The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 2 - Pattern Recognition

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Description: Scarlet Dahlia's been successful in baiting out Southtown Syndicate -- but one thing she -hadn't- anticipated was attracting the curiosity of the Illuminati. In contrast to Duke's straightforward methodologies, the Illuminati have been able to suss out the greater meaning behind Dahlia's subversion. So far they've been able to blackmail and intimidate a number of corporate interests and government officials favorable to her agenda. In the process, the pair has uncovered a telltale pattern of real estate divestiture, suggesting that Dahlia's loss of territory might be only temporary. Destroying the properties she's supposedly abandoned would certainly end her plans to reclaim them after the conflict's end. But that's where the pair might run into difficulty, as Dahlia can track from the air with the aid of high-altitude drones. Perhaps she can strongarm the pair into realizing the errors of their ways...

Utsunomiya might be easy to write off as a "flyover city;" it's too far from both Southtown and the coast to be useful. But, as it sits on a relatively flat plateau, equidistant between mountains and rivers, it also serves as a crucial distribution center for many of the transport lanes that criss-cross eastern Japan.

In the grand scheme of things, Utsunomiya has proven its worth as an Akatsuki-gumi point of presence, one of a network of cities stretching between Southtown and the island of Hokkaido. Just a few weeks ago, the yakuza corporation had a number of public holdings here. But, after Duke Burkoff's brutal beating of Akatsuki leader Scarlet Dahlia, a number of secondary holdings were sold off, leaving the nascent crime organization with just one publicly-acknowledged safehouse here. Naturally, the Syndicate was quick to send a squad to burn that facility down just last week.

But, while Utsunomiya now appears to be off the Akatsuki books, focused surveillance and intense scrutiny of Akatsuki's numerous shell companies would tell a quite different story: many of these "former" assets are still receiving similar levels of logistical support in the form of shipments and security.

One such warehouse is in accepting a late-night shipment right this minute, in fact. According to the paperwork, it's been sold to a chain of 100-yen discount stores, but no one's bothered to put up the sign yet. Two workers are tasked with forklifting crates out of the tractor-trailer. A security guard is making the rounds around the fenced-off facility. A second security guard sits safely inside, presumably watching the video feeds from the IP cameras dispersed all throughout the facility. Or maybe he's playing games on his phone, it's hard to tell.

The warehouse is heavily automated, with remote-controlled gates and shutters on the windows. A skilled hacker could probably have the run of the place, with an apparent overreliance on wireless communication devices. The warehouse is about half full, with crates and palletized inventory lining the walls. There are no obvious markings on the goods; every parcel is marked with barcodes for electronic tracking. And one high-cube shipping container is located off to one corner of the warehouse, easily overlooked or forgotten in the shadow of a loading crane overhead.

Across the street from the innocuous warehouse, a feminine figure watches the light signs of activity from a high perch atop the rooftop of a neighboring facility. The looming bulk of a rectangular sign affixed to the front of the building serves as the perfect shield to hide her presence, casting the entire roof into deep shadows that conceal her like a cloak. She nestles herself thoroughly into that obscuring layer of protection, crouching low so that only the edge of her face protrudes around the edge of the sign as she scans the area for anything that looks out of the ordinary.

Under normal circumstances, she would have little to fear from some backwater civilian operation such as this. The cameras, if there even were any, would be cheap garbage bought on a budget. Easily shorted out or spoofed with minimal effort. Ofcourse, the sort of prizes that she prefers to go for aren't usually kept in such shabby locations. Her days of knocking over small-time mobster operations for petty gains are long behind her.

As fate would have it, however, she finds herself once more drawn into the middle of something she has little interest in. Were it up to her, she'd never set foot anywhere near a city that doesn't have atleast three five star hotels, a casino, and an airport - the first two to ensure she doesn't get bored and the latter to ensure she doesn't get caught. Escaping on foot or by car is certainly possible but there's nothing like being a few hundred miles away from the scene of the crime to put ones mind at ease.

Sadly, she doesn't have the luxury of making those decisions any more; the price of getting caught by the wrong sort of people. Now, her incredible skills are being directed for a new purpose, namely ensuring that the burgeoning Akatsuki fails in its attempts to expand its power base.

There isn't any malice behind this goal, merely the cold calculus of war. While Dahlia is clearly more competent and driven in her goals, it is the zealous nature of her aims that makes her unsuitable to be in power. Without greed or ambition to exploit so that she may be guided in the direction that the Illuminati wishes her to go, she's nothing but an obstacle, and her current war with Duke only makes her doubly troublesome. The hot-headed leader of the Syndicate is precisely the sort of person that they need calling the shots, someone with complicated desires, easily manipulated by the promises of power and wealth.

Siren remains motionless save for the slow drift of her eyes as she watches the workers go about their business, her body as still as the shadows around her. The enhanced imagery being fed to her brain by the implants in her eyes provides a crystal clear picture despite the distance and poor lighting and after nearly two hours of waiting to see some sign of change, she's ready to accept that the coast is as clear as it's likely to get. Whatever trouble they might run into, it will be after they get inside.

Not that they've had particular difficult with these missions thus far. Loyal as they might be, the Akatsuki yakuza are ultimately just a bunch of goons in service to charismatic leader. Most of them don't even seem particularly well trained. She's been evading professional soldiers and cutting-edge security for so long that she could probably slip past these clowns in her sleep.

That would be her ideal manner of handling these raids - get in, plant a bomb, get out. Quick as a cat and twice as sneaky. However, her partner in crime has a rather different approach to business. While she doesn't share his love of violence, she isn't particular adverse to it either, save that it takes longer. She'd be happier to render this place into flaming wreckage and leave this podunk backwater behind her as soon as possible.

"Doesn't look like there's much in the way of security," she says, keeping her voice low. A gloved hands vanishes into a small satchel at her side, drawing a small tablet the size of a cellphone from inside. The powerful mini-computer winks to life at her touch and she quickly taps in a series of commands, zeroing in on the wireless signal that seems to be controlling literally every single piece of machinery in the mostly automated warehouse. She snorts softly at the laughably inept security design. Bet the owners felt real proud of their fancy new system, which they almost certainly paid too much for.

"A child could hack this," the woman mutters, idly redirecting her powerful device to set about cracking the password for administrative access. Five minutes, tops, she wagers with herself. It's probably something stupid like a birthdate or pet's name.

"I'll have control of the cameras shortly."

With that out of the way, the woman takes a long slow breath and turns to the next important task - her disguise. The surface of her face begins to subtlety shift and twitch, nearly inaudible whirring noises disturbing the silence as her cybernetic skull alters itself to fit the desired shape. Her long flowing blonde hair begins to retract into her scalp, shimmering briefly as it changes color from golden to black. Even her shapely hourglass figure starts to morph, becoming more defined and muscular to match the profile of the person for whom she has become the doppleganger.

Much as she had when she had convinced the towering wall of meat named Abigail that the Akatsuki were behind the theft of his beloved truck, Siren has been using the detailed profiles gathered on various members of the gang as cover while perpetrating the assaults on their holdings. She had intentionally allowed herself to be seen by the cameras each time, fuzzy and fleeting glimpses of familiar faces upon whom blame and suspicion could be thrown. Yet another form of chaos to inflict upon the ranks of the one who holds sway through deception and trickery.

Tonight her chosen guise comes in the form of a particularly butch gangster who had met her end when she crossed paths with her blood-thirsty companion. The disappearance was fresh and the body never found which made it the perfect piece of cover as the real owner of her temporary face would never be able to dispute its legitimacy.

Fresh off the heels of an adventure south of the American border, Hei has made a pit stop in Japan on his way back to Hong Kong at the behest of his "shadowy masters". Japan is not a country that the Chinese-British assassin has ever felt entirely comfortable in. He's still young, but the "cultural memory" of the horros of the Japanese occupation are still fresh in the collective mind of the Chinese. Still, Hei was a dog on a leash, even if that leash was of his own choosing. He'll do as he's told.

At least until the game bores him.

Right now, the game is suitably enjoyable. Even with the recent shattering of his childhood idol before his very eyes, and the subsequent shotgun adoption he's made of a toddler named Jeremy, Hei is far from a broken thing. He's not out to question the meaning of his life's choices in some melancholy fit of self-obsessed navel gazing. No. Life moves on, and so does Hei. All things are behind him as he seeks out the next thrill. The current thrill actually dovetails well into his more professional life. Undercutting the Akatsuki, no matter what the purpose might be, or who might desire it, can only help to benefit the Sun Yee On.

And then there is Siren. Hei finds her company to be particularly delightful. She has just the right mix of mystery, danger, and flirtaciouness to keep it fun. And she's easy on the eyes, without a doubt, and all of it combines to truly make her, on some level, live up to her moniker for Hei. At the moment, he's laying beside her on the roof of this building, hidden away by the large sign that forms a sort of defensive wall for the pair.

While she might be alert and observant, Hei is, in fact, just the opposite. He's sprawled out on his back, one arm folded behind his head, and the other lifted up, with his fingers splayed so he can inspect his nails. It's clear that he's restless and perhaps a bit bored. It only serves to couple with his "disguise" and make him seem more like a teenage boy. What disguise, might you ask? Hei's nothing of the master of disguise that Siren is. He doubtfully would be even if she were not possessed of such advanced technological upgrades. For him, the disguise is little more than a school uniform. Polished black shoes. Mostly gray plaid pants. A black cardigan sweater, bearing some school's crest as a small pin borne on the breast. A simple white shirt, left unbuttoned around his neck, with a sloppily done tie in shades of blue and gold satin. He even has a tootsie pop stuffed into the side of one cheek, the white stick poking out between his lips.

"A child, huh? Maybe that's what I'll have Jeremy do. Train him to be a hacker. He can be my boy Friday or something. My Q. My Alfred," Hei muses as Siren mentions the ease with which the electronic security can be breached. "...He'll look pretty cute in a little suit. Even I have to give him that..."

He can "feel" the change taking over Siren, as the internal mechanisms churn and whirl and shift and blend, transforming her into the perfect simulacrum of his latest victim, and the reason he has been so dilligently inspecting his nails. Blood likes to seep deep under the nails and it's such a bother to clean out.

"I'm going to assume that you donning this grotesque deathmasque is the sign that you've gotten in and we're good to go?"

With that, Hei's long legs curl, knees to his chest, and he kicks out, springing to his feet with all the fluid grace of a feral hunter. He draws a tubular brass clasp from the pocket of his cardigan sweater, and with it, he draws up the thick, voluminous mane of inky-green hair that flows so freely behind him, and manages to coral it in to a loose, low hanging tail. Flashing a grin that is salubrious as it salacious, his jade-gold eyes gleam in the faint lights from the street below. "Well, let's get to it, then, shall we? The sooner we get this done and over with, the sooner we can find some place that has a hot tub for us to share."

11 pm is approaching fast. Everyone in the workhouse is working completely on autopilot. The patrol guard patrols. The portly security guard continues neglecting his job of watching the monitors. And forklift guy and non-forklift guy continue their efforts to unload the items off the back of the truck. The truck itself has no markings, though the trailer has some Chinese writing that reads 'Crazy Zhin's Discount Liquidators' and some other ancillary information.

They've been at it for a while, really. But as the blue-suited driver walks back to inspect the load, forklift guy holds up one finger -- the very last box.

And that last one's a doozy -- placed far up on the axle for maximum stability. The forklift's electric motor strains from lifting the weight of the palettized box, and as it finally pulls free from the truck, it becomes clear that the box solid wood, and wrapped in heavy metal bands. It's slapped with way too many 'CAUTION - THIS END UP' stickers, to make sure someone's legal obligations are covered. But, at last, the box is set down just inside the loading dock, with clouds of dust whooshing out beneath and a series of hollow clacking sounds from inside the box. The forklift operator gives an 'all clear' signal to his buddy and the driver.

Paperwork is signed. Everything seems normal between the two coverall-clad workers and the driver. The portly security guard even comes out to say hello, continuing his neglect of the security monitors. Child's play, indeed...

The driver climbs back into the truck. The patrol guard has stopped on the left side of the truck, motioning for the driver to proceed through the chain-link fence's open gate. His view of the right would be blocked by the passage of the truck. His only duty now would be to make sure that he wraps a chain and padlock around the automatic gate after it latches shut -- and then he can go back to his usual patrol. The loading gate door will shut after a moment, affording a momentary glimpse onto the three staffers remaining inside the facility.

And not a single one looks like any of the Akatsuki staff Siren would have had records on. No tattoos, no peculiar markings, none of the crests signifying Akatsuki allegiance -- nothing.

Siren doesn't answer for nearly a minute. The transformation process requires she be as still as possible while the dozens of metal slivers that now compose her skull shift and rearrange like pieces of a sliding puzzle. Even if she could have spoken, all he'd have gotten in response would have been a dismissive sniff. No woman likes being referred to as grotesque. She isn't some delicate snowflake who'd let their feelings get ruffled so easily but it's clear that Hei's fallen for her charms and there's a certain image of delicate femininity she has to maintain, just enough to let him think that he's in control.

When she finally does respond, it's with a voice from the grave. She barks out a muffled laugh in the gruff voice of the dead gangster, turning to grin at him with a different face than the one she had before. Even the long scar that had been present on the woman's cheek is mirrored upon her mask, carving a long jagged white trail from her ear to the bottom of her jaw. A short shaggy mop of hair hangs haphazardly over her mannish face, dangling down just shy of being in her eyes.

"It should only be just another..."

A soft beep cuts her off. Siren glances down at the mini-computer in her palm, reading off the short series of numbers that proved to be the password for the mainframe. Typical. Birthdays, or a mixture there of. Father's day, mother's month, son's year. A small step above one's own birthday but predictable and stereotypical at this point. It's not particularly hard to come by that information either, not since the advent of social media. Whoever was responsible for that had practically made the job of every script-kiddie on the planet ten times easier overnight.

"We're in. Let's go."

Turning to the edge of the roof, Siren casually swings her muscular legs over the lip and simply drops to the ground. The three story fall hardly seems to even register on the cat-burglar, her knees folding to a slight crouch as she lands silently on the concrete below. She doesn't bother waiting up for Hei, leaving him to find his own route. With the cameras out of commission, it'll be a simple matter for her to slip inside. The assassin can have his way with the guard if he so likes.

