Last update 10/29/09
ONI JOINT STORY
Barabas opened his eyes. He stretched, sharply drawing in a deep breath. The air burned his lungs a little and he quickly exhaled, returning to the quick and shallow breathing to which he was now adapted.
"Let's go!" he hollered. Ford, Sam and Edgar sat up simultaneously.
"Aww, man," Edgar complained, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "ANOTHER hunting day?"
"CI doesn't take days off," Barabas shot back. "Gear up." The small group at a quick breakfast and equipped themselves for the day ahead. They each wore a bulletproof suit that covered most of their bodies. Strapped to their hips were their sidearms, tucked away in their boots were combat knives and strapped to their chest were a few grenades each. In addition, every one of them bore a unique "heavy-assault" weapon in a back sling. Sam carried an assault rifle, Ford a shotgun, and Barabas a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Edgar kept a backpack with a laptop and medical supplies; he was less of a fighter than the rest, and the least eager about the work he was doing. Still, he would follow Barabas to the end of the earth, which was likely exactly what he was doing.
The team marched outside and hopped on two ATVs; Ford and Sam on one, Barabas and Edgar on the other. Riding side by side, Ford called out to Barabas. "Where are we headed?"
"Satellite images show a small band of refugees trying to travel through this desert nearly due-east," Barabas shouted back over the engines' whines. Sam glanced over at Barabas.
"What?" Ford replied, "they'd never make it!"
"Look out!" Barabas hollered, and Sam narrowly swirved around a large stone. "Watch where you're going, Sam!" A conversational pause. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. They're going to make it now," he said, addressing Ford once more.
After nearly an hour, the band of travellers came into sight. The two ATVs pulled up and slowed to a halt, Ford and Edgar's arms up, fingers spread and palm out towards the refugees to indicate no hostile intentions. The travellers lowered the weapons they'd instinctively drawn. Barabas and Sam shut the motors down.
"What do you want?" one of the travellers asked, her voice distorted through the sealed mask she wore. There was a hiss as the vent in the front of her mask opened, let some air into the processing chamber, then belched the contaminants back out into the atmosphere before delivering the "clean" air to her lungs. The hissing continued regularly and rhythmically from everyone in her party.
"We're here to help you," said Barabas.
"You're one of them," she shot back. "Just look at you. All of you."
"Ma'am, I assure you, we're not with Conglomerate International. We have developed a--" Edgar was cut off.
"Not them. THEM," she clarified, accenting the word more heavily now as if to indicate something new. "Monsters."
Edgar frowned. "Ma'am," he began, "you do know that the only way to survive in this world is to become one of your so-called 'monsters,' right?"
"Ha," the woman scoffed. "There's still hope for this world, yet. We're on our way to Reco, the Oasis town. We're only a few miles off yet."
Barabas sighed. "First off, try a dozen miles at least, and in the wrong direction," Barabas chided her. "Reco is almost due north of here and you're travelling east. Ain't nothin' the way you're headed."
"We KNOW what we're doing," she snapped. "We have to take this route to avoid the CI search parties."
"Secondly," Barabas continued as if she'd never spoken, "the Oases are the pipe dreams of a few hippies futilely holding onto hope for a pure ecosystem. The earth and mankind cannot be salvaged. Believe me." He paused. "And why avoid CI? They don't force anyone to join them; they merely offer an alternative to certain death, which is what I am trying to do for you but WITHOUT the catch."
"The alternative IS the catch," she replied.
"You know what I mean," he said.
"And we both know CI has forced us just about as hard as anyone could have possibly imagined into their contracts," she continued. "Their child company destroyed the world so we would have no choice but to sign our lives over to daddy."
"Right," said Barabas, "but if the BGI's actions have failed to persuade you yet, nothing CI could say or do would either. If you don't want them, they don't want you. Only interested in the type of folk willing to sell their own souls, I guess; figure the rest'll die off with time." He let the dialogue rest a beat. "Like I said: Why avoid them?"
"Have you ever actually encountered one of their roving 'rescue' parties?" the woman shot back. "Their methods of persuasion are more than a simple pitch."
Barabas frowned. He had, of course, encountered CI representatives many times, but never in a very political setting. Maybe he was less familiar with their methods than he thought. He sighed, choking a bit. "Doesn't change the fact," he continued, "that the so-called 'Oasis towns' are a waste of time. You'd do yourselves and the world much better if you came with us."
"No doubt you're another marauding rebel group," she pegged them condescendingly.
"The original," Barabas muttered.
"Peace was never accomplished through violence," she insisted. "Non-violent resistance is the only feasible option."
"Peace was NEVER accomplished," Barabas consolidated her assertion. "We NEVER overcame our natural inclination to dominate, and now politics and justice are obsolete. The world has been dominated by a single force BEYOND the point of resistance. THEY call the shots now, and they have no reason not to eliminate anyone who even tries to stand in their way."
"So why are you still alive, Rambo?" she prodded back.
