply do the most practical, efficient option to achieve success. And she should do likewise. Her expression becomes calm as she tries to force all sentimentality from her thoughts.

She was trained for this - to protect people from the shadows was the way of the Mugen Tenshin, and while she may not be welcome among her own home anymore, she could still leave the ideals with which she was raised.

"You're right."

The ground trembles as V1 draws upon that formidable power of his. Previously, he had caught her off guard with a blasting beam of raw, devastating Psycho Power. This time, she would not be surprised, she told herself, starting to move even before the nature of his next technique becomes apparent.

Moving to the right, then zipping to the left, she starts to close in on him, attempting to weave a path that will get her within range to attack again if she manages to avoid whatever he launches her way. But all such plans come immediately to an end when what he launches her way is not a beam, not a projectile, but himself, the operative executing his own take on one of the most feared techniques in the world.

There is power there - power far beyond just the visible spectrum of will made manifest around the man. While V1 himself may be devoid of outward emotion, the mere presence of the field of power he envelops himself in foists upon the young shinobi a sense of absolute terror.

Eyes widened, she brings her sword up, bracing the flat of the blade with her left hand just barely in time for the empowered commander to smash into her guard. The collision is far from decisive in her favor, as the copper haired hopeful rescuer is driven backward by the forward momentum and struck by the mere proximity of the burning aura of V1's dread aura. Were her weapon mere off the shelf material, there is no doubt it would have succumbed to the forces exerted upon it and she, herself, would fall victim to the attack. Were it any less reinforced with the ancient techniques that gave it form, or bolstered less by its wielder's own aura, there is no doubt it would have been destroyed.

As it stands, the defender is slammed backward with incredible force, her shoulder smashing into the wall of one of the buildings adjacent to the road. The impact is jarring but the sharp pain in her upper arm serves to snap her out of the daze being targeted by so much Psycho Power had inflicted on her mind. Hazelnut eyes blink a few times as she shakes her head, her breaths coming from beneath her mask now fast and uneven, her heart racing in spite her years of training to keep her calm in the face of any type of foe.

A tremble goes through both of her abused arms as she lowers her sword, her eyes flicking toward the bus, the last of the smoke grenade long since dissipated away. There were people in there, captured and en route to who knows what. People that until this moment were probably never aware of the true darkness in this world. People that were hopeless if someone didn't save them.

But at the same time, there is the operative who has stood against her, with unbreakable resolve to see his mission through. She had withstood his attacks, if but barely, but even his first clean blow was warning enough that she could not weather a second like it... And now, she knew she was on the border of what she could endure. The lingering spasms of pain flickering through her after her last close scrape serve to warn her that if she considers this rationally, she is shouldering a great risk in continuing to press her offense.

Swallowing beneath her mask, she turns her eyes back to V1 as her left hand slips behind her back to the base of her pack. If she falls here, Hayabusa will be left alone. If she is captured, the master Shinobi would no doubt want to rescue her. The thought of leaving the captives after coming so close causes her next breath to catch in her throat.

"There will be..." she gasps, left hand whipping from behind her back to snap out a small metal blade into the distance toward the operative.

"A reckoning."

With the kunai thrown with expert precision, she pushes off from the wall, backing up. To disengage now was like a knife in her heart. But it was the right decision.

"For any harm that comes to them."

She had demonstrated her speed in attacking before.

And now she would demonstrate it in flight, tears forming at the corners of her eyes, her mouth pressed to a thin line beneath her mask as she turns tail and runs!

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn slows Soaring Moonlight from Kasumi with Quick Shot.
Glancing Hit

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0           Kasumi

V1 skids to a halt in a low crouch, whirling towards Kasumi with his left hand upraised and glowing, index and middle fingers extended as if to pantomime a gun of some kind. A beam of psychic force lances out and strikes the kunai, deflecting it from its course...

...and directly into that visor he is wearing.

A single trickle of blood runs down his nose as the hardware cracks, then falls to the ground in two pieces. The man watches Kasumi leave with dull green eyes that show next to nothing in them. If she spares a glance back, however?

That white hair, and the scar running over the left eye? Those have been seen in a lot of places, a lot of fights, and most recently in the King of Fighters that she had won. There would be little doubt that she would recognize Shadaloo's latest "recruit." The man picks up the left half of the visor, bringing it to his left ear. "This is V1," he says, "The interloper has been repelled. We require an escort back to the collection point."

Zach Glenn watches Kasumi flee into the night. "Perhaps," he says, no satisfaction in his voice. "But not today."

V1 climbs back into the bus, collecting his suit jacket but not donning it to keep the blood from the finely tailored garmet. A moment later, the bus is rolling again, joined by three more armored SUVs as if nothing had happened.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi has left the fight here.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Zach Glenn       0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn has ended the fight here.

Log created on 12:11:22 07/02/2018 by Zach Glenn, and last modified on 23:45:20 07/08/2018.