The Black Dragon - Black Dragon R4 - Shadow Games

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Description: Informed by the NOL of the power plant and it's crucial energy flowing to the shield around the Dragon's Den, Zach assembles his small team and attempts to aid the assault on the facility. Sneaking past the front lines, they make for the control center of the plant to try and end things with one quick stroke. However, he quickly discovers that the mercenary queen has more than mindless monsters and run-of-the-mill henchmen waiting to deal with just such an infiltration attempt.

Though silence has largely become ubiquitous in most of the city ever since its inhabitants were driven from large portions of its streets, this day is proving to be a rather noisy one. The chatter of near constant gunfire drowns out everything as the forces lead by the Librarium clash with the entrenched mercenaries. Shimmering unnatural light crackles through the air, evidence of the magical powers being brought to bear, only to be answered with more mundane but equally dangerous thunderous booms as explosives detonate in retaliation.

The Dragon seems to have spared little in her preparations against the assault. What had once been nothing more than a chain-link fence meant to mark the boundaries of the power plant has been replaced with a far more sturdy concrete barrier. Make-shift watch towers and pill boxes litter its surface offering defensive positions from which the mercenary forces can fight. Out in front of the wide gate, thick bundles of jagged pipe have been strewn in tight clusters, offering a near impossible field of obstacles that prevent any sort of mechanized assets from simply barreling in through the front door to lead a charge.

It's clear that the soldiers under Kira's employ are nothing short of elite veterans. Each soldier acts in near perfect unison with those around them, laying down fields of suppressing fire to give their allies time to lob grenades or line up shots with RPGs into the ranks of the Library's frontline forces. Snipers unleash deadly accurate fire from well-concealed positions elevated high atop the power plant's boilers and scattered throughout its scaffolding, cutting down any officers foolish enough to make themselves obvious targets. Heavily armored shock troopers lurk ominously behind the edges of the wall, their large-bore shotguns unleashing searing streams of chemical fire into the crowd any time someone gathers up the courage to try and push forward. There's even a couple of machine-gun nests situated behind thick piles of sandbags, their barrels glowing red hot from the constant barrage of withering fire being laid down.

Yet, despite the overwhelming show of force that the Dragoons are putting up, they seem to have been strangely careless in watching their flanks. Other than a few sentries standing guard at each corner of the wall, the majority of their forces seem to be concentrated on the frontal assault. The spindly scaffolding running throughout the towering boilers makes it difficult to draw clear lines of sight from one side of the facility to the other and the sheer amount of noise means that any disturbance is likely to go unnoticed.

Zach Glenn, and his small team, were more than happy to allow the NOL storm the main gates. For that matter, he was mostly fine if they got to Kira Volkov before he did. He suspected that they would either do what he would (terminate with extreme prejudice) or they would do what he feared (recruit and coopt her for their own nefarious purposes.

Abernathy had tracked the power flow supplying the shield quickly. After that, she and Chavez had spent some time acquiring intelligence on the facility itself. They were not entirely certain that the flanks were weak points or traps. In the end it did not really matter; Zach did not have an army to throw at this problem.

But he did have a good team with him. Chavez and Abernathy were sitting behind their own high-powered sniper rifles as the NOL's main offensive started. Once things got dynamic, they picked the east corner. It was decided that once the job was done, it was the best egress route. Zach and Hibiki were stationed within a short sprint of the wall itself, using the other buildings as cover. Things were in place, and Zach gave the go signal.

Two shots are fired, so closely together that they ring out in a single report, aimed at dropping the sentries on the designated corner. Zach and Hibiki sprint for the wall, with the latter already pulling equipment from his pack on the approach. A minute later, the Japanese man has strung up the shaped charges. The two men get away from the charges long enough for them to cut a hole in the wall just large enough for Zach to get through.

Hibiki umlimbers his usual combat shotgun while Zach pulls a pair of long knives from sheathes on his back. Time to go to work.

The plan is executed flawlessly. The cacophony of the main assault masks the pair of sniper shots, burying them in an avalanche of indistinguishable bangs and booms. The sentries stationed in the corner watch tower fly backwards as the high-caliber rounds slam into their thick armor, slamming them against the interior of the enclosed space. Both figures slump to the ground and out of sight, leaving bright red smears on their way down. Dead or not, they shouldn't be a problem any more.

The sharp crack of shaped explosives is likewise lost in the bombardment of audial sensations. A thick section of the hardened concrete vanishes in a flash of powdery stone allowing both mercenaries easy access into the power plant's yard.