Slinking her way up to the edge of the road, Siren bounds forward with three quick steps the moment the car obscures her from the guard's line of sight. The final spring sends her flying into the air, easily clearing the fence by a few dozen feet. The bird's eye view gives her one quick last glimpse of the area to check for anything she might have missed from her limited view before. Never hurts to be careful.

Upon finding nothing, she dives towards the roof, alighting upon it with the same noiseless grace. A few taps on the small computer causes a small maintenance hatch to bend to her will, clunking a few times as the bolts retract. She digs her toe into the handle and flips it open almost dismissively before stepping forward into the hole and plummeting down into the facility.

The short shaft empties out into a small closet of some sort, a janitor's shed judging by the shelves filled with cleaning fluids and dirty rags. A quick test of the door finds it locked but a short search nets her a large set of keys, one of which fits the lock. Yet more sloppy security. Just makes her job easier.

Swinging the door open slowly, Siren peers out through the narrow crack to see what lies beyond. A wide open space filled with crates and towering shelves comes into view. Must be somewhere inside the main warehouse. That'll do nicely.

When Siren speaks in that... that thing's voice, Hei feels his stomach churn and lurch. When Siren peers at him through that dead thing's face, Hei's instant reaction is to recoil, a sudden tension in his shoulders, and a lifting of his chin. He glares down his nose at her, one eye opened wider than the other, his upper lip curled at one corner, his pupils narrowing to miniscule pinpricks of inky blackness. The gangster had revolted him its misbegotten life. Such features and brusque mannerisms. The voice, so uncouth and unrefined. Hideous. It was so hideous. Hideous in a way that conjured forth images of a leather skinned creature with a mechanical eye and make up caked on so thick that it looked like a melting candle. No. Not Tommy Wiseau. Jezebel.

"I... Let's just get this over with as soon as we can. So you can take off that corpse skin and be the radiant shining angel that you truly are."

Of course Hei knows, on some level, that the face he's been presented with from Siren in the past is surely not her "real" face. He thinks it likely that Siren probably wouldn't even be able to remember her original face, if she wanted. But the guise she has adopted, be it simply in his presence or to appeal to him... it's an illusion that he can allow himself to believe in, even knowing that it's a lie. This thing that she is now, on the other hand...

She's flipping off of the roof, and Hei is not far behind her. While she is acrobatic in the manner of a circus performer or action move catburglar, Hei is pure Wuxia in motion. He takes two steps towards the ledge, and with a ruffling of the wind in the baggy sleeves of his cardigan, he raises his arms to either side, lifting one knee, as if he were Daniel Larusso getting ready to (cheat) Crane Kick his way to victory over Johnny Lawrence. He takes to the air like that, and as he descends to the earth, he seems more to float than fall. His landing is feather light, though it does kick up a wave of dust from the road that settles back down into the shape of the Taichi symbol.

He, too, traces along the edge of the road, and as the truck exits the fence, obscuring him from the view of the guard, the Chinese assassin takes flight, seeming to run with bounding strides through the air only to land on the trailer just as it passes through the gate. His shadow flits over the guard's head as Hei leaps once more, his body pirouetting like a whirlwind in the air, spinning like a top, and carrying him towards the facility.

He lands into a slide, low and on the ground as if he were sliding into home base, just under the door of the loading bay as it nears it's closing. Unfortunately, this puts him sliding to a halt right next to the man who had pushed the button to close the door to begin with. Not-forklifty guy. They exchange a moment, Not-Forklifty Guy's eyes as wide as half-dollar coins, his lips forming a silent O of shock and surprise, and Hei giving, in turn, a wiggle of his eyebrows and flashing his Cheshire grin. And then, Hei is spinning on his shoulders, legs flying out akimbo in a breakdance manuever that actually lifts him up into the air, and allows him to deftly flip back to his feet. Still stunned, in the total of all of a fraction of a second that has passed, Old Not-Forklifty just watches in amazement until Hei's hand flickers, a blur of movement too swift to really track. Fingers, as stiff and rigid as steel rods, punch their tips deep into the soft tissue of the worker's throat, collapsing his larynx which will stop him from being able to draw in air, but also prevent him from warning Fresh Forklikty Guy of his impending doom. Hei follows the move up with another finger jab, though this one is centered lower. Hei's fingers punch into his diaphram and push deeper, curling up and under his ribcage to grab hold of him by it. A sudden jerk up, and over, and Hei spins the poor hapless fellow overhead only to crash back down onto the concrete floor. Not-so-Forklifty isn't dead, but he's not going to be waking up from that anytime soon.

Forklifty, on the other hand, is just stepping off of the machinery after his job is completed. He doesn't notice the swiftly encrouching shadow, or the cold glint of serpentine jade eyes. Hei's hand splays across the back of his skull and push it forward, cracking Forklifty's forehead against the steel bar of the forklift's frame with a hollow ringing "dong!" sound. Sometimes, blunt force trauma will suffice.

Now, it's just a matter of staying out of sight of the portly security guard as he retreats to playing on his phone once again. As for the workers themselves, Hei drags them off, out of sight behind a stack of palettes. A flask if withdrawn from the pocket of his cardigen, it's (strong) alcoholic contents poured out liberally over the pair, and then the rest placed in the hand of Forklifty. Hei isn't sure why, but he just strikes him as the one out of the two of them that would encourage on the job drinking. As for the injuries, a single crate positioned to look like it had dropped from the stack should cover that. Let those two try to say a schoolboy ninja'd his way in and beat them up.

Now... where did Siren get off to?

The driver might have heard Hei touch down on the roof of his trailer, but the curb is noisy enough that he doesn't. Siren alighting on the corrugated metal rooftop should have drawn the ear of the security guard outside, but her movements too were masked by the sound of the thundering tractor-trailer. And the portly security officer was in the other room when Siren had made the switch between live footage and stored footage from earlier in the night. Without the luminance of the sun to distract, one hour of sleepy Utsunomiya footage looks the same as the next. And as the officer seats himself back down at the desk, he gives the monitors a cursory glance, not even noticing that there was any difference at all. His only concern now is completing the next level on his smartphone game.

The first worker's body hits the concrete floor with a sickening thwack. He might be out cold, but boy is that gonna hurt like hell when he wakes up. Though, perhaps not as much as the forklift operator's bump on the noggin -- thankfully, the swift onset of unconsciousness spares both workers from the need to worry about such things. And neither security officer heard a thing from the forklift. Ignorance is bliss, truly.

Ironically, the forklift operator's next round of wages was going to go towards the same kind of alcohol Hei has picked out for him. Ignorance, in this case, is -not- bliss, as the knocked-out worker doesn't even get to enjoy the hooch that's placed in his hand, or doused all over his body. He won't even notice the flask -- nor will he be able to appreciate the clack-clack of his phone slipping out of his pocket, onto the polished concrete.

The closet door creaks loudly as it opens. Siren will have a full view of the main warehouse floor, particularly the newly arrived boxes, stacked in a neat line near the loading ramp. Presumably the workers' next task would have been to shuffle the newly obtained boxes back into storage bays for eventual distribution. As they aren't moving it any time soon, though -- an uneasy silence falls over the warehouse. For the moment, it would be easy to assume that Hei and Siren were the only signs of life...

The portly security officer curses under his breath.
A moment later, his chair creaks -- and then he falls silent again.

Silence, again... for about ten seconds, with only the occasional sounds of cars whooshing by on the street outside.

And then a dissonant alarm will fill the air of the warehouse floor. Echoing off a row of pallets, echoing off the concrete block walls, echoing off the sides of the crates. Suffice to say, the annoying ringtone is cranked to max volume, ensuring that the alcohol-doused worker would have been able to hear his flip phone even if all the machinery was turned on at once.

Five seconds of ringing will be enough to get the portly security officer's attention.
He springs out of his chair, turning the corner, past the maintenance closet. He wanders out, one hand reaching warily for the walkie-talkie on his shoulder. Not because he's alarmed; more because it's his particular power trip in the limited confines of this new warehouse job of his.
"Dammit Shinji, just answer your fuckin' phone! Don't make us suffer for--"

His eyes go wide with fear. Because -something- isn't right. He wouldn't recognize either one of the strangers. Isn't it his job to -do- something about it, though?

Siren remains stationary and silent for nearly a full minute, listening for any signs of activity beyond her chosen point of ingress. The dull thud of the worker's bodies hitting the ground doesn't escape her amplified senses and she rolls her eyes, unable to keep her disdain for the assassin's messy methods from bubbling to the surface momentarily. The dull groaning of the abused chair attempting to support the portly guard's weight causes her to pause but after a few seconds she steps out into the open, moving swiftly but cautiously towards the nearest stack of crates.

The sudden alarm-like wailing of the fallen worker's phone causes the burglar to freeze instinctively. When something goes wrong on a job, the worst possible thing one can do is react rashly. Sometimes the trouble isn't even related to her meddling and flying into a panicked state would merely have given her away needlessly. So, she waits, melding quietly into the shadows with slow backsteps that place her behind one of the tall stacks of crates.

Unfortunately, things go precisely as wrong as possible. The guard appears from the hallway lined up beside her chosen piece of cover, leaving Siren exposed and in full view of the dumb-founded night security officer. Almost faster than his mind would even be able to register her presence, something buries itself squarely into the man's flabby stomach, slicing through his cheap uniform and the flesh below like a dagger.

A quick stunned glance down at the offending object reveals it to be a playing card. A small black heart in the corner beneath a large 'A' reveals it to be the ace of hearts, though the center of the card is dominated by an usual image of a bird in flight. He doesn't get the chance to ponder either the mystery of where this card came from or the meaning of the symbolism. Moments after impact, the card erupts into a blazing star of blue light, searing electricity filling his senses with raw agony.

Siren watches with narrowed eyes as the rotund guard's eyes roll up and his body crashes unceremoniously to the floor with a loud thump, a pair of matching cards already clutched loosely between her fingers, ready to be unleashed should one of her special tasers prove inadequate for the job.

Having adequately set the two workers up for a fall, both figuratively and literally, Hei slips his hands into the pockets of his loose fitting plaid trousers, and stalks forward, leaving the loading dock to venture deeper into the large and completely inconspicuous warehouse. However, the sudden, jarring klaxon call of Forklifty Shinji's phone startles him. His sharp, almond shaped eyes widen, his pupils once more becoming mere dots of blackness in a sea of green and gold. He freezes in place.

He had been trying desperately to not have to kill someone tonight. He had done so much to avoid killing the workers, but merely render them unconscious and let them take the blame for what was intended to happen here tonight. But now, now, he just might have to...

The creaking of the chair is loud enough that Hei can hear it. The rumbling protests of the portly security guard fill his ears with that rough, inelegant Japanese language. He's going to have to kill the guard.

The click-clack of wooden and leather soles on concrete resound through the warehouse as Hei rushes forth, closing in on the location of the alerted guard. The figure of the assassin is that of a dynamic blur, with a green-black streak trailing behind him as his ponytail whips through the wind. He raises one hand, fingers curled and tensed into a claw as golden sparks of lightning arc between his fingers and start to condense into a luminous sphere.

And the guard drops?

Seeing Siren there, Hei's feet slide on the concrete with a scuffing sound, leading him to an abrupt halt. Lowering his hand, the golden light held in his palm seems to simply unravel like so much twine, though the threads become ribbons of smokey light that dissipate as they spiral lazily into the air. His gaze flickers to the burglar for a brief moment, but... finding her current countenance untenable for prolonged viewing, he looks away quickly.

"So. Here we are. What next then?"

Next: another wrinkle in the operation. The lights in the warehouse section wink out, with the loud click of relays firing into place an instant later. Light now falls only onto the area in which Siren and Hei are standing, with the rest of the facility falling into near-darkness, illuminated only by the charging stations for the various power tools scattered throughout the warehouse. What's more -- cellphones and satellite communications will experience difficulty in communicating -- the mark of a high-powered signal jammer.

"Yes, what next?"

The crystal-clear voice of a performer, projected out into the acoustically-imperfect warehouse. Recognizable to many as the voice of the Scarlet Dahlia. The voice is accompanied by the whirring motors of a powered wheelchair, originating from the warehouse area -- not far from the alcohol-doused workers. There is also the sound of a creaking door hinge; that would come from the door of the high-cube shipping container, swinging to occlude two of the red lights emanating from the top of the container.

Rubber tires squeak softly against polished concrete as the wheelchair continues rolling towards the lit area of the warehouse. The armored wheelchair remains mostly cloaked in shadow, though the light might occasionally fall upon the flowing white dress of the Dahlia, if not the rest of her form. The dim light might also show that the seated figure's face is concealed with a masquerade-style mask, the kind supported by a stick.

Considering the demolished thigh and severe facial scarring incurred by the Dahlia during her fight with Duke Burkoff, both the mask and the wheelchair ought to be perfectly reasonable cautions to take -- even among subordinates.

The masked face takes in the features of the 'schoolboy' Hei Xuanfeng, noting his stance, his balance, his demeanor. The mask turns towards Siren as well, registering her facial features, poise and proportions. And then the voice rings out again.


A moment of silence is given -- a moment in which the shadow-cloaked Dahlia can assess the reaction.

"... won't you introduce me to your friend here?"

Outside the warehouse, van doors slide open. Car doors slam, from a different vector. And a number of voices can be heard -- suspicious, for such a late hour.

The voice grows harsh, with no attempt to hide the vicious -edge- of her tone. "And then you can start explaining to me what the hell you two are doing here."

The guard drops and Hei appears, his fist glowing as he tries to skid to a halt. Siren can't help but smirk at this, her own reflexes proving faster than his in response to the brief complication. She doesn't like leaving evidence behind like that but that's what the mask is for. Atleast when the guard comes to and remembers his encounter it'll be the face of an Akatsuki gangster burned into his brain and not her own.

The thief stalks over to the fallen fat man and yanks the card out of his gut, wiping the smears of red blood off onto his shirt before she pockets it again. Her partner's quick glance makes her roll her eyes again, mentally this time, since he might actually see such a gesture in close proximity. Such a shallow man. If he weren't such a skilled fighter, she'd have little interest in him. The world is plenty full of attractive individuals with far more manners and tact.

"We should-"

The words have barely started to leave her mouth when things go /really/ wrong. The kind of wrong that goes down in history books. The kind of wrong that gets people killed.

