The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 2 - Lamentations For Uriah

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Description: Charlie and his Special Forces squad tracked down the Shadaloo Base hidden deep beneath Sunshine City. Moving with the assistance of Mint and her Squadmates, they find it easy to secure this segment of the lab complex. As Charlie moves to to the main lab, however, he finds a lone scientist: one of the head researchers of the V-Project. Surprising, it seems there are no guards defending him. Charlie soon discovers that the scientist's defenses are the very men and women he brought along...!

A long time ago, the Sunshine City government had given preliminary approval for the start of a municipal subway system. About five months into construction, though, the project was cancelled for reasons not entirely clear. And after a couple decades of rapid city expansion, the aborted project was all but forgotten. A humble three-story building is all that remains of the project's legacy, with all the tough underground work buried over, largely overshadowed by the rampant rule of druglords and cartels.

The raid on the building was surprisingly efficient. Special Forces intelligence briefs really aren't brief at all, with every access route and contingency covered in exhaustive detail. With the radio coordination of Corporal Minal Panesh, Gamma Squad executed their initial objectives like a well-oiled machine, dispatching some eight guards in minimally lethal fashion.

But now, things are beginning to diverge from the intelligence briefing. Intel was based on remote thermal imaging and floor plans cobbled up decades prior -- and down here, standing at the mouth of a maintenance shaft large enough to drive a Humvee through, the intel is deliberately vague. 'Use your best judgment.'

Minal frowns, turning back to Charlie Nash, the one entrusted with leading the invasion. The seven other members of Gamma Squad stand arrayed around her. One of the squad listens to surveillance systems, ensuring that they won't be taken by surprise while the brass decides what to do.

"Looks like the maintenance shaft is our only option -- the subway shaft doesn't get us to where we need to be..." She extends the OLED display screen from her gauntlet so that Charlie can see the thermal imaging. "How should we proceed?"

Efficient tactical movements. A squad moving as one to isolate and eliminate the objectives and secure the area. Just as intended, and just as expected. The Special Forces Task Force has won the day, taken an important claim and can notch the start of a true victory against agents of Shadaloo.

But things don't sit that way forever. Charlie Nash walks toward Corporal Panesh and the maintenance shaft. His lips thin, his face flat with thought and concern. Eyes distant behind his glasses.

He crosses his arms and looks past Minal and the members of Gamma Squad. He looks down into the shaft, and then down to the thermal imaging on Minal's arm. His hand goes to his chin.

Charlie adjusts his glasses when he comes to his decision. "Approach with caution. I'll take point, keep the rear secure in case of a flank," he instructs, walking forward and past the squad. He puts himself out first not for the glory, but for being the first to enter the breach and step into the unknown.

Whatever Shadaloo has down here, Charlie Nash is not going to risk his people to it.

The shorter Indian-American woman nods in reply, sweeping her oversized gauntlet around to signal her men. In a confined space, the fallout from an wide-area attack could prove to be debilitating. "Spread out, folks! Stoker, Viles, you two keep your eyes behind us. Stay vigilant..."

The tunnel doesn't look like much -- concrete blocks lining off the tunnel which is mostly round, save for the flat floor which snakes further and further down into the earth. Gamma Squad proceeds along behind Charlie, spread out in a rough perimeter around Mint as she pads along behind him. All seven squad members have their rifles drawn and ready, with the two in front shining bright lights down the largely-unlit and unadorned tunnel. One would figure there to be lights down here, but none of them are on...

Though that does change after a few minutes of relatively peaceful walking. The temperature grows colder. A faint blue light appears in the distance. Echoes grow more metallic. Concrete blocks give way to metal banding, joints placed with exacting accuracy.

It gets pretty boring after a while. And Mint is not known for handling silence all that well. Clearing her throat, she states quietly as she continues walking behind Charlie. "It's an honor working alongside you, sir -- I've heard so much about you and your team from the Majigen invasion. Friend of the family was stuck in the city -- she wouldn't've gotten out if not for your efforts."

Presumably this shaft was supposed to parallels the main subway shaft at some point, but that no longer seems to be the case -- the metal-lined corridor begins to curve around into a sharper curve to the right. The light source is revealed -- dim fluorescent light, so as not to assault the eyes, embedded within the corridor ceiling.

And at the end -- a reinforced gate, with an electronic lock positioned off to the right.