Barabas stopped to ponder this. "Don't really know, I guess," he said. "Probably just not a big enough threat." He paused. "Maybe what we do is, under their new world regime, considered as what once was freedom of speech."
The woman hesitated for a moment. "So," she said. "What DO you do?"
"WELCOME TO RECO!" the sign enthusiastically announced as the party passed by it and into the city. The woman, having by now been introduced as Keilah, glanced over her shoulder at Barabas. "You bastard," she said with a somewhat playful tone.
Barabas smiled slyly. "That speech about the hippy pipe dream is convincing, ain't it?" he said. "It's true, you know, of most Oases."
"It's how we stay under the radar of you-know-who," Edgar added. Barabas and Edgar walked with the masked travellers, Ford and Sam having taken the ATVs ahead a few hours back. Including Edgar and Barabas, the group numbered nine. They followed Barabas into a restaurant. The tables were empty but a woman stood behind the bar. She reached under the counter.
The liquor rack rotated to reveal a small corridor of stairs leading down. The newly arrived group quickly made their way through the passageway and the faux barkeep closed the hatch behind them.
After a short and noisy trot down the stairs, Barabas arrived at a door. He knocked.
"Come in!" a female voice rang out from the other side.
"THAT's your security system?" Keilah scoffed.
Barabas opened the door and strolled through. Inside was a room full of people, most of them visibly strapped with very large weapons.
"No, this is," Barabas stated simply. Many of the people were engaging in what seemed to be various martial arts training exercises. Several were sitting around, chatting. Dampened explosions and gunshots could be heard in the background. A woman with spiky purple hair dashed up to the newcomers.
"Welcome," she greeted them. "My name is Mai."
"Keilah," said Keilah, "and this is my crew." They each shook hands with Mai in turn, introducing themselves. Sam and Ford stepped up to the meeting.
"You guys know Ford and Sam, of course," said Barabas, "although you've never been formally introduced."
"Hey," said Keilah. "Dunno if you heard; I'm Keilah." She extended a hand to Ford, who took it and shook firmly.
"Ford," he said simply. Keilah smiled sternly, then extended her hand towards Sam. There was no reaction.
Keilah frowned. "What's her deal?"
"Never heard a word out of her," Mai explained. "She doesn't like attention, anyway. Let's just move on." Keilah expelled a disconcerted burst of air through her nose, but complied with the suggestion and followed as Mai began to walk deeper into the facility.
"This is our headquarters," Edgar chimed in. "And these are all the people we've saved!"
"We've got to be clear, though," Barabas added. "We're not saviors. We're warriors. You don't have to join us, but I can't hardly think of two people who've walked out of here."
"I thought you said there was no catch," Keilah countered.
"There isn't," Barabas replied. "Most people just choose to stay. Nowhere else to go, I guess."
Keilah sighed. "I can't believe I'm doing this," she mourned.
"It's the only way," Edgar reassured her. "This is just what humanity is now."
"It's not so bad," Ford added. "Could definitely be worse."
Mai pushed open a door and walked into a large laboratory. At nearly the opposite end of the room, a man sat in a chair before a giant monitor. He busily typed away, not even seeming to notice the intrusion. "Dad!" Mai called out.
The chair spun casually around, revealing a rather young and attractive man. His hair was beginning to grey, but his face didn't show the same signs of age. "Hey, sweetie," he said, standing up and walking towards the group. "Barabas. Long time no see."
"Not that long, doctor," the large man countered. "How have you been?"
"Same old, same old," Mai's father replied.
Keilah stepped forward. "Hey," she said, extending a hand. "I'm Keilah."
"James," the man said, taking her hand in his own and shaking. "A pleasure."
"I'm sure," said Keilah, a tinge of unprecedented sarcasm accenting her tone.
"So," James continued. "You want the procedure, then?"
Keilah sighed again. "Guess so," she conceded. "If it really is all it's cracked up to be, you know."
"I assume my associates have explained in sufficient detail?" James attempted to clarify.
"New chrysalis, no chip," Keilah condensed the description remarkably.
"That's right," James confirmed. "Your mind remains free, under the sole control of you and only you, just as the great spirit intended."
Keilah furrowed her brow. "You sure about that, doc?" she queried. "Seems to me like the natural order of things is suggesting heavily against that these days."
"As long as we're a part of the natural order," said James, "it's open to interpretation."
"Good enough for me," said Keilah. "So let's get this party started, eh?"
"All of you, sit on any of the tables," James said, sweeping his arm and indicating the dozens of operating tables that permeated the room. "I need to call in some more surgeons, technicians and the like to speed up the process for you all." The doctor left the room briefly.
"So," Keilah began after a few minutes. "Everyone in this place got one?"
"Chrysalis? Yeah," said Edgar.
"Even the good doctor?" Keilah inquired.
"Yep," Edgar replied. "It was quite the feat getting his in, though. By the time he realized he needed it, there was nobody but him that knew how to complete the procedure without also requirin' a chip be put in his noggin."