The moment the lights go out, Siren's senses are on full alert, her instincts automatically keying up a fight or flight response. Her preferred course of action would be flight - you can always come back to try again another day if you're alive - but there's no guarantee that Hei possesses the same skills and years of experience in slipping out of ambushes that she does. As cut-throat as she is, she's not going to abandon him at the first signs of trouble.

The digital read-out overlaid on her vision kicks into overdrive at her mental activity spike, spitting out a variety of sensory readings unbidden in an attempt to provide her with something useful. Most of it proves useless, save that her internal radio seems to be getting jammed by something strong enough to overcome her cybernetics. Definitely not looking good.

Her concerns are made manifest as a voice rings out through the darkness. Siren's head swivels towards the source of the noise, her ocular implants easily scything through the dim light to provide her with a crystal-clear image of the person responsible. Dahlia's wheel-chair bound form doesn't take much effort to identify, mask or not. Voice pattern recognition and digital analysis of prominent features merely confirm it twice over. The leader of the Akatsuki herself has come to deal with them.

"Well, atleast we know our efforts were getting results,"she mutters quietly to Hei, shooting him an amused look.

Being called out by the dead woman's name sends a thrill of satisfaction running up her spine. While she'd been adept at the art of disguise before her modifications by the Illuminati, this new facial reconstruction technology was really something else. Even someone as paranoid and careful as this is fooled by it. It almost makes it worth the price. The real question is how much does she know? Had she seen the guards being taken out? The cameras should have been disabled which makes that unlikely. This situation might still be one they can talk their way out of, assuming the cards are played right.

"Let me handle this," she whispers, her voice directed in such a way that only Hei would be able to make it out, a trick of subvocalization she'd learned years ago.

'Setsuna' strides forward with an almost arrogant confidence in her gait, a perfect recreation of the swaggering walk that the woman had possessed before her recent demise. It spoke of someone who had spent their entire life trying to prove they were just as tough as the men around them, someone who always had to be strong lest someone catch the scent of weakness. Yet, despite this overbearing demeanor, the woman stops at the edge of the light and gives a respectful nod towards the wheel-chair bound mobster, running a thumb along the edge of her scar idly.

"Surprised to see you here, ma'am."

The voice is gruff and deep, another affectation of projected strength or perhaps the result of several years of constant smoking.

"This is Wang," she continues, jamming a thumb in young man's direction. "He's Triad. I ran into him snoopin' around the bar, askin' questions about us. Came here chasing a lead on some asshole who was wreckin' stuff over in Hong Kong. Thinks it might be the same person who's been trashin' our joints. Said he had a lead that this place might be next on the list, so I dragged him on over here with me to check it out."

When the lights all go out, save for those that, more or less, leave Siren and Hei in the spotlight, the Chinese-British assassin looks up from the fallen guard, but only with an air of casual indifference. Oh, sure, his butthole is puckered up tighter than a middle aged dad's pants after an hour at an all-you-can-eat buffet on steak night, but outwardly? He's as calm as a Hindu cow. His hands slip into the pockets of his pants, and he lifts his chin, as if he's just resting his head back on his shoulders. He takes on an affected slouch.

So, this is her, then. As Dahlia makes her presence known, Hei turns to face her, casting his jade green eyes on the wheelchair bound woman. He is, of course, curious about that mask. What lies under it? The rest of the vision she presents is pleasing enough. As Siren subvocalizes, he gives the most faint nod of his head, simply keeping his passive, casual mask set in place. He even smiles.

"Setsuna" does the talking, and Hei, for his part, offers up a smile when he's introduced as "Wang", and even gives a curt head nod. "Lo Wang, of the 14K Triad. From Kowloon Bay. I guess you are in charge here?"

If the seated figure had any expressions to share, the sheet of plastic before her face would have hid them. The eyeholes, darkened by black fabric, will provide no insight into the Dahlia's intentions, as she tacitly tabulates the responses provided to her queries. But why hide? Other than the obscured face and head, every single landmark on the seated figure matches up with the known profile, as accurately as if a measuring tape had been taken.

One gets the idea, from the warm tone of voice, that the face behind the mask would be smiling.

"Welcome to Utsunomiya. It's quite the journey from Kowloon Bay."

A service door at the front of the building creaks open. The patrolling security guard from before peeks his head inside, looking first at the two infiltrators, and then to the seated figure -- who pivots the wheelchair to face him directly. A gloved hand waves languidly from side to side, before allowing the fingers to droop in a Japanese-style beckoning gesture. "The coast is clear. Bring the boys inside, would you?"

The guard seems satisfied with that, and makes a gesture of his own. One-by-one, the guard and a group of six men begin to filter inside. Each man is dressed in a black sportcoat and slacks, with a red button-down shirt. Each man is also wearing sunglasses, despite the late hour.

The wheelchair motors whine, and the tires squeak, as the seated figure pivots to face "Wang." A satisfied sigh escapes the figure, as she raises both hands to support the mask.

"A pleasure to meet a kindred soul from the Triads. Yes, I am Scarlet Dahlia -- Advisor to the High Council of the Akatsuki family. We are providing security on a transitional basis as a favor to the new, current owners of this building."

One of the six Akatsuki proceeds directly to the fallen guard, while another makes a beeline for the two alcohol-doused workers.

Another sigh escapes the seated figure -- tacit acknowledgment of the degree of ogling directed towards it. The fingers of its right-hand glove are pinched.

"I regret that I could not make a personal appearance..."

The figure's right glove is removed. And beneath it: polished titanium joints, far too bulky to be a mere decoration, with the slightest sounds of mechanical servos now more plainly audible.

"... for, as you may have heard, there are far too many 'joints' getting 'trashed' for me to supervise each one personally. And while I cannot be everywhere at once..."

The left glove is removed -- and both it and the mask are lowered into the seated figure's lap. The robot staring back at Hei Xuanfeng has no face at all -- just finely-polished titanium. The shiniest bucket one could ever come across, with two headlamps burning a in a gentle hue of amber to greet him. It would become dreadfully apparent that someone has spent entirely too much time ensuring that each and every detail lines up with Scarlet Dahlia's biometrics in exacting accuracy -- but only on the locations of the joints. As the figure shifts slightly in its chair, the fabric drapes in an unusual, inhuman manner -- giving clearer suggestions to the machined endoskeleton beneath.

"... it would be a shame to let these custom Combot units go to waste." The bucket head inclines in a realistic simulacrum of human motion. "But rest assured -- this is truly the next best thing to a face-to-face."

The wheelchair pivots to address Siren. And the Combot's head inclines towards her in greeting. "You've done well... Setsuna."

One of the four guards near the front of the building starts to whisper to his friend -- only to receive a swift, silencing elbow to the ribs.

"... Though I regret to note that you've failed to inform your superior of your whereabouts the past few days. And failed to notify me we've had an esteemed guest in our presence."

The chair pivots back to Hei, with a tiny squeak of tires on concrete. The voice -- emanating from two small ports at the lower "jawline" of the Combot -- is crystal-clear and soothing. "Pardon my doubts -- I am not a very trusting person by nature. I hope you can indulge my curiosity in verifying your claims."

But now, as the mechanical fingers of both hands lace together in the robotic figure's lap, the body language grows taut. And its voice, cold and mechanically precise.

"Kneel. And remove your shirts, so that I can see your tattoos."

The head pivots towards Siren, with the attendant whine of servo motors. "'Setsuna,' my dear, this includes you as well."

If either of the two infiltrators were to look around, they would notice that seven pairs of human eyes are upon them. And the building's patrol guard has his handgun drawn.

"I do hope we can solve this mystery, together -- before anyone else is hurt."

Siren makes no overt motions upon delivering her story, save to cross her arms over her chest casually. Despite being in the presence of the boss of the entire gang, she doesn't seem particularly cowed, maintaining a faint scowl that only seems to emphasize the ugly scar on her already unpleasant face. Ofcourse, even that ordinary gesture is a calculated one. Setsuna had died much too abruptly for her entire behavior pattern could be dissected, leaving the shape-changing thief to extrapolate a great deal from what little she did know about the woman. Thugs tend to act in similar ways and she'd spent her entire life growing up surrounded by mafia, yakuza, and all manner of other neer-do-wells, so it's not exactly a shot in the dark. But there's no way to know precisely how that behavior might change under certain circumstances - like in the presence of her boss.

Her head swivels ever so slightly to the side when the door opens to admit the gaggle of goons, each dressed according to the Underworld Minion's Fashion Guide. Trouble but nothing the two of them can't handle if things go sideways. There could be more of them waiting outside, of course, but she'd worry about that problem when it became relevant. For the moment, it seems like talking their way out might just work.

Something starts to feel a little off, however, as the seated figure goes to remove her gloves. None of the pictures they'd ever taken of Dahlia indicated that she did that normally. Why would she specifically add them into her wardrobe for this? Did she want to avoid leaving fingerprints - at her own warehouse?

Siren makes no effort to hide her interest in the little show that Dahlia makes of slowly removing her gloves. Such an obvious deviation would be strange to one of her minions as well. Just what the heck is she...?

The answer to that question becomes terribly clear the moment the first glove comes off and the polished metal of the robotic proxy's fingers is revealed. Instinctively, the cat-burglar suppresses her moment of surprise, but almost immediately afterwards allows a look of shock to appear on her altered face. 'Setsuna' stares openly at the mechanical form of what she believed to be her superior for a few seconds before 'recovering' from her surprise, her brows knitting into a slightly deeper scowl than before.

"Yeah, well...", she says, casting her glower at some point to the side of Robo-Honoka's face. "That bastard's been getting' on my nerves lately. Took a couple days off to cool my heels, happened to run across Wang here while I was wanderin' around." She shrugs dismissively, obviously not of the opinion that it's that big of a deal. "Wang insisted that we hurry and I didn't want to bring some bullshit story to anyone's attention til I knew if it was true."

The matter of failing to report in is a little more serious than she makes it out to be but Siren's known more than one knuckleheaded goon that failed to grasp such basic concepts and were always in trouble for it. And there's the always the possibility for an otherwise untroublesome minion to get weird ideas from time to time. Hopefully, it's a plausible cover.

The next part is a bit unexpected. Most people wouldn't even think about checking something like a simple tattoo when confronted with such an elaborate disguise. Face, voice, build - she's Setsuna down to the smallest detail. Fortunately, that includes the tattoos also. The microscopic nano-weave implanted into her skin not only allows her to change its hue to match any known complexion, but it can easily mimic darker and more unnatural pigments as well. Her exterior is one big LCD, in a sense.

'Setsuna' quirks an eyebrow at this unusual command but after a moment she shrugs again and lowers herself down to her knees, fingers working down the front of her own button-up shirt and jacket. Unfastening the first of these reveals the only thing that might possibly give her away - the glossy black metal choker which serves as the only distinguishing mark that she has no power to alter. She does nothing to indicate that it is anything more than a bit of jewelry, however, neither pausing hesitantly as it comes into view nor casting wary glances around to see if anyone notices. Sometimes the only thing one needs do to hide something is to act like it's totally normal.

The jacket and shirt are peeled off in short order, leaving the well-muscled and heavily-scarred torso of Setsuna's body on display with only a non-descript black sports bra remaining to cover up her modestly sized chest. The woman doesn't seem annoyed or embarrassed by being forced to disrobe, though she does shoot a side-long glare at the cluster of mooks, daring one of them to make some sort of cat-call or uncouth comment. Whatever tattoos the dead woman possessed are reflected upon her doppelganger as well in perfect detail, down to the minor imperfections in the designs and faded sections worn down by time. It should pass even the most rigorous inspection.

Fortunately, Hei should be covered as well, seeing as he is actually a Triad member. The best lies are the ones with a kernel of truth, after all.

The "welcome", be that as it may, is met from Hei with a smile and a nod, as if silently agreeing that it is, indeed, a journey from Kowloon Bay. It's a calculated gesture. One that sends a message. A meek demeanor, in keeping with Hei's apparent youth, and playing to the illusion of inexperience. Perhaps even a bit of the "fish out of water" element of a young boy who's been thrust into a situation where he's definitively Donny, always out of his element.

It also shows deference. Body language that suggest submission to a clear authority. A silent acknowledgement that he is a guest in another's territory, and that he isn't trying to be a threat. Lo Wang is just a young man trying to do his civic duty to his own Triad family, and nothing else is afoot here, ma'am.

Jade green eyes tick upwards, away from the masked figure of Dahlia, when the door creaks. It's so hard. So. Very. Hard. Hei has to wrestle internally not to start laughing when he sees the goon squad come walking in. Only six of them? In their mean looking little suits. How cute they must think they are! Especially with those sunglasses. Though his eyes widen as if he might be feeling fear at suddenly being surrounded, the hand that covers his mouth is only to disguise the smile that curves his soft lips. Six men, even well trained ones, weren't going to pose much a threat. Hei's walked through a hundred men or more just like them in the streets of Hong Kong. But, he's also not going to blow their cover while there's still a chance of them just waltzing out of here on their own.

"Oh that's alright... wait, wha--?" Hei replies to Dahlia's apology for not making an appearance in person. And then the gloves come off. Literally, not figuratively. At least for now. He had not heard that the leader of the Akatsuki was a cyborg. In fact, that kind of goes against what he had heard about her being an Ainu or something like that. Weren't they all tree hugging hippies or something? As she unveils the sleek chasis of the Combot unit, Hei does actually take one step back, both of his thin, dark brows inching upwards slowly on his forehead until it seems like they might just be reaching for his hairline.

"Ah ha... hey... " Hei replies finally, lifting his hands up as if to ward off any apologies with a meek demeanor. "I understand. You are an important lady, with much bigger things to do than to come check in on one warehouse that you're just running security for. Plus, I'm not an announced guest... and I'm not even a big fish! Just a little tadpole sent by the big fish to try to look into something troublesome. Chances are that my boss' just wanted me out of their hair for awhile!"

As "Setsuna" gives her reasons for the circumstances they find themselves in now, Hei silences himself, just letting his gaze flow naturally between the shapeshifted burglar and the Metropolis-esque robot before them. He nods when Siren says that she wanted to ensure that it wasn't just a bullshit story, as if affirming her words.

Then the command is laid out for them. Hei's attention snaps away from Siren as she kneels in Setsuna's skin. He looks well and truly confused, his head canting to one side, brows knitting together, and his chin tucked back towards his neck ever so slightly. He pauses for just one moment, before he speaks.