"We got explosive charges -- or we could let Baker get some practice with his decryption suite. It's your call, sir."

With the loyal soldier directing the rank and file, Charlie is free to lead. With the unit in tow, every step Charlie takes is another toward justice for all those harmed by the works of Shadaloo and The Dictator. A swift and definitive justice brough by Charlie's own hand.

"I was only doing my job, Corporal," Charlie tells the talkative Mint. He may be curt in his focus, but he's trying to be friendly. "But I'm glad they could get out safely."

Metal, gates, dim lighting. The reason the project was shuttered is readily apparent; get the city to cover the start and provide a smokescreen for your operations. Charlie looks over the gate, and toward the panel box, thinking.

A nod. "Baker, give us an opening," he says. Turning toward Mint. "You up with me, Corporal. I don't think for a second they won't hear us coming even if we sneak in. There could still be a fight."

Minal grew up on the streets of northern New Jersey -- and she can tell that he's trying to maintain his distance without being rude about it. "A lot of people didn't, yeah. I haven't fought any real darkstalkers yet, but... someday." There's a hint of introspection in her voice as it trails off -- before the realities of the situation cause her to give a look to each of her squad in turn.

She follows the order she was given, boots tapping lightly on the floor as it transitions from concrete to metal grate. "Baker, do your worst. And Durrell, update me on the status here?"

Durrell lowers his rifle, allowing him to get a better look at his wrist-mounted computer display. "Cold, until we can get past that door. Reception's gonna be terrible till we can get out of this tunnel.

Baker, by this point, has already engaged his crypto kit with the lock mechanism. Sixteen flickering blobs of green dance across the screen of his kit.

Mint taps her earpiece, frowning as only a rain of faint static comes acorss the line. "Yeah, radio's out. We're on our own folks, so stay sharp." Her mechanical knuckles creak as she curls them close to her face, nodding to signal her readiness.

Before long, the blobs one-by-one resolve into alphanumeric codes. With the code revealed, Baker taps out the revealed cypher into the lock. A moment later, the light changes from red to green, and with a faint tone and a series of hisses and clocks, the circular door splits apart at the center. The halves of the door slip sideways into the wall frame -- and the tunnel is bathed in the antiseptic fluorescent glow of a subterranean lab complex.

Mint squints her eyes as she peers through the open portal. She makes no sound -- but rather, a hand gesture, signaling her men -- including the two behind her -- to group up tightly. There's no telling how long the door will remain open.

A long hallway stretches around, with windows opening up into darkened cells. And ahead -- a door with a large window. And on the other side of that windowed door there are signs of activity: control panels full of active displays and diagnostics. And no one present -yet-. Each door down here is secured by a lock just like the last one, but unlike that initial door, all the locks are glowing a faint green.

It's all just a matter of professionalism. Charlie wants to see the success through, and then he can get to relaxing with the squad over a couple of professionally distanced drinks at one of Sunshine City's many nightlife locations. It's a goal to work toward, and another reason to make certain everything goes off without a hitch.

He looks down at the small Corporal when the radio cuts. He nods at her quick response. She's not bad. He wonders why she's still where she is in rank given her augmentations and her placement on Gamma Squad.

It wasn't his to question the choices of other commissioned officers, but when things are done, he may look to do a proper recommendation.

Doors breached, the cold light of a the lab spills out at the collection of soldiers. He makes certain he's the first one through, allowing Mint the delegated position of pointing around and directing the squad.

"Here's where the sausage gets made. Okay, use charges, these locks are probably magnetic so get rid of them. Go in hot," Charlie says, holding back for his soldiers this time. It's Gamma Squad's moment to break down the walls. He has to be ready for the anything that may spew forth from the blast.

There are a lot of reasons Minal hasn't broken through to become a Sergeant yet -- and not the least of which is that she hasn't even actively been pushing for a favorable transfer. She'd had the approval to join the Special Forces for quite some time before she'd finally pulled that trigger. She's never seen cause to look for the mysterious anomalies in her service record, and it's unlikely that anyone higher up would see need either.

As soon as the order is given, Mint raking her mechanical hand forward, giving her tacit approval in the form of a gentle nod. Rifles are lowered, charges are placed. And Mint's mechanical knuckles creak in anticipation, as she shifts her weight from one foot to the other.

