Return To Aztlan
GM: Slinger
Players: Slinger, Orpheus
Synopsis: Dr. Diego Rodriguez is an Aztlan citizen, a dwarf, who has invented a breakthrough in using composite materials. Aztlan has plans for his invention, and as such, they want the good Doctor dead. He catches wind of this — and flees before he can meet with an unfortunateaccident, fleeing across the border into the Sprawl.

Orpheus, upon shoplifting a few items from a store, is fleeing pursuit and ducks into Rodriguez's hideout. He calls Slinger, looking to help the doctor. Just as Slinger arrives, an Aztlan strike team shows up, guided by Ritual Sorcery used to track the doctor's blood, a sample of which is kept by Aztlan for all high-level researchers.

Slinger and Orpheus were planning to go in, but Slinger is injured on another mission and must stay behind. He makes arrangements to ward the area where the doctor will be staying, making him more difficult to track, while Orpheus calls his old friend Zeta to assist with the breakin where the doctor used to work.

The two go in through the roof of the building, stealthy, and dispatch several guards on the way. The pair find the doctor's office on the third floor, and quickly break into his desk, finding his hidden research notes. They are attacked by a drone from security — Zeta's decker friend is keeping the building security systems at bay — and Zeta improvises a jammer from parts he finds in one of the labs.

They find the storage for the samples — and have no easy way to destroy them. Orpheus hits on the bright idea of using chemicals found in the lab, dumping them liberally over the broken bottles, to roast them into unusability. He applies multiple gallons of flammable and volatile liquids, then ignites them — and the resulting fireball starts an inferno in that side of the building.

Orpheus and Zeta flee back to their meeting place… where they have intimate conversation and more.
Date: Aug 22, 2069

Part 1: Shoplifting!

What a world! Orpheus of all people almost getting COUGHT stealing something as innocent as some ULRTA COMBO SAVER! 5 liter bottles of FizzyCoke(for Slinger of course), and you know.. maybe a carton or two of cigarettes. INNOCENT stuff! Honest.. Nothing for it though.. Orpheus DASHES out of the stuffer shack, rush cloak still activated and only managed to take a single carton and one bottle of fizzycoke with him as spoils of this short-lived victory and subsequent strategic withdrawal..
Frag frag frag! he thinks.. Worse yet, if he runs into trouble.. He would be troubled to defend himself if the fuzz show up! Especially considering he can't exactly justify garroting some cops because HE was stealing stuff.. of course, Orph didn't think of it so much as stealing. Just acquriing easily gotten goods at a remarkably discount price.. ZOOM out the door.. and now running down the street, bumping past bystanders as he goes.

Slinger wouldn't approve, probably. Or maybe he would. He's not opposed to a little theft — as long as you don't steal from small struggling vendors, and as long as you don't get caught. The cigarettes are tucked under your arm, and the fizzycoke is shaken up to the point near exploding. On the other hand, the shopkeeper is actually making a decent show of pursuing you, though ducking through the crowd has gained you a little bit of distance. There it is, though, up ahead — an alleyway on your left, a place where you could probably hide. The cigarettes have taken a bit of toll on your young body — you can feel it. Not enough to really slow you down, but the effects are there, nonetheless.

That looked like as good a place as any to hide out for a sec.. So Orpheus slips into the alleyway, making sure his ruthenium is ON and trying his best to keep his ill-gotten goods tucked under his cloak securely. This 5-liter jug of fizzycoke was getting a little heavy though! It was probably all flat and horrible by now as well.. Fsk.. He can't discard the thing in the middle of the alleyway though or it would show a clear indication he had gone this way.. so he continues heading down the alleyway, lugging the heavy-ass thing around..
Ironically, despite the fact the cigarettes made things hard on him, he REALLY wanted one right about now, actually..

Yeah, there's that little burn in your chest. In a way it feels good, a reminder of what you're doing to yourself. Even so, you're strong enough that it won't even really slow you down. The fizzycoke is probably still good, though it is heavy. Five liters. Five kilos. It's a little heavy, but nothing your cyberarm can't handle. There's a dumpster there that would make a good hiding place, and your ruthenium is sufficient that nobody even looked your way as you ducked into the alleyway. Behind that dumpster, there's a nook — in fact, there's a hole in the wall that seems to lead into the crawlspace beneath the building.
And that might actually be necessary, as some perverted sixth sense makes the shopkeeper look ahead, then look right into the alleyway — and turns this way.

Hmm.. So. Turn around and face the likely harmless shopkeeper? Or crawl into the creepy, dark space behind the dumpster into unknown dangers.. Hmmmmmm. Descisions descisions.
Orph gets on all fours and begins to penetrade deeply into the waiting, dark, deep hole before him. He thrusts himself into it with wild abandon, caring not for his safety or well-being.. It's a spur of the moment thing, sorta. Lost in the 'sensation' of the moment as it sweeps him away, and into the mysterious, conveniently placed hole before him.

The hole is relatively small, suitable only for a child. Or, say, an Aztlan warrior with artificially stunted growth. The space beyond is cozy and warm, and feels safe, deep instincts in the mammalian brain triggering at the feeling of somewhere safe from predators. And best of all, the man pursuing you runs through the alleyway, having not seen the direction in which you went. You're safe! Time for a cigarette; you're alone in here, after all. A place to celebrate and relax until the heat dies down.
Your eyes adjust to the darkness within moments, your thermographic vision taking precedence as they adjust to the warmth inside here. There is warmth in here — something the exact temperature of a human body, though somewhat small, almost childlike. And then, a soft, whispered voice, fearful. Male. And adult, a little rough. "?Quien esta alli?"

«Plot» Slinger says, "It's Spanish. Aztlan accent, in fact."

Orpheus's thermographics zone in on the adult-sized heat signiture inside the tiny crawlspace.. just as he was beginning to relax and contemplate chancing a smoke real quick, the sound of the Spanish voice jars him somewhat.. Once he calms himself, he responds to the man: "No se preocupe, usted esta seguro."(Dont worry, your safe).
Orpheus looks intently at the person he was sharing this little crawlspace with a moment.. and can't help but ask what hes doing down here, "por que estas aqui?" Even still, he tenses his cyberarm a moment, in case things became suddenly violent.. and he hoped they wouldn't.. Escaping the crazed Shopkeeper only to share a space with a serial killer Spanish man hiding in a dark hole at the corner of the stuffer shack was not his idea of fun times..

Your lungs definitely want nicotine — it seems natural after any physical exertion. But this is a twist you had not expected. The sound of your voice, though, seems to send the man into a state of almost shock. He jerks away from you, skittering back into the darkness — though it's very clear that this is not a very large crawlspace, nor very deep. His voice is shaky. "Please just leave me alone!" he pleads, his voice full of abject terror, from the corner where he has sequestered himself. And then there is another sound — a very distinctive sound. The sound of the hammer being cocked back on a gun, most likely a pistol.
Now your eyes have adapted, and you can see relatively clearly, though details are still a little fuzzy. It is a dwarf, though relatively handsome, with Hispanic features. He's not even middle-aged yet, and somewhat slender — dressed in a suit that was probably nice a short while ago, but now is tattered and torn. "Now you will answer my questions. How many more of you did they send?"

Orpheus' eye mods at least made seeing into the spase easier. If he had to attack.. he could.. but he didn't want to to. All he wanted was some fizzycoke and a carton of cigarettes; not all this.. yet, here it was, served onto his plate. Something was up with this man though.. his suit, his obvious Aztlan accent. Perhaps a traitor, Orpheus thinks.. and how apropriate. Two traitors, meeting up like THIS. Was fate having fun at his expense?
"Listen, amigo.. I don't want trouble," he says calmly, though with a hint of aggitation at having a gun pointing toward him.. even if the guy couldn't reliably hit him, it was unnerving all the same.. "I'll just crawl outta this this.. let you continue to live in this dirty hole, an' leave you alone. Si? An' I can go back to living comfortably with my lover and everything will be okay." Orpheus explains this to the guy slowly.. carefully.. Hoping to give him some perspective.. Normally in this situation he would just quickstrike the guy.. Blitzkrieg before he had a chance to respond.. but he couldn't do such a thing. Not anymore..

The gun is shaking — the man has no idea how to use it. He's just as likely to shoot himself as he is to shoot you. Or the wall. Or really, just about anything that's within range of it. What if some kid crawls in here with Senor Itchyfinger and gets himself shot by saying the wrong thing? A traitor, perhaps. Someone on the run. Someone who needs help. "How many more of you are there?" he asks again, still in Spanish, of course. He doesn't believe you — your accent, the way you move, it still does bear definite traces of your training, distinctive. That gun might well go off the way he's holding it. And that would be… inconvenient.
He's clearly frightened. Terrified for his life. And perhaps… perhaps there actually /is/ a threat bearing down on him.

Orpheus narrows his eyes at this guy.. His annoyance grew. "Look.. Lower the gun. An' maybe we can talk.. Tell me what the frag ou are doin' down in this hole. If you do that, maybe I could do something? But if you shoot at me with that gun…" Orpheus looks at the shaking figure squarely.. ".. Well. You don' want to do that," he adds..
Orph would just as soon leave the guy in here and go back to what he was doing. IT was hard for him to willingly care about other people.. but he had a feeling.. that he needed to TRY and sympathize with this guy. He decides this because. He thinks that he was almost exactly like this not long ago really.. when Slinger first found him in the Ares facility.. Wounded, hands shaking, vaguely aiming his gun at the person who not long after would be his lover. Strange how life turned out that way..
"Okay? I can see your scared, an' I know what it's like to be scared."

In a way… yes, it might well remind you of that. And the thoughts, the paranoia, that question of whether you can trust this person… the knowledge that you have to trust someone, yet the terror that letting down your guard will be your final, fatal mistake — very familiar thoughts. The dwarf is breathing harder, his eyes flicking over your body, seeing only a heat signature with his natural thermographic vision. He slowly, very slowly, lowers the gun, at least decreasing the chance that a random shiver will send a bullet through you. "Who are you?" he asks, still nervous, still edgy. "You look Aztlan." He sniffs the air, and then seems to tense. "You smell Aztlan. You smell of Guererra smoke," he points out, almost accusingly.
But he takes a nervous, slow breath. "They… they used me. They used me, and now they want me dead. I know things they don't want anyone to know," he says, with a fierce whisper. "And they can find me. Anytime, anywhere. It's just a matter of time. They have my /blood/!"

Orpheus couldn't hide it.. And he had no reason to do so anyway. "Yeah. I used to be Az," he agrees. "They used me too, though. So I said fuck 'em," he spits. Orpheus was different though.. he had training. Skills. He could exist in the shadows comfortably and lead any life he chose, despite the fact Az had HIS information too.
"As for who I am.. You c'n call me.. Orpheus. Alright? What's your name, huh?"
To Orph, this guys shaky, frantic whispers sounded inane. What sort of secrets did this dwarf hold? Something so dangerous as to drive him into a dark hole in the CAS sector.. "You still have a chance, alright.. There are things you can do to survive." DNA Masking for one.. Acquiring a fake SIN. A new identity, basically.. Of course, it was easier said than done.

The dwarf breathes out slowly, and slowly seems to relax. "Orpheus," he murmurs. A code-name. Not a name in Spanish, but instead one derived from Greek. "As long as they have my blood, they can find me. Even here. It's just a matter of time. I… I don't know what to do." But when you mention that, there is something new in his eyes, in his voice. "You can show me? They had your blood, had a way to trace you?" he asks, with that hint of eagerness in his voice. "I can… I will do something for you, if I can. Whatever you wish, that I can do, it is yours, if you can help me to live, to escape. To start over somewhere!"

Orpheus watches the gun lower, and he breathes a slight sigh of relief. "Yeah, sure.. There are ways. DNA Masking, for one.. It will fool most biometric readings.. You can get a new identity, too. A new SIN.. I could hook you up with people who know how.. But to do that, we gatta play this cool. An' you need to relax.."
Orpheus leans back into his little hole a bit, relaxing. He tilts his head toward the opening in the building, carefully listening with his sensitive ears for any movement or somesuch from outside.. Just as a precaution.. He talks while doing so. "There is always a way, omae. Always.. To change your life," he says, and the statement carries a certain personal investment to it. "For startes, I'll call my friend.. He can help us. Alright?"
Orpheus will slowly reach for his cellphone, provided the dwarf doesn't spaz out.

The dwarf is nervous. "I know about DNA Masking," the dwarf says without hesitation. "But it won't work on me. I've got a rare genetic marker. Makes my blood… very easy to trace." He exhales a slow breath. "A new SIN… I have heard of such things, but it is not one picks up at… what is it called? Stuffer Shack?" He says those two words in accented English. He finally lowers the gun the rest of the way, nods as you pick up the phone and dial.
No movement from outside just yet, other that the sounds of the city. On the other hand — they would likely send more like you, trained like you, for stealth. To sneak in undetected, then strike hard and fast and leave nothing behind.

Orpheus nods.. "Alright.. Whatever the case, I'm sure we can figure out somethin'," he tells the Dwarf. For now, he dials in Slingers number on the phone and lets it ring for now.
"I been layin' low for a while now, an' actually I could use a new SIN myself.. I don't know anyone directly, but I'm positive my friend will know something," he assures the small man. Handsome, if not a little short… And it was strange for Orpheus to have an adult smaller than /him/! Cus he was quite small himself.. Whenever Slinger does pick up the phone, Orpheus will speak into it saying, "Hello Sexy." Hopefully, he can keep his voice low enough to avoid anyone outside the hole hearing him, including any would-be assassins. Orpheus would hope that being jammed into a tiny hole like this would be sufficient protection for now..

Slinger answers the phone with his customary 'Yo!' — then listens. A soft chuckle when you call him sexy — and you can imagine your elfin lover blushing at the word. He so enjoys the attention. "Whatcha need?" he asks, with a warm smile, obviously receptive to what you need. Whatever he is doing, that can wait, it would seem. Of course, he might still be doing what he was when you left, staring at that spell formula on the desktop computer, scowling, and chain-smoking while he tries to figure out the arcane mathematical symbols that it contains.
The dwarf scowls a little as you speak into the phone, clearly putting several things together. Your use of the term 'lover'. The word 'sexy'. And the undeniably male voice that he can hear from your phone, albeit tinny from the small speaker. Even so, that paradoxically seems to relax him a little.