"Y-you do know that... That's a Japanese thing, right? We Triads don't have any identifying tattoos or anything. Hell, a lot of us don't have any tattoos at all. I do, and I'm happy to share with you, but... I'm not certain what it is that you might glean from it."

As he's speaking, he does lower to his knees. Eyes flick to the guard with his gun drawn, however, and for a moment, there is the cold, detached stare of a serpent, penetrating that man's very soul. His voice drops an octave, holding just a hint of threat as he says, "Someone should really put their gun away, unless they really want to give a very wrong impression. And in situations like these, I find that face is everything."

Still, he slides open the dark, wooly cardigan that swallows up his slender and reedy body, shucking it off of his shoulders and letting it drop to the floor below him. The blue and gold tie is carefully undone, being untied the way it was tied to begin with, only in reverse, so as to preserve the fabric and not leave it kinked, crushed, or wrinkled by forcefully jerking it. This, he carefully rolls up around his knuckles, into a tight roll, and places carefully on the ground. He knows how to treat a tie. Lastly, the buttons of that thin, almost satin soft white Oxford style shirt. The collar, first, and then down, so that it starts to spread open. His neck bears a torc of dark metal wound around his neck, but not quite connecting. Each end rests over the swell of each clavicle at the hollow of his throat, and is fashioned in the shape of a dragon's head, trapped in an eternal silent roar at its counterpart, and with glowing eyes of alizarin.

More and more of his creamy, ivory flesh is exposed. Supple muscle etched in fine relief, and the first hints of vibrant red and verdant green ink can be spied as the hem of the shirt parts. With the last button undone just at Hei's navel, the young man undoes the cufflinks, revealing similar adornments to his neck around each wrist, along with a real Rolex watch.

Of course, Hei's inkwork is an extravagant affair. Intricate and beautiful by all measures, the color work is perfection. Roses. The adorn one half of his chest and down the left side of his body, spreading from back to abdomen, and rising up to his shoulder, where it meets with the tail of a serpentine dragon in a deep, dark shade of cobalt blue, with red plummage rolling down the back, and creating the "fin" at the tail. A similar dragon coils and winds around the right arm, as well, with the head rolling up, over his shoulder and down onto the chest. The spaces between the coils are filled with thick blocks of dark, forest green in much of a similar manner to the botan mikiri style scalloped shading found in Japanese yakuza tattoos. As Hei bends down to carefully place his folded shirt on the floor, this also clearly displays that the coils of the dragons swell and roll around the waist of his pants, promising to cover more of his concealed flesh, while also displaying the large, encircled symbol of Gi, which is a single character for a broad concept that includes loyalty, righteousness, justice, virtue, chivalry and honor.

The robotic facsimile of Scarlet Dahlia nods quietly in response to the statements. There can be no doubt that somewhere, many cities away, the real Dahlia is nodding back in similar fashion, taking in each of the words with calculated interest. Surely, her true face would have some measure of amusement at "Lo Wang's" rambling remarks about his low stature upon the Triad totem pole -- but those impassive yellow headlamps yield no particular response. "Setsuna's" made-up story about failing to report in... that even earns a slight sideways tilt of the Combot's chin. Her brilliant improvisation of the 'bullshit story' garners a response that doesn't show in the bucket-head's expressionless metal sheen. The mark of a con artist would surely be recognized, and appreciated, by a kindred soul. But no -- Dahlia's breath of life is communicated exclusively with the light bob of headlamps, the small contextual sagging of its shoulders, and the sway of steepled fingers.

"Tattoos are known the world over," comments the remote-driven automaton, as its steepled fingers draw apart. A thoughtful metal digit is raised to what would be the robot's upper lip. "But with only a -few- exceptions... tigers cannot change their stripes." One hand drifts lazily towards the joystick, as the other curls around to stroke along the chinline.

The wheelchair squeaks across the concrete as the amber gaze crawls over every square inch of the pair's skin. Hei Xuanfeng's delicate ivory flesh, and its blossoms of crimson and jade. The stark monochrome beauty of "Setsuna's" inked roadmap, superimposed upon peaks and valleys of scars. The robot takes its sweet time, taking some fifteen seconds to make a long, languorous circuit, placing it behind the two targets -- with the back of the chair orienting towards the loading bay door.

"No, no. Tigers can't change their stripes, can they... Set-chan? So fiery, so -hostile- to your given name..."

The robot Dahlia lets that set in for a moment, as it tilts its head towards Lo Wang. "But no. Face -is- everything," she acknowledges belatedly. "And your -faces-... are not familiar. Neither are those of the three men who lie face-up in this warehouse -- which you've been in no hurry to apologize for. What did you expect their dear friend to do, invite you two out for a beer?!"

Shock absorber springs strain from a sudden effort. And two long blades whisk out, cleaving through silken fabric amidst the much louder whirrs and clicks of stepper motors and servos. The Dahlia robot has leapt out of the chair -- and drawn concealed blades from within its sleeves: a bespoke addition to this specific model of Combot. For, unlike the relatively benign Dahlia, this Combot has fully functioning legs. And if the two targets do not move, the point of each blade will nick the thin skin of their backs, just a centimeter south of the Illuminati-provided chokers.

"Enough!" barks out the robot, with a gruff ferocity most unlike the soothing words dealt out until then. "Subdue them! I've wasted enough time with these two!"

The half-dozen soldiers move to converge on the pair, with only the ghastly replica of the Dahlia -- and her equally menacing blades -- to hold off until then!

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

COMBATSYS: D4HL-1A brings her battle systems online.

COMBATSYS: Siren has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Siren            0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0          D4HL-1A
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

The cat burglar remains outwardly composed as the robotic proxy draws closer to inspect her, maintaining the mask of grumpy disinterest that had been nigh permanently carved into the features of the woman whose face she now wore. Internally, however, she's wound tighter than a spring, ready to uncoil and lash out at the slightest hint that her disguise has failed in some way. She had not had enough time to study Setsuna to be certain that she could pull off a convincing mimicry. All of this had been a gamble, a test to see if her long years of experience could fill in the gaps where hard data was lacking.

As with all things that push her to the limit of her abilities or place her life on the line, she finds a bizarre sense of entertainment out of this game. Riding the knife's-edge of danger has become one of the few things she truly finds enjoyment out of, in fact. The incredible riches she's acquired throughout her many heists - priceless art, ancient artifacts, glittering gems, and simple cold cash - they provide for the lifestyle that she demands but simply having them isn't nearly as meaningful as the adventures she goes on to get them.

Were it up to her, she'd have preferred her games remain more of the cat and mouse variety. Violence has never been her strong suite nor does she particularly enjoy wielding it for anything other than self-defense. Every time she has to fight it means she failed in some way, made some kind of simple mistake, didn't do the proper research, or just had plain old bad luck; all equally undesirable elements to a perfect heist.

So, when the die is finally cast, Siren's heart is already racing as she waits for them to settle. Every fiber of her being, both flesh and synthetic, hums with electric anticipation, tensed on the edge of the proverbial seat to see what direction this confrontation will go.

Snake Eyes.

As Robo-Dahlia's voice starts to rise, accusatory tones lashing out at them like the crack of a whip, it becomes clear that something has gone wrong. One little detail, one piece of the puzzle out of place, and the house of cards has crumbled. Were it almost anyone else, she might have gotten away with a tiny slip like that, but against someone as paranoid as the current head of the Akatsuki-gumi and with her suspicions already raised, one little misplaced detail is all it takes.

By the time the combot unit has started to rise, Siren is already in motion. With cat-like grace, she leans forward, turning her kneel into a forward tumble that carries her clear of the sweeping blade so easily it almost looks like she knew it was coming in advance. A foot slams down into the cold pavement as she completes the roll, rocketing the thief up into the air as a faint nimbus of blue energy takes shape around her.

At the apex of her leap, the gangster whirls around like a gyroscope, spinning to face Dahlia's proxy body and her encroaching cronies, even as her legs kick out and flip her vertically, leaving her hanging upside-down in the air for a few seconds. The purpose of this strange gymnastics maneuver becomes clear a moment later. Both of her arms whip out, one towards the goons and the other towards the robot, flinging a trio of razor-sharp playing cards at each. The projectiles cut through the air like darts, each card seeking out a different target among the cluster of gangsters while Dahlia gets three all to herself.

Upon impact, each of the cards bursts into blazing balls of electricity, disgorging a potent but non-lethal shock to those unfortunate enough to be struck. It's hardly a game-winning move but it should buy them a few moments to regroup and escape the trap that has been sprung upon them.

"Looks like we get to do this your way," she calls out, grinning down at 'Wang' as she alights atop one of the tall stacks of crates. It would be easy enough for her to just leap out of a window or dart past the goon patrol but, knowing her somewhat predictable partner, he'll be more inclined to indulge in a bit of sport before they leave. Oh well, this is fun too, in its own sort of way!

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng has joined the fight here.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Siren            0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

Hei can feel where this is all going. It's like some aura of dread that hangs in the air, despite the best efforts of the pair of Illuminati agents to weasel their way out of this situation through expert deception. It's a palpable miasma, that hangs heavy in his lungs, making each breath feel labored and thick. So when Robo-Dahlia mentions "Setsuna's" aversion to being called her given name, the Triad Assassin can do naught but roll his eyes.

"Shit... I tried. I really, actually did make an effort to not have to kill anybody tonight. Just let that go on the record..." he mutters. Both he and Siren seem to move in unison, like some choreographed exhibition as the pair somersault forward, letting those whirring blades strike naught but the concrete in place of where they once were.

Siren takes to the skies like a bird of prey. That is her nature. Ever the acrobat. Beautiful to behold in action. Hei, on the other hand, is no less graceful but is far more grounded and less flashy. He's a streak of motion, a blur of ivory and crimson and jade, flash stepping in the direction of one, singular target. The security guard with the drawn gun. That bastard pissed him off, first and foremost.

"I'm not a barbarian or anything! I wouldn't call this really my way! I was trying to do things as quiet and unobtrusively as you!" Hei responds to Siren, though he does flash a lopsided grin that only serves to make it clear that, even if he WAS trying to play nice, he's totally fine with the way this has worked out. He is, after all, just young enough that the thrill of adventure and the feeling of power that his art affords him is still a rush, and his own mortality isn't as pressing of a concern for him.

The bantering comes as Hei lashes out with a deceptively slender and elegant hand, attempting to grasp the wrist of the guntoting guard and rip him from his balance. Should he manage that small feat, Hei circle steps in, so that said guard is flung across the width of Hei's back and flung through the air in the attempt to bowl over the rest of the assembled motley of Akatsuki thugs.

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team blocks Siren's Ante Up.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Siren            0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng successfully hits Akatsuki Team with Feiyue Gaoshan.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Siren            0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: D4HL-1A blocks Siren's Ante Up.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Siren            0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

The Dahlia robot and the pair of shadowy operatives put on a perfect choreography for the converging audience of seven. Though afterwards, there's a sound of hands slamming into a desk and some badly echoed cursing that ... really doesn't sound like it was -meant- to be transmitted.

Dahlia snaps back to the mic afterwards, louder than before, as the robot lurches backwards, raising both blade-wielding hands high in a wary gesture. "Oh please, the Assassin With A Heart Of Gold schtick?" Her voice peaks high, as the blades splay out to either side. "Don't kid yourself! You're a killer -- and killers sign their names in -blood!-" Siren twists about in mid-air, pirouetting an array of razor-sharp playing cards both at the robot and the gathered minions. The automaton quickly raises its right arm, revealing that the deployed blades are no longer attached to her wrists, but instead wielded like knives. The point of the leading blade points downward like a dagger -- and an instant later, with a blur of motion, three metallic scrapes signify the deflection of said blades. If they were merely cards, that would be the end of the story, but the charge they carry sends tendrils of electricity rippling down the length of the robot Dahlia's arm, forcing a mild twitch to run through its systems. "Shit, isolation mode..." she mutters in a reduced volume, presumably to someone seated just off-mic.

The other men, though -- they don't have a way to isolate the electrical charge. They have sportscoats, reinforced with inner kevlar linings -- and each man raises his arms to ward off the strikes. They are less successful than the automaton, as the electrical surge forces two of the targets to their knees.

It's enough of a distraction that 'Wang' can slip in and grab the wrist of the gun-toting guard -- easily, the least-prepared of the bunch. The guard seemed to think that the would be a credible threat to the talented Triad member, and while he -does- attempt to jerk his arm out of the way, it's a day late and a dollar short. The guard is whipped forward and off-balance, leveraged about according to Hei Xuanfeng's formidable will, and reforged into a human missile!

Luckily for them, the group is just dispersed enough that only -one- of the Akatsuki has to atone for that patrol officer's poor judgment, as he's forced to catch him with a grunt. The other five are quick to group up on Hei -- unwilling and unable to match Siren's aerial antics. They seek to surround the Triad member, overwhelming his flexibility and agility with sheer, overwhelming force. First they will swing overhand to ensure he doesn't simply leap away -- and then once grounded, they will seek to kick the bejeezus out of him!

The robot, though, turns its headlamps towards Siren, hampered only slightly by the electric tendrils. Along with the Dahlia's lean figure, it also carries her agility -- as shown when the Combot leaps onto a container, and twists as if to grab Siren by the shoulders, while simultaneously planting her foot into the shapeshifting operative's stomach.

"It's a shame you're working for the wrong team. I could -use- an infiltrator like you...!"

And if it manages to catch hold of Siren, its foot would grow real hot, real quick -- as a spout of volcanic flame erupts from the heel! D4HL-1A would seek to spin around, slamming Siren back-first into the warehouse's concrete floor with a gout of red-orange flame!

... But what happened to the blades? It would seem that the robotic Dahlia had tossed them out in anticipation of her aerial acrobatics... just not -directly- towards her target...!

COMBATSYS: Siren blocks D4HL-1A's Ritual of Exorcism.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

'Setsuna' merely offers a grunt in response to the assassin's pleas of innocence. Considering he murdered an innocent doctor for the mere crime of being nearby when he had gotten annoyed, the words don't do a great deal to convince her. She'd gotten an unpleasant earful from her handler for not keeping a closer eye on him for that little stunt along with a demonstration of one of her collar's many in-built functions for enforcing discipline. She still owes him for that.