"So, what?" Keilah pressed. "He cut himself open and shoved it in?"
"He was conscious throughout the whole thing," Edgar replied. Keilah's eyes went wide. "He had to instruct us to do the bulk of the work, though. He was so far gone into subconscious mind-over-matter meditation--and a boat load of local anesthetics, of course--that he couldn't move a muscle save his lips. To be honest, I don't know how he did it. He's a pretty incredible man."
"I'll say," Keilah said. "Hope you guys are plannin' to knock ME the hell out!"
"Don't worry," Edgar assured her. "Plenty of drugs to go around."
Mai and Barabas waited on a cheap bench seat outside the lab. Edgar, Sam and Ford had wandered off to find something else to do for the time being.
"So what made you decide to play the liberator instead of the punisher today?" Mai asked after a long silence.
Barabas sighed. "Saw 'em on the satellite," he replied simply. "Look, I know you don't like what we do. Let's just let that be what it is and leave it at that." He killed the conversation before it started. "And anyway," he antagonized a bit, "day's not over yet."
"So," Barabas began this time. "Heard from Griffin or Casey?"
"Not since the BGI," Mai lamented. "Not since..."
"Taking heavy fire! Repeat! Taking heavy fire!" Shouted Rico over his mic at the same time trying to avoid any bullet flying overhead. "Rico,Amanda here, Grif and his team is coming your way. T-2minutes."Replied the gorgeous Amanda.
"How long more dad!" Shouted casey over the roaring engines of the helicopter."1minute! Get ready your gears men!"Screamed the already greyed hair griffin. The 4 men team, Griffin, Casey, Joe and Micheal, fastened their straps around their body and secured the weapons around the holsters covering their body.
With a fading roar, the helicopter steadily fell to the ground and the sounds of guns and mortars could be heared from a distance. "Go!go!go!" Shouted Griffin as his team squatted around the helicopter as it raised through the air and headed back for base.
"Move out team!"Shouted Griffin and they ran to Rico's position. Rico, trying very hard to return fire is stuck behind a twisted chunk of metal along with his 2 man team. Rico looked at his GPS strapped along his wrists and waved several hand signals to his buddy that Griffin's team is here. "Joe! Could u see any guy u can take out from your current position! We are taking heavy enemy fire from down here!" Shouted Rico. Joe fell to the ground, loaded his ammo into his sniper and scanned the area. "Wow Rico! SUre are lots of b!tches out there." Said Joe jokingly.
He squizzed the trigger and automatically, a bullet rush out of the chamber and met flesh, in between his victim's eyes. He countinued this while Griffin and his team ran towards Rico's position.
Back at command base, 10 ATB(All Terrain Buggies) halt to a stop and 2 men, from each buggie, got out and entered base. "Amanda! How's Griffin's team doing?" Asked the qurious Zack. "Griffin just reached Rico's position about 2 minutes ago. Im trying to reconnect with his mic but i just can't seem to." Replied Amanda. "I hope they are okay" Replied Zack.
Back on the battle field, Joe kept firing till he was breathless and out of ammo. "Sir, outta ammo. Coming to your position." radioed Joe through the helm-mic. "Roger! Squad 1! Defensive position!" Shouted Griffin over the mic, trying to make sure his team heard his orders.
Immediately, the 5 members(Including Rico's team) twisted their body out of cover from the twisted chunk of metal and started firing their AE-ChainGun(Adversity Equip) and the whole line of gunners fell to their knees and seem to the dance to the bullets as they fell to the ground. "Another mission completed. We have stopped the GPAs(Global President's Association) movement to Commandbase guys. Rico, try to contact Commandbase, my mic is out." Said Griffin. "This is Rico do you copy over?"Said Rico over the mic. "This is Amanda glad you're okay! Were sending 5 G-22s(Futuristic helicopter that is mostly available in base) to your current location over."Said Amanda."Alrightly make it quick!" Said Casey.
After 2 minutes, the G-22s touched down and picked them up from the ground. "Welcome aboard guys how was your fight?"Said Micchel jokingly. "Good. I tore off their heads after i killed em. Want some Micch?"Said Micheal. The G-22s reached Commandbase and the team took a much needed bath and rest.
"All units over, return back to Commandbase. Closing for the night." Said Amanda over the comm system. Command base is home to 40 raw souldiers whom had the crystallis implanted in them. Each of them have their crystallis for survival. They don't use it for combat. They get their weapons and ammunitions mostly from the dead victims . Food is gotten from the beaten outposts of GPAs.
Griffin found Command base- a building still in good shape with carparks and helipads surrounding it. There were many people in the Commandbase when Griffin arrived there. He was shocked by the amount of dying victims in there and he did as much as he could to save them. Implanting crystallis, which was very easilly available in the underground depot, into each and every living person there and then.However, his poor skills of surgury caused many casualties and the number was down to 40. Together, they fought in my battles over the few months, in the partial forested areas and desert areas. The closest town located was Reco. A still intact town which was considered dangerously contaminated-or thats what they thought.