A quick survey of the immediate area offers no signs of their stealthy insertion being noticed. The heavy weave of metal scaffolding spread out like a spider's web between the boilers makes it difficult to get clean lines of sight. Useful for keeping their presence unnoticed but also dangerous as it means they could blunder right into an enemy squad with very little warning.

Attempting to move up either side of the wall would be tantamount to suicide. While they had gotten lucky that there were so few guards on watch at the rear, moving closer to the main assault would draw attention to themselves. With only two of them against a veritable army of well-trained warriors, it would only be a matter of moments before they'd find themselves swarmed by reinforcements.

Instead, a blocky door mounted into the rear of the main facility offers are more tempting path forwards. Guarded by nothing more than a simple card reader, the reconnaissance work the team had done gave them the knowledge that this door would also lead them into a network of underground tunnels that offered quick and easy access to any point within the facility. If they wished to make straight for one of the boilers to plant charges, that would be the quickest way to do it without having to run in front of a few dozen assault rifles.

Zach and Hibiki do not waste time with a card reader. Normally, Chavez would hack the lock and the team would be about their business. However, Chavez was still at his rifle along with Abernathy and the pair were going to work one tower at a time to secure the escape route.

Hibiki and Zach, however, are prepared. The demolitions expert slaps down more charges, preparing for another uptick in assault noises before detonating the explosives to allow them entrance. They were fairly certain such a crude entry method would *not* go unnoticed, but the team was not exactly spoiled for choice at the moment. The two operatives slip through the rubble and head for the nearest boiler.

The door offers no more resistance to the well-prepared team than the wall. A loud whump sends the flimsy metal rectangle flying off it's hinges, creating a far noisier clatter as it ricochets down the hallway. While it's possible that their entrance went unnoticed, there's no reason to take chances. The longer they stay here, the higher the odds are that something goes wrong. Focused on their mission, the duo duck into the facility and make for the stairwell that will give them access to the tunnels.

Strangely, there is still no resistance that makes itself present as they move forward. Their path to through the winding ground floor corridors is swift and within a couple of minutes they've descended down into the sub-basement levels. It's clear that these tunnels were designed for practicality and little else. Thick cables of bundled wire run naked across the walls and roof, straddled by lines of metal piping that weep condensation into scattered pools on the floor. The space is rather claustrophobic as well, offering only barely enough room for two adults to walk side by side, though no experienced soldier would do anything so foolish.

Which is precisely why the trap laid for them works so well. A sharp hiss fills the the tight space as a massive blast door rises up between Zach and his companion from the floor, neatly separating them with pinpoint timing. Before he can even gather his wits to respond to this first development, a second blast door bisects the tunnel roughly twenty feet behind him, effectively trapping the two of them like rats.

"Ah, I wondered what sort of 'professionals' would be sent to try and slip in while I wasn't looking."

A feminine voice, thick with Slavic accent, crackles from a small speaker mounted in the wall.

"I do hope you didn't honestly think it would be that easy? I'd feel slightly insulted that you'd assume I'm stupid enough not to watch my back just because it's a little noisy on my front lawn."

Zach watches as doors slam down. He doesn't bother calling to Hibiki; the man's literally a mute. He does start listening for explosions; that's just how Hibiki communicates. Instead he draws upon his will, and the knives start to glow as Celtic knot-work slithers up the blades in golden light.

"I've never had a plan that didn't go pear-shaped at one point or another. I'd be way more worried if there *wasn't* a hitch," Zach drawls as he looks around. "Though I might have hoped that the NOL would provide sufficient distraction." He shrugs nonchalantly. "'Swhat I get for hoping, I guess."

Zach might be able to blast his way through the panel he knows Hibiki isn't behind, but he would prefer some time to bring the energy up safely. Stalling will help that.

Rich laughter spills out of the old speaker at his commentary on plans going awry.

"Too true. In our line of work, nothing is ever easy, eh? Which is why it is best to be prepared."

Faint blinking red lights suddenly start to flash all around the tunnel as small explosive charges, concealed by the heavy shadows in the poorly lit tunnel, hum to life in unison. It doesn't take much to realize that there's enough of them to render anything unfortunate enough to be trapped inside those narrow tubes into little more than bits of chunky salsa, particularly if they're loaded with ball bearings designed to bounce around at hyper-sonic velocity. There's little doubt that his silent friend is facing a similar predicament.

"Now, the smart thing to do would be to simply push this little red button right here and make my problems go away. I've found that there simply isn't anything that an appropriate amount of explosives can't fix."

The speaker leaves that possibility lingering in the air for several seconds, letting the infiltrators sweat the possibility of a very gruesome, if probably quick, demise.

"But since I'm in such a strong position right now, I think I'll have a little fun with you instead."