PFC Carlyle steps away from the large windowed door, with the charge now set in place. Though, from the look he gives the window, he seems... nervous. He raises his rifle to the door, withdrawing to stand alongside Mint, while each of the others turns their rifles towards the doors and their respective charges. Going in hot, as ordered.

But the one thing that -hasn't- gone according to plan thus far -- the windowed door slides open, abruptly and without warning. Inside -- a white-haired scientist, his lab coat trailing behind as he whirls to face Charlie, his arms spread wide. The charges are, sadly, unnecessary.

"Welcome, welcome!" announces the aged scientist, a genial expression on his face. "Such a friendly group you are! I hope you can stay for a while though. I have rooms for each one of you!"

The radio erupts in a burst of static -- Carlyle in particular lists to the side from the abrupt shock.

But when he raises his gun, the barrel is pointed towards Major Charlie Nash. As are six other rifle barrels.

And Corporal Panesh's left gauntlet is raised -- the tip of her embedded cannon pointed straight at Charlie's forehead.

Mint's lips press into a firm line, as she curls her right hand into a fist, hovering just beside her waist. Her nostrils flare, as she shakes her head slowly -- as the exit door can be heard sealing shut with a heavy, metal clank.

"... Lieutenant Colonel Cortez has ordered you to stand down, Major. Phase Two requires your compliance."

Charlie would probably have met Lt Colonel Cortez -- if he had ever existed.

COMBATSYS: Mint has started a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Gamma Squad has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0      Gamma Squad

And then comes the moment. The cold moment that slithers up Charlie's spine yet bursts into a white heat in his chest. The hitch that finally shows just the size of the hand that Shadaloo has been playing with.

Is any force safe from the machinations of Vega?

Charlie begins staring daggers at the scientist. He puts on arm on his hap, the other hangs loose, feigned casual but a subtle shifting of his weight to be ready for the moment to strike.

Only to have a gauntlet directed at his head. And now both arms fall. "Corporal Panesh," he states slowly, lifting his head, bright reflections cloud his eyes in his lenses. He reads the room, counting, assessing the situation. Knowing your enemies movements and the right moment to strike is Charlie's key to victory. And this moment has given Major Nash the time he needs to know his first move.

Like fluid, Charlie drops below the tip of Panesh's raised gauntlet. To get down to her level. HIs fist curls into a ball, arm whipping back. With a sharp swing, the air cracks like a whip. The sound barrier snapping with the sheer force of Charlie's single fist. A scything circle of air and chi cuts through the air but it's not toward Panesh, but toward PFC Carlyle.

Clear the numbers, isolate the target, move efficiently. The fight is on.

COMBATSYS: Charlie has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Charlie          0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0      Gamma Squad

COMBATSYS: Charlie successfully hits Gamma Squad with Sonic Boom.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Charlie          0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                  |=====--\-------\0      Gamma Squad

Two words strike Mint in ways she'd never expected they could: 'Corporal Panesh.' Her rank, and her family name -- both bestowed upon her as the continuation of a line of others like her. And yet -- she's had to deliver unfortunate news, to a man who's shown himself to be capable of handling not only her, but her entire squad -- and -then- some.

"I'm sorry, Major..." Mint takes a step back, lowering her gaze. Is it... the -lighting- in the room, or was there a flicker of purple passing through her eyes just then? "I don't write the orders, I just have to--"

She doesn't get to finish her statement, for the officer has already sized up the situation and moved accordingly. Mint lowers her gauntlet barrel towards Charlie's center mass as she takes a step back -- fully anticipating that the martial arts champion would be unloading on her with a punch of some kind. But as the air is violently compressed, with a crack echoing through the halls loud enough to force half of Gamma Squad to reel backwards, she realizes it isn't her who's getting struck -- but her subordinate. PFC Carlyle raises his rifle defensively, hoping to use the rifle's stock to deflect some of the impact -- but it's too little too late, and the sonic wave slams into his chest, knocking the wind out of him and blasting him off his feet. One instant later, his head hits one of the electronic lock panels -- and Carlyle goes down like a sack of bricks.