The screamings of metals rubbing against each other was heard as the metal blasts doors closed. "Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Time to sleep." Said Amanda enthusiatically. Everyone slept in Commandbase. There is no proper bedding but there are cusioned mattresses which they got from the outposts.
As the last fading lights of the evening sun dissapeared, roars of engines from planes could be heard at a distant. Instantly, everyone in Commandbase opened their eyes and listened. It came closer, and closer, and closer until it was at its loudest. Right above them. Then nothing. Silence filled Commandbase. Everyone knew that was a recon plane. In search of Commandbase. Each breathed a sigh of relief before closing their eyes again.
"RRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Screamed the alarm clock as it hits 7 am. Everyone got off from their beds and brushed their teeths and washed their face. "Okay we need to do something quick. They are almost onto us." Said Griffin as he ushered in Amanda and the leaders of all 8 squadrons. "We need a plan. Send all our planes and bombard the GPA Headquaters? Or we run?" Said Griffin. "I think we should just run away from here. Maybe hide in the city. It might be safe after all these months." Said Jackie, leader of the 8th squadron. "No it might be too risky. I think dropping all our bombs on GPA would be a good idea." Said Ben, leader of 5th squadron. "Yea i think we should do it." Said Amanda. "Okay lets move out!" Said Griffin. 8th and 7th squadron are in charge of flying the hawks while the rest are for group are for ground battles. 8th squadron was first to load up and lift off. then 7th lifted and joined 8th in the air to GPAs.
8 Hawks flew past Reco at super sonic speed planning to make their mission a simple in and out. "All right boys this is Jackie leader of this mission lets make it quick. Follow me lead" Said Jackie over the radio. "T-1minute to targetted point. Closing in onto GPAHQ, they were met with anti air fire however it was no match to supersonic speeds. "DROP!" Jackie said. and bombs rained from the skies above. tearing GPAHQ apart. "Good job guys. look like weve got company."Said Jackie as his radar flashed 10 heavy missle bombers. "Looks like were in for the fight." Said Jackie
Hitoshi watched expressionlessly as a large battle was represented by simple blips and statistics on a radar/readout screen before her.
"Switch to field camera!" Omar commanded impatiently. Hitoshi was unresponsive; she did not comply. Omar raised his arms and gaze to the air in frustration and turned away, letting his hands slap his thighs.
After a moment, Hitoshi spoke. "This group is proving to be quite problematic."
"Honestly, they're the least of our problems," Omar countered. "The guerilla resistance groups are causing us much more trouble at the moment."
"They may be executing their little schemes more successfully against us," Hitoshi confirmed, "but we both know that none of them will ultimately do any significant damage to us. The problem with these out-and-out 'warrior armies' is that they make us look weak..."
"Like openly attacking us could actually be a feasible method," Omar finished her thought. "Right." He paused. "We'll, we've got to crush them now."
As per usual Hitoshi gave no reply, continuing to watch the battle play out in stats and representations. Omar furrowed his brow; Hitoshi gave him the willies. She was always so calm and collected, never displaying any irrationality or emotional behavior. Furthermore, she was much better at her job than Omar, though they were considered equals; partners, actually. And wasn't Hitoshi a man's name, anyway?
Omar sighed. If Hitoshi wasn't going to make the move to quash these meddlers, maybe he should take the initiative. It would certainly look good to the senior partners, and perhaps the promotion he'd been dreaming of would finally be in the cards for him.
He began to walk for the door, smiling slightly.
The last two of the bombers went down thanks to a well-placed mortar from Casey.
"Nice one, son!" Griffin shouted into his headset. He was across the field from Casey but watching his every move.
"Thanks, dad!" a voice came back. Griffin smiled. This had been quite the battle and so far they hadn't suffered a single casualty.
ZING! A bullet whizzed past Griffin's head. His eyes darted to the horizon and he spotted a small army of ground forces closing in.
"Jackie! You got anything left in those hawks?" Griffin barked.
"Negative, sir," Jackie responded.
Griffin cursed. "Fall back," he ordered.
BOOM! One of the planes burst into flames and fell to the desert surface. "GEORGE!" a desparate voice called across their frequency, along with some random cursing from some of the others. "George! Come in!"
"She's gone, Pete," another voice responded in Griffin's ear.
"Pete?" the voice inquired. No response.
Griffin checked the horizon. The army was much bigger than he'd originally thought. He peered through his field 'nocs and gaped.
"Everyone! Fall back!" he yelled. "Retreat!" In near unison, the entire army began backing away rapidly, facing their foes. The planes had already flown away, but Griffin noticed one on its way back.
"Pete! Where are you going?" a voice came across the radio. No response.