Orpheus leans back fully against the.. whatever constitutes a wall in this tiny little space. "What do I need? Lotta things," he admits, smiling faintly.. For a moment it's easy to forget his current predicament and just enjoy the sound of Slingers voice on the other end of the line. "If I said to you… That I was in a dark hole with an Aztlan Dwarf on the run, what would you say?" he wonders over the phone. His voice is in good spirit though.. almost humour, but there is a faint urgency to it as well, under all that aloofness.
Meanwhile he looks over at the scowling dwarf and raises a brow. He silently moves his lips where the dwarf might see him saying 'what is it?'. He then grins to the dwarf, then adds into the phone.. ".. 'An also if I said I wanted to feel your masculine body pressed to mine?" He says this just to intentionally antagonize the dwarf, if possible. all in good fun of course..

The wall is rough, and your cigarettes are slipping out from under your arm. The fizzycoke is definitely getting heavy. On the other hand, the person chasing you has long since vanished back toward his store, perhaps surmising that the potential loss from leaving the store unattended far outweighs what you took. "I'd ask what kind of drugs he was selling, and why you took him up on the offer," the youth responds, with amusement in his voice — but he's soon a little more serious."
There's the sound of your lover lighting a cigarette, a deep, thick drag of it. "What's he need?" Slinger wonders, and then smirks. "I'd say you definitely should have more of whatever it is."
The dwarf grimaces, a look of faint disgust on his features. But he shakes his head, dismissing it. Slinger asks, "Seriously, though, where are you? You think it's safe to bring him back to the apartment?"

Orpheus just grins broadly at the dwarf.. Ohhh he thinks he could have some fun with this one.. If he had a chance to get close to Slinger. Oh yes… But that was for later.. To the matter at hand..
"Still in th' CAS.. You know the Stuffer Shack up the block, on Alameda?" he says.. ".. I'm there. He was hiding in a little hole when I ran into him," he admits, and tactfully leaves out the reason WHY he ended up in a dark hole in the first place.. For now.
"He's definitely Aztech.. I c'n tell. Says they are after him.. Says he wants to get out, start over… What ya think?" Orph hopes Slinger knows someone who maybe knows someone who knows how to get whatever they need to accomplish the task at hand. And who knows, if he got something out of it too, so much the better. Maybe he could.. Ya know, learn to BUY things at Stuffer Shack with his fake SIN rather than steal them.. though stealing was so much funner.. "He also thinks hes got hunters after 'em, so from here, I can't be sure how safe we are."

Slinger considers that for a moment. "Could be a trap," he points out. "He a soldier-type, like you? Or…?" He drags on his cigarette, which might remind you of your addiction as well. The dwarf doesn't seem to be /too/ overly aggressive about his opinions. He doesn't have the gun up and ready anymore, at least.
"Yeah, I know the spot. Can be there in about ten. That soon enough? I need to come loaded for bear?" he asks casually. You can hear the sound of him hitting keys, saving his notes and his progress on the computer, and then the jingle of keys. "We can see about a fake SIN. I need a good contact for that anyway, actually, but we can track somebody down. That all he needs is a fake ID? Or somethin' else? They got a material link to him?"

Orpheus looks back at the dwarf.. in his suit as he is. Clearly green in any combat situation, considering the way he held that gun.. "Nah, I wouldn't worry about that," he says. Hopefully the dward doesn't pick up on the meaning behind what Orph is saying when he says that.. "Though, I would take all reasonable precautions before you come.. No tellin' what might actually be waitin out there.."
There was that blood thing too.. "Well.. He says he got a rare genetic marker in his blood, an' they should have his blood on file.. So there is also that." He looks at the dwarf again, then talks to the halfer directly, "Hey, how long you been in here anyway? You think they know where to find you?" he wonders.

"Gotcha," Slinger replies. He's good at reading your inflections… and the way you are learning makes him burn with pride inside. "Be there in about ten. Have a cancer stick or two, and we'll talk more when I arrive. Get him in the SUV, and we'll find a place to put him while we ask some questions."
The news you give him makes the elfin youth pause. "Blood is probably the second best thing to have. The best is actual tissue. But even blood degrades. But it takes months. It's not good enough to just have his DNA on file — they have to actually /have/ the blood. And they probably only have one sample. That means, that sample gets nuked, we're good."

Orpheus almost winces at this. Nuke the blood.. Sure thing! But.. Something like that would be dangerous, sneaking into Az territory. Even for him.. Of course.. There might be 'other' ways..
"Alright, I'll be waitin' here.. Pull up to the stuffer shack, an' I'll listen for the SUV. I can hear that thing a mile away!" he says with a grin. For now, Orpheus goes ahead and reaches for one of his cigarettes inside the carton he just pilfered. He gets the carton open, then a pack open.. Then, thoughtfully(a rarity for him), he tosses one of the geurreras over to the dwarf. "My friend will be here in ten minutes.. so try to relax a little til then," he suggests, then lights up his cigarette, puffing on it and drawing on the embers..

Slinger hangs up the phone. On his way — and Slinger is nothing if not reliable in that regard. He will be here.
The dwarf reaches out and awkwardly catches the pack, just simple reflexes at work. He's not wired — not in that regard, anyway. He looks at the things, and wrinkles his nose. "I don't smoke," he states, with a hint of distaste in his voice. He watches as you light the thing, that first exhale of smoke filling the small space with toxic vapors within moments. "You are too young for it," he observes. "But you are not a soldier of Aztlan. A soldier of Aztlan would never admit to… having a male lover." His eyes are narrowed. Catholicism may no longer be openly practiced, but much of the morality is maintaind.

Orpheus just shrugs at the dwarf, "Well, good thing we aren't in Az anymore, huh Omae?" he tells the guy with a matter-of-factly tone to his voice.. "Ya know, for someone who is being helped out of the charity of someone else, you sure got quite a mouth," he says. Kinda weird that way, it's like everyone else around him was always so damn critical of his smoking! Well.. that was the price you paid for being so devlishly boyish and cute. And maybe just a little handsome, too..
"Anyway.. I don't see no straight people crawlin' down here to help us out, so.. Take what you can get," he adds, then just smiles broadly at the dward.. and blows a lungfull of smoke toward him in the tiny space from the powerful cigarettes he was smoking.

"Not what I meant. I'm sorry," the dwarf says, still holding the unopened pack of cigarettes. Toying with it nervously. It gives him something to do with his hands. "I mean… I trust you more, now. It sounds wrong, but it is true." The cloud of smoke drifts toward him, and the dwarf coughs once, twice — the smoke from these is strong, even secondhand.
"This friend of yours. He is… strong? Powerful?" the dwarf wonders, still speaking Spanish. "He thinks he can help me?"

Orpheus nods.. "I would trust him with my life, unquestioningly," he responds with a sort of pitched fervor in his voice.. almost a tremor, from the sheer conviction of the statement. His belief in the statement wasn't simply a thought or a feeling.. it was gospel.
"You can trust him too.. If he can help us, he will do it." Orpheus takes a slow drag off his cigarette, letting the burning fire seep down into every part of his lungs and holds it down for a long moment before exhaling the fumes.. ".. He can help. I have no doubt."

The dwarf nods slowly, taking a few deep breaths to calm himself. Another soft cough from the smoke. "If he can help me… if you both can help me, then my skills are at your disposal," the dwarf murmurs. "This I pledge to you." The gun is placed on the ground beside him, and he fingers the pack of cigarettes, gazing at it. "I would give a great deal for a good cigar right now," the dwarf admits, with a small smile. And then tosses the pack of smokes back to you.

Orpheus grins, "Yeah? Never tried one.. Maybe I should some time.." He takes the pack and puts it back into the carton he has, then sets it next to him again, still waiting for the sound of the SUV to pull up somewhere outside.. Anxiously he waited.. He really wanted to the see the face of his lover right now.. Feel him close. Orpheus was no means helpless, or even clingy.. but that didn't change the fact he still desired the presence of his friend..
"What exactly did you do.. before all this?" Orpheus wonders. He says he will offer his skills.. but what skills, he wonders?"

The dwarf exhales into the air, smiles. "It is the difference between fine brandy and beer," he explains, which does not help Orpheus — who has likely had little alcohol in his life. "As for what I do… I have degrees in both engineering and biotechnology. My latest project involved…" He swallows, the habits of secrecy coming to the fore for a moment, before he remembers that that no longer matters. "I discovered a way to make implanted cyberweapons out of composite materials. Strong, hard, but they were virtually undetectable to anything short of a full magnetic resonance scan. Even a MAD could not detect them," he says, proudly.
Then, he lets out a slow breath. "Once I finished my final thesis on the project… that is when they sent soldiers after me. To eliminate a security risk," he mutters darkly.

Part 2: Assault Team

It is at this point you can hear the distinctive sound of the Suburban pulling up near the mouth of the alley.

Orpheus actually finds himself.. interested in this. Quite an interesting toy, that.. "Even MAD scanners?" he asks again. He nods his head slowly.. "That sounds very impressive," he admits.
Orpheus growls at the story in its completion though. "Used you.. then cast you aside," he says distastefully. "I know the feelin', amigo. I know it real well," he says. Even NOW, he still felt a bit of hurt.. once in a great while.. Just that painful, hurtfull tug at his heartstrings when he thought about all he gave to Az and where it ultimately got him… and then, once Orpheus hears the sound of the SUV, he's suddenly reminded.. Yes.. This is what Az discarding him ultimately gave him; a chance at his own life. A chance to be with Slinger.. If he wasn't cast out by Az, he'd still be there.. Mindlessly following orders. And suddenly, Orpheus feels very good about where his life has ended up after all.
"You are better off for it, friend. I got no foubt of that in my mind.." Orpheus gently moves and crawls a bit so he can stick his head out of the little hole and listen carefully.. "My friend is here now, I think.."

The dwarf nods. "Of course… if they knew the composition we were using, it is possible they could adapt the scanners. That is why they wanted me gone. I did nothing wrong. I worked hard for them… and now they cast me aside like yesterday's bread." You can see it in his eyes — that… confusion, that utterly-mystified look on his face. How could this happen? his eyes seem to ask. Where did I go wrong?
The dwarf nods, hearing the sound as well — though not as swiftly as you do. He stands up, picks up the gun and tucks it into a pocket of suit. He nods, and starts toward the exit from the small space.

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence + 5 (SSF):
1 2 3 3 4 4 5 8 9 9

There is the sound of the SUV door slamming, and the dwarf is just about to step out through the hole, ducking his head. But you hear something. A very small sound, and yet one that echoes through your memory. The sound of the button of a standard-issue field-comm transmit button, clicking once, twice. You would not have heard it, most of the time, but conditions were just right. Click-click — go-signal. Target in position.
The door to the SUV closes, and Slinger is on his way here. And he thinks the situation is safe, as, it would appear, does the dwarf, who is about to step out into the alley.

Orpheus gently puts his hand up to halt the dwarf from advancing as he listens carefully. "Hold it.." he says. He assumes he is hearing Slinger out there, but Orpheus was always more cautious than that.. He listens carefully with his finely tuned ears.. and.. sure enough, something wasn't right.. He narrows his eyes, tilting his head a moment. No, no this wasn't right. Orpheus looks at the dwarf with a hard look, and shakes his head.. gently nudges him back into the hole..
Well.. Orpheus had to choose.. stay in here, or step out into the alley himself. On the one hand, they might not know their exact coordinates in this little cubby hole.. On the other, if they DID know they were in here, they would be like fish in a barrel to shoot at.. Ultimately, Orpheus decides to step out of the hole, leaving the dwarf for now.. He hopes he can stay secluded behind the dumpster long enough to catch his bearings on the situation before exposing himself..

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Stealth:
1 1 2 2 2 4
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Stealth for "1/4":
1 1 3 3 5 11
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence:
1 4 7 7 16
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls 5 (SSF) for "If pertinent":
2 4 4 7 14

The dwarf is confused as you pull him back, and you can see that momentary look of betrayal as you pull him away from the hole — but then he realizes from the look on your face what is happening, nods, moves away. Your ruthenium is activated of course, shielding you from view as you slip out of the hole — and there they are, three of them. Three that you can… no, four. Two on the rooftops, one in the alleyway, moving this way stealthily… not cloaked as you are, but still taking advantage of the shadows perfectly. The fourth is hidden well, hiding next to pile of bricks, nearly invisible — but your keen senses spot him as you slip into position, using the dumpster for cover.
And here comes Slinger, rounding the corner into the alley, oblivious to any threat.

«OOC» Slinger says, ""

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence:
1 5 5 8 11

«Plot-Page» (To: Orpheus) Slinger says, "If you have your comm on you? There's a good chance Slinger has his… and if so… the frequencies will almost certainly match."
«Plot-Page» (To: Orpheus) Slinger says, "Since our radios 'know' one another from previous missions."

Orpheus wasn't in a great position to defend Slinger from here really.. He knew where they all were.. or at least most of them, perhaps. The ones on the roof were especially dangerous to Slinger at the moment, but he had little hope of getting any clear shots.. He hopes then that Slinger has his radio on him, and clicks his on.. He was plugged into it, probably out of habit any time he put on his combat gear. Once tapped in he tranduces to the usual frequency, »Slinger! Four hostiles! Two on the roof above you on the right and behind, two directly down the alley about 20 meters ahead. Take cover!« That done, he hopes to whatever god may or may not exist that he gets the message.. He grips his pistol in hand, and prepares to act soon.. he can't just sit here and wait..

Slinger doesn't have his earpiece on… but the sound of your voice is immediate and distinctive. As is the panic in your voice. The young mage stops abruptly — and he thinks fast, and suddenly pulls back from the mouth of the alley — and then vanishes from view, instantly — just as you see the first guy on the roof taking aim… and then he lifts his head, peering over the scope to confirm, indeed, that his target just vanished right in front of him.

About three seconds later, you can hear Slinger's soft voice on the comm. "What was that? Are you in danger?" He didn't hear what you said, but the warning was delivered.

Orpheus relays again, »Four hostiles. Must be here for the dwarf. Two on the roof.. One on the opposite side of the alley above, the other on the roof on the other side of the street.. Two more approaching me from down the alley.« Now, Orpheus had to consider what to do. Within moments the enemy group was going to be 'onto' them and any chance of surprise would be lost, if not already.. At least Slinger was safe now, hopefully, and probably in a good position to assist..