Mint and the other soldiers recover from the aural onslaught. The solder's metal hands curl into fists, hovering around the level of her face. She may be pleased that she wasn't attacked, but it's clear that the window for peaceful negotiation has closed. "Grab his arms!" she barks out -- and her men suddenly begin to close in like a wall, using the sheer force of their own bodies to keep Charlie from getting any wiggle room. Two will grab for his arms, while the other four attempt to tenderize his legs with their steel-toed combat boots. Mint, though -- she clears the distance with a burst of speed, launching into a left cross, following up with a powerful right hook to the jaw. "OOOORAH!" She would seek to follow up with an underhand swing to Charlie's solar plexus, hoping to give her men the chance they need to restrain the Major.

COMBATSYS: Charlie endures Gamma Squad's Coordinated Onslaught.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Charlie          0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////////////////        ]
                                  |=======\-------\1      Gamma Squad

COMBATSYS: Mint successfully hits Charlie with Knuckle Dragger.
- Power hit! -

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Charlie          0/-------/=======|=------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////////////////        ]
                                  |=======\-------\1      Gamma Squad

They were well trained. That was for certain. Physically at least. The soldiers would've been great in the service of their nation. Instead, they had been subverted toward the cause of Shadaloo.

He takes a bold tactic; to take the brunt of Gamma Squad's onslaught so that he may bring himself closer to the unit to make it clear who is the victor here. And his positioning did plenty to do just that.

Only he was not expecting the mechanical might of Minal Panesh. The blow clangs off of Nash's chin. His glasses clatter to the ground. The second doubles him over. Stars burst in front of him and his vision hyper focuses on the middle distance. He breathes heavy, panting. Gamma squad should be proud of their abilities, even if they were misguided in their goals.

But now he's close. And he has his targets on top of him. With a roar, he swings. Launching into a violent assault to the unit around him. His sure power being put to hurl some, strike others with a flurry of knees and fists. Bursts of chi punctuating each shattering moment of violent fury.

COMBATSYS: Gamma Squad endures Charlie's Tragedy Assault.
-@- Dazing Hit! -@-

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Charlie          0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  ///////////                   ]
                                  |>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2      Gamma Squad

Somewhere in the depths of Mint's mind, there's likely a voice begging to be heard, telling her of just how -wrong- this is. And yet, the waves of psychic interference are powerful enough to drown at that voice, strong enough to insist that both she and Charlie follow force command structure. Lt Colonel outranks Major, that's... that's all either of them needs to know. And with Charlie resisting the order -- violently -- her secondary course of action is clear.

She doesn't have to enjoy it though. And it's clear as she strikes that she's not filled with malice, or any -strong- emotion -- just the need to carry out the job expected of her. She backs away, nodding with affirmation towards her men. That -should- be it, right? That they can just drag him off to one of the cells -- a thought which has the aged scientist literally cackling with glee in the periphery.

And Charlie proves how wrong that assumption is. The violence is not done yet -- and Mint's jaw lowers as she sees her subordinates overpowered. Stoker and Durrell aren't able to keep their hold on the man's arms -- the sheer strength being far too much for them. Pvt Ambrose is the first to feel it, his shin bone cracking in two from Nash's kick. As he collapses, Pvt Ferrington gets a facefull of fist, slung backwards from the sudden detonation of chi. As Ambrose struggles to stand, Charlie continues his assault, dropping him to his knees with a backfist before another whirling kick sends him flying away. PFC Stoker lunges in to try and reclaim a hold, but he too finds out just how hard Charlie can hit -- and as he's slammed into a window, the spiderwebbing cracks show that the facility has -its- limits as well. Royal, Baker, and Durell get their own fair share of glancing blows -- enough to send the latter spinning around before he can reclaim his footing. If it weren't for their orders to be so close, they'd have probably brought their firearms to bear...

But orders are orders. And while Charlie may not have been able to discern the burst of static earlier, they could -- and the orders were non-lethal. Charlie Nash must be taken -alive-. They sweep forward, shaking the fleeting consciousness from their minds ass they launch into a dizzying array of punches and kicks, before attempting to immobilize his arms again.

Mint, for her part, realizes she'll need to be doing the bulk of the tenderizing. Her face an expressionless mask, she rotates her fists slightly, as twin blossoms of orange flame erupt from the trailing ends of her mechanical arms. Rushing forward, she levels a powerful straight punch at Charlie's core, hoping to neutralizing the aggressiveness long enough for her soldiers' plan to succeed. And then she'd continue driving him backwards, grabbing hold of his shoulders tightly as she rams her bionic knee into her opponent's breadbasket!