"Pete! Fall BACK, soldier!" Griffin demanded. No response. The plane flew towards the approaching army, dropped into a dive and smashed into the ground at the forefront of the threat. A giant fireball consumed Griffin's view of the approaching assault and fire rained from the sky.
"Run!" Griffin screamed. "RUN!" The entire team turned tail and broke into a full-fledged dash towards Reco, the nearest town.
Keilah stretched her arms, then fingers. She glanced from hand to hand as if she were seeing them for the first time. "Wow," she said. "I don't feel any different.
"It'll come quick," Mai assured her. "Welcome to the team."
"Thanks," Keilah said reluctantly. "Hate to admit it, but I guess I'd just been putting off the inevitable." Mai smiled, placed a hand on Keilah's shoulder briefly, then removed it and turned away.
"Mai!" someone nearly shouted, jogging up to Mai as she walked down the hallway. "A combat rebel army is moving our way with CI military on their tail!"
"How close are they?" Mai asked, immediately ready to deal with the situation.
"They're almost here--" before the man could finish his sentence, Mai had dashed towards the exit. She ran up the stairs, out from behind the liquor cabinet and down the hallway towards the front door. She only slowed to a brisk stroll as she exited the front doors.
Almost immediately she saw the army walking through the city gates. There were probably about thirty of them. "We need shelter!" the man at the forefront called from a distance.
"You're going to get my whole city destroyed! Disperse your troops!" she commanded loudly, "NOW!" The man at the forefront executed some hand signals and said a few things, and his army split up, blended into the civilians of the town of entered various buildings.
"I'm going to walk past you," Mai said, getting closer and noticing that the man to whom she was speaking was none other than Griffin. "Don't go now, but meet me at the Spittoon later."
Griffin also saw that he was speaking to Mai. Both of them wanted to stop but knew they couldn't. The old acquaintances strolled past each other casually in the streets. They entered random buildings and disappeared into the city.
Before long the CI military force swept into Reco.
Griffin, Casey and Nona all hid silently in various places around some kind citizen's bedroom. Griffin was beginning to wonder if the search party would come to him.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! A loud pounding was heard from downstairs. A door opened, and voices were heard. Before long, various other intrusive sounds wafted upstairs to Griffin and his team, and heavy footsteps climbing stairs rang out.
The door to the room swung open and slammed against the wall. Griffin and Casey were hidden in a hole in the wall the owner of the room had graciously let them create, and in front of which Nona and the owner had slid a large dresser. Griffin did not know where Nona had chosen to hide. He feared for her; he knew that she'd made her choice knowing she'd likely be less safe than Griffin and his son. If they made it out of this alive there were good things in store for Nona, Griffin promised himself.
Shuffling. Rummaging. Things being turned over. "A-HA!" a raspy male voice shouted within seconds of entering the room. Griffin's heart sank.
"Wha-" Nona's voice.
BANG! A gunshot.
Thump. Griffin knew the sound of a body hitting the floor. He gulped.
"Liar!" the male voice shouted. "There was one hidden in here!" the voice trailed off as the man went back downstairs, Griffin supposed. Some indiscernable arguing could barely be heard.
"I didn't know!" Griffin made out, recognizing the voice of the owner of the house whom with he'd worked to 'build' this hiding spot. After a bit more arguing, there was silence. No more shots had been fired, so Griffin gratefully assumed that the owner of the house had been left unharmed.
He and Casey remained silent. They stayed still in their spot for what seemd like hours. Finally, the door to the room creaked back open.
"They're gone," the owner's voice came weakly. She began to drag the dresser aside, and Griffin and Casey pushed from behind to help. Before long there was enough space to step out into the room. Griffin and Casey did so and found the place trashed. Nona's body lie sprawled on the floor in a pool of her own blood. Casey groaned.
"They said they'd send someone to clean up the mess," the owner said. "We've got to get you out of that combat garb." She opened some dresser drawers, her hands shaking.
Griffin put his hand on her shoulder and caught her gaze. Wordlessly, he thanked her with the utmost sincerity.
A bit later, Mai made her way back to the Spittoon. She pushed open the ancient-west American tavern-style swinging wooden doors and walked down the somewhat long hallway into the main dining area. Griffin, Casey and a woman Mai didn't recognize were already there waiting for her. They all wore civilian clothes.
"We'll get the rest of your men here soon, but we've got to do it slowly and spread out," Mai explained.
"I understand," Griffin said. "But you don't need to put my boys and girls up here; we just need a safe passage back to base."
"Your base is gone," Mai replied. Griffin cocked his head. "CI knows who you are. Apparently you've been less than discrete." Griffin's gaze wandered towards the floor and he slowly nodded his head.
"Jackie..." Griffin muttered.
"Several of your men were also discovered here in town," Mai continued. "The body count has been put at 18, including civilian casualties for attempting to board your fugitive men."
Griffin cursed. "Dad," said Casey, putting a hand on the old man's shoulder.