« Acknowledged. Protect the target and stay out of sight, even from above. I'm powering up right now. I'll give you cover. » You can hear Slinger's voice growing a little more tense. « Gimme locations of the targets, » the youth says tersely.

Slinger has disappeared from view — and now the others are moving forward, aggressively… they aren't going to give Slinger any time to act. So far they haven't seen you — at least that you've noticed. You need some advantage — trying to see upward to get at those snipers is your biggest problem.

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Athletics vs TN 4 for "Need 3 successes to achieve the jump height.":
2 3 4 4 5 19 = 4 Successes
«OOC» Orpheus says, "That gets me to 10 quickness, or 3 meter standing jump.."

Orpheus considers his options.. Right now, Slinger was in the greatest danger from those Snipers.. slinger was at much at the whimps of line of sight as he was. »I'm goin' up,« he comms to his friend, and without another thought, he nimbly vaults himself up onto the dumpster, and using this upward momentum, launches himself up even higher with a nice shove with his cyberarm. For a moment the youth glides mid-air, up the wall.. Then quickly catches the edge of the roof and swings himself ontop of it in a single movement. Momentum is still with him after this and he requires a brief roll to shed all his inertia before coming to rest.
Already Orph had his pistol out and aiming upward, reading to shoot the first thing that penetrates his view.. Hopefully, it will be enough..

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Stealth:
1 1 2 3 3 16

Your feet landing on the dumpster, and your ascend up to the rooftop, makes almost no noise — but the key word is almost. There is a brief, frantic whisper, subvocalized — and the guy on the rooftop opposite you takes aim — and fires off two shots, silenced — the hiss of an angry cat, repeated twice as he fires two bursts of ammo to chip the brick near you. But the shots miss, having had no real chance to strike you. And then you are upon the roof.
From here you can see the others, spread out before you, even as the enemy with the assault rifle searches the rooftop for you, and the others move in toward the dwarf's hiding place.
The way they are dressed, the way they move — it would clearly remind you of where you came from. You could easily have ended up as one of them, in a team just like this one.

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (intel) vs TN 8 for "Spotting Slinger with Ultrasound, #4.":
1 1 5 5 9 = 1 Success

«OOC» Slinger says, "He'll have 2 points partial cover, so TN 4."
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pistols + Combat Pool: 3 vs TN 4 for "Shot 1.":
3 4 4 5 5 5 7 10 = 7 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pistols + Combat Pool: 3 vs TN 4 for "Shot 2.":
1 2 2 2 3 3 3 7 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pistols + Combat Pool: 3 - 1 vs TN 4 for "Shot 2. 2/4":
1 2 2 2 5 7 14 = 3 Successes

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls Combat Pool: 7 vs TN 4 for "Dodging first shot…":
2 3 4 5 5 11 11 = 5 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 2 vs TN 4 for "Dodging, KP 1.":
11 11 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (body) vs TN 4 for "3 points ballistic armor vs 7M base, 4M.":
1 2 4 5 11 = 3 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 2 vs TN 4 for "KP 2":
2 5 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (body) vs TN 4 for "Second shot… 4M with 4 successes behind it…":
4 4 5 11 13 = 5 Successes

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 6 (rifles) + Combat Pool: 6 vs TN 7 for "#4 Shooting Slinger using Ultrasound…":
3 3 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 8 9 9 = 3 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 6 (rifles) + Combat Pool: 6 - 3 (succs) vs TN 7 for "#4 Shooting Slinger using Ultrasound… KP 1":
1 2 2 2 3 3 4 5 21 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 6 (rifles) + Combat Pool: 6 - 4 (succs) vs TN 7 for "#4 Shooting Slinger using Ultrasound… KP 3":
1 2 3 4 5 5 5 7 = 1 Success

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (body) vs TN 7 for "Needs 3 successes.":
1 2 3 9 11 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 3 vs TN 7 for "KP 3":
4 4 5 = 0 Successes
«OOC» Slinger says, "He falls backward a little, but was already prone."

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 6 (rifles) + Combat Pool: 2 vs TN 7 for "#4 Shooting Slinger, second shot…":
1 2 2 3 4 4 5 10 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 6 (rifles) + Combat Pool: 2 - 1 (succs) vs TN 7 for "#4 Shooting Slinger, second shot… KP 4":
1 2 3 3 4 5 9 = 1 Success

Orpheus, after finishing his roll and drawing his pistol, quickly beads up on the nearest target.. that being the sniper on the roof opposite himself. Two silenced -thwip thwip- sounds issue from the barrel of the gun with each pull of the trigger.. The shots are true, as well, but the ammo is weak.. Though probably ending up with a large welt on his body, the strike team member is otherwise conscious and probably a little angrier than before..
-Shit- thinks Orpheus.. And hopes Slinger is having a better time of things than himself..

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls Combat Pool: 6 vs TN 4 for "Slinger Dodging first shot…":
1 3 3 4 5 11 = 3 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 3 vs TN 4 for "KP 1/23":
1 2 5 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 2 vs TN 4 for "KP 3/23":
1 2 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 2 vs TN 4 for "KP 6/23":
3 4 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 1 vs TN 4 for "KP 10/23":
5 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls Combat Pool: 3 vs TN 4 for "Dodging second shot…":
1 2 2 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls Combat Pool: 3 vs TN 4 for "Dodging second shot… KP 11/23":
4 4 5 = 3 Successes

Now, the silence is broken, as two shots ring out from across the street, well-aimed shots aimed right at the invisible elf, who shows up nicely against the building to ultrasound vision. Slinger curses and nimbly darts aside, heading upward at a rapid rate thanks to his Levitate spell. Even so, he is virtually invisible to every other sense…

«OOC» Slinger says, "He's gonna do suppressive fire on your area. 10 rounds."
«OOC» Slinger says, "This means you need to make a dodge test versus TN 4. You have 3 rounds covering the area where you are. So you need 3 successes on the dodge test."

The sound of the un-silenced rifle ringing out has people on the street screaming and diving for cover, fleeing the area as fast as they can, trying to stay uninvolved, adding to the chaos.

«OOC» Slinger says, "Ah. Then he gets to make a normal ranged attack test, versus only his wounds."

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (assault rifles) vs TN 8 for "A round hits you…":
1 1 1 3 3 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (assault rifles) vs TN 8 for "A round hits you… KP 5":
2 3 4 5 7 = 0 Successes

«OOC» Slinger says, "+1 TN due to more partial cover; he's trying to use the edge of the roof to hide behind…"
«OOC» Slinger says, "So TN 5 base now. Can lower it back to 4 with an aim action."

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pistols + Combat Pool: 5 vs TN 4 for "Aimed shot":
1 2 2 2 3 4 5 5 5 8 = 5 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (body) vs TN 4 for "Resisting 4M with 5 succs…":
1 3 4 7 7 = 3 Successes
«OOC» Slinger says, "He takes another S."

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (body) vs TN 7 for "Needs 4 succs vs knockdown… he's already prone, however…":
2 4 4 4 5 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 6 (rifles) vs TN 9 for "Shooting Slinger, not enough recoil comp…":
1 3 4 5 5 5 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 6 (rifles) vs TN 9 for "Shooting Slinger, not enough recoil comp… shot 2":
1 3 4 5 5 7 = 0 Successes

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pistols + Combat Pool: 5 vs TN 4 for "Same shot as before.":
1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 5 5 = 3 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls Combat Pool: 7 for "Dodging…":
1 1 1 1 2 2 2
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 (body) + Combat Pool: 1 vs TN 4 for "Resisting…":
2 3 3 3 5 7 = 2 Successes

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 7 (sorcery) + Sorcery Pool: 4 + 7 (power focus) vs TN 5 for "Stunbolt, F6, targeted at S damage against #4.":
1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 7 9 = 4 Successes

Orpheus watches the barrel of the gun aim toward him.. in a heartbeats flutter he can almost 'see' the bullets heading toward him.. A quick controled fall and roll saves him from ending up with a bullet in him.. Once more the gun in his hand is readied, aimed, and fired.. This shot rings truer than the last and immediately puts the Aztlan soldier down for the count after a relentless rain of gelrounds, the man is finally put under..
'Truly', Orph thinks.. 'There needs to be a better type of gel round…'.

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 7 (sorcery) + Sorcery Pool: 4 + 7 (power focus) - 4 (succs) vs TN 5 for "Stunbolt, F6, targeted at S damage against #4. KP 14/23.":
1 1 1 1 2 3 4 4 4 5 5 5 10 17 = 5 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (willpower) vs TN 6 for "Target resisting…":
1 2 4 5 7 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 7 (willpower) + Sorcery Pool: 4 vs TN 2 for "Drain…":
1 1 3 4 4 4 5 5 7 10 10 = 9 Successes

Slinger lashes out with a spell at the sniper who actually — nearly — scores a hit on him — enough that it'll smart a little, later. The young elf's spell energies send the sniper into a nice, deep slumber, and then Slinger is free to deal with other matters… like the forward solder who is nearly to that crack in the wall that houses your friend, having to go out into the alleyway to get around the pile of debris…

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pistols + Combat Pool: 5 vs TN 4 for "+3 cover, -2 SL, -1 aim":
1 1 2 2 2 3 4 4 5 9 = 4 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pistols + Combat Pool: 5 - 4 vs TN 4 for "+3 cover, -2 SL, -1 aim 3/4":
2 2 3 3 4 5 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls Combat Pool: 6 for "Dodge, TN 4…, by #2…":
1 1 2 3 4 5
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls Combat Pool: 6 - 2 (succs) vs TN 4 for "Dodge, TN 4…, by #2… KP 1":
3 4 5 5 = 3 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) vs TN 4 for "Resisting 4M…":
1 1 3 5 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) - 1 vs TN 4 for "Resisting 4M… KP 2":
3 5 9 = 2 Successes
«OOC» Slinger says, "He takes L…"

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) vs TN 7 for "Knockdown, needs 2 succs.":
2 4 5 5 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) vs TN 7 for "Knockdown, needs 2 succs. KP 3":
1 1 1 2 = 0 Successes
«OOC» Slinger says, "He sprawls backward, prone."
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (throwing) + Combat Pool: 4 vs TN 5 for "#1, Throwing something up toward you…":
3 3 4 4 5 5 10 11 = 4 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 1 for "Scatter…":
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 1 for "Scatter direction…":

The other soldier stares upward as your shot hisses out. He can't /see/ you, but he can definitely tell where the shots are coming from by the muzzleflash. And so he pulls out a grenade — and throws it upward. It hits the top of the wall and bounces… back behind you…

Orpheus is peering out over the edge of the roof as the two men(or women) below scurry toward their ultimate goal.. Orpheus had different plans. He made a PROMISE to the person huddled down in that hole.. and he absolutely intended to see that promise through. Scoping in, Orph takes a quick snap shot at the frontmost target. The gel round does little damage, but the kinetic force of it is sufficient to knock the guy clear on his ass. Mission accomplished, perhaps.. Of course, there also comes a familiar, and dangerous noise behind him somplace.. Tink tink. Metal on concrete. Sounds like.. a grenade. »FUCK!« comes Orpheus' voice over the comm in that instant.

"Yeah, I see it. Fragger!" He lashes out with a spell of his own, aiming it downward at the guy who threw the grenade…

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 7 (sorcery) + Sorcery Pool: 7 + 7 (power focus) vs TN 4 for "Zotting #1, Stunbolt, F6, targetting at M damage base.":
1 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 5 7 8 9 14 15 = 8 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 7 (willpower) + Sorcery Pool: 1 vs TN 2 for "F6, -1(DL), 2M drain.":
1 1 1 2 2 4 4 4 = 5 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (#1 willpower) vs TN 6 for "Resisting…":
1 2 4 8 = 1 Success
«Plot» Slinger says, "The guy… does not go down. But he's definitely hit hard."

«OOC» Slinger says, "Ayup. Jumping down is easy… but roll Athletics (5) to land without damage."
«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Athletics vs TN 5:
2 2 3 4 4 5 = 1 Success

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pentjak-Silat + Combat Pool: 2 vs TN 2 for "Prone opponent.":
2 2 2 2 5 5 = 6 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (aikido) vs TN 4 for "Melee…":
1 1 1 2 10 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 vs TN 5 for "L wound, sorry. KP 4":
2 3 7 8 = 2 Successes
«OOC» Orpheus says, "10S and 8S then"
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) vs TN 7 for "Resisting…":
2 2 5 10 = 1 Success
«OOC» Slinger says, "He takes S."
«OOC» Orpheus says, "What kinda plot is this?"
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (body) vs TN 7 for "Half impact, this sucks!":
4 8 9 11 15 = 4 Successes
«OOC» Slinger says, "He takes another L. 7 boxes."

The guy Slinger stunbolted is doing his damnedest to get to stay on his feet — and given the situation, he turns and runs. He has to report in, has to be there to rescue his men. But in his present state, he is not fit to fight, not against… whatever it was that hit him. Strategic withdrawal.

Orpheus' mind kicks into instinct mode for just a moment.. he barely thinks about what he does next. A vault.. A jump, straight off the building.. Orpheus' highly refined, athletically built body brings him to a flip mid-air during descent.. And he lands in a butterfly crouch right next to the man laying on his ass.. The time from his shot to the fall is only a moment, and so he has little time to respond.. /CRUNCH/ goes his armor as Orpheus brings the full weight of his drop and cybernetic elbow straight down into the center of the mans chestplate.. The shock is good enough to virtually ensure he is out of the fight..
"Don' start what you can't finish," Orpheus says smoothly.. and brings up his pistol to put a single gel round into the back of the fleeing man.. He falls forward and faceplants. Orpheus stands up then, and aims his gun down at the man at his feet..
"I don't recommend movin', cus I'm in /really/ bad mood.."

The one running away drops — and the knockdown sends him into a heap against the wall. The man stares back up at the shimmering, almost invisible form — and the gun pointed right at him. And he ceases moving, ceases reaching for his own gun, and just stares. "Who are you?" he asks, in Spanish, staring up at you with a hint of awe, though a good bit of helpless anger. He's… impressed.

Commlink-Slinger> Slinger says, "Is that all of them? If so, get the guy, and let's motor! Before reinforcements come in!"