COMBATSYS: Mint blitzes into action and acts again!

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Charlie          0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////                    ]
                                  |>>>>>>>\-------\0      Gamma Squad

COMBATSYS: Gamma Squad successfully hits Charlie with Flanking Maneuver.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Charlie          0/-------/--=====|=------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////                    ]
                                  |>>>>>>>\-------\0      Gamma Squad

COMBATSYS: Charlie blocks Mint's Heavy Punch.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Charlie          0/-------/-======|=------\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////                    ]
                                  |>>>>>>>\-------\0      Gamma Squad

COMBATSYS: Mint successfully hits Charlie with Lock and Load.
- Power hit! -

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Charlie          1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////////                    ]
                                  |>>>>>>>\-------\0      Gamma Squad

Emotionless and efficient. Against a ball of fury. Charlie's thoughts are to the battlefield. Each blow decisive, each burst of chi cutting, each throw a prime example of minimum effort for maximum gain.

But fighting so wild, so close, so in the heat of the moment brings pain with its effectiveness. Time and again, Charlie is struck. Blows rain down on him even as he clears the squad he took down here. The squad meant to protect him. He stands free of them after his blitzing assault. Standing tall and facing down Corporal Panesh.

"You're making a grave mistake, Minal," Charlie speaks, but has not time to continue. He's grabbed, pulled open and before Mint. Non-lethal or not, blows are blows.

Charlie rears back and hoists his knees up, letting his legs be battered by Mint's powerful punches. But the force of those blows open Charlie up to another strike of the powerful pistons.

Charlie lurches forward, pulling free, stumbling and clutching his stomach. He takes a knee. His hand moves, reclaims his glasses from the floor. "Don't count me out yet. Isolate, and eliminate," he says, and whirls back around.

With a leap, Charlie bears down upon the remains of the squad, his hand crackling with pure chi fury for an explosive landing and a hope to make this a final fight.

COMBATSYS: Gamma Squad blocks Charlie's Justice Corridor.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Charlie          1/------=/=======|===----\-------\0             Mint
                                  >  //////                        ]
                                  |>>>>>>>\>>>----\1      Gamma Squad

Mint's emotionally detached onslaught continues, regardless of Charlie's attempt to explain her mistake further. Just following orders -- the anthem of many a soldier, trained to detach their hearts from the heinous acts they may be called upon to carry out. She's not enjoying it -- indeed, her usual battlecry no longer seems appropriate without her opponent on a level playing field. Asymmetric warfare takes its toll.

But Charlie is no average soldier -- he's far and away one of the best and brightest. And he's more than ready to take the punches, pulling himself free of her diminished squad. Even as Stoker and Ambrose start to peel themselves up from the floor, they're in no condition to join the fray again -- meaning Royal, Baker and Durrell really can't hold him much longer. Gasping for breath, they struggle to reclaim their grip on the moving target. All three draw back once he leaps -- throwing their arms before themselves defensively.

The crackling chi fury has other ideas. And the strike is enough to knock their legs out from under them, sending each private faceplanting onto the steel grated floor.

Minal avoids this fate by leaping up into the air and drawing both her heavy gauntlets in front of her. Waves of crackling chi sear their signatures into the carbon fiber as she, too, is knocked backward. But as soon as her rubber-soled shoes hit the grate, the plucky pugilist is charging right back at Charlie. Mistake or no, she's sticking to her guns -- and that means hitting Charlie as best she can: a one-two punch, followed by an uppercut to slam him airborne -- and a rocket-propelled leap to send her up on an intercept course. Should she manage that, the Special Forces boxer would whirl around with an overhand haymaker to slam Charlie back to the floor!

And by this point, Baker, Durrell, and Royal have pushed themselves back to their feet. Dazed, and barely conscious, they would seek to dogpile onto Charlie -- for even if they might not be able to -hold- him, the men are still determined to weigh Charlie down for capture!

COMBATSYS: Gamma Squad can no longer fight.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Charlie          1/------=/=======|=------\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Gamma Squad successfully hits Charlie with Synchronized Takedown EX.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Charlie          1/----===/=======|=------\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Charlie interrupts Surface to Air from Mint with #Judgement Saber#.