"Having taken out a significant number of your men AND your base of operations," Mai began coldly, "I figure CI will just forget about you. You are likely now considered a neutralized threat. However, we still take on considerable risk bringing you in here. If CI somehow determines your men haven't skipped town and are still operating here, we face a full scourge of the city." She paused. "Basically, we'd be screwed. Just counting on that not to happen."
"Thank you?" Griffin said quizzically.
"Just saying," said Mai. She wasn't sure why she'd made the last comment; perhaps she just wanted to show Griffin her true authority. She doubted the image of him as her back-stabbing boss would ever fully leave her mind.
"Anyway," she continued, dismissing the thought, "let me show you what we've got going on here." She opened the secret passage and led them down the stairs.
"Mai, you know Casey, and this is Mipsy," Griffin said on their way down. "She's one of ours. Found her wandering the streets on our way here and brought her with us; hope that's alright."
"It's fine," Mai said, opening the door and taking a few steps inside before turning around. "Good to meet you Mips," she said. She didn't extend a hand.
Griffin and his team briefly surveyed the area. "Not bad," Griffin commented. "What is it?"
"We've got scores of imago status daodan symbiotes here with us and we've executed considerable things against CI all without ever having our organization identified, and while incurring minimal losses if I do say so myself," Mai bragged.
"So you're in charge, here?" Griffin queried.
"I'm one of the higher-ups, I guess, but I'm not the top dog or anything," Mai elaborated. "We've got many people with many different talents to offer us here." She walked a few steps deeper before turning again. "Right now, though, I want you to meet someone." Mai wasn't sure why she was so eager to introduce them; it wasn't as if Griffin were one of her close friends. Maybe she just figured that he was in a position to understand.
"Mai, it's been nearly three years," said Griffin. "Don't you want to, oh, I don't know, ask how things have been?"
"We'll have plenty of chances to get caught up in the time to come," Mai said. Without another word she led them down a hallway of doors and knocked on one, opening it and stepping in not a second later. "Kemi?" she called out.
"I'm here," a young girl's voice came, innocent yet strange. The group walked into the room. Before them stood a child, appearing to be either in her early teens or preteens; it was tough to tell. Though she shared a lot in common with the appearance of a typical imago status daodan symbiote, there were also marked differences. She bore rich brown hair and deep blue eyes. Though still pale, her skin retained more of its tone than most imago symbiotes. She also sported a few of the trademarked bulging veins.
Griffin took Mai aside by the arm. "How is she imago at such a young age?" he inquired in a whisper.
"She doesn't have a chrysalis," Mai replied openly. Griffin drew back and raised an eyebrow. "Akemi, this is my old friend, Griffin. This is his son, Casey, and this is their friend, Mipsy," Mai said, indicating each person in turn. "Guys, this is my daughter, Akemi."
Griffin gaped. "Wha, huh--" he stumbled over his words. Mai smiled. "How? Huh? You've been under my surveillance your entire life... You couldn't have--"
"She just turned two," Mai explained.
"Okay, what?" Griffin was dumbfounded.
"We figure it must be some sort of effect of being born to two imago symbiotes," Mai almost looked like she immediately wished she could take her words back. "She's nearly fully grown and still struggling with grasping the English language, although for a two-year-old she's obviously quite precocious."
"Who--" before Griffin could ask, Mai decided she might as well get the issue out into the open as soon as possible.
"Her father was Toshio Mukade."
Griffen could only stand there, mouth agape. He could not have seen this coming, not a hint. Mukade had been protective of her, yes, but as a father, not as a boyfriend. It took him about a minute to get his jaw working again.
"It doesn't matter"
She turned to looked at Casey and Mipsy. Mipsy looked confused, but Casey almost looked hurt. Why? Griffen's voice pulled her out of her thoughts.
"This means that she IS a chrysalis, technically. You two were both Imago, which means the chrysalis had intergrated itself completely into your systems which would include reproductive cells."
"And those cells merged, and multiplied."
She stated, finishing Griffen's thought.
"We are symbionts, two entities thriving off each other. But she is a single being. She is.... a new species."
"And her growth," Griffen wondered, "You two were both fully grown. Now her cells are regeneraing and replacing the "missing" ones."
"Speaking metaphorically, this is what comes out of the chrysallis. A butterfly."
Mai smiled at this, and turned to her daughter.
"My little butterfly"
Griffen turned to Mai.
"If the CI ever finds out about this..."
"I know," Mai said softly, "She is but the first, with all the new chrysali we're implanting, there will soon be more. And each one will be taken by the CI to be....experemented on." She said, her voice full of loathing. "They must be stopped. She is the key to the survival of this world. She is the future generation."
"I understand, I will place whats left of my troops, including myself, under your command."
"And I accept your help. But a man with leadership such as yours should not be wasted. I'm sure the high command will accept you among their ranks."
"High command?" inquired Griffin.
"The big-wigs of this operation, which includes myself, Barabas, and a few others."
"I didn't know you were so organized."
