Shadaloo - Snake in Vega's Shadow

Description: It has been a long time since a certain masked psychopath set foot in a Shadaloo base... but now Vega's organisation has been rebuilt along with his body. Is he still a man worth serving? To answer this very question, Balrog returns to Thailand and makes his presence inescapably clear, placing himself before his former Lord and master for judgement.


Much the same as before, with the bustle of minions doing their duty. Checking orders, fufilling orders, cleaning guns, emptying guns. There are squadrons currently within the training center, giving the Dolls a workout or two - really, it's for their own benefit. Those that can survive the Dolls' rather rigorous attacks are promoted quickly - those that cannot are cast aside. Seperating the wheat from the chaff, in a bloody and violent manner.

Shadaloo itself may be busy, but the man that sits in the Throne Chamber looks like he is not. With his blank white eyes staring at the monitor screens, Vega is simply taking in reports from around the world, transmitted to him in almost-real time. His monitoring agents (No, not monitor cyborgs, cool as that would be) transmit large amounts of video and audio to the Shadaloo complex, containing the fights that occur in public as well as some of the more shadowy, esoteric ones. This is what he studies now, his hands folded under his chin, leaning forwards as if he were trying to memorize every technique used on the screen, to be absolutely prepared for what may ever happen to him. There, he stays - alert but immobile. Woe betide those that interrupt the Master's 'Quiet Time' without good reason.

How long has it been? Following Vega's seemingly impossible defeat in Thailand, the days have passed slowly for those left behind in the burning remains of Shadaloo. For those who remained stalwart, there was work to undertake and faith to keep strengthened in hope of their Lord's return. It has undoubtedly been too long for them. But time, unlike power, is not a relative concept in this world. Young or old, weak or strong, all men and women turn on the same axis. All make a choice on how to experience their own quantity of time. Some choose wisely, others... less so.

It has been too long for Balrog as well.

The former lieutenant has been squandering his talents since the cataclysmic event occurred, moving from country to country possessed not by wanderlust but by boredom and frustration. To occupy such criminal stature is to face either a short existence, or a dull one, even with such talent in battle and in stealth as the Spaniard. Mindless murder grows old for the most crazed mind, and what else is there? Professional fighting? The bull rings? Fame, glory and riches? These options no longer exist without the backing of a greater power.

In short, Balrog has been lost - unable to accept that he can possibly be nobody, but incapable of truly becoming somebody once more. Vega's return to his own glories has been noted of late, whispers becoming screams that ring only too clearly in welcoming ears, and the bonds of Shadaloo have begun to throb. Hauled by a loathsome mother's apron strings, the prodigious psychopath has stumbled back toward the fold... acknowledging, perhaps, that he needs Vega.

But his return shall be less than humble.

It started in the jungle, as a routine patrol made their way back toward the base, meeting their relief squad en route. A shrill, unfamiliar call echoed through the undergrowth, almost impossible to place amid the chaos of wildlife. Confused men glanced about and began to laugh amongst themselves - what sort of animal makes such a sound? Surely, this was the cry of a preybeast, made to keep the fierce predators away.

This.. was the last time many of them would laugh.

Within seconds, three lay dead, blood still scattering across bright foliage when another two met a very similar fate. Panic set in, and were it not for the surviving captain may have been allowed to reign supreme. But Shadaloo trains men for the most intense of battles, conditions them to fear and danger. With a few barked words, the broken unit became a solid fighting force once more. Gunshots rang in the night as a glinting shadow leapt between them, the crossfire carefully placed to avoid accidental casualties. Both sides fought masterfully-- but it did not save the three more soldiers who had yet to die, carved like butcher's meat.

And then a young corporal - only recently returned from conditioning work amongst the Dolls - managed to land a shot, striking metal. The assailant had been disarmed, his weapon revealed as it fell to the verdant soil. A long set of claws. With such skill, it could be only one man... and that call suddenly seemed jarringly familiar. What followed was painful for several more men, but no others died. Within twenty minutes they were back to base... and now, four of them enter the throne room, brisk and efficient at the rear of their captain.

Amongst them, an intimidating figure, bare-chested with face concealed behind an eerie mask, its only notable feature a tasteful purple scrawl across one cheek. A walking, slashing work of art by his own definition. Balrog stands with four guns trained upon him, eyes bright within their slits, breathing deep still from the thrill of mayhem. He shows no fear, and /feels/ no fear. Vega should know well enough.