[                        \\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Charlie          0/-------/-------|=======\====---\1             Mint

Major Charlie Nash, head of the Interpol and Special Forces Joint Task Force. Caught in a fight with his own soldiers. With the people meant to spread justice and to take down Shadaloo. Now he stood, held back, winded and wounded, left weakened by an onslaught.

He could see his opponents were moving like automatons. No fear, worry, anger. No, they were efficient. Charlie would laugh if he could. But the beating he's taken in his ribs and gut have taken much of that feeling from him. He had to conserve what little he had left in hopes of taking down these traitors.

Charlie pushes his glasses back up his nose. Bent and cracked, he still likes to have them. He looks Minal in the eyes when she charges, Her great metal fist glances against his chest. Then it passes into the air.

For a moment, Charlie Nash seems to not exist.

"You're making a mistake, Corporal Panesh," Charlie's voice speaks out as he appears behind Mint. He brings his hands together in a clap. The sound of a terrible tempest fills the hall, a wicked torrent of chi sawblades over Mint! It only lasts a moment, but the sound and the fury of Charlie Nash stretches onward.

Though Nash is clearly tired. He is a step too slow when the remaining squad drum against him, try to hold Charlie down. To drag him away. It takes a series of swift, final decisive blows to put the stalwart soldiers down. But it's clear that Nash does not have much left in his tank.

But Charlie Nash resumes his stance. If this should be his last stand as a free man, then let it be known he does not go down without a fight.

Minal's fought against her fair share of opponents, whether they focus on boxing like she does or otherwise. And she's used to the idea of people dodging, or just not getting hit by her attacks. But even when she misses, she still has a general sense of where her opponent was.

Not now, though. Her punch whiffs by, and even though she has the good sense to step forward, lest her own imbalance cause her to take a fall, she stares blankly at the spot where her opponent had just stood and affixed his glasses back onto his face. Her eyebrows sink low, as her eyes narrow in mild frustration.

And then she hears the voice. Her fists clench tighter, metal grinding against metal.

And then her eyes go wide, as it feels like her chi is being ripped out of her, from the inside out. The young Marine's scream is just barely drowned out by the low-pitched roar bursting from her chest, spilling forth from her mouth, erupting from her back.

It's a lot to deal with. And at the end, Mint drops to one knee, metal palm clanking along the grate as she barely manages to catch herself. She'd been able to escape the pain her compatriots felt for the fight thus far, so this tempest comes as a fresh shock to her. Tears stream down her face -- an involuntary reaction that she'd have quelled if she could. It feels as if every breath has been choked out of her lungs, as if her heart had been squeezed from inside and only just now released. Pain... that had never been visited upon her in such a short period of time.

PVT Royal is knocked out in rapid measure.
PFC Durrell is thrown against a wall, barely about to keep his eyes open.

PVT Baker's decryption suite cracks as his limp body is skipped across the metal grating.

And as Mint slowly opens her eyes -- she can feel her soldiers around them, almost as clearly as if they were part of herself. She looks down at an open gauntlet -- and rather than the dim blue fluorescent light, she sees nothing but a purple haze, clouding her view to the point where -- for a moment -- she could believe her hand was flesh and blood once more.

But then she hears boots behind her. Reality reasserts itself. She rises, faint wisps of purple mist snuffing out as she turns her tear-stained face to Charlie again. And she shakes her head.

"Sir..." She coughs into a raised fist, before swinging it back down into a pugilist's high defense. The corporal stares at Charlie in disbelief. "I'm not mistaken. All eight of us heard the Lieutenant Colonel, sir."

Turbines spin up. Orange flame belches out to either side. And Mint shakes her head again, slowly, as she steadies her stance, bringing her right fist level with the steel grating. "We have our orders, Major."

With almost no warning, the turbines' roar doubles in volume. Mint thunders forward, her boots leaving the ground as the thrust fully takes over. The pattern would be clear -- she aims to end the battle with one singularly powerful rocket-powered solitary punch to the sternum.

COMBATSYS: Charlie dodges Mint's MOAB.

[                        \\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Charlie          0/-------/-------|=====--\-------\0             Mint

One by one the targets fall. Torn asunder by the fury of Charlie Nash. But the Major's strength can only last so long. He is not a god, merely a particularly skilled man. He cannot allow himself to feel for the pain he has put his soldier's through. He cannot be dissuaded by anything but the mission. If he did, more of them could end up traitor, or worse, at the hands of Shadaloo.