The poorly maintained light hanging from the tunnel's ceiling begins to flicker, bathing the interior of the tunnel in darkness for short spurts. After a couple seconds of this the lights go out for an extended moment before returning to their previous dim but consistent illumination. Where there had been nothing but empty space before, a young woman now stands at the far end of the tunnel.

The figure is dressed in a military combat style outfit, though one with a few liberties taken. A sleeveless sports top clings to her slender torso, rising up to cover her neck all the way to the jaw. Dark military cargo pants hang in loose puffs around her legs, pressed down tight against her thighs by a pair of nylon straps sporting sheaths with long modern combat blades. Well-worn combat boots and fingerless gloves cover her extremities and a pair of armored elbow pads offer her some slight protection - or another hard surface with which to strike. The final piece of her ensemble is a simple military cap pulled down low over a mass of wild dark brown bangs, the rest of her waist-length hair braided neatly into a tail that hangs down her back. Every single element of her attire is a shade of black, making her blend into the dank tunnel as if one of the shadows had simply peeled off of the wall and come to life.

The woman's face is pleasant but not overly attractive. Thin brown eyes regard Zach with intense focus though her face is little more than a blank mask, showing almost no signs of outwards emotion. Even more strangely, he cannot sense anything about her at all. No emotions, no thoughts, no motives - not even her presence registers on his psychic radar. It's as if she doesn't even really exist.

"My friend here has been quite restless of late. It's been several months since we last got to go out on a campaign, you see, as we're both starting to go a little stir crazy. Since I have some other unwanted guests to attend to, Zhenya will be keeping you company. Oh and before you get any crazy ideas, if either of you attempt to run away without giving her a bit of sport first, I'll be forced to kill your friend. Have fun now."

The speaker crackles a final time then goes silent. The red lights on the wall continue to beep with steady regularity, offering a constant reminder of just how quickly things can go bad for him. Of course, it's unlikely that the Dragon will detonate them with her ally trapped inside but there's no guarantee of that and Hibiki doesn't have the same luxury.

Reaching down to the hilts of her blades, Zhenya slides the weapons out of their holsters with a slow sinuous movement, the deadly steel hissing as it scrapes against the edges of the metal containers. She lowers herself into a wide stance, offering no words of greeting or taunts to try and rile him up. Her mask of neutrality remains fixed neatly in place, the only signs that betray her calm coming in the form of a faint purple glow that briefly flashes across her eyes - the tell-tale signs of psycho power.

COMBATSYS: Zhenya has started a fight here.

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Zhenya           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn has joined the fight here.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Zhenya

COMBATSYS: Zhenya calculates her next move.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Zhenya

Knowing Hibiki? He's probably excited at the idea of trying to get out of the trap he is in. The demoman is probably going to work on some method of dealing with the explosives in his new cell.

Zach's not worried about that. Not at all. Though holy *hell* is this person a gloater. Did they *not* read that Evil Overlord list or something? The white-haired psion rolls his eyes a bit as he rolls one shoulder, then the other. He sheathes the knives, though, and brings up empty hands glowing with the amber light of his own soul. This should be fun; he doesn't get to fight too many people who share the talent even in his own family.

Some cases, he'd be willing to start simple and work his way through the repetoire from there. But there are bombs involved, and Hibiki would disapprove of such a lax attitude. The man takes in a deep breath before charging the smaller woman, more of that golden power sheathing his limbs as he blasts in to deliver a clothesline!

COMBATSYS: Zhenya dodges Zach Glenn's Sweeping Strike.

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Zhenya

If the silent woman shares any of his excitement for the coming duel, she doesn't show it. In fact, she doesn't seem to show much of any reaction as he shifts to a bare-handed combat stance, flooding his own fists with raw power. Her posture remains loose and relaxed as he charges her, eyes narrowed slightly with focus, right up until the last moment.

Zhenya simply flows to one side, moving in such a way that she seems to almost casually weave away from the attack. Her movement is graceful yet practical, wasting no more effort beyond that which is required to get her out of the way of the strike. The skillful dodge leaves her perilously close to being struck, the punch missing her by only an inch, but there is no such thing as close enough in martial arts.

Whirling around like a dervish as she slips behind the mercenary, the woman flings one of her blades at his back as he passes her by. The deadly projectile whirls end over end at his exposed flank but rather than attempt to bury itself point-first into his spine a writhing field of dark energy coalesces around the knife, exploding like a miniature grenade upon drawing close enough to its target to catch him in the blast.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn blocks Zhenya's Blade Bomb.