Orpheus cocks his head at the fallen, shot man.. He's down for sure.. no worries there. So Orpheus looks down at the man at his feet again, seeing that look in his eyes as he watched his own gun. "Yo soy el dios de las cuerdas, y que est a mi merced," Orpheus says in a firm, if not boyish voice. I am the God of Strings, and you are at my mercy.
Orpheus' elven ear perks as his friend comms over the line.. True enough. He might have liked to interrogate this person.. Learn more. It would REALLY be nice.. But perhaps there simply wasn't time.. So for now he glares at the fallen warrior and says, "Don't move." With that, he goes back into the crawlspace a moment and waves to the dwarf, "C'mon, we need to get out of here right away."

When you come out, the soldier has grabbed his gun — but he is not trying to shoot it at all. Instead, he is retreating, at a slow pace, limping from your attacks.
The dwarf is cowering inside the entrance to the small crawlspace, and he has his gun pointed toward you as you enter. He hesitates.. then lowers it when you speak, nods once — and exits the small chamber after you. Slinger is back in the driver's seat of the SUV, and he starts up the engine, revs it a couple of times in preparation to depart.

As Orpheus comes back out of the crawlspace.. the fallen man isn't laying on the ground where he left him.. No, he's limping away. Mercy was not a word clearly defined in Orpheus' vocabulary.. Essentially, by going against his wishes, the man had become an X-Facor.. and so he gets a quick gel round in the back like his comrade.. Orpheus doesn't even break his stride in doing so.. Simply aims up, shoots as he walks forward, then yanks the dwarf by the arm and canters over to the SUV, opening the door, and dives in with the dwarf.
"Get us the frag outta here," he asks Slinger.. Glad to see that he is unharmed after all.

Part 3: Old Friends and New

The dwarf clambers up into the SUV, which is a little high off the ground for his kind. He belts himself in in back, and as soon as the doors close, Slinger locks them — and takes off from the area. A few blocks away, he switches the color of the vehicle, in a gradual fashion, from dark green to a dark blue, then maroon, while the license plate flips through several iterations.
Only then does he reach for a cancer stick, before he becomes conscious of the dwarf's eyes upon him.

Orpheus is not long in following this example, producing his own cigarette and within moments, catching it alight.. He fericely inhales the smoke from it, savoring in his lungs for a moment.. then slowly exhales. He looks at the dwarf now.. "I hope you realize how much troulbe you are causing," he says truthfully.. not in a rude way though. You might even saw his tone was tinged with humour, if not dark humour. But he couldn't turn his back on the dwarf.. he wouldn't. He understood this mans plight, and has even been in the same situation not long ago..
".. But we will figure things out." He looks over at Slinger now, reaching his hand forward to rest on Slinger's shoulder.. "Right?"

The cab starts to fill with toxic cigarette smoke, and the dwarf grumbles something about a cigar. Slinger glances over his shoulder, smirks. "There's a box of them back there," he points out. "Look under the seat." He draws hard on his cigarette, gazing at the beautiful soldier beside him, then reaches over and caresses Orpheus's warm shoulder. "Beautiful," he murmurs. Then he glances back at the dwarf. "So who are you? Start with your name, perhaps… and what you need."

Orpheus will let the dwarf speak for himself.. So instead he just returns the loving gaze back to Slinger.. And.. Oh yeah! That's right.. Didn't Orph say he was going to have some fun with the dwarf when he and Slinger were around? In fulfilling this personal promise to himself, he leans over and openly kisses Slinger on the corner of his mouth.. just enough to be sweet and tender, but not enough to get in the way of the other boys driving or distract him too much.
".. I'm glad your okay," he says softly..

Slinger kisses the other boy in return, oblivious to the dwarf's sudden discomfort. Instead, the dwarf digs for the cigars, comes up with a cuban… which he then lights with a glow-lighter from his pocket. The cab fills with dark, pungent tobacco smoke.

"I am Dr. Diego Rodriguez," the dwarf replies, with pride. "As I told the young warrior, I hold degrees in biotechnology and materials engineering." He goes on to explain roughly the same thing that he told Orpheus earlier. "The blood sample, though… that is how they are tracking me. I know it."
Slinger lets out a slow breath, nods. "I'm certain it is," he agrees. "First, we get away from here. And then, we find someplace where we can sever that thread. And third… we must deprive them of that material link."

Orpheus listens quietly for the moment, smoking his cigarette, trying to relax after the combat high from earlier.. All that running and jumping around taxed his young, lithe body as well.. especially that five meter straight drop.
"Agreed.. I honestly have no idea how we can accomplish such a thing.. He said that DNA Masking wouldn't be sufficient to hide the genetic marker," says the boy thoughtfully. Though, he DID have a potential idea about the latter point..
"I'm not sure how much he could do but.. Perhaps my friend could help us with wresting the blood sample and any other information from Az?" He was of course referring to Zeta.. Still a part of Az himself, Zeta would be in a prime position to help with the task, if possible..

Slinger considers for a moment as he drives. "You're probably hungry," the youth comments, as he pulls up to a Cap'n Beef. "I'm buyin'," the youth remarks, and places his order for a good-sized sandwich — Slinger, despite his unhealthy habits, is relatively active. And elves don't easily gain a lot of weight. The Dwarf is definitely hungry, and orders a decent amount of food for himself, though he speaks in Spanish and lets Slinger translate. And, of course, whatever Orpheus wants.
Slinger puts Orpheus in charge of the food, and only when we drive away does he comment, "Since you are here in Denver, my guess is that you worked here. Therefore, the sample is likelywhere you are. Samples have to be kept fresh… taken periodically. Am I correct?"

Orpheus has no idea what a cap'n beef is or what anything on the menu is.. so he ends up picking something entirely at random.. in this case, it ends up being a double supreme tripple cheese value combo quadra-sized with a fizzycoke XL. Once the food is in the car, Orpheus distributes the food accordingly.. of course once he sees HIS part of the meal he literally stares at the nearly half-foot sized soyburger monstrosity..
"What the fuck is this?" he asks incredulously, unable to comprehend the disfigured, 3000 calorie /thing/ in front of him.. a paradigm shift in his understanding of food and what it can be under the influence of consumerist markets..

The dwarf nods. "The last one was… nearly a month ago," he admits. As he bites into his food, he is trying hard not to show how ravenous he really is. It has been some time since he ate — and not something that this professor is accustomed to. "I told the young one — my services are yours if you can help me start a new life."
Slinger nods thoughtfully. "So they will be on the Aztlan side of the border. Can you tell us where you worked?"
The dwarf nods between bites, and begins providing information. Slinger pulls over somewhere where we can eat — and begins taking notes.

Slinger grins at his friend. "You'll enjoy it. And what you can't eat, we can take home," Slinger promises the Hispanic youth.

Orpheus raises a brow at Slinger.. then at his food again.. He doesn't eat it like a conventional burger.. rather he starts seperating it's various bits onto the foil wrapper it came in.. He nibbles a bit on the sot patty, "So greasy," he comments, but it doesn't stop him from consuming the tasteless paste-made seasoned soymeat all the same. The vegitables on the thing are at least eaten in short order, in between bouts of Fizzycoke guzzling. He leaves the talk to Slinger who seems to have a clear idea of where to go with this already.

Slinger watches his young friend with amusement while he nibbles on something a little more, well, elf-sized. He listens, absorbing the information, then glances to Orpheus. "Remember how you said something about your hand-razors? Perhaps he can help with those. Make you some nice ones, if we get him access to the right facilities. And a new ID… which reminds me, we need one for you as well," he points out, to his young friend. "For now, though, we keep moving — until we are ready to move in. And then… we go after the material link. Or perhaps all of them. I have a spell that will do… wonders… on that sort of thing," the elf says with a grin.

Orph mentions also, "There is.. Zeta. I kinna' hate to ask him to help us when it might put him at risk.. but he would probably help." At the very least, he would be able to provide some good insight into the situation… Maybe even assist in some way.
Meanwhile, Orph continues to try and eat the burger monstrosity.. By now hes consumed maybe a third of it so far and about a tenth of his fries.. Swallows, says to the dwarf, "You think you could help me with that? That would be.. a nice compromise for me, if it could be worked out," he says. Nice, shiny, new, dikoted hand blades.. Yes, that sounded good. A new ID, too.. Would be nice..

Slinger nods thoughtfully. "Zeta. Yes. You have a way to contact him, yes?" Slinger asks, with a warm smile. "Then you should. You should see your friend again… your friend who arranged for you to meet me." His eyes sparkle with delight, with a hint of mirth, amusement. And yet, he is sincere about it. "You should call him. You and he are both Aztlan… and as such… there is a certain justice in this, is there not?"

Orpheus nods.. Zeta may always be Az, but he thought.. perhaps before being Az, he was also Orpheus' friend first.. "Okay, I'll contact him.. I have my usual method for getting into contact with him, but I'll need a little while to arrange it." He considers for a moment.. plaintifly, ".. It might be good to see him again after so long; so much has changed since the last time…"

"How long do you need?" Slinger asks. "We can't leave him in one place too long," the youth points out. "The SUV is warded, but they can get through that. It is only a matter of time." He lights up a cigarette, having finished as much of his meal as he wants, and he gazes over at his young friend, reaches to take his hand and give it an affectionate squeeze.
"You should talk to him. Let him know all that you have learned. You are not the same person you were," he points out gently. "I've rubbed off on you."
He grins. "Perhaps it will be that Zeta needs a new ID, as well, hmm?"

Orpheus smiles faintly, considering that.. But that wasn't yet now, and he had to focus on now.. "Okay.. First off.. Need to call.. That guy.." Orpheus gets out his cellphone and begins the somewhat lengthy task of making calls to get into contact with his friend. Sadly it wasn't a simple 'call him on his cell' sorta thing, obviously.. Meanwhile the rest of his meal goes more or less ignored.

Part 4: First Contact

You have the dwarf stashed somewhere safe — somewhere with friends, and behind a ward. Somewhere he will be safe for the time being, though you still don't have a lot of time. Your message to Zeta went out some time ago, and now it is time to head back to the apartment, to meet up with Slinger.
Of course, when you arrive, Slinger is in the bedroom. And he isn't moving. There're traces of blood on the tile in the kitchen as well, and in the bathroom…

"I'm back for a bit," says Orpheus as he heads inside the house.. He's still dressed in his combat gear now and was actually hoping to spend a few quick moments with his lover before getting down to business. You can imagine his shock then, when he notices the blood here and about. He catches a gasp in his throat and immediately he thought, 'please, let Kaivan be okay..'.. He activates his ruthenium, draws out hs pistol, and quickly sneaks his way toward the bedroom, waiting to shoot down the first hostile thing that moves into his line of sight.. Unless it's Slinger he sees, in which case..

There are soft snores from the bedroom — which is a reassuring sound. The dead do not generally snore. Slinger looks better than he did, that much is certain. But still not good. He's paler than he usually is, though some of the bruising has faded. As you slip into the room, he doesn't so much as stir — though a soft murmur comes from his lips. The young mage looks innocent, adorable, lying there in the bed — looking more childlike than he usually does.

Once Orpheus steps into the room and sees there is no danger, he holsters his pistol once more and steps next to the bed, looking down at Slinger with worry. "What happened to you?" he asks in a hushed tone. He admires the sleeping form for a few moments though, kneeling down next to the bed and rests a hand on Slinger's own hand, running his fingers gently over the other boys knuckles. "Don't wanna wake you up, though," he thinks.. His mind burned with a thousand questions, but seeing Slinger laying there so cutely.. So obviously exhausted. He WAS okay, right? Orpheus wonders if he should wake him up just to be sure..

As you touch his hand, the young mage slowly turns toward you, and his fingers twine gently with yours, before his eyes slowly flutter open, gaze up at you. His lips quirk upward in a small smile as he looks up at his lover. "Heya. Good to see you," he murmurs, his voice a little weak. "Got dragged into somethin', overexerted myself. Doc says I'll be fine, but gotta rest. Spell drain is a bitch," he murmurs.
He slowly sits up in the bed, and stretches — then winces. "I'm not in any shape to do any running, though. Which means… the situation with the dwarf, it's gonna fall on you. I can make some calls, that kinda thing, but I'm probably gonna have to head into the clinic, stay there a day or two." He gives the location of it, briefly. And then gives his lover a warm, affectionate smile. "We got 'em, though."

At least Orph didn't have to decide whether to wake up Slinger or not, since he wakes on his own. Still, a touch of worry and concern covers his face as he looks at Slinger.. "Who did this to you?" he asks.. but as Slinger explains the situation, he calms a bit.. "I see.. an' here I was about to go carry out vengeance," he says with a slight smile.
"Don't worry about it though.. I'll take care of the rest of this.. Do you know where you will be staying?" he asks, squeezing Slingers hand. "I'll come see you as soon as I'm done.. But I mean, do you want me to stay here and look after you? Maybe I could put some of this off for just a little while.." Of course, Orpheus KNEW there was no time to waste on this mission, and yet.. seeing Slinger laying there like that.. The idea of leaving him alone like that was almost unbearable.

Slinger squeezes his young companion's hand, chuckling. "Rather you didn't take out vengeance on me. I've seen your vengeance. It hurts," he teases, giving Orpheus a loving smile. "Will probably be at the clinic, down at the Bare Knuckle Gym. Dr. Einhart wants me down there, I think, at least for a little bit. Don't worry, though. Stop in and visit me when you can. But this mission takes priority. The doctor can't be left in the safehouse for long, all right?"
"Have you heard from…" And right at that moment, right on cue, Orpheus's cellular phone rings.

Orpheus smiles at that.. "I'd carry out vengeance in your name all day," he says.. Then nods. "Bare Knuckle.. I know it. Dr. Einhart, huh?.. I /hate/ doctors.." Funny, seeing as he was trying to protect one as we speak..
Then the phone rings.. Orpheus pauses, picking up the cellphone and then.. looks at it a moment. He knows Zeta will be on the other end of the line when he answers. It's been.. so long now. He suddenly wonders.. What will he say? Before, he would of spoken only in the interest of the mission, but now.. he is actually more concerned about how his friend is doing. Orph waits.. Waits a while, looking between phone and Slinger. Finally, when he can't wait any longer for fear of the phone cutting out, he answers..
"Orpheus," he says into the reciever..