And the captain knows it too, clearing his throat and adjusting a rumpled collar before he calls out, "Lord Vega! Pardon the interruption, but we have apprehended an intruder."

There can be few others who would warrant such interruption.

There can be even fewer allowed to live this long.

Interruptions. With a wary white eye, Vega turns to look towards the captain's entrance, taking it and the rest in. His fingers unsteeple, instead gripping the worn edges of his throne, indentations forming as muscles work and his ire at being bothered shows in the screech and scream of twisted metal. He rises to his feet, Shadaloo's shadow sprawling out before him towards the assembled, much in the way the Reaper's talon points accusingly at the soon-to-be deceased. When he finally deigns to speak, the voice is full of controlled, barely-reigned in emotion, a mix of anger, ire and frustration.

He speaks not to the captain, blessed enough relief for the man to not draw the full energy of Vega's ire. Instead, it's directed at their captive - the unfearing, unquailing Spaniard. "You should have simply reported in. How many did you kill?" With a wave of his hand, he moves to dismiss the others - Balrog himself can stay, for the full unleashing of Vega's ire. Instead now, he attempts to downplay it, to offer something besides frothing rage at simple mayhem for mayhem's sake. "Leave him here. If he truly wishes to kill me, I'll call for you to bury the remains shortly. You've done well." With that said, they depart, leaving Vega and Balrog alone. With that, Vega simply approaches the smaller man, and waits, hands folded against his chest. He has all the time in the world, Balrog - all the time in the world.

Anger, hatred, all that is negative... Vega carries it about him in his cowing aura. Those veterans in his service have seen lesser men crumple to their knees merely at being in his presence, have seen them tremble and weep. It is notable that even among his subordinates, there is a reaction, two of the four guards forced to shift grip on their weapons as they receive a jolt of emotional force. Noting this, Balrog smirks behind his mask, eyes flickering from his prior master to those who were - and are - beneath him.

The captain, to his credit, does nothing before he is dismissed, standing ramrod straight and stock still as Vega chooses to overlook his presence. He has done his duty and has not been punished; for that much he should be grateful. Vega's subordinates know better than to hold lofty expectations. When he is told to leave, he does so with a firm hand signal to the men behind him. All five leave at a pace identical to that with which they entered, as drill dictates. As /Vega/ dictates.

Left alone with the very embodiment of Shadaloo, Balrog seems no more perturbed. In truth, even through his own self-obsessed madness he feels the power lurking behind this man. He has always felt it, and still it drives him to return - the only thing of worth in an otherwise ugly creature. But what worth, and what an experience it has given him in turn. If there is any in this world to whom he must bow...

But he doesn't. That masked visage turns back to Vega as the lesser men leave, a slight cant of the head all the immediate response to his words. Within moments the two hungry men are face-to-face, and the Spaniard deliberately, sinuously lifts a hand to his face. He breathes in, seeming to savour the very passage of oxygen before with a delicate flourish the mask is removed. Silky blonde hair tumbles to frame his true countenance, which still wears an overtly confident smirk.

"Seven, eight, nine..." he finally responds in a smooth tone, shoulders lifting in a careless shrug - an arrogant show of nonchalance - "I really wasn't counting. Certainly," his head lifts, another deep breath preceding his conclusion, "Not a new record. They do you some credit, all things considered." Balrog's free hand is next to rise, indicating the throne room with a twirl of dextrous fingertips, "So does all of this. Did you really think I would meander back in without seeing if you were worth it? The world had just about given up on you... 'my Lord'."

There's a second, /just/ a second, where Vega's ire gets the better of him. As Balrog smirks and suggests that Vega's path is not the best to follow, and that his demise has left him at less then perfection, the Shadaloo Lord bristles. The dark aura surrounding him sinks into his body, then flows forwards and to his hand, which has suddenly been outstretched, palm out towards where Balrog stands. Just in front of his palm, a sliver of his 'power' forms, Psycho Power swirling and eddying like a claymore.

This side towards enemy.