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

Zach spins, feeling the energy as much as hearing the blade, slamming the back of his hand into the weapon to smack it against a wall. The flare up of energies is intense at the point of contact, and Zach's hand comes away reddened from the effort.

Zach leaps, almost too lightly even as the sparks of psychic energy betray the trick of it, towards Zhenya once more. A right straight is chambered even before he finishes closing the distance and is fired at her face almost at the same moment his weight sets!

COMBATSYS: Zhenya reflects Heavy Swing from Zach Glenn with Blade Cyclone EX.

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

The dagger rebounds off the aggressive slap, smacking into the wall with a noisy clatter. But rather than tumble uselessly to the floor, the weapon bounces back towards Zhenya as she holds out her hand, whistling through the air like a scythe to land in her open palm.

With both weapons in her possession just moments ahead of Zach's leaping punch, the graceful assassin spins about in place, whirling her daggers around in a blinding flash of motion. Flickering shadowy power lashes out in a horizontal circle around her, catching the energized punch on the edge of the buzzsaw. His own power seems to turn against him as it makes contact with the ghostly ring, detonating around his fist prematurely as well as earning him a few nasty slashes along the knuckles from the blades themselves.

Zhenya quickly takes a few steps backwards as her defensive pirouette comes to an end, dropping into her ready stance once more, expression still devoid of any indentifiable emotion as she stares at her opponent silently. Seems like Kira is the one that does all the talking in this group.

Zach grits his teeth as the blade bites into his hand, as blood sprays momentarily from the fresh cuts. He lets out a hiss of pain, but that seems to about it as he shakes feeling back into his hand. The cuts, however, already seem to be closing. Maybe not Duke Burkoff quickly, but more than a lot of people out there. There are *reasons* Zach is repeat runner in the King of Fighters tournaments.

Zach does not allow the smaller woman much time to breathe however, as he quickly closes the gap, a translucent golden blade appearing in one hand and aimed at Zhenya's flank!

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn successfully hits Zhenya with Swift Blade.

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

Continuing to show unchecked aggression, Zach finally seems to find his mark. As the slippery woman attempts to retreat, his shimmering psi-blade slashes out at her side, scoring a long red line across the pale exposed skin. The assassin flinches slightly at the pain, her face twisting into a momentary grimace but she doesn't offer the satisfaction of making any noise. Apparently she is no stranger to pain either.

Reversing her course as it becomes obvious that her evasion will not be successful, Zhenya easily shifts into an offensive posture, throwing herself forward to meet the mercenary's aggression with some of her own this time. One of the daggers whips out at him from the side but this quickly proves to be a ruse as the true strike comes from waist level, the second blade thrusting sharply towards his gut in a flash of rapid motion, trying to slip past his guard before he even realizes the danger.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn interrupts Random Strike from Zhenya with Soaring Dragon ES.

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Zach Glenn       1/----===/=======|=======\===----\1           Zhenya

Zach's follow up move for the psychic blade was already in motion as the blades come in. Zhenya's efforts are rewarded with a somewhat shallow pair of cuts along Zach's leg. But there is a price to be paid for the gambit.

Zach's follow-up move was an augmented uppercut with enough force to lift him off of his feet at the high point of the swing. The fist slams the smaller woman under the chin, launching her toward a wall.

Zach's eyes narrow. There is a part of him that wants to dig in to what is driving this assassin, but he also knows that he doesn't have enough time to mess with that. Hibiki may still be working the problem, but there have been no explosions from that direction just yet...

The powerful uppercut connects solidly with the slight woman's jaw, snapping her head back with an unpleasant whipcrack of force. She flies backwards into the nearby tunnel wall, earning another dull thud as her back slams into the mass of pipes and wires there, which are only slightly less unpleasant of a back stop than hard stone.

Zhenya doesn't drop to her knees or fall on her face as she comes down. Her body seems to melt into liquid shadow and flows to a point several feet away, preventing her from being the target of an easy cheap shot while she recovers. Grunting slightly, she turns and spits a wad of blood onto the floor, wiping a red smear from the corner of her mouth with the back of one hand. Even after such a collosal counter strike, she doesn't seem inclined to show too much of a reaction nor does it seem as if she plans to call it quits just yet.

Shifting her posture to an odd stance, she lines up one of the blades so that it's tip is pointing at Zach's chest even from where she stands. Without any warning, her body shifts into shadows once again, flowing forward like a jet of black water. The distance between them vanishes in an instant and it suddenly becomes very clear why she was aiming her weapon from so far away as the deadly tip of the blade re-emerges only inches away from plunging into his chest, the rest of her form solidifying behind it in an aggressive but controlled lunge.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn endures Zhenya's Heart Thrust EX.