And so he must bring his all to the fight. And brutalize if he so has to.

The last of the soldiers fall. It is him and Corporal Panesh. They have their orders. He can understand the weight that Panesh labors under. But he cannot abide by it.

He raises himself as high as the throbbing pain in his body allows. He stands and nearly talks. But talking does nothing. Minal Panesh rockets toward him with tear stained fury. But it's broad, telegraphed. Even in this short distance Charlie can track his opponent's movement. And if he knows what they're doing, he can maneuver.

A deft leap. Short in the corridor, turning over in the air with grace and landing in a crouch on the other side of Panesh. Allowing her charge to pass through, clanging against the steel walls, threatening to crack and destroy even more of Shadaloo's precious materials. Not that Charlie has particular concern for collateral damage at this point.

"There is no Lieutenant Colonel Cortez. Not in the Forces, not in Interpol. I am the head of this operation. If you take your orders from Shadaloo, then I have no choice but to place you under arrest for treason," Charlie speaks, taking his stand.

He launches forward like a shot, his hand splays in front of him. He reaches to take Mint by the head and crush his knee against her sternum. To drive the air from her, and to take her to the ground in a painful, but hopefully final, manner.

COMBATSYS: Charlie dazes Mint with Target Down EX!
- Power hit! -

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  /                             ]
Charlie          0/-------/=======|=======\====---\1             Mint

Mint thunders towards Charlie -- and then, in the blink of an eye, the ITF leader has leapt free and clear yet again. This time, though, it will not be a whiff of air, but a bare wall that greets her follow-through step. For so tremendous is Mint's thrust that she can't exactly slam on the brakes -- though she can hurl both of her boots forward.

The wall does, at least, stop her -- albeit not without three unsightly dent craters left behind from her fingers. Luckily for her, her bespoke KNUCKS system has shock dampeners to prevent her from feeling more than a dull ringing in her right arm as she kicks back and away from the wall. She whirls about to face him again -- and in doing so, finds her head snared within Charlie's grasp. If it weren't for her dramatic reversal of momentum, perhaps this wouldn't hurt so much -- but as it is, her body is suddenly moving quicker than her head is, and it hurts enough to wring an accidental yelp from her.

But when the knee comes... no, wait, she's not ready for that at all. The young woman -would- scream, but this time her throat is full with globs of blood -- which are forcefully ejected as an aftereffect of being viciously kneed to the stomach. Her gauntlets flail about as dead weight, their exhausts flickering out to barely visible trails of hot air, as she falls limply from Charlie's hand, her hat falling in a crumpled heap to the floor.

Panting, she collapses as well -- both metal hands splaying out as she pushes against the floor. Her vision clouds with black -- a common side effect to being hit anywhere near as hard as that right there.

And yet -- she can feel the heat of her opponent, hear the rise and fall of his chest and the rasp of air through his lungs.

"I... you... =you're= the one who... who went rogue..."

Mint practically hurls herself at the wall, using it as leverage to push herself back to her feet. She shakes her head, her eyes glazed over, unseeing. And yet, she's still conscious -- barely.

"Why... why should I believe you?"

Her fists rise up. And mechanisms click and pop into position, as she settles forward, apart from the wall. Her balance is shaky -- but it's good enough for her to stand. And it's good enough for her to lurch forward, hurling one swing after another at Charlie. It looks like the crazed aggression of an angry drunk -- but with the weight of her surrogate arms, each punch could assuredly end the fight just as good as the ones that came earlier.

And if the punch-drunk Mint manages to maneuver Charlie against the corridor wall, she'd assuredly use that opportunity to slam a series of short, rapid-fire punches into his abdomen, before delivering an uppercut to his chin.

COMBATSYS: Mint successfully hits Charlie with SNAFU.

[                            \\  < >  //                            ]
Charlie          1/-----==/=======|====---\-------\0             Mint

The first hit strikes. Charlie feels the cracking in his ribs. He falls back. He sees the woman attacking him.

The second hit strikes. Charlie's on his back foot. Tunnel vision. The woman in front of him no longer human. Her arms, her body, her soul replaced with a machine. A Shadaloo machine.

The third strike hits. Everything lost. A trap. A trap set by treasonous, poisonous people. But one with a trap of their own placed within.