Slinger's hand tightens on yours as your phone rings, seeing the hesitation in your face. "Go on," he murmurs. "It's just a phone call," he gently urges. His hand is warm in yours, reassuring, affectionate — and supportive.
The voice on the other end is familiar — a whisper from your past, like the sound of a ghost in your ear. Speaking fluent Spanish, male… and so familiar to your ears. "I had feared that my money was wasted," the voice says, with that hint of amusement that always colored his words. Deeper, now, a little older than when you last heard it. "But apparently, the one who accepted my funds was sincere that you had survived."
There is a pause. "My associate assures me this line is secure. So why have you called me, mi poco amigo?" he asks. My little friend.

Orpheus smiles at Slinger, then tightens his resolve a bit when the familiar voice comes back to him over the line.. He listens, nostalgia slapping him harshly in the face, bringing back memories of his friend.. IT's so pungeant he can almost imagine Zeta right here in the room with him..
'Little friend'.. Uhg. Typical Zeta.. At least he didn't call him CHICO. "I'm doing well," he assures his friend in a somewhat subdued voice.. ".. I'll always remember what you did for me," he says. He never had the chance to say as much to Zeta since he was freed.. "I'm sorry to call you so suddenly like this, Zeta." Orpheus bites his lip. He wanted to say so much, yet.. What could he say? He listens to see how Zeta acts over the phone, trying to find a good time to ask any one of the questions on his mind..

Zeta's voice is full of warmth, that teasing mirth that you well remember. "You would not have contacted me if you did not need my help," he guesses. "Since I warned you against it. The message sent to me was about freeing someone, was it not? I fear I cannot afford to hire a team of Shadow Runners to retrieve this person. For that, I fear, you are on your own." There is the snick of a glow-lighter, the sound of tobacco burning, as Zeta lights a cigarette. His voice is a little rougher than you remember. "Where is it you need my help?"

Orpheus nods.. he couldn't expect so much from his friend. He felt HE owed Zeta if anything.. "No, it's fine. This'll be just my op.. I got a dwarf here, from Az. Says he was a doctor over there… Az turned on him and are after him, an' I promised to do what I could." Orph then relays the information he knows on the matter to Zeta.. about the blood marker, ect…
"..Sounds pretty familiar huh? Az discarding it's .. 'assets'.." says Orph with a somewhat thick voice of near-disgust. Looking back now, with renewed perspective.. the idea no longer made him feel 'abandoned' or helplessly like it once had.. now it just filled him with ideas of anger and vengeance. "I know you are in a difficult spot.. but anything you could do.. I'll repay you back; for everything.."

Zeta lets out a slow breath after you finish. "Orpheus?" he asks, his slightly roughened voice still carrying that same, lighthearted note that marked him — but now it is mixed with a darker note as well. "I may not agree with some things that certain people here do, but this is my home," he states, with a certain ferocity. "This is my country. These are my people. Sometimes certain people do bad things, but that does not mean this is a bad place," he adds, with a certain anger in his voice.
"Now. If you want my help, I will see what I can do. If all is as you say, then I will help you… I will go in with you for this. But it could be that this doctor of yours, that he is lying. Is that possible?" Zeta wants to know. A hard draw on his cigarette, and you can just /see/ the blaze in his eyes. Passionate. Intense. Fierce.

Orpheus narrows his eyes a it, "They'd do it to you, too.. To any of us. Remember what happened to Elijah?" he asks. Elijah, one of the ones who 'dissapeared'.
Sighing, Orpheus goes back to the task at hand.. "Alright.. Yes, anything is possible. That too. But I saw an Az Shadow ops team try to kill him.. An' he's no soldier.. Just a civilian, an' that I am sure of." Civilians had these troublesome things called 'rights'.. And besides, seeing an Aztech strike team in the middle of the CAS sector usually meant 'up to no good' anyways..

There is a long pause, and the older male exhales into the air. "I remember Elijah," he murmurs, his voice growing a little muted, a little distant. When you mention the strike team, though, there is a definite hesitation. "Yes. I will… I will help you. Where is this place? As it turns out, I am in Denver right now," he murmurs, thoughtfully. "From what you say… we need to destroy the blood sample that they may be using for ritual sorcery."
"Given that the sample is delicate, they usually will not transport it from where it is stored. Procedures are to instead take portions of the sample as needed for each ritual. This means we do not have to track down anything but the storage place, unless they are doing something unusual."

Orpheus, too, shivers just slightly after reminding himself ofd Elijah.. of the fear that he and all the other academy boys felt every day.. Always wondering who the next boy was who would dissapear..
"I agree.. We should meet up, and plan a course of action.. As to the location of the sample. I'm not sure.. though it might be possible to find out if we looked into the place he used to work.. some files or somesuch.. someone might know."
Orph looks at Slinger again, reaching a hand out to touch the other boy as he talked to his friend.. feeling that anchor to reality. The feeling of warm flesh.. of another person who loved him.

The dwarf did give you the location where he worked, you might remember.

Slinger squeezes your hand. "I wish I could go with you," he murmurs, in English. "I'd love to meet Zeta sometime. But the Doc said I had to stay in bed," he grumbles.

Zeta nods thoughtfully. "The answers will be found where he worked," Zeta says firmly. "Those things are stored onsite, almost without exception, for corporate employees. There is too much risk in transporting them," he explains.

Orpheus nods, "Alright, then.. It's decided.. I can probably get into the Az border if I talk to someone I know who works the gates.. You think you could meet me at <Inconspicuous location in Aztlan>?"
Speaking quietly, Orph responds to Slinger.. "I know.. but you look like you need to rest for now.. Wish you could come." Not just his own safety either.. he wishes Slinger wasn't injured at all.

Slinger smiles warmly. "I'll be fine," he promises Orpheus. "You be careful, too. They would love nothing more than to catch you."
Zeta thinks for a moment. "I have… expenses as well. Not the least of which was getting you out of here. If there is payout from this mission, then I want a cut," Zeta says, with a smile — but a slight edge to his voice. "I need money — resources — to continue to do what I can for people. And you can help with that.
"Go through the gate on Alameda Street in about an hour. I will make sure someone will let you through. There is a friend of mine who works there. Tell him the name 'Chico Zeta', and he will let you through. I will see you then, mi poco amigo. Good bye."

Mi poco amigo.. erggg.. "Sure thing.. I'll see you on the other side, Zeta.." With that, he hangs up the cell. Of course he would arrange something for Zeta, if he had too.. If that's what had to be done. Orph had to admit, all this play nice stuff was damned annoying. IT would have been SO much easier to just leave the dwarf in the hole and continue on his merry way, cigarettes and fizzycoke in hand - FRAG! Orpheys forgot his carton of cigs and the fizzycoke in that cubbyhole! Damn.. All that for nothing!
Orph looks at Slinger lovingly again, leaning down to place a kiss o the boys lips. "Alright.. I need to go right away. I'll be.. slipping into Az territory again.. an' your right.. I don't want to imagine what they would do if they caught me.." He literally didn't want to think about it. "They might kill me.. Or worse.. make me the way I used to be.." He frowns intesnely.. " An.. I don't want that."

Slinger squeezes his lover's hand. "Take the SUV if you need to. Or I can get somebody to give you a ride," he murmurs. "Take extra smokes… and you'll get out just fine. I know you will. I trust you to return. Or… if you aren't back in a few days, then I'll have to come in and rescue you," he says with a grin. "And then I'll take it out of your hide when you return." Lighthearted teasing from the young elf.
When you mention that Zeta needs a cut, he nods slowly. "The good Doctor did say that he would do what he could. Perhaps we can arrange some services… I know some people who might be able to benefit from what he does. Could generate some cash to get people paid."
"You work on your end," the elf says. "I'll handle that side of things. Don't worry about that part of it. Now. Go, he's waiting on you."

Orpheus smiles from the teasing.. He smiles for Slinger, mostly, because in his heart there was unrest. Anxiousness.. The idea of not being able to come back to Slinger was a powerful motivator not to go at all. It was a new feeling for Orpheus really.. Never before had he had any reason to retreat from a mission. His task was always to finish a mission to it's end.. NO matter the cost. But now.. life meant more than just a mission. Slinger meant more than just a mission..
"I'll be back for sure," he says, holding his friends hand. "Just try to relax, alright? An' when I get back from all this I'll.. come home to you, an' I'll help ease your pains, yeah?" He grins, almost mischievesly.. He could be implying any number of things here really.

Slinger chuckles. "I'll look forward to that. For now… shoo. I need my rest," he tells the youth with a smirk. "You better hurry if you're gonna make it."
The elf crushes out his cigarette, then places his head into the pillows, determined not to make you wait any longer.

Part 5: Return to Aztlan

Orpheus can't help but give Slinger one, last kiss before he finally tears himself away from Slinger.. He gathers everything he'll need including some extra smokes.. And with that, he goes and gets into the SUV. Soon, he's on his way to the Aztlan border.
Anxiety.. IT's powerful. Strong.. Approaching the Az gates felt like approaching the very gates of hell.. Watching them open up like a large maw, ready to devour him.. His border crossing goes without issue, fortunately, thanks to Zeta's assistance.. Soon he's on his way, traveling through familiar neighborhoods.. but he can never look at Aztlan the same.. IT was different now.. more menacing and dangerous..
Before long Orpheus is stepping into an abandoned apartment complex on the first floor. Unlit, the place is pretty out of the way of any potential prying eyes. Once he steps into the place he gives it a look around..

The SUV is parked, and it has its own defenses, which activate when it's locked and the key removed. The place is eerie in its own way in the near-darkness, and all around you, even in the distance, is the sound of Spanish being spoken. The accent, so familiar, your native tongue — and yet now it seems almost surreal, jarring, out of place with the world that you entered such a short time ago.
The interior of the place shows signs of fire, probably from those who have camped here, used this as squatting space before being driven out. Burned, scorched places in the flooring are the remnants of campfires, all the furniture having been burned for warmth, leaving the rooms bare.
And then, a figure in the darkness… before there is the flare of a glow-lighter, illumininating Zeta's features as he lights a cigarette, inhales deeply. "Took you long enough, mi poco amigo," he murmurs.
He has hardly aged since you last saw him. Despite being near to your age, he looks perhaps five years older, in his early twenties. His body is a thing to behold, muscular; he is /built/ solidly. And his face is handsome and dark, with a generous contribution of Native American blood mixed in with his human features. He is wearing urban camouflage, barren of any symbols of rank, and he is also visibly armed and armored beneath it.

Orpheus looks around the eerie setting.. Disquieting in it's graveyard stillness and silence. Silence, as it goes, is always worse than noise.. A noise can be heard, identitfied, understood.. Silence, was an eternal creature.. Misunderstood, and terrifying..
Orpheus startles a bit when he sees the lighter catch suddenly, and then here.. here was his friend from what seemed so long ago. He hasn't aged a lot, though it hasn't been /too/ long.. Still, Orpheus looks ever younger.. Eternally so, it would seem. Zeta knew better than anyone else, save for the scientists that did it to him.
"It's good to see you," Orpheus admits, taking a step or two toward Zeta, looking at his body.. his features. so familiar, yet not at the same time.. it's like the Zeta he remembers in his mind isn't like the Zeta he saw now.. though it was probably a difference of perspective - which Orpheus had anew. "M'not.. small.." he continues. Something he would always tell Zeta when he mentioned his size.. But it was no use. Orpheus WAS Small by comparison. Almost laughably so.
As if to prove this.. He reaches down for his own smokes and gets on in his young lips.. Strikes a flame, and lights it, blowing smoke soon after. Small, maybe.. but not a kid.

Zeta exhales a stream of smoke — and then watches, leaning forward with fascination, as you light up a cigarette of your own. His own brand, which draws a curl of his lips, amusement. "Since when do you smoke? You're too little for that," he teases, steps forward with amusement to gently ruffle your hair, while he watches you exhale that first cloud. There's a hint of pride in the way that he speaks, though, as he adds, "Those things will kill you, you know." His hand lingers atop your head, then slides slowly down toward your shoulders, against the fibers of your cloak to the warm boy beneath. "It's good to see you, Orpheus," he whispers, and there is clear affection and pride in his voice.

Orpheus proudly sucks down the ash from his cigarette, not coughing.. feircely dragging, showing Zeta with each inhale the kind of man he is now.. Even if he did look the part of a boy. "So everyone keeps telling me," he responds to Zeta, matching his amusement with some of his own.. and that feeling.. the feeling of Zeta's hand, the touch.. Affection..
"You too, Zeta.. M'sorry that.. well, that it has to be like this. You here, me.. out there." Orpheus puts that aside for just now though..
"Find out anything yet about our guy? I have the address of his workplace.."

"Perhaps we can spend time together… when we can manage it," Zeta replies, leaning against the wall beside you, leaving his hand on your shoulder while he watches you smoke. He shakes his head, amused by that sight — and yet enjoying it as well, as the smell of Guererras floats around the two young males. He coughs once, twice, just a habitual smoker's cough, and flicks his ash to the burned floor.
"I made some discreet inquiries, and your friend is wanted for treason. He carries secret information in his mind, it would seem, with plans to sell it to the highest bidder. At least, that is what the file says. Of course, your file says much the same thing," Zeta comments, with a hint of amusement. "You cannot always believe files."
He inhales another drag, his chest expanding with the cloud of smoke, before he turns and gazes toward you, bathing you with his smoke. "The place he works is the location of the sample. The last attempt at ritual sorcery to track him failed, it would seem. You must have him somewhere secure. And as it turns out, they will try again, with a fresh sample, tomorrow. In three hours. We have that long to find it and destroy it."
He turns his gaze toward you, watching you smoke for a moment. "I am proud of you, mi poco amigo," he adds, with genuine affection. "You will develop into quite a man when you grow up." A hint of challenge, a dare, perhaps.

Orpheus thinks he would like that.. "Yeah. It's been so long.. Almost a year, since our last mission together.." At least. Orpheus never quite knew what his 'file' said after he left though, so once he hears it, he can't help but sneer a bit. But he won't go into it right now..
"Good, so we have some time, then.. Not a lot, but some. We've worked under worse conditions.." Indeed, the small room was filling with acrid smoke from the two youths.. Though, this 'dare' from Zeta draws a curious look from Orpheus..
Reach up, Orpheus rests his hand over top of Zeta's, and looks at their two hands pressed like that.. More specifically, he looks at the disparity in size.. He lifts his hand again - his real one - examining it closely.. then looks at Zeta.. it's only been a year, but.. Seeing Zeta again, reminded him.. just how he's always looked 'up' to Zeta, both figuritively and literally.. even now. It's worse, in fact, somewhat. Orpheus feels like he has stepped out of time.. he's watched Zeta grow bigger, stronger.. more attractive.. Handsome. Orpheus, has remained the same.. It wasn't just that he was an Elf, either..
"Let's hope so.."