Nor does Dahlia seem to be buying it either. If circumstances were different, she'd have been chiming in right alongside the angry gangster. Siren spent her life growing up around men who cared only for their own desires and were more than willing to kill in order to feed them. She's seen enough pointless bloodshed to last her several life-times. It was one of the driving factors that led her to become a cat-burglar, seeking out her own fortune with her own methods, rather than stick around to scheme and backstab her way up the totem pole of Le Milieu.

It is for that reason that her methods remain decidedly non-lethal. The shuriken-like cards strike meaty but non-vital areas as they sink into the flesh of their targets, delivering powerful bursts of electricity comparable to a standard police taser; plenty of volts but low amps, meaning almost no chance of causing death, barring some pre-existing medical condition.

One might argue that by disabling them in proximity to the rampaging assassin she might as well be sentencing them to death. It's a thought that crossed her mind. Unfortunately, moral quandary or not, she's not quite ready to allow herself to be killed and if that means aiding a professional killer, so be it. Ultimately, he's the one delivering the final strikes, and Siren's always been big on accountability.

"I'd be flattered but I hear that so often it has started to lose its charm."

The thief offers a gruff retort as she attempts to relocate away from the assailant's lunge forward but the robot proves far faster than she'd expected. Instead, the woman quickly shifts her guard, lifting one leg across her torso defensively as she grapples with the deadly combot in a brief mid-air struggle. The blast of flame sears into her leg, blasting the lower half of 'Setsuna's' pant leg into cinders as she plummets to the ground.

Rather than crash squarely into the pavement, a burst of blue light cushions her fall at the last moment, slowing the impact significantly. Siren rolls into the fall with expert timing, shunting the worst of the kinetic energy sideways as she tumbles into a neat three-point crouch after a couple of spins. The dead gangster's scarred face tilts upwards to smirk at her former employer as she exhales a dismissive puff of air up at her wild bangs, fluttering them out of her face.

"I'm a rare talent, you know. Terribly spoiled for choices, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't find yours to be the best offer."

Siren takes to the air once more, crouching only momentarily to gather the necessary power to launch herself like a missile up at the robotic proxy. The thief rockets past Dahlia, zipping mere inches away from a direct collision. She pivots in that instant of momentary danger when both she and the robot are within striking distance of each other, twisting her entire body into a backwards flip.

A leg lashes out, the one which had only recently been scorched by the robot's flamethrower. The loss of that bit of garment reveals something which had until now been concealed, a heavy metal brace fitted neatly over the front of her shin like a piece of medieval plate armor. A heavy black smudge mars the center of the greave where the fire had been absorbed into its armored surface leaving the flesh beneath untouched.

That very same chunk of metal proves that is not only serves as a shield but a club with which to bludgeon obstacles that stand in her way. The cybernetic leg crashes towards the combot's bucket-like head attempting to punt it square in the chin as the acrobatic infiltrator flies past like a darting bird.

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng blocks Akatsuki Team's Synchronized Beating.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

"Who said a god damned thing about heart of gold?! Who the hell do you think I am?" Hei shouts with a snarl as he rises back up from tossing the hapless guard into the other guy. His youthful face is twisted into a sneer, his jade eyes wide and manic. "I was just trying to play things professional and low key is all. But now you're just fucking all of that up! So now, these poor slobs all have to die!"

As the other guys start to converge on Hei, the tattoo'ed youth rolls his shoulders, sending ripples through his lithesome musculature like a pebble dropped into a pond. His flesh, now starting to take on a gossamer sheen of sweat, glistens in the light, and his chest visibly flexes as he lowers his chin and lets those hateful eyes sweep over each face in turn.

They launch their assault, thinking that it might do them some good to keep him from leaping away. Unfortunately, perhaps, Hei has no intention of doing anything of the sort. As they begin trying to kick and pummel the assassin, Hei seems up to the task. Each kick is caught, blocked, or otherwise avoided. Each strike is met only with a strike of his own, or allowed only to land in meaty, unvital areas that will cause him little pain or slowing of his momentum. Hei becomes a dervish, dancing like the whirlwind between flailing limbs and angry men. Trying to harry them and anger them. Draw them in. Lose their focus. Make them unable to notice that they're being baited.

And then he stomps. A strong gust of wind bursts forth from his foot, rapidly sweeping out until it forms a swirling ring of kicked up dust and debris from the warehouse floor. A flash of light, as Hei's fist slams into the palm of his other hand, and that ring becomes a near solid dome of swirling, blue-white wind and chi, and everything left inside with him is pummeled and battered and sliced at by gale force winds and slivers of vacuum powered force that are as sharp as razors.

"I am not whatever it is that you think I am. I don't fit neatly into little boxes."

COMBATSYS: Siren successfully hits D4HL-1A with Spin Kick.
Glancing Blow

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team dodges Hei Xuanfeng's Zhiming Xuanfeng ES.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

'Who said a god damned thing? Who the hell do you think I am?' From her command console far, far away from here, Scarlet Dahlia nibbles on her lower lip. She's able to contain the laughter only by focusing on her proxy's aerial entanglement with Siren. But when she's forced to disengage, she then hears Hei protesting a mite too loudly at her statement. It's now -her- fault that the vandalism-gone-wrong might result in her men marching into death?

The metal battleframe hits the floor, knees flexing to absorb the shock with little more than a few clacks of metal. "Oh, my! It seems I've struck a nerve!" rings out the Combot, amidst a heavy breath or two from the remote manipulator. Its right hand raises -- and with a lash of paracord, a pair of weapons is flung into the awaiting hand. Both metal sticks are linked with a long paracord, resembling a pair of 20cm-long nunchaku. The robot keeps its amber headlamps locked onto Siren as its 'job offer' is rejected.

"Eh, you torpedoed the interview; what'd you expect?" D4HL-1A stays light on its feet, pirouetting away in anticipation of Siren's aerial attack. As it spins, the optical sensors catch sight of her Akatsuki team falling right into a trap.

"Dammit," she curses into the microphone, "-- BREAK NOW!"

And while it's true that the Akatsuki gangsters had been going all-in on the attack, their boss's shouted command preempts all other thoughts. The grunts stop their assault, simultaneously leaping backwards in one fluid motion. Her men will stare backwards in shock, as the dome of razor-edged chi will ripple outward mere centimeters away from their fingertips!

The robot continues to spin around -- but in the process of giving the front-line grunts a warning, the manipulator hadn't been able to keep track of Siren. What should have been enough clearance proved insufficient, as Siren's inverted spin kick clips it halfway, clanging an awfully unsightful dent into the bucket head and forcing it to step aside awkwardly!

"Nnnrgh," escapes the robot's speakers before Dahlia can mute the mic. The perils of not being there in -person- are becoming all too apparent. The robot lurches harshly to the side, paracord flapping as one wand is distributed to the opposite hand. The bucket head continues to wobble for a moment, until the servos get the situation into control.

The Akatsuki often considered practice drills to be beneath them, a waste of their talents and abilities. But the master manipulator, like a quarterback, knows the value of a playbook. And when the manipulator barks out, "Tactic thirty-two! Execute!" the team moves in lockstep synchronicity. Each man reaches into his coat; each man retrieves a small glass flask therein. A strip of paper is pulled from each flask's cap -- and the glass reveals an eruption of orange flame.

But the robot, see, is still in movement. And timing is crucial. For D4HL-1A is whirling about, dangerously ignoring the aerial-minded Siren for a moment as it steps into the gap left by Dahlia's spread-out minions. Both its staves whip around in a whirling frenzy -- three rap-rap-raps, then a step in to deliver three more rap-rap-rap strikes -- as the Dahlia's proxy aims to bash Hei Xuanfeng into submission in the wake of his razor-sharp wind.

The robot is, according to Dahlia's plan, resistant to flame. This is important, because the very next thing that happens is that all six of her squad leaps in -- including the one who dealt with the pistol-wielding patrol guy -- to smash their molotov cocktails into Hei's bare skin. The broken glass, the chemical concoction, and of course the fire -- that's the kind of burn that's going to sting for a long, long time.

And it's while he's suitably distracted by that, that the robotic Dahlia will seek to slip the paracord loop around Hei's leg, and pull upward sharply -- upending him, and quite possibly cracking his head into the concrete floor.

Hei Xuanfeng may have a personal code of honor -- but Dahlia's is slightly skewed. Words can hurt; blunt trauma and fire moreso!

COMBATSYS: D4HL-1A successfully hits Hei Xuanfeng with Ritual of Guilt EX.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1          D4HL-1A
[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team successfully hits Hei Xuanfeng with Molotov Spray.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1          D4HL-1A
[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Hei Xuanfeng     1/-----==/=======|====---\-------\0    Akatsuki Team


The sound of metal greave on bucket head strikes an oddly musical note to Siren's ear. Of particular amusement to her is the sound of frustration that slips through the thing's speakers before its operator can manually turn them off. Ah, getting a little wound up, is she? Poor thing.

Of course, the cat-burglar knows the sort of frustration that Dahlia is suffering right now. More than once, she's been forced to use robotic assistants during her various heists and there always seems to be something that goes wrong or something that ends up being much harder than it should be due to the lack of precision involved in manipulating something from a distance. It's always a hassle and she's made it a personal habit to never rely on the damn things, especially for anything crucial for a plan to succeed.

In this case, Dahlia's inability or unwillingness to fight personally has rendered her leadership much less effective. Had it not been for that unfortunate bit of information that the thief lacked, she would have likely been able to pass off as Setsuna without much trouble, her mind too far to be analyzed by the paranoid psychic. On top of that, she must rely on spoken commands to deliver orders, which is not only less efficient but vulnerable to sabotage. Say, a well-placed kick?

Siren pirouettes in the air, turning back just in time to see her companion get the business end of that unfortunate team-work. She winces a little as the assassin is bathed in flames but the focus upon him means that she's completely free to act, atleast for the moment. Best put that opportunity to good use then.

Generating a cushion of wind to silence her steps, the agile cyborg literally double jumps through the air, leaping to the point directly above Dahlia's robotic body. She lingers there for a split second, spinning about in a fancy flourish before plummeting straight down, her augmented leg locking into a solid piece as she drops like a pneumatic drill onto the machine's head. Cerulean light flares to life around her as she spins, sheathing her lower half like a meteor during re-entry into the atmosphere.

Hopefully, the speaker is in that head, which will be little more than a squashed tin can if she has anything to say about it!

Seeing the robot come crashing down in front of him, with a flurry of attacks, Hei is immediately put on the defensive. He ducks and dodges and weaves, while keeping his attention spread out just enough to read what the others were doing. He's not going to get caught off guard here. And he understands all too well what it means when they each take out a flask.

Hei's hands become a blur of movement, as he taps at his own body in various vital points, triggering a rush of his chi, flooding out of the very pores of his skin like a faint golden haze that surrounds him, shimmering slowly under the sterile white-blue light of the fluorescent lights that shine down from overhead like an oppressive spotlight. He cannot keep this technique up for a long time, as his chi will eventually dwindle, but it will shield him enough, should he not prove agile enough to evade.

Sadly, the time taken to make that shielding was enough to the Doll-iah to get a wire wrapped around his leg. He's pulled off of his feet just as the molotovs come crashing on and around him, blanketing him and his immediate surroundings in sheets of liquid fire.

The heat, of course, is painful, and he's covered in it, and yet... Hei rises to his feet like some sort of undead creature, oblivious to the damage being done to him. Flames lick at him, seemingly surrounding him like a nimbus and scorching his flesh black.

"Hey, Setsuna!" Hei calls out, mustering up his willpower to ensure that his voice doesn't reflect the pain that he is feeling. Were it not for the protective layer of chi that surrounds his flesh, this would be impossible. As it stands, he burns, but the flames do not touch his skin. He stings, and blisters, but does not char, melt and crack. But he's still aflame. "Looks like they wanted to do the job that the Syndicate hired us for, anyway!!! This just got to be easy money!"

Dahlia's men are well trained, but how do they hold up to chaos? How well disciplined are they when they, themselves are caught feel the lick of the flames burning at them? Hei wants to find out.

His foot rises from the floor, only to come crashing back down, sending a strange ripple like water through the concrete that spreads out from his point of impact. Hei seems to vanish, leaving only a streaking comet trail of fire in his wake as he rushes down one of the goons. This would be the one that handled the guard earlier. Because fuck this guy in particular. Hei will lash out, thrusting the tips of his fingers deep, deep, deep into the soft, giving flesh of his diaphram, with the intent of not only forcing the air from his lungs unexpectedly, but also to set him ablaze as well.

To the next guy, Hei moves, a ball of orange flame that zips about like an enraged elemental. For this guy, Hei has a flaming elbow, lovingly delivered to his ribs, with the added bonus of setting his jacket aflame. The next guy is met with the broad surface of Hei's shoulder and back, a forceful bodycheck that will spill forth more fire to blanket that victim as well. After that, another is offered up a foot sweep coupled with a stomp to the chest. Another, an elegantly delivered, crane style uppercut that should do well to catch his facial hair on fire. Finally, the last. The last, Hei rushes at, rearing back his burning hand as the golden aura, mingled with flame, rips forth through reality to extend semitangible "claws" of nearly three feet in length. Hei attempts to impale this last man on those claws, letting the fire puncture and burn this one not only from the outside, but from the inside as well.

Win or lose, succeed or fail, Hei needs to put some distance between himself and them, and so, he dashes right past his last intended target without stopping, until his burning form crashes into one of the wooden crates that lines the walls.

Fuck it. Let's get barbaric up in this shit.

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng successfully hits Akatsuki Team with Bagua - Zou Yuanquan.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1          D4HL-1A
[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: D4HL-1A blocks Siren's Payline ES.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Siren            0/-------/---====|=======\=------\1          D4HL-1A
[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

It'd be hard for Dahlia to admit that she's impressed with Hei's defensive tactics. Even if she is, she's certainly not going to abandon her teardown tactic now.

"Don't worry, 'Lo Wang,' I won't be putting you in boxes." It's easy to be cocky when you're the only brawler in the room who doesn't have to worry about fire. The flames that spill onto the white cloth of D4HL-1A's dress and the paracord dangling from its wands are quickly snuffed out when the robot pirouettes swiftly, flapping the loose material outward. "Stirrups, though -- maybe!" It wouldn't be hard to hear the derisive snort that follows.