"That's a good thing, the less people that know, the better. As far as CI is concerened, we aren't even one organization, but groups of seperate guerilla fighters, rebels."
Just then, Mai's wrist-com bleeped.
"Mai" a deep voice. Barabas, Griffin guessed. "Theres an emergency council meeting in 15. You know the place."
"I'll be right there. And I'm bringing a couple friends."
"I know I'm breaking protocal, but believe me, this will be a pleasent surprise."
She flipped off her Com.
Mipsy, would you mind staying here with Akemi?
She looked a little uncomfortable, but accepted.
"Shall we go?"
"So," said Griffin as he, Mai and Casey walked down the hall. "You're still workin' with Barabas, eh?"
"Hardly," Mai replied. "Sure, he associates himself with this organization, and he does good work from time to time, but he's way too wrapped up in the whole revenge scene." She paused. "It's no longer about doing what's right or making the world a better place... It's making those who prevented it from being so pay."
Griffin frowned. "I guess I'm not much better," he replied. "For the last couple of years I've just been launching a full frontal and futile assault against those bastards..."
"Where did you meet your men, anyway?" Mai inquired.
"Most of them actually were some of the first to get implanted by CI after the environmental collapse," Griffin explained. "I guess the mind-controlling chip technology they use was an earlier version, and a few of them failed to function before too long. One by one, the people who now are--or were," he paused, looking mournful, "--members of my crew somehow realized that CI's hold over them was broken. Of course CI quickly realized this and upgraded their technology, so I haven't met any new help in quite a while..."
"So how did you find them all?" Mai queried.
"Word spread," said Griffin. "I'm sure CI was aware, but now that they rule the world and all they don't seem to be very concerned by much of anything, really. I mean I expect that those chips would have been equipped with tracking devices, kill switches... But nothing has happened to my crew except in direct combat."
"I think CI cares more than they let on," Mai said. "Maybe they haven't come looking for you or fried your men's brains because the entire chip and all its functions completely ceased. And to me, that doesn't sound quite like a random system failure..."
"You think something triggered it?" Griffin pressed.
"Seem plausible," Mai said, "and if so, we could determine the trigger and save a lot more people."
"But if there's a way to deactivate the chip," Griffin began, "how come it hasn't been happening more recently?"
"Oh, I'm sure CI upgraded to prevent it, like you said," Mai stated, "but think about all the people still out there with obsolete chips nestled in their brains. If we figure out what caused your men to cut their strings and ditch the puppeteers, we could find more..."
Griffin sighed. "It sounds like a good theory, Mai," said Griffin, "but you don't really know what you're talking about."
"I know more than you might expect," Mai countered, pushing open the doors to the meeting all and strolling in. "And besides, speculation like this is crucial to the work we do here. We're David up against about a million Goliaths; we need to figure out anything and everything we could possibly use to gain ground on them."
"I like the sound of that," Barabas interjected. "And whatever you're talking about, it flows nicely into what I'm about to tell you." He turned and faced the small crowd; there were about twenty people in the room, Griffin determined after a quick scan. "Now that we're all here," Barabas continued, "Apparently the daodan process has been successfully discovered and adapted by a few medical professionals in India. They have been implanting wandering maskers and people from Oases with free chrysali." He paused, glancing from face to face. "Word has it that CI is actually starting to take notice; it's rumored that one of two of these practitioners have even been killed." Another pause. "We've got to get these guys with us. They could prove invaluable to our cause, of course, but aside from that... Simply because of the service they provide to the world, we owe it to them to do our best to protect and perpetuate them and their work."
"Well what are we waitin' for?" an enthusiastic and slightly twangy voice came from the crowd.
"We're not," Barabas said. "Mai, Marlowe, Denton, Cooker and Stone should all come with me to the plane immediately." Barabas glanced to Mai's side. "Hey, Griffin. Long time no see." He began walking for the door. "You can come, too."
"What?" said Griffin. "That's it?"
"I know you well enough to consider you a valuable addition to the team," Barabas replied.
Griffin raised an eyebrow. "I'm flattered, but," he fumbled over his words, "and shouldn't you be sending some of your crew to do this? Why send the higher-ups? The 'council?'" He made air quotes with his fingers.
"This ain't like your old cushy TCTF Commander job... The 'higher-ups' get their hands dirty around here," Barabas responded, mimicking the air quotes. "And anyway, it's not a combat situation; this mission is about diplomacy."
"Then why are YOU goin'?" a sarcastic voice arose from the crowd. Barabas growled slightly, apparently not amused.
Griffin hesitated. "Well, alright," he said. "I'll go. Gotta do somethin' to get back in action. Come on, Casey."
"The boy has no place on this mission," Barabas declared.
"What?" Griffin replied, caught off guard.
"He can stay here and get acquainted with the place," Barabas suggested.
"It's okay, dad," Casey said, speaking up for the first time in a while. "I can look for more of the crew around town while you're gone, too."