Zeta pulls deeply on his cigarette, finishing it, then flicks the butt to the ground — but does not step on it. He holds the smoke, then slowly exhales it into the air. "Always smoke unfiltered cigarettes," he tells his young friend. "And always let them burn down when you are somewhere you do not trust. Otherwise… there are traces of you left upon it. Fire destroys those," he murmurs. "Either that, or field-strip the butt and carry it with you when you leave." He will show you how, with your cigarette as well.
"I have transportation, if you do not mind holding on," Zeta murmurs, and he grins broadly, showing you those perfect teeth of his, slightly tainted by his addiction. He walks into the next of the burned-out apartments — and there is a motorcycle, a fast one, electric-powered and thus utterly silent. He climbs on the thing and starts the motors whirring, the flywheel almost silently getting up to speed, then glances over his shoulder, inviting you to climb on behind him.

Orpheus admittedly didn't know all that.. Mostly cus Zeta has always smoked for a long time, while he.. only recently. Once more, he felt as though he were in Zeta's shadow.. Even now. Yet, it didn't make him angry or sad.. In a way, it filled him with a sort of comfort and ease.. like it was old times again.. and he and Zeta were just two Aztlan soldiers on a mission.. Sadly, the truth of the situation wasn't nearly so romantic. Far from it.
Once signaled, Orpheus steps up to the electric bike, then looks at Zeta, smiles a bit.. "You still have it, huh?" Orpheus climbs up onto the bike and in a moment, is pressed closely to Zeta.. He COULD, in theory, ride like this without being pressed up to the driver, but.. Orpheus does all the same.. "No one else knows you are out here, right?" And now, Orph rests his hands on Zeta's hips, steadying himself on his friend.

"I'm an officer, now," Zeta says, with a hint of pride in his voice, and he presses back against his young friend even as you push against him. "That comes with a certain… latitude." That old cockiness in his voice, and a sly grin on his features. "Since when have you known me to ever follow the rules to the letter?" he wonders, and then he guns the bike. The clutch engages, and the energy stored in the flywheel is transferred instantly to the drive wheels, while the electric motor works to keep the flywheel at its full speed — and the bike launches forward with its two passengers. It explodes from the front door of the building, startling a couple of squatters — but they don't have time to get more than a cursory look at the vehicle before it is gone.
The trip to the place takes only a few minutes, as Zeta ducks through alleyways, taking advantage of the backstreets and the shortcuts, capitalizing on the bike's maneuverability. And then he brings the bike to a swift stop, and corners quickly off of the road just after we exit the city proper, our trip ending in a suburban office park — one slated for new development, but not yet fully built.
Zeta hides the bike carefully, and then climbs off of it, creeping around the edge of the brush. "There it is," he murmurs, and gestures to a three-story office-building. Brand new construction.

Part 6: Intrusion

Orph enjoys the brief ride for as long as it lasts.. Feeling the warmth of the bikes owner against him, painting his mind with old memories anew.. HE's actually a little sad once it's over, but they DID have a mission to complete. It was fun while it lasted though, blasting down the streets on the high-powered bike.. seeing those old familiar alleys and secret passages that he himself was so intimately familiar with. This place, hostile as it might be… Was still home, in a way that he'll never escape from.
"Nice place.. Any idea what the security is like?" Orph asks as he joins his friend at the edge of the brush. He takes a moment to adjust the frequency of his taccomm as well, sharing the frequency with Zeta as well. »Mic. Check. Orpheus online.. This place.. New.. Are all it's security measures operational, though?«

"You've got crypto. Good," Zeta's voice comes back, also over the comm. Matching frequencies is something that's part of standard procedure, and it all comes back to you now. Just two young soldiers, on a mission together; he stays low, glances back at you, and then checks his ammunition. "There are a good number of guards on staff. No idea what shifts they work. I have an… ally who will be helping us with the security systems, though. It is good to know people."
Zeta turns his gaze toward you while he watches the place, and lights up a cigarette while he watches, using the shelter of the trees to block any infrared that might be emitted. "Any place like this has a spot where they store these things. They will need to be kept cool. So the samples will be in a refrigerator of some kind."

Orpheus also stays low, and as a reflexive precaution, turns on his ruthenium cloak. He hasn't pulled up his cowl yet though, so his head is still visible. He glances over at the facility for now, making note of any visible security for the time being.. »Insider? Nice.. At least the cooling storage will show up easily on thermal,« he deduces.. He makes a mental note to flick on his thermals every so often and scope the walls, keeping an eye out for any particularly bright blue spots..
Orph looks at Zeta again for a moment as he crouches there, behind the bushes.. The nostalgia Orph is feeling right now is so strong.. It's almost debilitating. Wave after wave of memories.. Questions.. thoughts.. But it simply wasn't the time for all this, considering.

Zeta stares at the place, and then curls his lips up. "At least they ain't got dogs," he observes, with a wry grin. No way he could know about /that/, could he? No, just part of our training. He stays low, inhaling another breath of smoke, and holds his cigarette like a warrior, shielding the cherry with his hand as he inhales, hiding it from any prying infrared vision. The cloud of it rolls over you, a familiar scent, while he glances back at you. "You're stealthier than me. So you go first. You got somethin' to get through that fence? Or over it?" he wonders, with a quick grin.
"Or do I have to give you a boost?" he asks, referring back to that day in training…

YES, Zeta. Indeed. At least there is /that/.. Way to remind Orph! "Yeah.. I.. I don't like dogs," he admits.. Dogs practically scared him now. More than before even.. Evil things..
Boost.. Oh yeah. Orph can remember it.. Vaulting over the climbing obstacle that day. Also the same day that Orpheus came in second place for the first time.. when his obvious skill was allowed to shine for once.. Zeta had given him that, and along with it, confidence.
"Okay, I admit it.. I'm short," he says with a bit of a tired sigh.. ".. So, you might need to boost me," he adds. He might be able to manage the jump on his own, but no need to risk it when you didn't have to, right?"

Zeta draws hard on his cigarette, then hands it over to Orpheus. "Smoke up, mi amigo. We cannot smoke during the assault. Unless," he adds, lowering the binoculars and giving you a teasing grin, "you are just smoking to show off, and have not actually started." He is teasing you about it, it would seem.
His eyes move to the fence, and he smirks. "They depend too much on their electronic gadgetry. Which is now going to lie to them. I will give you a little help, but you will have to jump it. And then I will do the same."
He begins tensing, preparing for the run. "We will see if you have gone soft in your time among the white ones, hmm?"

Orph does so, taking the cigarette.. he looks at it a moment, then runs his lips over the butt of it, tasting Zeta on it.. He savors that slight flavour a moment, puffing on the cigarette while taking care to shield the ember.. Orph finishes the whole thing off, then looks to Zeta.
"Okay.. I may be small but I'm not /soft/!" he protests in a cute sort of way.. in the way someone you admire scolds you jeeringly and you throw a tantrum about it. Orpheus then prepares to sprint and run along with Zeta..
"Maybe it'll be you that gets left behind," he suggests wryly.. Even if it turned out to be completely untrue.

"Stay sneaky. Ain't a race," Zeta chides, though gently. "They might still have foot patrols." Zeta motions for you to go first, then moves along behind you. You are swifter, your naturally small size giving you an advantage over the terrain, and your invisibility making you naturally sneakier. The fence is just up ahead, and from here you can see the parking lot. Four cars are parked there, ranging from an SUV to a compact. Even a pickup truck. All idle, none of them running.
« Which door, do you think? » Zeta asks, over the comm. Subvocally.

Orph wouldn't race TO the building, but certainly to the gate.. He does so, quickly making his way for the gate as he keeps his eyes peeled for any sudden movements in or around the building as he goes..
»We got any maps of this place?« Orpheus asks. Probably not.. »Any maintenance doorways or shafts..« Orph wasn't much of a bust in through the front door type, naturally. At best, a docking bay of some sort could suffice in a pinch!

There are two entrances visible here. One in front, and one on the side of the building. There may be more on the back side of the building, as well. The gate itself is relatively well-lit, though the gates themselves are relatively formidible, chain-link, difficult to climb, and topped with razor-wire. The whole fence has a good bit of razor-wire, and wires running through it the might indicate it is electrified.

«OOC» Slinger says, "That'll effectively drop the distance by 2 meters. You need a full 2 meter clean jump."
«OOC» Orpheus has quickness 6, so I think I can do 2 meters by default

Okay.. Climbing was possible, but Orph didn't want to take the chance that the fence could be electrified and.. in all honesty, he didn't bring a rubber mat with him for this kinda thing either. Silly him..
A look to Zeta, maybe a bit sheepishly, »Like old times?« he asks, indicating needing the boost. He.. COULD clear it, probably.. but it would take every ounce of his athleticism to clear the nearly four meter jump in a single bound.. Not easy.

The fence is definitely ominous. « Do it, » Zeta's voice urges in your ear, bringing back memories of that obstacle course. « I'm right behind you. » That warm voice, so confident, so powerful. He is a warrior, and he has faith in you.

Orpheus doesn't hesitate.. he never would, at the call of his old, lifelong friend.. That is to say, the life that Orpheus can remember, Zeta was always a part of it.. Part of him.
Orpheus stretches just a moment, then, bounds for the fence, intent to catch the boost from Zeta and leap over the imposing, razor-wired obstacle. Once more fresh memories of old times come back to him, of previous mission with Zeta.. they had worked together frequently, and Orpheus has never trusted anyone more than him.. that is, until he met Slinger anyway.

There is no way you will make it — you can see that as you begin to jump. But then there are warm hands — one on your legs, one on your rump, propelling you upward — adding to your jump — and sending you upward, high enough to clear the barbed wire if you just shift your body weight enough to arc over it, your forward momentum carrying you over those wicked spikes, just barely. And then, as you land, you can easily roll.
Only a heartbeat later, Zeta is clearing the fence, right beside you, and lands with a grunt of effort. He crouches down next to you, and eyes the building. "Which way?" he whispers, not even bothering with the comm at this closeness.

Orpheus felt no fear in that moment, for he was certain Zeta would boost. Part of being in a tight-knit unit was learning trust between your squad mates.. Orph and Zeta had always been close.. It used to be, Zeta would often know what Orpheus would do even before he himself did it..
As Orpheus flies over the fence, he pivots his body mid-flight so that his body is stretched horizontally and he just manages to clear the deadly razorwire by an inch or two before falling back toward the ground.. he tumbles in a controlled roll, and then ends up back on his feet a moment later.. He turns his head to look behind him at Zeta, then wonders.. Can he make it entirely on his own? And yes.. he could. Zeta. Always better.. no matter what.. Orpheus would be envious, were he not in awe and admiration instead..
"I opt for the side entrance.. Unless we want to take the time to slip around back and check there, too.. Though, entering from above is also an option.."

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence:
1 1 5 8 10
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls 5 (SSF):
1 1 3 5 7

Zeta considers that. « All valid options. I leave it to you. Your mission, your call, » he sends, while he drops into a crouch, his weapon out just in case. He watches carefully, his eyes following the building. His gaze is upon the windows, and there are a lot on this side, which implies these are primarily executive offices.
And there, you see it. Movement in the front lobby area. A figure silhouetted against the darkened lights of the building, but still visible, moving through the area from one side to the other.
A guard on patrol, perhaps.

Orpheus admits it.. he likes entering from above.. »Perhaps we can rapel up,« he suggests. He still had his climbing gear with him, as usual. The real advantage to entering from above was that you needed only seach from top to bottom.. rather than going from bottom to top, then back down again once leaving..
Orpheus drops once he sees the movement though, reflexively taking position behind whatever stands as cover right here.. even if it means dropping to a kneel toward the ground.. »Movement, front lobby,« Orph says.. And yeah.. his opinion of the front lobby entrance just became twice as undesireable now..

« You got climbing gear? » your companion asks. « I don't have mine. » Your strategy, though, is a sound one, and might make the job easier — or at least, less risky.
When you drop, though, Zeta reflexively does the same, without any hesitation at all. The grass itself provides some cover, and the lights of the parking lot cast shadows that provide a degree of cover. Zeta peers toward the front lobby at your words, and then nods once. « Doing rounds, » he murmurs. « They are not entirely reliant on their toys, it would seem. »

No problem, though.. they should be able to sneak around it and find a good spot to rapel up.. Preferably somewhere there weren't so many windows.. Out of sight, if possible. Orpheus looks around for such a location as he continues sneaking a bit closer toward the building..
»No problem.. You can.. Hold onto me while I rapel up..« he suggests.. one possibility of many, including him just climbing up on the rope without an ascent kit, of course.. But Orpheus liked the former idea, anyhow! Totally NOT for /that/ reason. Oh no..! Nevermind if he had the strength to pull it off..
»Indeed.. Nothing we can't handle,« surmises the boy.

Orpheus will continue on toward the building until hes along the south wall, then shimmy slowly west along the wall toward the back of the building.. hopefully there is a superior spot for ascending back there than this blisteringly wide-open, window infested area they are in.

There are several potentially good spots — along the sides of the building. The front has windows, along with the two sides at least part of the way. But from there on back, it is entirely closed. There are security cameras on the corners of the building, providing a good field of view, but those typically do not see through ruthenium — and there is Zeta's friend as well, providing overwatch.
« I can hold on. You pick the spot. Perhaps away from windows, » he suggests, gently, as he stays low, and pulls out his binoculars. His vision mods help, but sometimes actual binoculars can help amplify light better than eyemods.

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Quickness vs TN 4:
1 1 3 3 4 4 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Athletics vs TN 4:
1 1 2 3 4 8 = 2 Successes

Orpheus finds a nice spot, actually.. the southern wall has virtually no windows as it is.. He picks a nice spot at about the middle of the wall, away from the corners of the structure.. He gets out the grapple gun from his survival gear, and carefully aims the weapon up, fires, and in moments has a nice, snug gapple point. He was already wearing his ascent kit, so he immediately clips himself to the stealth line, then looks back at Zeta.
»I'm goin' up.. Coming with?« he asks. Zeta COULD hold onto his young friend and they could both repel up.. Or he could come up after.. Orph hopes for the former..