"The world is being lulled into submission, Balrog. Something you would have understood, had you not run off." It's chiding, but with an undercurrent of blase acceptance. Vega knows who his 'true' allies are. The Dolls and little else. Without puppets, he has noone he can /truly/ depend on, instead just simple cowing and forcing others into his bidding. With his 'death', he knew things would change - Sagat's defection, Balrog's absence.. All of this is just another challenge to deal with, another failure to work past, which he shall do. He approaches Balrog, until he's face to face with the other man, angry with his eyes narrowed, little whisps of that power escaping as sparks and coronas from his eyes, the blank white of the dead. "Report. If you've come back with anything less than exceptional information, this Throne Room is the alst thing you'll see."

It seems they have all learned something from this experience.

But no amount of knowledge prepares one for the unleashed powers of Shadaloo's lord and master. Even a trace quantity is enough to wildly stimulate the senses of all but the hardiest. Balrog may be skilled by any standard, and terrifying enough in his own way, but there is a reason he has owed fealty to this man, this monster. His body betrays his feelings as Vega summons those threatening energies, shoulders tensing and pupils dilating. Nostrils flare just faintly as the fallen nobleman swiftly brings himself under control.

His own failure is brief, also... but it is enough. By the time their eyes lock, featureless pallor clashing with an ice-blaze of sapphire, Balrog has already acceded to the difference between them. Power /is/ relative, and here the distinction is clear.

"Report?" Yet his tone does not show it, nor the gestures that follow that one error. With a disgusted scoff, he turns his head to one side, not quite breaking eye contact - but giving the appearance of doing so. The previously lifted hand rides to his hip. "You were a fallen man, and ony fools continue to follow one whom has perished. Would you allow such a fool to work alongside you as I have? As all four of us once did, together?" If in name only. He would never admit to any further kinship with the other three men.

"No, Lord Vega," But he does admit something else... whether the intimidation has worked, or there is a simple truth in his return to these hallowed halls, the name he uses now is used without sarcasm. He turns back to meet Vega's gaze directly, expression set to a tight neutral, no trace of amusement remaining, "What would you have me say? I did not return to you with information. I have gathered none. I have returned to you, and that is all. Call it proof of my loyalty, desire to serve your purposes once more, or something more selfish..."

"In any case, I know you will not kill me. Not when I can still be of use to you."

"You think yourself invaluable, even now. You expect me to allow you back and welcome you to Shadaloo's heart? Bah! You've a rat that flees at the first sign of strife, only to return back when the crops sprout again. Why should I do anything but destroy you /right/ now?" At Vega's right hand, that energy explodes into life again, curling around his fingers and flicking forwards, as if trying to reach out and engulf the warrior before him. He holds it back, however - While the concept of rubbing out someone who purports to be in his corner isn't the wisest move, it certainly would be one of the ones that he chose, were he not missing Sagat as well.

Need is hell, at times.

"What use will you have? Throwing yourself at my enemies? I could have Bison do that, over and over. Training my Dolls? I've added that to my personal duties - and I believe their effectiveness has increased. What use /are/ you?" He knows that Balrog has his abilities, places where he can make a difference, and where Shadaloo /truly/ needs him - but ego demands placating - and Vega will be damned if he's going to accept 'You need me more than I need you' as an answer.

There is more than one gigantic ego inside these metal walls. It is arguable which of the pair bears the greatest form of hubris... Vega's belief in his power has taken him further than perhaps any other in history, closer to achieving that most cherished of goals. His opinion of himself is at least rooted in reality. Balrog can make no such claims. He has been deemed vermin, but if society knew the truth he would be deemed far worse by the common mass.

Self-belief can be powerful, however. The red-garbed dictator could crush his former employee even without realising the full extent of his earth-shaking power. But Balrog only draws himself up further when that blazing evil flame is brought toward him, pupils dilating as his jaw sets proudly. Even behind the ego, a tiny part of him must know that he has no choice but to gamble his life-- cast himself upon Vega's whim. All logic indicates that he must accept a new oath from the masked ninja, and this is not a stupid man. Megalomania does not thrive in stupid men.

'You need me more than I need you'? No. This need /is/ mutual, if not equal.

"Bison is strong enough," the Spaniard replies when he is given space to do so, carefully choosing his words - there is no sense insulting his fellows, not now, "But you and I are both aware that there is more to your plans. More than brute strength alone will achieve. The Doll project," he pauses, flicking a glance to Vega's hand before once more meeting his gaze, allowing a slight smile that.. actually reaches his eyes, "Has yielded interesting results in the past, and if it has continued apace then I have no doubt that Shadaloo will be a step closer in achieving its goals. But do you mean to tell me that /already/ they have transcended my ability? All of them?"