The fourth strike he moves with. Rolls with. Chin up. The world a pinprick of light. He falls backward. Down toward the ground. Down toward one of the traitorous Shadaloo insurgents. The only thing he can think of is his own Forces are compromised. There is little but a small circle he may trust for the upcoming tasks.

Tasks he must survive to handle. Survive at all costs.

Down. Down on the ground, next to one of the fallen. One of the soldiers who, now, are not even considered with names. But one that set charges. Charlie rolls, reaches, snaps up the wireless detonator from the unconscious body. And once more he's back to his feet.

"I'll bury us all," he tells Panesh. And with one final charge, he blitz to her, through her, pressing the detonator in his rush. His only attack, a sharp, driving knee to run the Corporal over in his desperate attempt to stay one step ahead and one more day alive.

COMBATSYS: Charlie can no longer fight.

                                  >  //                            ]
                                  |====---\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Mint fails to interrupt Knee Bazooka EX from Charlie with Attack of Opportunity.

COMBATSYS: Mint can no longer fight.

Mint's fists slam into Charlie time and time again. And with each punch, Mint feels more vital, more -whole- again. The sensation of her knuckles slamming into someone, anyone... is just something that reminds her of the best times of her life.

The times where she's felt like she truly -belongs- in a place.

But that nostalgic memory is transient, temporary -- a thought that would only be possible if she weren't able to see her opponent. And as soon as she feels him fall free of her knuckles, she pulls back to take in her breath. The black cloud parts; blurry forms take shape. She's able to look on her fallen opponent ... and realize what she's done. To remember that she was fighting her very own strike unit commander. To hear his dogtags clattering against the steel grating.

What sort of order could compel her to do that? To betray her own team? Her fists unclench, then close again, the mechanisms grinding louder than usual due to the stresses of battle. Her breath is ragged. Her lips cake with drying blood. "What have I..."

And then she doubles forward again. Both hands clap to her head, as the radio earpiece bursts with static again. Static that has no meaning to anyone but lucky few with a secret decoder ring, like the one buried deep within her inner prosthesis. No one else can hear the new orders, no one but her -- and the scientist mashing a remote furiously from the other room.

But that last-ditch reassertion stalls her. Forces her mental state to skip a beat. And before she knows it, Charlie has grabbed a wireless detonator. And as Mint lifts her head, no longer tormented by the voice -- she finds Charlie's knee right in her grill.

The boxer's first instinct is to fade back and lash out with a punch to interrupt the motion. But her fist swings wide -- and the knee slams home, jerking Mint's chin sideways and sending her into a topspin, both gauntlets hurled outward in centripetal perfection. Her vision reels with the bright colors, no longer people or rooms, but blurred blobs of color. Her mind may be racing -- but her body gives out.

With a series of clangs, Mint collapses to the floor. Eyes wide open, her body immobilized, as explosive charges rock the facility.

The aged scientist slams his foot into a wastebasket, sending electronic components and paper wads tumbling onto the floor. "Dammit! This was supposed to be an easy operation! How in the hell did you manage to -- uh... uh...!"

Despite the scientist's fear for the papers catching fire... it's probably the -least- of his concerns at the moment.

The air is heavy. Breathing is difficult. The world fades and reappears, surfacing and fading into a bleak black sea. Charlie staggers. They're down. All of them down. All of them.

He is down. Or will be, shortly.

He can't feel his legs as they pump desperately. He can feel the weight of the detonator in his hand. It drags his arm down. Brings it to the ground. He turns and falls short. His body makes a leaden thud when he hits the floor.

Charlie Nash lay on his side. The floor a wall, the walls a distant cliff face. Perspective turned. He sees the rigged entrance. He sees the charges. He knows that Shadaloo is behind him. Their forces down, but not out. Not forever. But if he can buy time. If he can afford himself a moment of rest. Of respite on this cold, unfeeling ground. Maybe there will be a chance.

The primer switch is already pressed. He has but to press the detonator.

The earth beneath Sunshine City shakes. The walls are brought down. The exit crumbles. And Charlie Nash, as he feels the fading dark pulling him under and away from consciousness, carries hope that there may yet be a second chance.

Log created on 12:09:39 07/29/2018 by Charlie, and last modified on 23:39:26 07/29/2018.