The automaton directs its attention towards the fallen Hei, the bucket head tilting sideways as the head-mounted cameras silently observe the Triad member's trial by fire. With cold precision, Dahlia barks out a caution to her subordinates, "Tactic Thirty-Three!" Her men start to pull back, drawing their arms back as per the prescribed strategy. But while the robot happens to be looking down, it also starts to see a flame-kissed shadow growing more and more solid. The robot's telemetry suite may not have been calibrated for the high angle, but the expert fighter in command knows how to interpret the sign -- along with Hei's hint and subsequent misdirection. Dahlia's proxy bends sharply to the right, raising its left arm high to intercept the spiralling Siren. The spinning kick catches hold of D4HL-1A's sliced sleeve, charring the fabric a dense black as it's ripped apart, down to the elbow. The robot itself fares a bit better than the scorched sleeve as it pivots to the side. Her response is a simple grunt, those mechanical eyes skating over the guise of her departed subordinate.

But Dahlia can also hear that the followup tactic is receiving less than optimal dividends. One man falls, clutching his throat as he wheezes for air amidst a blazing flame. Another reels backwards from a hard blow to the chest. A third is knocked to his rear from an unhandled shoulder check. A stomp kick and an uppercut claim two more victims, her men, transfixed like moths upon Hei Xuanfeng's dancing flames, suffer one upsetting loss after another. Fire,-everywhere-, and as her men flail helplessly, they would just happen to land on the wooden crates. Because of course they would.

It's almost enough to make her scream at her console -- but what good would that do? Dahlia demands -action-. Hei's rushing away -- and Siren's undoubtedly on the move. "Peel!" she shouts out -- just in time to see -one- of her men take a trio of flaming claws from the inside. The robot's dented buckethead shows absolutely none of the Dahlia's resultant chagrin.

The warehouse is aflame. And, given their new command, five of her men clamp down on their jaws and kippup back to their respective feet. The pyrotechnic chemical has totally soaked into the synthetic fabric of her minion's clothing -- it's not the same top-shelf stuff the Dahlia picked for herself. But she'd given an order -- and they're pushing past the obvious pain as they seek to keep Siren occupied. The team launches themselves at Siren, chaining one hard punch after another from a multitude of vectors, seeking to wall off Siren from the robot as it makes its way towards the flame-wreathed Hei.

One might think the Dahlia would be upset over all this fire. But it's never -really- bothered her, and in this circumstance, less so. "Do your worst...!" The robot builds up a head of speed, before tilts forward into a handspring. Vaulting out of the flip, it arcs high into the air. One metallic foot stretches outwards with the intent to javelin Hei back into the crate he just found himself. Or maybe another one nearby -- D4HL-1A's got a better view of his surroundings than he does, by the simple virtue of not actually being on fire, after all!

COMBATSYS: Siren blocks Akatsuki Team's Random Strike.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Siren            0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1          D4HL-1A
[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

Siren mentally curses the assassin's poor timing as he calls out to her, just as she launches her silent strike. Being reminded that the thief exists seems to snap the robot out of its controller's tunnel vision and instead of the thing's head, she finds her cybernetic drill kick crashing down on its much better armored forearm instead. So much for that plan.

On the upside, Hei's literal trial by fire doesn't seem to slow him down that much on his end. She retreats from the failed attempt to relieve the snake of its head, backflipping gracefully over the chaos below as the gangsters get a taste of their own medicine, each of them set alight by the angry killer and his flaming aura.

"Huh. Suppose we won't need these then, will we?"

'Setsuna' digs into the pockets of her half-burnt slacks and withdraws a handful of small black spheres, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. A small circular red LED blinks slowly on their surfaces, winking in time with the electronic heartbeat of the circuits within. Shrugging, she tosses the half dozen tiny devices into the air, scattering them in the directions of the largest clusters of crates and the support beams holding the warehouse's heavy roof aloft.

The gaggle of gangsters closes in on her moments later, attempting to encircle and pin the interloper between their bodies and flying fists. They fare much worse in their efforts to gang up on the elusive thief without Dahlia to back them up. Her lithe body twists and bends, her movements almost dance-like in their grace as she weaves between strikes, intercepting every single blow with an fae-like alacrity, catching multiple strikes from different angles at the same time before contorting into a different gymnastic pose that thwarts the next series of attacks.

After about half a dozen such attempts to land a solid hit, she finds an opening to escape. Tilting her entire body backwards like a reed bending in the wind, Siren avoids a pair of punches coming at her from opposite angles, leaving the two thugs to strike each other's fists as she springs backwards onto her hands and flips neatly away. Her bounding retreat ends a couple of hops later and she once more takes to the air, launching herself high above the cluster of singed minions.

"Tch, that all you got, jackasses?!"

The gruff taunt is delivered with an ample does of disdain, channeling the spirit of the dead woman's uncouth language and mannerisms. The longer she can make them think that some of their own have actually turned against them, rather than that they've been replaced by a remarkably advanced bit of technology, the better.

'Setsuna' lifts her hands, revealing a fresh batch of the slender playing cards clutched between her fingers. She hurls them down into the midst of the Akatsuki goons, not worrying too much about their accuracy this time, merely their coverage. The reason why becomes obvious a moment later. A small but potent explosion consumes each of the slender projectiles one by one, filling the space below her with a ripple of blast waves. It isn't the biggest boom she's got in her arsenal but it also won't bring the house down; that can wait until they get out of it, hopefully.

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng parries D4HL-1A's Power Strike!!

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Siren            0/-------/-------|=======\===----\1          D4HL-1A
[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

Normally Hei would be taking a moment to taunt and jeer at his opponents after successfully landing such a brutal attack on them. Normally, he wouldn't also be on fire. Normally... well... They might still be on fire. It really depends on what his mood would be at the time. But this isn't a normal situation, and Hei doesn't have time, nor the inclination to waste on indulging his pride. He has a sexy, murderous fembot staring him down like he's a new chewtoy.

He might be on fire, but his aura is shielding him from the true harm of such a thing, so when the robot comes barreling at him, he is able to see and react with a relatively clear mind. He braces himself, preparing to defend against a shoulder charge, but then she has to go and get theatrical with it. The handspring costs her a fraction of a second, but the equivalent of an eternity in terms of advantage. There are only so many angles of attack she could be coming from like this, and each one is nullified easily enough. She just happens to take the most predictable one of the bunch.

"C'mon now..." he mutters as he looks up at the robotic foot descending on him like a spear. Just before impact, Hei's burning arms rise up, and one sweeps down and to the right, while the other curves inwards, up and to the left with smooth, fluid and ultimately explosive energy, deflecting the kick in a classic Wing Chun form and rendering the attack completely impotent.

Hei doesn't bother to keep up any form of shit talk. Instead, there is just a surge of silent intensity in the aura of the burning young man, as if his sheer presence was made stronger by virtue of sheer determination. His fighting spirit seems to fill the room with pressure and the feeling of static electricity in the air. He retaliates, twisting about in a whirling spin and unleashing with a crescent kick of his left leg, with an arc of light blue chi that shimmers as it distorts the air, creating a nearly two dimensional sheet of vacuum. His spin continues, twirling him around into a heel kick with a similar wave of slicing power.

And then he unloads. His body tilts to the side at his waist, helping to belance him as his left leg seems to vanish from sight. In truth, it is simply moving far too fast to be tracked, even with the robot's advanced visual sensors. Kick after kick is unleashed at the thing, each accompanied by another burst or wave of power that wants to bite into the metal, plastic, and ceramic composite corpus of the animated machine. The move seems pulled right from Chun Li's playbook, and he executes it with nearly the same skill and precision that the World's Strongest Woman would have.

And then, one last roundhouse, with a larger, horizontal arc of that razor wind. It may be too much to hope that it will rend the damned machine in halves, but Hei hopes all the same.

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team dodges Siren's Royal Flush.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Siren            0/-------/-------|=======\===----\1          D4HL-1A
[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng successfully hits D4HL-1A with Bagua - Tiantang Chengfa EX.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            0/-------/-------|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

The Akatsuki henchmen are still on fire, it's true. But there's only so much material to burn -- and with the threat of the Dahlia's retribution raging in their ear, priorities are priorites. Each punch delivers a heady rush of adrenaline to the beleaguered gangsters; so desperate are they for contact that even a half-successful strike is chalked up as a moral victory. As soon as the acrobatic infiltrator leans backwards, though, the Akatsuki men know when their hide is tanned, and back off to regroup.

Their collectiveness cognizance saves them in this case. Sure, it's a bit disheartening for someone who appears to have been one of their own to call them jackasses in a manner not unlike the Dahlia's own. But it's something of an endorphin rush to have the distance necessary to recognize an incoming attack and react accordingly. Each gangster leaps backwards, with the cards and their explosive payloads detonating where they'd stood just moments before. All their training and determination seems to have paid off, in that case...!

Elsewhere: the intent behind D4HL-1A's telegraphed attack was to place 'Lo Wang' into a bad spot. His impeccable sense of flow and timing allowed him to spin aside from the brutal strike in such fashion to place him in a considerably stronger position.

And that just means the D4HL-1A robot finds itself in the disadvantaged location meant for its target. The first objective is to get away from the columns of ignited crates -- and it would attempt to do so with a series of catlike bounds from one crate to the other. The problem is -- Hei's already in the midst of his counterattack by the robot's first leap. His whirling kick catches the Combot in midair, a heavy metal clank resounding as it's flung backwards. It lands on a shaky leg, arms and leg flicked outward with acrobatic balance.

But then the -rest- of the attack lands true -- D4HL-1A's been hit by, struck by a smooth criminal! A symphony of whirling, scything attacks land onto the reinforced battleframe; composites and metals alike make rather loud crunches with each massive strike, ultimately driving the robot back -- and blasting it back through the gaps in the wall of Akatsuki henchmen!

The robot flips itself off the ground, first into a three-point stance, and then fully back to its feet. But in the midst of the motion, one thing becomes clear -- a series of red lights illuminated on the chest of the robot, glowing brightly through the charred, torn fabric of its dress. "Dammit --" spits out the Dahlia's voice, amidst a series of faint warning klaxons -- BATTERY CRITICAL. A dissonant tone is heard, and with a hiss of steam, the red lights wink out, replaced by a blinking blue light, and a gentle male voice intoning, 'RESERVE BATTERY ONLINE... And Dahlia grumbling out another 'Dammit...'

But by this point, Siren's bound to have landed. And the robot only shakes its head, gesturing towards the charges she'd sent out. "Oh, -that's- your back-up plan? Hope it works out -- my sharpshooters could use the target practice!" One hand raises its staff, levelling it at Siren as she calls out, "Converge on target!"

Yellow eyebeams shine onto Siren with increased intensity -- spotlights, for her assembled (and still gently burning) Akatsuki grunts, who suddenly break into a run. As before, they will swing wildly and randomly -- though their recent invigorating dodge has instilled them with renewed vigor.

The heavily-damaged battleframe starts to move, arms and legs pistoning as it breaks into a full running stride. In the midst of its run, both of the staves are collected into one hand. The Combot vaults into the one crate that stands between it and Siren, and from there, one mighty leap will carry it into a high overhead arc. With her men closing in from below and from either side, and the robot closing in from above, Siren may just be caught in the crossfire of a brutal multi-pronged attack!

If D4HL-1A manages to reach her, its outstretched hand will slam into her chest, lancing a high-voltage shock into her! And then she would whip sharply to the side, sending the captive flying into the largest concentration of her men so that they can do their worst!

COMBATSYS: D4HL-1A successfully hits Siren with Ritual of the River Deity.
- Power hit! -

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            0/-------/--=====|=======\===----\1          D4HL-1A
[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team successfully hits Siren with Reckless Attacks EX.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            0/-------/=======|=======\===----\1          D4HL-1A
[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1    Akatsuki Team

As it turns out, Siren has not landed yet; in fact, it would appear that gravity seems to be more of a suggestion to the thief than a hard and fast rule. A faint nimbus of glowing blue light wafts from her body like smoke, holding her aloft like a leaf on an updraft. She's sinking, ever so slowly, but she's got more than enough time to maneuver before falling right into the shark pit.

Dahlia's jeer about the sharpshooters is more concerning than her former minion lets on. The preferred method for escape is by air and there's precious little concealment to be found there, unless it happens to get cloudy in the next few minutes. But it's not her only escape plan and, now that she knows about the possibility of said marksmen watching for fleeing targets, she can work out precisely how to do that ahead of time. Getting shot is much less fatal to her than most people - a subdermal layer of armor us but one of the many 'gifts' implanted by the Illuminati - but it still hurts like hell and a big enough caliber can still do some serious damage; but, that's a problem for later. Right now the whole 'converge on target' thing is her main concern.

'Setsuna's' eyes narrow on the approaching horde, her internal sensors running a quick check to make sure none of them have grabbed a gun or something while she wasn't looking. The real threat, however, is the robotic warrior that accompanies them this time. The Akatsuki goons seem pretty useless without orders being fed to them but working in tandem they've proven dangerous enough that she's not keen on underestimating them.

When Robo-Dahlia leaps her way, Siren doesn't attempt to evade the flying strike, instead preparing herself to receive it just as she had the last time. The faint glimmer of wispy light around her body solidifies into something more corporeal in anticipation of the robot's attack, a barrier of condensed wind that makes it just that much harder for something to slip past her defenses. Indeed, it proves no difficulty at all for the thief to interpose her armored leg into the path of the outstretched hand, blocking the simple strike completely.%r The blast of electricity that rips into her cybernetically altered body is completely unexpected. Siren's eyes go wide in surprise and she lets out a shrill scream, the noise altering into a guttural cry of fury through the magic of her voice modulator. For a tense couple of moments her entire body goes into a shut-down state as emergency buffers shunt the excess power into bleed off points, causing her finger tips and toes to crackle with sizzling spiderwebs. No resistance is able to be offered for those precious seconds and when she's hurled to the ground, the normally agile agent hits like a bag of rocks, landing squarely on her back with a dull crunch.

Almost immediately the goon squad is on top of her. Punches and kicks rain down in a deluge of painful blows, several of them finding purchase in soft areas as she attempts to shield herself by rolling up into a ball. The first couple of seconds of the beat down are awful and completely one-sided, the sort of gang-up one envisions when they hear about street violence on the news. Siren can do little but grit her teeth and endure it.

"Come on, come on..."

With a soft chime not unlike that of a computer's OS booting up, her cybernetics finish purging the momentary overload. Power floods through her body, individual systems coming to life in rapid succession. Augmented muscles flex, reinforced tendons tighten, and her battle HUD winks back into place over her vision, highlighting the half dozen men currently using her for a punching bag in solid red outlines with the words 'Threat Detected' flashing in the corner of her eye, offering about as much help as the 'Check Engine' light on an automobile.