Balrog's mind shifts to one in particular, the exception. And he hesitates. What of her? Perhaps Vega has succeeded in bringing others to her level... and if he has, then why? What need, all of a sudden? His gaze intensifies, searching Vega's needlessly for the information he knows he will not be able to find. Nothing can be discerned from /those/ eyes.

"You have had time to train them, I have no doubt," he continues, as if he had thought of only this, "But soon enough there will be another reckoning. If you intend to remain here, preparing your creations and strengthening defences, then you need more strength in the field. But more even than that-- you need subtlety, deception, and /terror/." A psychopathic flash in the eyes betrays nothing Vega does not already know, though it hints toward the excitement Balrog has already expressed in slaying his guards. "Your enemies are not truly afraid of Bison, and still they know little of your Dolls; how many, how skilled, where they are created. Do you not think they will be curious? Place me back in your service and I will use this curiousity when it comes, twist it into fear and uncertainty. /Prepare/ your foes to be crushed."

The Spaniard knows he makes judgements he cannot possibly back up with hard evidence - but looking around, little has changed. It is almost certain that little has changed further afield, for the Vigilantes, for the Syndicate... But he can only continue to gamble. He does so with a sudden grin, teeth flashing in the dim light, "You understand how their minds work, better even than I do. You think Bison understands? Sagat? Your soldiers know only the art of war. I am.. different. This is why you noticed me."

A soft sigh, concession to the fight he is allowing himself to lose, and Balrog spreads his hands to either side as his grin disappears. "This is why I am willing to serve you. Why /I/ will work toward /your/ goals."

A litany of details - a keen insight, deft and delicate, attacking pieces of Vega's statement with a surgeon's precision, and a serpent's tongue. /That/ is what Vega remembers of Balrog, and one of the things that his organization needs badly. Vega himself is a hammer - striking down with unseen force on his opponents. Bison - the same, rage filled and prone to overreaction. Sagat... ngh. Cammy, the Dolls.. All of them would be close to mindless, useless for strategizing other than to have them say 'Yes, Lord Vega!' over and again. He needs a /mind/. A sneaky, underhanded and slightly psychotic mind.

Something that Balrog excells in.

With that, his hand comes down, the aura that flares around it flickering out, leaving the Throne Chamber half-dark, the shadows from the monitors sending Vega's appearrance to the walls in crazy patterns. He listens carefully - and waits /just/ long enough to let Balrog wonder if he's going to just follow through with his threats or not - then he turns his back on the Spaniard. An amused chuckle escapes Vega's mouth, and then he shakes his head. "You were always the cunning one. I suppose even a feast can support one rat within it." With this said, a level of tension slides out of the room - and Vega turns back to his chair, sitting it and motioning to the monitor. "Where do you see your skills best laid /now/? I have been testing Charlie's men as of late - he himself is lacking, but his underlings, mn.." He hasn't heard of Bison's success or failure with Chun-li, not yet. But there still is one to test. With a wave of one psycho-powered hand, the monitors flicker to different shots of Guile, different battles and angles showing his style and skills. "I know he's not quite the challenge you'd expect me to send you on - but I think I'm interested in the outcome."

There is, as they say, a thin line between genius and insanity. Those who see no further than the mask; the bloody claw and the bloodier lust for violence fail to truly understand the nature of the fallen nobleman. He may need Vega's guiding hand, crave the benefits of working for Shadaloo, but it is also this understanding that draws him back. For the egotistical mind, recognition is only too welcome.

Less so the insults. Balrog's eyes momentarily narrow when he is again compared to a despised rodent, the grim upward motion of his lips easily enough taken for amusement. But this he can tolerate - the alternative is far more bitter than sweet. Besides, one does not walk away from a man like Vega. It is a wonder Sagat has survived as long as he has, though the Spaniard does not yet know that he continues to stray far from the pack. There is a man waiting to be broken.

Keeping these musings to himself, Balrog moves closer to Vega in measured steps, his gait as elegant as always. Coming to a rest a short distance behind the throne, he folds one arm across his abdomen and brings the other hand up, a single finger pressing to his lips as he considers the question and the subsequent display. He makes no attempt to hide his distaste, a derisive snort bursting from his nose and a frown marring his brow. "An ugly specimen," he murmurs in a low voice, mostly for his own aural consumption. He's seen the man before.. but that changes nothing.