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Zach Glenn       1/-======/=======|=======\====---\1           Zhenya

Zach reads the move for what it is, twisting slightly to avoid getting stabbed in the heart. It is important to note that he does not avoid getting stabbed, however. The knife drives into his chest. Zach's hand reaches up to snatch the woman's arm in a tight grip while his right hand reaches skyward. Light swirls, and a broken sword appears in that hand. The white-hilted claymore is aimed with the blade aiming right at the point where neck and shoulders.

Zach *could* drop a witty comment here, but instead opts to draw forth the blade's power, forming the rest of Dyrnwyn's blade with psychic energy as he drives the weapon for the spot he aimed for!

COMBATSYS: Zhenya dodges Zach Glenn's Dyrnwyn EX.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Zach Glenn       0/-------/-----==|=======\====---\1           Zhenya

Zach may be the survivor of dozens of battles but he isn't the only veteran in this fight, as evidenced by the swiftness with which his opponent recognizes what is about to happen. The slight shift in his posture to take the blade without being killed by causes the assassin to react almost instantly. In fact, she reacts so fast it seems as if she knew exactly what was going to happen even before her knife bit into his flesh.

Zhenya is in motion fractions of a second before the blade even starts to come down, her movement so fast that the mercenary simply can't react in time to change the angle of his strike. One moment the woman is in front of him, the next she is a blur of shadows that wraps around behind him, practically caressing his skin as she slips out from under the headman's axe.

His foe offers him the same curtesy, refusing to waste time bandying cheap words about. Instead, she attempts to capitalize on the opportunity afforded to her by the skillful evasion, lashing out at him from behind in a flurry of deadly slashes. A shimmering silhouette trails behind her with every strike, the shadowy after-image mirroring each strike a hair's breath behind her with a flash of searing psycho power. Zhenya weaves back and forth, keeping her attacks random and unpredictable but never allowing more than a moment to pass between each stab, slash, or cut in order to drive Zach onto the defensive or simply overwhelm him outright.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn just-defends Zhenya's Shadow Dance!!

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Zach Glenn       0/-------/-----==|>>>>>>>\-------\0           Zhenya

Zach stops funnelling energy through the sword the moment his opponent slipped away, making the weapon more the length of a long knife if the hilt were not outsized for such a weapon. Zach whirls, bringing Dyrnwyn to bear.

Each and every single one of Zhenya's strikes is met perfectly with the broken blade. Every strike of energy is met with a precise counterforce, dispelling the effort as if it had never happened. Zach slides the last swipe away and Dyrnwyn disappears in the same motion, scattering motes of light across the room.

A decision has been made in that moment of stillness. This fight has gone too long, and the mission is becoming untenable. Zach gives Zhenya a two-fingered salute, touching his brow and flicking his wrist before simply disappearing in a similar spray of light.

If there are cameras in Hibiki's section of the tunnel, Zach appears in the picture. The psion grabs his partner by the back of the tactical rig, and the pair disappear in an almost identical display.

Zach and Hibiki reappear several blocks from the site of the power plant, both on hands and knees. Hibiki is gasping for air and trying to get his bearings as Chavez and Abernathy come running up to them with large cases for their rifles.

Zach crawls a foot or two and promptly vomits on the pavement. "Scrapping the mission," he croaks. "Need to leave." With that, Abernathy helps Hibiki up while Chavez assists Zach. The quartet beat a hasty retreat from there.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn has left the fight here.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Zhenya           0/-------/<<<<<<<|

Despite her speed, Zhenya's strikes are turned aside by an equally impressive display of skill from the mercenary. Each parry flows neatly into the next, allowing Zach to ward off the storm of slashes without taking so much as a scratch as the shadowy assassin tears into him with a burst of power.

Finally accepting that her offensive has been blunted, she hops backwards after a final slash, ensuring that she keeps her opponent from trying to make a foolish lunge after her. But it seems that he is no longer interested in entertaining this duel. Making use of some sort of teleportation technology, the psion vanishes in a flash of light that leaves the dark woman alone in the musty tunnel.

Refusing to lower her guard in case this is some sort of a trick, Zhenya remains wary and watchful for two full minutes before finally sheathing her blades. A soft sigh escapes her as she frowns, turning to jog off towards the command center where Kira is no doubt still toying with the other infiltrators. The blast doors open at her approach, responding to a digital signal in the small device she carries.

That fight was just starting to get interesting too. Perhaps the next one will have a less anti-climatic ending.

Log created on 13:33:48 05/25/2020 by Angel, and last modified on 17:39:37 05/25/2020.