Griffin smiled. "Alright, son," he said in return. "You take care of yourself, then. I'll be back before you know it--" he paused, looking to Barabas, "--right?"
"Relax," Barabas assured him. "Either way, this trip won't be too long. I give it a max of two days."
Griffin gulped, but followed the large man out of the room and down the hallway along with the others. The seven strolled out of the base, through the restaurant, down the hall, out the swinging wooden doors and into the streets of Reco.
Barabas led them towards the city limits. "Where's this plane?" Griffin inquired.
"Just outside the city in our hangar," Barabas replied.
As they drew ever nearer to the edge of the Oasis, Griffin's lungs began to gradually feel more and more the familiar burning sensation. He sighed painfully. "Why does CI even allow places like this to exist?" Griffin wondered aloud. "It's not as if they have any political reason for it; it's well-known that they'll force their will upon anyone. Why not just stomp you out?"
"You know why," Barabas replied without looking over at the old man. "The only reason this organization has even made it this far is because CI is so powerful they just don't give a f--"
Casey hummed idly to himself. It had been hours since he'd heard the roar of the jet fade away into the distance carrying with it his father. Since they're reunited in the BGI lab a couple years ago, Casey and his father had really never been apart. Casey was not used to this; he had a nagging, almost sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Got any twos?" Edgar prodded.
"Damnit," Casey said, tossing down a card. Edgar chuckled maniacally and integrated the card into his own hand.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! A polite knock came from the front door near where the two were playing cards. Both looked up simultaneously. Edgar furrowed his brow. "Weird," he said, "it's always unlocked. Must be a newbie." Edgar got up and made his way over to the door. He opened it to reveal a petite young woman.
"Hello," Hitoshi said, a blank expression on her face.
"Hey Grif, wake up were almost there. Grif?" Said a low voice, Barabus. "Yeah... yeah im awake" Said Griffin while stretching a little. "Alright T minus 1minute to touch down load your gear. Tommy's squad has already secured the area awaiting further orders. Tommy has just ended a small battle with the rebels. We have no idea what they are planning but bring a plasma rifle and a water bottle. Nothing more nothing less." Said Marlow, the technition. "Touch down! Hit it mutants!" Said the pilot, Jackson. Almost immediately all seven of the guys, including griffin, raced to the safe zone. "Alright. patrolling the air. Alpha-sky's squadron 6 (Number of planes) has reached air control. Air above us are surcured." Said the pilot.
"Mornin sir. Several rebals with RPGs came out at around 6am sunrise. We killed them all but we are not sure how many more of those guys r out there. The dead pratitioners are other there" Tommy pointed to the left telling the autopsys' , "And the government are over there." Pointing straight ahead.
The city was quite lively. Many people with their kids playing around and there are chrysallis medical halls by the road side and shops with a variety of fruints and meat. "Wow this place seems quite happy huh?" Said Mai walking into the city with Griffin and Barabus. Barabus, Mai and Griffin entered the state building which looked quite new. Walls painted bright white with several decoration and pictures of historic moments.
"Welcome! Welcome!" Said Chandragupta. "How are you my friends. My name is Chandragupta. Call me Chan." thrusting out his hand to Mai, Griffin and Barabus. They each introduced themselves and shook hands with the governor. "
"Alright Mr Chan." Said Mai "We have reports that you guys have found a way to implant chrysallis. CI has been noticing this for quite awhile and we have report that two practitioners are dead? Am I right?". "Yes that is very true. But over here. We call the CI rebels. Those assholes have been terrorising us for quie awhile. So what is it you require?" Said Chan. "Well you see. We are also fighting these... rebels. And we thought maybe lets join hands to protect each other against this huge army which is conquring many cities and countries. Most of them are nearly dead or either that, begging for death." Said Mai. "Oh dear. My brother went to Singapore on a trade route, Im not sure if he is still alive." Said Chan with a frown while looking down. "Okay deal! Since we do not have much army we will accept it!" Said Chan, putting his hands out, agreesing with this offer. "Alright thankyou Mr. Chan." Said Mai.
"So how much have you known about the chrysallis already Mr.Chan?" Said Barabus. "Well Mr. Barabus...", "Call me Barubus no Mr. barbus." Said Barabus, cutting off Chan. "Okay. We have known how to implant those chrysallis and known about the imago stage thing. But we have managed to reverse the effect by using the antidote. It helps to rid the chrysallis from the body but then the repaired part for example, the heart, will be left with a hole and thus, the person will die.". "Our scientist are still researching but since the lost of our two practitioners, it has been hard." Said Chan. "How about i go to your land? We have unwanted eyes and ears here around India.". "Sure Mr.Chan. The plane is ready follow us." Said Mai, tapping on her scanner.
"SIR! WE LOST A PLANE BUT THE PERSON IS STILL ALIVE. WE HAVE HOSTILES IN THE AIR. REPEAT. WE HAVE HOSTILES IN THE AIR!"