"But," Icy blue eyes drift to Vega, the array of images reflected within their depths as he speaks, louder and more clearly, "As I recall, trained by the lieutenant himself. Similar in style, but more brutal. Less refined. I always imagined him less embroiled in the same, pathetic quest as Nash and the girl." Balrog's nose wrinkles as he turns his full attention back to the photographs, waving his hand toward them, "To be blunt, I am not concerned with his abilities in battle. Preparing for /him/ will not take much time. What do we know of his emotional ties? Beyond his friendship with the other toy soldiers, does he have relatives? A family?" A hollow laugh. "Charitable interests?"

A finger extends toward the monitors, and the Spaniard glances sidelong to Vega before slowly bringing the finger back to his lips, where the ghost of a smile blossoms. "The wonderful thing about dumb, ugly men, is that they are so much more easily manipulated. If one can't take pride in oneself, one looks elsewhere."

That's all right, Balrog. We're outside the 'insults' phase of the day. Well into the 'plotting and schemeing', now. Vega's engrossed in the semi-tactical assesment he's given from his Elite, though the tinge of disdain amuses Vega to no end. Perhaps he should warn Guile of Balrog's coming, just to see the Spaniard taken down a peg or two. He dismisses the thought, in the end. No matter how satisfying it may be, things are not to be, not when he has such grandiose plans to come after. "Consider finding out your duty. I do not think he has many interests or friendships outside of his work - Nash is his primary acquaintance, and you're not to challenge him - yet." There's the promise of more mayhem to come if Balrog does this well - Something special for the claw wielding masked man. "This is all to remind them that Shadaloo exists, and is powerful. We will draw their attention while other plans are in the making - But Balrog, these men are not our goal. They exist in the light, we take the shadow as our own. Shadaloo's goal - the Shadow Law, is greater. WE will control all the underpinings of society when we are done - and this time, /this time/.. We strike at the apex, and not in such a careless manner as before." With that, the monitors flicker - a new form showing on the monitor, one of Geese Howard, standing before the Tower in an obvious promotional shot.

Of that show of disdain... part really is show. Balrog judges the aesthetic aspect most harshly, but keeps an awareness of his prospective opponent's abilities in battle. He will make study of Guile's abilities in his own time, though will certainly take most stock when facing him in the flesh - there is more to a fight than freezeframes and replays can ever convey. To observe every nuance, one must see unfiltered through a trained eye, and experience also via the other senses. In the time before a confrontation, it is best to know the opponent as a human being.

And this, he will focus upon. The chase does need to be over in seconds; therein lies Bison's greatest weakness, also paradoxically his prime asset. Swift, brutal impact. A blunt explosion of force into object. The infliction of pure, physical pain. Balrog strives for more-than, to assault pride, love, and faith. To assault the very core. The bloody mess he leaves behind is just an enjoyable side-effect.

Speaking of enjoyment, Vega weaves quite the promising prologue of things to come. The smile upon Balrog's lips manifests in full as he listens to the other man continue, looking into those disturbing white-within-white eyes until the monitors shift. His gaze follows suit, and the Spaniard's eyes flash. The tip of his tongue teases over the backs of his teeth, and then at his upper lip. "I understand," he replies when the image is digested, Guile and the Vigilantes still at the back of his mind as he examines Howard's more imposing figure.

A moment later, as realisation dawns, his ego receives a boost it hardly needs.

"Then we are agreed," he says, voice silky smooth. Turning away from the monitors, he steps back into a bow, one arm cutting a low arc before him then hovering in the air as he remains bent, "I shall spread terror and sow discord in your name - misguide the fools who would unseat you while you concentrate on preparing a far more critical blow." Maintaining eye contact with Vega all the while, Balrog rises to his full height once more. "Other men have too long held sway when we could be greater, richer, and more powerful. I left following Thailand because I believed you had reached too far, finally fallen where you should have succeeded. This," a wrist flicks out, propelling another gesture toward the monitors, "Is a wise move, Lord Vega. I can already see it will be an honour and a pleasure to work for you again."

Log created on 14:58:41 09/29/2008 by Balrog, and last modified on 20:14:19 09/29/2008.