Zeta opts for the former, as he grabs onto your body, letting you carry him. His body presses against yours, his legs securing himself around you, which leaves his hands free. That is the real advantage, as he watches carefully, staring at the ground below.
Zeta is warm. And strong. And muscular. And /heavy/. You had never realized quite how /dense/ he is with muscle — enough to make this a difficult test for you. The grapple line is secure, yes, and rated even for a troll, but this was more than you were anticipating dealing with.

«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Strength:
1 4 5 8
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Athletics:
1 3 5 5 5 9
«Auto-Judge[kn]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls 6 (Cyberarm):
1 4 4 5 16 19

Orpheus. Well.. Yeah, he didn't expect THIS. But he wasn't going to complain.. not going to say a word.. No, instead he gets a slight shiver of pleasure when he feels the body of his old friend pressing to him. And now, a chance to show his friend what hes capable of..
.. But wow. URK! Zeta was just so muscular, so full of lean mass.. So strong.. Feeling his body wrap around him like that.. For about half way up the stealth line, just the feeling of it gives Orpheus the strength he needs to pull himself upwards, one tug at a time.. It's tough going, but his indomnible will allows him to continue forward..
»See anything?« he asks Zeta as he continues to climb.. Slowly.

« Nothing, » Zeta says. And then, he tenses against you, his legs tightening around you. You can feel his bulk pressing against you… and a certain other part of him rubbing against your rump with each iteration of the climb. You are about halfway up. « Wait. Stop. Do not move, » Zeta hisses.
And that is the only warning that you get as the door beneath you opens, and a figure steps out of it. Dressed in a simple uniform denoting him as an employee, a guard, a low-level member of the Aztlan militia, he emerges from the building, carrying a small bag with him. He reaches down to a pocket and pulls out a car-key, the maglock-keys jingling in the darkness…
And the end of the rope is hanging down, just a few meters away from him, against the wall.

Orpheus stops immediately, freezing up.. He listens intently, and then he, too, sees why.. That jungle.. The door. Someone was down there, and their ascent rope was mere feet away from him.. if he but looked in that direction, he would see it, even if it is stealth line.
»Do you have a clear shot, if you need it?« he asks Zeta. At the first sign of trouble.. it might be necesarry. Meanwhile, Orpheus had the daunting task of continuing to hold the two of them aloft as they are. The servos and hydraulics in his cyberarm tense as he holds fast to the line.. He could already feel a familiar warmth in his shoulders and upper chest.. the 'burn'. This was quite a workout.. and losing his momentum wasn't helping.

Zeta comms back with just a single click of acknowledgement. And he has his gun out. The rope is hanging down, just outside the guard's field of vision. He whistles, walking out toward his car — and then stops, a flicker of motion caught out of the corner of his eye. And he turns, staring right at the rope, and then slowly… slowly starts to follow it upward…

Orpheus can't really see this.. his concentration is on holding to the stealth line and making sure that he doesn't accidently give on the thing.. Seconds pass.. his arm begins to faintly tremor from the exertion now..
»Jus' knock him out,« Orpheus proposes with a bit of a hush to his voice..

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (zeta pistols) + Combat Pool: 5 vs TN 2 for "Short range, pistol; Aim action -1, SL II, +1 visibility, TN is 2.":
1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 = 8 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 vs TN 4 for "Guard reaction…":
1 3 3 5 5 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 12 vs TN 2 for "Zeta reaction…":
1 2 2 2 2 5 5 5 5 8 9 16 = 11 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (guard body) + Combat Pool: 7 vs TN 9 for "Guard had taken off his armor…":
1 1 2 2 2 3 4 5 5 5 9 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (guard body) + Combat Pool: 7 - 1 vs TN 9 for "Guard had taken off his armor… KP 1/3":
1 2 2 4 4 4 4 5 5 7 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (guard body) + Combat Pool: 7 - 1 vs TN 9 for "Guard had taken off his armor… KP 3/3":
1 1 1 2 4 4 7 9 9 14 = 3 Successes

Hanging there on the line, Zeta takes careful aim at the guard, and then sends a round straight down at the unarmored man's head — where the round strikes home with a shower of blood. The guard goes down, hard, leaking blood onto the ground at a prodigious rate… which then stops. « He's down. I'll move the body out of sight. »

Orph still doesn't see this.. and probably a good thing too, or he might have gotten pissed at seeing the shower of blood.. Even if he despised Aztech, that guy wasn't hurting anyone.. but it was out of his hands now. »Roger that. I'll continue up, then pull you up when you are finished,« he suggests.

Zeta nods, and then slips down the line swiftly, staying low and stealthy. He's strong — it takes him only a moment to drag the body where it won't be discovered until morning, and then he rapidly starts to climb back upward, hand over hand. Before long, the two of you are on the roof.
The roof is a vast expanse of simple shingles, along with a collection of equipment, including some transceivers that are probably the link that Zeta's decker friend is using to get in. There are various vents and chimneys of unknown origin. But over there is a protrusion, a locked door that appears to lead into a set of stairs going downward.

Orpheus, once helping Zeta back up the line, continues onward toward the door leading down. He examines the door briefly for any signs of security or maglocks and the like.. which he shamefully must admit he is ill-equipped to deal with if such is the case.. »Anything else that you know about this place?« he asks Zeta. »Anything you didn't mention earlier? I always hated doing B&E into a place I didn't have sufficient surveilance on..«

« Don't have a lot. My friend was able to get into the security, but there isn't a lot available about blueprints. There're three floors, plus a basement, » he tells you, as he crouches down on the roof. There's a bit of blood on his camouflage, but that is rapidly drying. « You got stuff to get past that lock? Or should I have my friend see if he can open it? »

Orpheus kneels by the door as well, looking it over.. He may be many things, but a techie isn't one of 'em.. He shakes his head. »No. See if he can get it open for us,« he decides. Orph COULD try to break into a maglock on his own of course, but doing so would be … highly risky..

Zeta chuckles. « Somethin' you should learn, if you wanna stay in your line of work, » he teases. He peers over the edge while he switches comm channels, making a call. About ten seconds pass, and then the lock goes *snick*, and flickers green. « It's clear, » he says.

Orpheus sneers, »Could say the same to you,« he returns.. Once the door is clear though, Orpheus reaches over for the knob and gently takes hold of it.. moments later and he begins to open it, intently listening with his suite of ear mods for any potential noises from below..

Part 7: Stairwell

It's a staircase, leading downward. It is somewhat dimly lit, though no flickering; this is simple lighting for an emergency exit, in nighttime mode. No need to waste energy lighting something that is not normally in use.

Orpheus looks down the dimly lit, somewhat eerie stairwell leading downward. He nods to Zeta once, »Alright.. Let's go. Keep your eyes peeled for the possible location of the cryo-storage..« Slowly, Orph will begin descending down the flight of stairs, all the while keeping his eyes peeled for any potential security measures or noises..

Down the stairs, into the third floor — there is a doorway leading out. And the stairs continue on downward…

Orpheus stops a moment at the door, looking at the clearly labeled 3. At the moment they had no idea which level might have the cryo-storage on.. which unfortunately means.. a systemic and complete search.. Unless.. »Is there any way your 'friend' might be able to find out which floor houses the cryo-storage?«

« One moment, » Zeta says. Then he pauses, shaking his head. « He says no. There's… there's refrigeration stuff on every floor, actually. Judging from the systems, anyway. » He considers that. « So there's no way to be sure. »

Orpheus leers a bit, »Cuts down on air conditioning costs?« he wonders bitterly.. Finally, then, »Alright, there is no way we can be sure which floor houses what we are looking for.. So we will begin here,« he suggests.. With that, he checks the door leading to floor 3, once again requring a hack if it's maglocked.. Of course the obligatory hearing check is performed as well.

Zeta smirks as well. The door actually is locked, and Zeta is on the phone. There is a pause. « He says the system is trying to fight him. Might be a moment on this one. »
That's when there is a sound from below — of a door opening. Closing.

In the stairwell.

Orpheus hears this of course, and once more his gun is drawn at the sound of it. What. Were all the patrols in this building designed to get in their way or something?
»Sound from below.. Stay alert..« Hopefully there wont be too long a delay before the door opens.. Orph didn't want to wait around here too long and run into any more guards..

« Acknowledged, » comes your one-time-idol's reply, and he lowers his gun, taking up a defensive crouch. There are the sound of footsteps… but not ascending the stairs. Then, door opens. Closes. Somebody entered the shaft, then left it again. « Perhaps part of their patrol, to check the stairwell. » Moments later, there is a rumble, and them a hum, coming through the wall that sounds like an elevator.
About this time, the light on the door flashes green.

Orpheus nods, »Perhaps..« He keeps his ear to the ground anyways though, so to speak.. never a good idea to be sloppy. The sound of the elevator though, so close to where they are.. the elevators quite possible are close to where the stairs are, not at all uncommon.. »Hold up, someone might be out there,« he wonders and.. once again, listens beyond the now-unlocked door to see if anyone just entered the third floor..

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence + 5 (ssf) vs TN 8:
1 1 3 4 5 5 5 9 10 11 = 3 Successes

Yup. The elevator doors open outside this door, and there is the sound of somebody walking, slowly — not in any hurry at all. Coming toward the door you are listening at…

Orpheus signals to Zeta, »Possible incoming.« He goes over to stand on the side of the door where it swings out from, though not staying in a position to get hit by it.. Possible ambushing location.. »Just one..«

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Stealth:
1 1 1 3 5 11
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 for "Zeta stealth":
2 3 4 5 10
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (guard perception):
3 4 5 8 11

The stairwell door does, in fact, swing open — and a rather bored-looking Mexicano sticks his head into the door. He gives it a cursory look — and then his eyes come to fixate on Zeta. They widen, and he starts to reach for his comm…

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Reaction:
1 1 2 3 4
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (guard reaction) vs TN 4:
1 1 3 4 = 1 Success

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Pentjak-Silat + Combat Pool: 4 vs TN 4 for "10M+8S":
1 2 3 3 4 7 7 9 = 4 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (capoeira) - 1 (tightly confined space) vs TN 8 for "What was that?":
1 3 3 4 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (capoeira) - 1 (tightly confined space) vs TN 8 for "What was that? KP 1":
1 1 4 5 = 0 Successes

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) + Combat Pool: 6 vs TN 7 for "Trying to resist 10D - 3 impact…":
1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 5 11 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) + Combat Pool: 6 - 1 (succs) vs TN 7 for "Trying to resist 10D - 3 impact… KP 2":
1 2 3 4 4 5 5 8 9 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) + Combat Pool: 6 - 3 (succs) vs TN 7 for "Trying to resist 10D - 3 impact… KP 4":
2 2 2 4 4 7 8 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) vs TN 7 for "Resisting 8S electrical.":
3 4 5 8 = 1 Success
«OOC» Slinger says, "M + S, he's still up."

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 5 (pistols) + Combat Pool: 5 vs TN 2 for "Zeta Shooting…":
1 1 2 3 4 4 5 5 5 9 = 8 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#669) rolls 4 (body) vs TN 3 for "6 ballistic armor…":
4 4 5 14 = 4 Successes

Zeta's silenced pistol *snicks*, and sends a round right into the guard's chest, right at the point where his armor is weakest. The heavy round sends the guard staggering back, against the wall, blood pouring from his chest. A fatal wound. « Let's go, » Zeta says tersely.

Orpheus is quick on the draw and manages to hammer the guard right in the solar plexus just as he pokes through the door.. but it's just barely not enough to put him out.. so Zeta does the honours, so to speak.. but when he sees the gaping hole in the guards chest care of Zeta's pistol.. Well. Here we are back at two runs ago.. Except this time Orph can't say he had the benefit of having said beforehand not to do it.
»You fuckin' killed him!« Orph complains IMMEDIATELY.

« Yeah, » Zeta says, and scowls at you. « He was going to radio for backup. I saw him reachin' for it. We can't have that. What, you want me to give him a funeral and say last rites? Let's go! » he says impatiently, and gestures to the open door.

Orph looks down at the dead man, kneeling by him, then back at Zeta, »YEah? What'd he fuckin' do?« asks the boy.. even now some of the tenants he had been following.. Oaths taken.. Experiences learned. He got it, albeit slowly.. and now seeing this.. it made him suddenly very angry. »He was just.. Doin' what he was s'pose to! That coulda been me, or YOU! An' we woulda done the same as him.. but we get to make a damned choice.«
Orph looks at the bleeding, dead man, grits his teeth. Looks like what hes been taught and trained.. it's going to get in the way in Orphs future for a what. »Fuck you!« he says suddenly.

Zeta just stares at you, uncomprehending. But it's the final 'fuck you' that actually draws a reaction. His look transforms to one of anger. « Who the fuck do you think you are, huh? » he asks. «Yeah, it coulda been us, but it wasn't, because we're stronger and faster. That's what we were trained for. We own the motherfuckin' night. You remember that, right? Who the frag made you into a pussy? »
Zeta clearly doesn't like your tone, and he stares right at you. « Now. We got a job to do. Are you gonna apologize for that, and we gonna do it? Or do we go back out the way we came? » he demands. « You asked for /my/ help. »

Orpheus looks at Zeta sternly a moment, and then.. suddenly saw in Zeta in that moment, what HE used to be. Orpheus.. used to be just like this. Perhaps not as bold, but with the same mindset..
»It.. It's not about who is faster or stronger.. That doesn't even matter.« he protests. Easy for someone like Orpheus to say.. considering he's had the chance to learn and adapt outside..
»I'm not apologizing,« Orpheus says adamantly. »I'm not going back anywhere.. I'm ganna continue with my mission, an' I'm going to do it in the way that I promised I would.. an' if you can't follow me.. Then.. Then I made a mistake asking for you to come.. You are already in danger jus' being here and thats my fault.. I.. I shoulda came alone. I accept that..«

Zeta looks at the man, who is still breathing, and then nods. « Try to save him, if it's that important to you, » he says suddenly. He can hear it in your voice. « And I will switch to gel rounds, if you have any. You should have told me you wanted it nonlethal. Even if it /does/ make us less effective, » he chides. He can see that you are sincere about this… see the anger. « I will cover you. But be quick about it. »

Commlink-Zeta> Zeta says, "You will have to tell me more about these… changes… when there is time."