Narrowing her eyes, the cat-burglar takes a long slow breath, silently counting down from three. She glances up through the barrier of arms currently wrapped over her head, peering with suddenly surprising calmness at her assailants, though she continues to grunt and cringe, keeping up the charade of being a helpless target for a bit longer. Rapidly, the computer and her mind work together, analyzing the behavior pattern of the seemingly random attacks until an opening is able to be predicted. It takes only those three seconds.

Without warning, the shimmering blue aura of power erupts from around the fallen gangster, exploding in all directions with a powerful buffeting blast of wind that pushes her attackers away long enough for her to make good on her counter strike. Even as she rises to her feet, the limber agent is already spinning in place, her armored leg extended to catch each member of the gang across the stomach. Though the fresh burst of power augments her strike into something particularly unpleasant, her kick does not knock them away as the winds surrounding her body seem to draw the thugs -into- her strike. Unless they manage to react fast enough, the entire gaggle will find themselves being collected like bits of flotsam on a katamari ball until she completes a full rotation, dumping the lot of them into a haphazard pile in front of her. A juicy target if there ever was one.

"I have officially withdrawn my objection to using excessive violence today, Wang!"

COMBATSYS: Siren successfully hits Akatsuki Team with En Prison.
>> Decisive Hit!! <<

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            1/-----==/=======|=======\===----\1          D4HL-1A
[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|=======\====---\1    Akatsuki Team

Hei may just be a bit more savvy than he lets on. Or could it be coincidence that causes his blitzkrieg attacks to seemingly target places on the combot model that will disrupt its circulation of power? The near maniacal grin that the Chinese youth bears as the flames start to diminish around his glowing form might suggest that he knew exactly what he was doing. Robo-Dahlia had activated one of Hei's trap cards.

Of course now, the robot is going to disengage, and Hei is left alone for the moment. Instead, all the forces converge on Siren. That's not good. He doesn't want that. Even if Siren is wearing a face that he finds repulsive, and he cannot look at her without seeing the scarred and grotesque caricature of Jezebel overlaid on top of it, it doesn't mean that he feels nothing for her.

"Fuck. NO!"

Siren's shrill scream chills the blood in his veins. He feels his heart form a lump in the bottom of his throat. He watches her fall as if in slow motion, surrounded by the remaining thugs as they attack like a pack of starving hyenas. He needs to regain their attention. Buy her some room to breathe.

"Hey! You fuckers forget about me? I'm fucking insulted here!"

Hei rushes in, even as Siren's wave of blue energy and wind engulfs the group. The Triad youth doesn't even hesitate to jump into the swirling throng of bodies, using the same effect that has the thugs swirling in the air and drawn in for Siren to kick. He floats and swirls, harrying each thug in turn with a flurry of blows and strikes meant to confuse and infuriate, and ultimately, to wear them down. The last, just before they're all gathered up together, Hei attempts to grab hold of, and then use their sudden fall to deliver into a classic piledriver.

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team dodges Hei Xuanfeng's Combo Grapple.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            1/-----==/=======|=======\===----\1          D4HL-1A
[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|=======\====---\1    Akatsuki Team

A moment after the robot hurls Siren into the group of Akatsuki gangsters, it lands a few feet back in an agile stance, tethered staves clutched in one hand while the other extends outward warily. D4HL-1A's yellow stare fixates upon the black-suited minions as they collapse onto their prey, as Siren curls into a defensive ball to ward off the worst of the attacks. The Combot recognizes Hei as a valid threat, but something is causing it to remain fully motionless.

It's more than a stalling tactic to let that reserve battery spool up though. The truth is, the sudden escalation of stakes has put Dahlia into damage-control mode. Arrangements need to be made, and the momentary lull in battle allows her to bark out the requisite orders...

If the Akatsuki orchestrator were present, though -- she'd just handle that all psychically. And what's more, she'd be able to instantly spot that Siren was feigning distress while calculating the next attack vector. The robot doesn't even get a clue until the brilliant blue dome explodes outward from the fallen gangster. And then the battleframe lurches forward, with Dahlia retaking the controls. The agile combot begins taking long, loping strides to close upon the dome, a wide tornado of bodies reflecting in the dented shell of its bucket head, before it collapses into a much more dense collection. With the emerging pattern, the running D4HL-1A cries out, "Tactic Fifty-Three!"

Apparently, the fifty-third tactic is how to deal with attacks from all directions -- for the whirling gangsters' hands begin to reach out for one another. Siren's kicks hurt like hell, folding one gangster like a pocket knive, and drawing out a howl of agony out of another. Hei's blows and strikes are enough to nearly spin one of the hapless gangsters free, until the vacuum force draws him right back into the katamari.

But as the tempest continues, and draws them closer, the gangsters are able to catch hold of one another, acting as a collective organism, able to flex and bow in response to the tempo of attacks. Siren's later kicks are met with upraised knees. Hei's punch to one gangster is answered by two others pulling him back and away. A spinning kick is dealt by an abrupt shift of weight to the side. It's chaos -- mad, whirling chaos -- and it's unclear just what's even happened until the gangsters end up as a jumbled pile in the center.

And that would be when Dahlia's proxy strikes at Siren, whirling a roundhouse kick at the back of her head. "How sickeningly -principled- of you," derides her voice, while the battleframe twists about from its maneuver, torquing around to swing the wands into a series of percussive blows at Siren's hip. Righting itself, the robot will call out to the gangsters -- 'Tactic Twelve!' -- while adopting a dizzyingly fast array of short-staff strikes in an attempt to knock Siren's limbs away -- and then allow it to pivot forward and slam its head-bucket into a powerful headbutt. Should the robot accomplish its dazing strike, it'd seek to grab hold of 'Setsuna' by the waist. Using its own knee as a fulcrum, the robot would then whirl her around with an 'o-goshi' hip toss to the concrete.

The three gangsters who -haven't- been battered into submission suddenly leap from the pile, in different directions. The first one pivots around to deliver a disabling kick to Hei's knee. The second unfurls a length of chain -- and aims to lash it around Hei's arm for an entrapping blow. The third takes a more circumspect route; his goal becomes obvious as he drops his shoulder, seeking to tackle Hei's side with a battering ram attack! If the second manages to land his chain, he'd follow up with a bludgeon of the chain -- but then he'd tug away sharply, hoping to pull the ensnared limb out of its socket!

COMBATSYS: Siren blocks D4HL-1A's Foggy Plane.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            1/---====/=======|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

That's some pretty slick teamwork for a bunch of street thugs. Siren would be impressed if she wasn't busy trying to smash the black-suited gangsters into unconsciousness. As skilled as she might appear at it, martial arts has always been nothing more than a means of defense for the cat-burglar; a fall back option in the event that her other skills failed her in some way. She takes no pleasure in inflicting harm upon these men, twisted and misguided as they might be. But it would be a lie to say that the thrill of being pushed to the limits of her abilities isn't giving her the time of her life.

'Setsuna's' scarred face twists into a broad grin as she whirls about, her teeth flashing as she slams her cybernetically augmented leg into body after body. Internal monitors beep at her in warning about the amount of stress that her body has sustained, highlighting several bruises as light red shading on top of a silhouette outline of her current form. This information does little other than to confirm that which she can already feel for herself, though she does take note that none of her bones have been fractured thus far, something that isn't always obvious at the time when adrenaline is coursing through her veins.

Hei's sudden rush to her aid is appreciated but ultimately thwarted by the robot's quick thinking operator. If only she could have taken out that speaker; now it hardly seems worth the effort. Most of the thugs have been dealt with and those that remain are battered even worse than she is. It's quite likely that the assassin or herself will be able to put them down for good in short order. Which just leaves that annoying combot.

Almost as if on cue, a sudden movement behind the thief prompts her to whirl around just as its metallic foot comes crashing towards her head. Both arms snap up to catch the deadly strike, stopping it cold at the expense of a sharp lance of pain that shoots through her limbs. Reinforced bones or not, she can still feel that impact and it's not particularly pleasant.

Now that she's facing her aggressor, Siren shifts her stance, dancing away from the crushing swings of Dahlia's staves in an effort to draw her apart from her minions. The hammer blows still find purchase but it is on the armored surface of her greave rather than her bare flesh, the limb managing to dart into the path of each strike even as she retreats.

"Not a fan of principles, hmm? Well, I suppose you'd need to have that sort of attitude to operate as you do."

When the robot's head rears back, Siren correctly interprets the signs and moves in counter point, leaping up into the air just as the dented bucket slams forwards. Nothing but air greets the attempted headbutt and that moment of over-extension gives the agent the opportunity she needs to slip away and make good on her plan to make this fight a lot less even. Only a fool doesn't try to rig the odds in a game of chance.

'Setsuna's' booted heel slams down into the top of the combot's head, not hard enough to damage it further but enough to use it for a springboard to propel her incredible across the room with her incredible acrobatics. The gangster pirouettes in mid-air and lands on the far side of the remaining members of her former allies, positioning them between her and Dahlia so that any sort of aid the robot might seek to render will require that it bypass them first. It'll only buy her a few seconds but it's all she needs.

"Party's over, assholes!"

Leaning forward, Siren draws her armored leg back, lifting it all the way up behind her until the limb is entirely vertical and her head nearly touching the floor as if winding up for the world's most epic field goal kick. A sharp scent of burning ozone fills the air as every single lightbulb in the nearby vicinity explodes sending searing arcs of electricity into the upraised foot from the exposed sockets. The leg hungrily absorbs this power, a lightning rod for the energy flowing through the facility, siphoning fresh sustenance for the cyborg's depleting reserves.

This maneuver proves to be only the prelude to her plan, however. Infused with surging power, Siren flies forward with suddenly renewed vigor, her upraised foot swinging back down to deliver the promised violence into the middle of the remaining gangsters. A massive crescent of azure energy rips through the air, scything out a good ten feet beyond the extent of her natural range. The pendulum-like motion of her strike swings the leg up and over her head then all the way back down to the ground in a full 360 spin. The moment her foot touches back down her other leg snaps up, offering a repeat performance of the deadly diagonal kick.

Twice more she fills the air with blazing power and whipping limbs, moving with such speed that her body leaves behind shimmering blue after-images that repeat her movements a half-second out of synch. The fifth and final kick launches the agile thief into the air, twisting her body into a graceful backflip as she 'uppercuts' the unfortunate victim on the receiving end with the last of her momentary but powerful surge of aggression.

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team successfully hits Hei Xuanfeng with Gang Warfare.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
[                        \\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Hei Xuanfeng     0/-------/=======|=------\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

At this point, wooden crates have been set aflame, and everyone has been too busy knocking each other around to even make an attempt at containing or dispelling the fire. It has rapidly started to spread, as packing peanuts and the like tend to make for excellent kindling, and the dried old wood used to make crates takes to fire relatively easily. In short, the mission objective has all but been completed. Without a highly advanced fire suppression system, the likes of which would likely kill everyone in the room when activated, either due to inhaling chemicals or having the very oxygen sucked out of the warehouse, there's not much hope of extinguishing this fire.

So really, Hei and Siren just need to leave this place. Every moment that they linger, the chances of that get dicier. Hei is still burning, after all, and though the last of the chemically fueled flames are starting to diminish and flicker, but so too, is the shield of Chi that he's erected about himself to mitigate and deny the true damage of that fire. Siren took a hell of a shock, and Hei fears that her cybernetic systems might have been overloaded or short circuited or something. She should be looked at by someone who knows more than him. All he knows is that a power surge, not to mention the gang jumping she received just afterwards, could not have been good for her.

And now, Hei is facing off with three guys. They're well trained. Low class, sure, but well trained to coordinate with one another. When given the orders to do so. They lack the ability to calculate their tactics on their own, though. No minds. Just obedient dogs.

The kick to Hei's knee causes it to buckle. He doesn't go down, but he stumbles with a sharp sound of pain escaping him. He's about to draw back his fist to deliver a literally skull splitting punch when the chain entangles that limb, rendering it ineffectual. He grits his teeth, growling just as the last shoulder checks him and he's laid out on the floor.

"Hey, it's about time we got the hell out of here, yeah?" The burning assassin calls out to his partner from the ground. He knows that he doesn't have much strength left. Even if he avoids taking another direct hit like he had just taken, the heat of the flames surrounding him is exhausting him, sapping his strength and making it harder to breathe and replenish his stamina. "They aren't going to be able to stop the fire now. We win! Now... Get the hell out of here! I'll..."

Hei, regardless of being on fire, regardless of the stinging in his lungs, and the burn of toxic buildup in his muscles, and regardless of the pain of simply being beaten and battered... Regardless of all of it, Hei kips up to his feet once again. He's only got one shot. This is where one imagines that, despite looking calm and ready, one knows that his palms are sweaty and something about mom's spaghetti.

Hei clenches his fists clench, and Hei flexes every muscle in his wiry form with a snap. Instantly, the golden aura of chi that radiates from his pours bursts into a brilliant nimbus, which snuffs out the fire in an instant. If they are going to be able to make good any sort of escape, the robot is going to have to be taken out of the fight. Still, even if he can't take the thing down, he might afford Siren the chance she needs to get out of there.

"Here it comes!!!"

Hei vanishes, reappearing right in front of RoboDahlia and trying to push a finger jab through the remaining bits of outter shell that armor it. At the same time, behind the combot, another visage of Hei appears, delivering a snapping front kick with a blade of arcing chi energy. Both images fade for a moment.

And then the real assault begins. Bursts of golden chi herald each new dashing image of Hei as he attacks from all sides at once in a dizzying combination. At times, it might seem like there are four or even five of the man at once, all attacking simultaneously. A jump kick aiming for the temple. An uppercut intended to wreck the chest. A double palm strike here. An axe kick there. It seems like he is everywhere at once, unleashing every strike he knows.

And then, he reappears a couple of meters away from the robot. He draws back his hand, which erupts with golden light, spilling bright rays out from between his fingertips. He lurches forward, charging in with a sliding dash. As he passes the combot, he'll try to drive his chi wreathed hand through it with a piercing finger thrust, which, in turn, will create a literally blinding explosion of that radiant chi, as if a miniature sun had formed right there in the warehouse itself.

Even should the attack fail, Hei is counting on that last blinding flash to give Siren a chance to disengage and make a break for it. He won't be able to make another attack after this. He's out of the this fight. Now, he just needs to find a way out...

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng can no longer fight.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
                                  >  //////////                    ]
                                  |=------\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: Siren successfully hits Akatsuki Team with Jackpot.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
                                  >  //                            ]
                                  |=======\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

COMBATSYS: Hei Xuanfeng successfully hits D4HL-1A with Ba Mian Mai Fu - Wu Ying Zuo Wei.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A
                                  >  //                            ]
                                  |=======\-------\0    Akatsuki Team

- Not a fan of principles? I suppose you'd need to have that sort of attitude to operate as you do. -

The dented bucket turns slightly to the side, an audible snort echoing from its speaker unit. Servos creak, as the automaton gestures a hand to the portly security guard, snoozing off his injury on the floor as the warehouse burns to a crisp all around him.

"-- Says an arsonist with a poor grasp on cause and effect."

The scene isn't pretty. The wooden crates have sparked off a wildfire, with nearly the entirety of the inventory ablaze. It was okay when it was just wood burning -- the black smoke was much more tolerable than the toxic aroma of burning plastics and paint. It's getting to be unbearable -- but of course, the D4HL-1A unit has the luxury of simply disabling its olfactory sensors. If it even has any, of course.

Siren's positioning - courtesy of a backflip off of the chrome bucket - left a lot to be desired, for reaching her now means the robot would have to wade through a sea of her own men. Well, three of them, anyway; the rest are cooling their heels, marshalling strength for escapes of their own. The men smile up from the collapsed form of Hei Xuanfeng, passing a look of mutual understanding to one another. The Akatsuki may not -like- being forced to practice battle drills every few months, but they can tell it pays off. The three men move as one, charging towards Siren with renewed vigor. Behind them, the battleframe's feet clank on the concrete floor with the balanced poise of an acrobat, its movements and its swaying white dress standing in stark juxtaposition to the robotic, Terminator-like frame.

Enter Hei Xuanfeng -- fresh off a tirade about being ignored, here to prove his point. Dahlia had lost of track of the fallen Triad assassin due to the smoke rolling across the floor. The bucket swivels from side to side, to try and make the best of stereoscopic hearing, as Dahlia breathes a silent prayer that the assassin is far from silent in his stream-of-consciousness shouting.

She identifies him too late, though. The robot's arm snaps up in a delayed defense against the finger jab emerging from the smoke. Fabric tears; the composite of its chest housing crumples in an unsightly crater. But, sensing the illusion, the robot pivots to its side -- its speed again insufficient to defend against the reverse angle as the blade of chi energy sears into its flank with a shower of sparks. The orchestra of strikes continues unabated as golden chi perforates the fabric, separates shrouds from substructures. If Scarlet Dahlia were here in person, it might be child's play for her to sort out the real from the illusory; trapped within this robot shell, defense is a lost cause. One attack after another batters the battleframe side by side; it bobs about like a harbor buoy in the midst of a tropical storm. Mercifully, as the storm ends, the automaton is allowed to drop to one knee -- it's barely able to turn its dented, heavily damaged form away from the veritable -sun- that erupts afterwards.

Of course... with the veritable assbeating that was taking place, Dahlia was kept from turning the robot's cameras towards her men. Occasionally she will get glimpses of towers of crates, vomiting out their overpriced, off-brand cargo: novelty items, toy knockoffs, some really screwed up footwear called "Cruggs"... but she won't get to see her men charge into battle. Just as they leap forward, a fresh electrical storm erupts, giving the men pause -- and moments later, a torrent of azure crescents pierces the rolling smoke clouds, leaving behind tendrils of electricity in their wake. The three gangsters will find themselves slashed one way, then another, jogged back and forth like helpless flies to a windshield wiper at maximum speed. The final strike culminates in one gangster being hurled into the air by one mighty backflip kick...

Causing D4HL-1A to erupt in a howl of rage! "NNNRGH!" The beleaguered battleframe limps towards Siren, its right foot nearly dead weight for the damaged ankle joint. The dress is definitely not one the Dahlia will want to try on afterwards. "Isn't... -escape- a crucial part of your plan? Because that is -not- happening!"

Hei might find that to be an empty threat, at least for the immediate term, as the metal door hinges are already starting to get weakened from the critical temperature. But -Siren-, though, will find herself in the robot's crosshairs, as a hot stream of kerosene is sprayed onto the staves and the paracord in its left hand. The paracord will be wrapped around the staves tightly, binding them into a makeshift missile -- which D4HL-1A hurls towards 'Setsuna' in one mighty javelin toss! If it hits, the projectile will surely unfurl, the sticks flipping out and winding their way around the nearest limb, while the ignited paracord seeks to burn a canyon into that fascinating, shape-and-color-changing flesh!

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team lets out a large yawn, slouching.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A

COMBATSYS: Akatsuki Team can no longer fight.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0          D4HL-1A

COMBATSYS: Siren blocks D4HL-1A's Large Thrown Object.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Siren            0/-------/---====|=======\=------\1          D4HL-1A

The scarred traitor ignores Dahlia's attempt at a biting retort, much more worried about removing any obstacles to her immediate escape from the rapidly spreading wildfire taking over the interior of the warehouse's wooden receptacles. She's not entirely sure how principles are related to cause and effect anyways making the comment more baffling than insulting. Perhaps the stress is starting to get to the operator on the far end of those controls causing her to lash out with the first thing that comes to mind. Having yet another of her holdings reduced to ruins can't be making her particularly happy.

The cat-burglar's intense cartwheeling assault proves as effective as she'd hoped. Organized or not, there isn't much an ordinary thug can do against that sort of onslaught. For once, she's actually glad to have the combat augmentations that were foisted upon her, though to play devil's advocate with that thought, she immediately points out to herself that they wouldn't be necessary if she hadn't been Shanghai'd into this dangerous and unsavory line of work. Either way, the goon squad has been dealt with which just leaves the robot.

Siren turns towards the sound of screaming metal as her battered partner unleashes the last of his reserves in an effort to buy her a little more time. Well, it would seem he's capable of being a gentleman when it suits him after all. The brilliant blast of golden light white's out her vision for a couple fractions of a second before the optical implants dampen it back down to normal levels, just in time to spot the sparking mess that remains of the battle robot limping its way aggressively towards her through the smoke.

'Setsuna' smirks into the glowing eyes of the tin-can's ruined bucket face, unable to resist the chance to prod the beehive one last time. Her escape is all but assured already, the plan having been decided way back at the start of this little scuffle. Even before they'd set foot in the building she had already mapped out every exit, window, ventilation shaft, maintenance hatch, and minor structural deficiency she could find that might be coaxed into a making a gap wide enough for her to slip out of. Dumb luck is great and all but the truly legendary thieves make their own with careful preparation and skillful adaptation.

"If I had a hundred yen for every time I've heard that..."

Actually, she'd still be pretty poor because, before her summary draft into the Illuminati, she's never actually been caught since parting ways with her old gang. In fact, her skills at getting into and out of places no one wants people with sticky fingers to be are so impressive that her moniker is practically a four letter word in every bank, casino, and vault on the planet. A shame she can't leave her calling card here but, on the other hand, this isn't exactly one of her finest moments.

Leaving the statement unfinished, the gruff gangster squares off with the combot as it hurls the flaming make-shift bola at her. Getting out of the way seems unlikely with its speed and size so instead she uses some of that legendary thief skill to improvise her way out of a potentially unpleasant spot. The entwined staff slams into the front of her greave, the hard polymer absorbing the brunt of the impact as it was designed to do so. She rolls backwards with the impact, snapping her foot up as the over-sized nunchaku unfolds and attempts to wind its way around her body; instead, it simply sails overhead as she deftly tumbles to her back, whistling past her face by mere inches.

Siren rides out the evasive roll, flipping back onto her feet with a casual hop, as if such death-defying stunts are something she does every morning for an early work out. Internally, she exhales a sigh of relief - it's always somewhat nerve wracking to try out a crazy maneuver like, particularly when the stakes are high; but that's where the fun is, at least as far as she's concerned.

But, she's had enough of this particular game of chicken. The job is done and there's little to be gained by staying here. All risk and no reward is just boring and stupid. 'Setsuna' holds up her hand to reveal another pair of small orbs, letting the robot get a good look.

"Sorry, 'boss', but that's my cue to punch out," she says, flashing her teeth in a wide grin. "Better luck next time."

Her arm whips down and the twin micro-grenades impact the ground in tandem. A massive blast of thick billowing white smoke completely consumes the thief, devouring her form completely as it rapidly spreads out in all directions. The dense cloud blocks all forms of sight, obscuring optical, thermal, and even electronic forms of detection, adding to the near blinding blanket of dark black smoke filling the air from the roaring bonfires of former cargo.

A few moments later the entire world abruptly pitches sideways as the micro-charges that had been scattered earlier detonate in rapid succession. Fresh balls of fire flare to life in the inferno accompanied by battering waves of concussive pressure. The warehouse loudly groans in protest, the seemingly randomly scattered bombs apparently having found their way to the base of several key support beams, all of which are now little more than bits of shattered concrete and exposed rebar. It doesn't take long for the intense heat and incredible weight to overwhelm these flimsy bits of architecture and the roof of the building suddenly dips downwards at one end as the heavy surface drops down into the open space below.

Siren doesn't wait around to see the aftermath of her handiwork. Demolition isn't her favorite method of getting access to places - most of the stuff she's interested in stealing tends to be rather fragile - but from time to time she's had reason to turn to a well-placed blast to get the job done.; which means she knows precisely how bad of an idea it is to be inside of that building any longer. Hopefully Hei didn't squander the chance he was given to escape either.

The obscuring cloud's veil is used to mask her movement as she darts for one of the warehouse's large loading dock bays, getting a running start. When she's about a dozen feet away from the thin metal barrier, she hurls herself forward into a horizontal corkscrew, shimmering blue energy sheathing her body and turning it into a powerful drill. The segmented partition buckles like cheap plywood upon impact, peeling open to allow her to slide neatly out of the deadly collapsing building and into the parking lot beyond.

She doesn't stop to celebrate her escape; the off-hand taunt about snipers still lingers fresh in her mind and the thief isn't about to make the rookie mistake of assuming she's slipped pursuit until several hours have passed. Instead, she cartwheels to the side the moment her feet touch the pavement, hurling herself at a ninety-degree angle along the front of the building towards the nearest piece of cover she can find.

Her bio-monitors chirp in warning as her heart-rate climbs over the threshold of its preprogrammed tolerance levels, automatically dumping a cocktail of various stimulants into her system to stabilize her vitals. Her head goes light as the pain killers numb her to the aching in her limbs and the oxidizing chemicals flood her bloodstream with fresh energy. It's the equivalent of a thermos of coffee injected straight into her blood - powerful but dangerous if she can't find a moment to rest soon. Fortunately, she should be all but in the clear at this point.

COMBATSYS: Siren palms a few cards she was hiding up her sleeve.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Siren            0/-------/----===|=======\=------\1          D4HL-1A

The Akatsuki manipulator would have been happy to explain that murder is murder, whether caused by outright violence or by a building's catastrophic structural failure. There's only so much one can -say- in the heat of combat, really.

Dahlia's last men standing had the wind knocked out of them, and between the flames, the suffocating clouds of smoke, the burst of white light, and the explosions of white smoke that unfurl afterwards, it would take some kind of miracle for all ten of these lackeys to make their way out of the building without some kind of assistance. But then, that's not even the worst of their problems.

The building's "spine" -- a long beam running the length of the warehouse's main bay -- collapses. When it falls, so too will the corrugated metal roof -- a structure reinforced just enough to keep the contents inside safe from the nation's typhoon season. And when it comes crashing down...

The duty of protecting the workers falls onto D4HL-1A's shoulders. That is to say, Dahlia's quick reactions maneuver the agile battleframe under the spine as it falls. Concrete spiderwebs out beneath the robot's feet, but still it manages to hold the roof up like a rain-soaked tent. Clouds of three different shades of gray billow outwards, a vacuum temporarily left behind in its wake.

And through it all, Dahlia's voice, giving a simple, unequivocal command. "Get. Out."

Not that the two fleeing infiltrators would have the luxury of noticing the sociopathic Dahlia's venture into the realm of valiant and heroic efforts -- for the corkscrewing attack that leaves the loading dock door in a shredded mess is -far- from subtle. While Dahlia -wasn't- kidding about the threat of snipers, it's quite possible that she was overselling their accuracy; as soon as Hei and Siren exit the building, they will each be greeted with the distinctive reports of high-caliber gunfire. The shots are each near-misses, careening just behind their shoulders, suggesting that the snipers aren't leading their targets correctly. Impact craters a foot wide are left behind in the pavement -- enough pressure to impel their intended targets to keep moving along!

This would probably be a good time to note that scattered storage containers and dumpsters are the -only- cover available. For black minivans, black SUVs, and the occasional red car (because someone's got to be special) have been parked in a large perimeter around the building. The distribution pattern of the sniper craters suggests that hiding would be safe -- for a short time.

But then the patrols come out. Even with the warehouse burning, Dahlia appears to have ordered a search party. Pairs of men armed with assault rifles begin fanning out across the parking lot, heading towards the dumpsters and containers.

It would only be a moment of time before the two infiltrators are hunted down and slain.
Unless, of course, they were half as good as jumping as they were on their arrival.
So, perhaps there was a gap in the Dahlia's plan after all...?


Dahlia sinks back into her chair, one hand kneading at her furrowed brow. The operation was a mess -- and yet, not a -complete- mission failure. For while the warehouse was lost -- intel on a dangerous new foe has been gained. Fire department is on the way; insurance adjusters scheduled for the morning. All forces accounted for -- five of them en route to the hospital.

Dahlia reaches for a tablet on her desk, curling it up into her lap as she narrows her eyes at two bright green blobs on the screen. The FLIR camera window updates in real-time, showing everything that a Predator-style drone loitering thousands of feet over Utsunomiya can see.

After staring for a while, she snorts with mild frustration, handing off the tablet to the nearest of her gaggle of assistants. "Give me a report on where these two assholes manage to lose you." She offers a conciliatory smirk, running fingers through her sweat-laden forelocks. "Me, I'm overdue for a damn shower."

Log created on 10:36:46 07/31/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 12:07:18 08/09/2018.