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence vs TN 18 for "D wound is 10, lack of medkit is +4, defaulting is +4.":
2 2 3 5 5 = 0 Successes

«Plot» Slinger says, "About this time, the guy shudders… and stops breathing."

Orpheus has no better luck reviving the dying man this time than he did the previous time he attempted. Maybe even worse than last time, in fact.. He tries hard though, very hard. It goes on for too long, in fact.. Orpheus just keeps trying anything he can think of.. but it's for nothing.
Orpheus grits his teeth again, »He's dead,« Orpheus says quietly. »Dead. As in.. he will never breathe again. Never move again..« Orpheus stands up and stares at Zeta, stepping right up to him, inches away, his voice zealous, »Never laugh.. Cry.. Smoke a cigarette, patrol the halls, make mistakes, make good choices.. No choices. NONE. BEcause we /stole/ his right to do those things. YOU /and/ me both!« Orpheus can't rest all the blame on just Zeta.. It was partly his fault for allowing it to happen in the first place.. Which is sad, because this was also the first time recently where he forgot to mention the no-killing clause.

Zeta gazes into your eyes, listening, absorbing your tirade — and yet, he isn't just ignoring it. He is listening. Listening to your words, to your emphasis. « You… really believe this, » he finally murmurs, with a hint of awe in his voice, and yet there is also a bit of disdain. « You know it weakens you. Makes you less powerful as a warrior. If you are not willing to take life, then you pull your blows at a critical moment. A warrior has to be decisive. I will not apologize for what I did, » he says, looking down at the body remorselessly. « And neither should you. We did what we had to do to accomplish our mission. We should hide the body before someone finds it. My friend cannot keep the security offline forever. »
Even so, he does eject the magazine from his weapon, and then holds it out to you. « Give me some of your rounds, and I will use those. »

Orpheus looks at Zeta with a hint of his own remorse.. He suddenly says, »How could we let them do this to us?« he wonders. Seeing Zeta like this was a very chilling reminder that he was just like this.. and it was only such a short time ago that it was hard for Orpheus to perch upon any sort of moral high ground.. just a few weeks ago he shot a civilian in the head. Without even so much as thinking about what he was doing.. so how could he say he had the right to be angry?
»You know I thought just like you once,« Orph says.. »You know that cus it wasn't long ago.. An' I'm not going to pretend like I'm.. Like Im perfect cus I'm not. But at least I /try/, and recognize the things I did are wrong.. It took a while, but I learned that..
Orph looks at Zeta now.. and pondered the mission at hand. He knew his chances of success without either Zeta nor his decker ally were lessened substantially, and yet.. continuing on with Zeta, to him, felt like allowing himself to accept what Zeta did.. what he used to do.. and he felt he couldn't do THAT either..

Zeta looks at the guard's body, and then back at his young friend. He is trying to remain emotionless, businesslike, but then he lets out a slow breath. And he foregoes the comm for now. "I… I do not like killing, Orpheus," he whispers. "But it is what we have to do, as soldiers. I do not have the freedom, or the luxury, that you have, doing what you do now. Today, I will not kill, if you do not wish it. But tomorrow? I will have to take lives, until someday my own is taken in return. That is the way of the warrior. A way you were part of until I got you out.
"We will talk more of this later. Now. I need rounds for my weapon. Or do we abandon our mission, and have these lives taken mean nothing?" He holds out his hand again. Lives. Plural.

Orpheus shakes his head.. quite unsure of how to proceed.. A massive internal conflict errupts in him.. Part of him knows he needs to continue, if not for his own sake but that of the person who was now depending on him.. another part can't cope with the idea of continuing on with Zeta here.. Another part looks at Zeta now and feels a sudden shattering of his childhood idol.. Zeta now 'reduced' to what is more or less a reminder of himself from the past.. and what he saw, he can't say he liked.. it's.. almost too much for him to bear right now, especially considering that the wounds of his past are still so fresh and painful..

Zeta can see that look on your face — that look of betrayal, that look of remorse, and that rugged look on his face seems to slowly dissolve — and for just a moment, he looks as young as you, as lost as you are. "I… I can't think about it, Orpheus," he whispers. "I can't think about my enemies like that." He shakes his head, trying to clear it. "If you think of them as people…" He stares down at the body of the guard, whose sightless eyes are staring back at him, accusingly. He tries to take a breath, but it turns into a wracking sob as he abruptly turns away, pulling off the headset he was using to communicate. His decker-friend doesn't need to hear this.

Orpheus would do the same.. he wanted to.. It took all of his willpower to keep from errupting into a fountain of sadness and turmoil.. "You don' have to, Zeta.. It's.. It's so much harder this way. I.. I envy you in a way. Turn back.. Just go, and leave me on my own. You don't have to fight my battles…" Orpheus did, unlike Zeta however, have the luxury of having gained some resolve.. some meaningful internal acceptance of his actions. He might even be in a better position to cope with this than Zeta.. and seeing Zeta like this; seeing his childhood idol like this.. It's overwhelming. In a way, he had finally become better than Zeta.. at one thing.. This one thing. Understanding life and it's value.. Orpheus can't say he's happy to finally be the better though..
"I'm.. I'm sorry for bringing you into this.. It's my fault.."

Zeta lifts his head, scowls at your order. "No," he says firmly. "I made a committment, and I will keep it. Leaving you here would do nothing. I will still remember his eyes." He reaches out to place a hand on your shoulder. "We have a job to do. And I will /not/ abandon you, mi pico amigo. No matter what," he states, his voice losing some of its quaver. That is something he can cling to. He /needs/ that right now. "Time is passing. We should move. Unless your mission is not important…" He pauses, then swallows. "Or unless you… cannot stand to work with me, now," he adds, his voice growing a little more hoarse, with a hint of hurt carried in it.

Orpheus looks at Zeta a long moment, and his emotional turmoil peaks for just a moment, causing the youth to sob for a moment and shed a single tear.. that tear carried in it, a fragment of his past. Memories of his old life, and that of Zeta as he once saw him.. it then falls to the ground, shattering forever in the unbias light of truth.
"No, amigo, to abandon YOU now would mean condemning also myself.. I was given more than enough chances in life an' I have to start giving some of it back." Orpheus finally reaches in and hugs Zeta - for just a moment - and holds there long enough to share the warmth and purpose in the gesture.. then, he breaks it slowly. "This mission IS important.. Because, Zeta.. If we succeed, we are giving someone else a chance at life. An' for that, we must try our best, even if it kills us. Because like you said, we do own the night.. and that gives us the power to dispence justice how we see fit. This is our time.. So let's make it count.."
Orpheus activates his Ruth again, though his face is still visible to Zeta. He tries his best at a smile for his idol.

Part 8: The Third Floor

Zeta's arms slide around you with warm affection. His breathing eases; you are like a brother to him, even if he does not so easily admit that. You are his little brother, and for the moments you rejected him, his world was turned upside down. "I will carry him," the youth says — and youth, he is, not much older than you, despite his appearance. He crouches down and picks up the guard's lifeless body. His cross to bear, it seems. "We will find a place to put him." He puts the headset back on, first. "Lead the way."
Outside the door, there is a wall with three doors. The corridor goes left and right; the right hand direction leads to a left turn, while the left hand direction leads to a T intersection.

Orpheus nods. HE will let Zeta carry the dead man.. he knew it was probably hard for Zeta.. but he also knew that Zeta needed to do it.. for himself. »I'll lead, then.. Stay careful back there.. I.. We'll make it through this.«
Finally, Orpheus begins to continue back with the mission at hand.. it was hard, but it had to be done. Others were depending on him, and he couldn't let them down. He couldn't let Slinger down either.. He couldn't let /Zeta/ down. He had to be strong. So Orpheus picks a direction, having no way to base an educated guess on.. He chooses the rightmost path and continues along it, paying attention to any signs or plaques saying what any of these rooms might be..

The path curves to the right… passing a set of elevator doors. The elevator is on this floor, it would seem, from the light above it. The passageway curves around to the left, with doors on either side, and a passageway on the left down the hallway a bit…
There is also a passageway back to your right, though you can see the sign on the door — Women's restroom, from iconography.

So many doors.. so many rooms. No clear labeling. Quite frustrating.. Though, Orpheus looks at the womens bathroom.. »We can put the body down in there,« he suggests. There was at least a good chance that no one would go in there for a while anyhow.. and presumably, there might not be as many or -any- female guardsment in here to happenstance into the room.. »We'll put him in one of the stalls,« he suggests.. So Orpheus heads over toward the bathroom and listens along the way for any movement therein.

Among Aztlan, women still are not common among guards. Zeta nods once, swiftly, then carries the man toward the door. It admits him, after he pulls it open. And when he returns, he has blood on his camo, but no body left. « Which door? »

Luckily, the doors do have names, many of them. The ones on the outside of the building are labelled. "Biotechnologies". "Electronics". "Cryogenics". "Laser Research". The interior rooms, on the other hand, the ones toward the center of the floor, those are labelled with people's names.

Orpheus nods once, looking around at the various rooms.. »Cryogenics seems an obvious choice, over there,« he suggests, pointing over toward the door in question, »Though that isn't guaranteed.. I wonder..« Orpheus looks around for any of what he assumes are offices that might have the name of the person they are here for.. Might be possible to find out more information in there too.

Why, indeed. There one is… Down the corridor that seems to lead into the office area, there is one tucked away. A small office. Because he's a dwarf. The office is locked, but Zeta's friend gets you past that fairly easily. And within here, there is a desk — also locked. And this one is not going to be accessible via the matrix.

How fortuitous.. Once Zeta and Orpheus are in the dwarfs office, he goes about to the task of looking around for anything useful.. Any information at all. and if the desk is locked, he may as well look and see if the dwarf has the passcode or key or whatnot stashed somewhere. In fact, it would just be nice to dig into any info about the dwarf too.. You never know. Maybe he really WAS a big liar and all this.. was a farce.
»What's that lock look like on the desk?« Orpheus asks as he peers around.

No passcode. No key. It looks to be a biometric lock, tied to the dwarf's thumbprint. There are only two ways in — using electronic wizardry to break it — or forcing it somehow. Orpheus is standing by the exit, letting you deal with this. He hesitates for a moment, then glances over at you. We seem to be safe for the moment. He pulls out his cigarettes and lights one up — stressed, it seems, from earlier. And holds out the pack to you.

Mental note. Orpheus really needs to learn to fiddle with electronics.. cus this.. this was /annoying/. Biometric meant nothing for it either. Orph COULD, in theory, try tampering with the thing.. Might be easier with his microscopic vision too.. but. Yeah. What then? Hmm..
Orph takes a quick break and comes over to Zeta for now, taking one of the cigarettes offered.. »It's biometric.. An' I'm not better with electronic stuff now than I was when we last went on a mission,« he admits bashfully.. »You?«

"Me, either," Zeta admits. He flicks his lighter, sets fire to the end of his, and inhales deeply, then holds the flickering flame down to yours, watching as you accept the fire that he offers. "I oughtta be upset that you started smokin'," he murmurs. "But I always wished we coulda shared that. But you were always afraid to." He turns his gaze toward the desk, and smirks. "We're strong. We could get at what's in there. I bet the desk is not as strong as the two of us together."

Orpheus accepts the flame, and smiles at Zeta's words… "I always wanted to smoke with you," he admits openly, a hint of affection in his voice.. "Be strong like you.. Part of me started, cus.. I wanted you to be proud," he admits, taking a deep drag, then blows out. He looks at the desk, nods.. "Yeah. We could smash the thing to pieces," he agrees.. "But I don't wanna set off any alarms or be too noisy either.."

Zeta smiles and slides his arm gently around your shoulders, affection but masculine. "You /are/ strong like me, Orpheus. You always were, in a way… but you've grown even stronger. Stronger… stronger than I am in some ways. He drags hard on his cigarette, smiling gently. "It's a horrible habit in some ways, but good for the soul."
He eyes the desk, shakes his head. "Not alarmed. Nobody puts an alarm on their desk. As for noise… there is a chance, but there is no one else on this floor. I am sure of it."
He takes a hard drag of his smoke, then crushes it out on his bootheel… and slips the butt into his pocket. "Whatever is in there, it is likely valuable."

Orpheus virtually beams when Zeta says this.. this acceptance.. It's a wonderful feeling. Even if Zeta is a different person - in his own eyes - than he used to be.. He's STILL Zeta.. And Orpheus still had affection for him.. Now his idol accepted him and recognized him..
"Alright.. Agreed. I wanna see whatever is in there too," he admits. Orph does like Zeta and puts out his cigarette as well, then maneuvers over toward the desk, examining it again for just a moment.. Then finds some way to leverage himself against the desk and get a grip on the desk drawer and attempts to force the thing open.. He leaves room for Zeta to come over and help him, if needed..

It is needed. Zeta is stronger than you are, even with your cyberlimb. He smirks and approaches the desk… then takes a different approach. He lifts /upward/ on it — the desk is bolted to the floor. "Help me lift this," he grunts… and you can hear the metal starting to tear, to bend, as the top of the desk starts to quite literally rip free…

Orpheus does as asked, repositioning himself so that they can rend the desk a new one.. Hopefully cracking it in twine and revealing the tasty, delicious, forbidden secrets within. REVEAL YOUR SECRETS.
"It's a tough one.." Orpheus murmers with a bit of strain on his lips from their combined efforts.

At first, the desk stubbornly refuses. And then it yields, with a loud *crunch*, and the twanging of metal. And there it is, the locked drwer. With its contents… three datasticks, tossed in there amidst other items that are clearly worthless…

Datasticks.. Hmm. Orpheus does have a PDA on him in his survival gear. Hopefully the two are compatable. He grabs one of the sticks and attempts to fit it onto his PDA, intent to do a bit of snooping. The loud clanging and banging of the desk is enough to give Orpheus some jitters though.. he HATED noise, so so much..
»I'll check some of these datasticks and see what I can learn.. Keep your ears peeled in case anyone comes up to see what all this clamour was about..«

These are… journals, it looks like. Notes. Technical specifications and diagrams of various kinds. If you were to guess, you would surmise these are the good Dwarf Doctor's research notes. Priceless to him — and to anyone who wants to recreate what he did.
Zeta nods, and then he tilts his head. "Crap," he mutters, and then reaches down to fiddle with his radio. "They're calling for Juan. I'd guess… I'd guess that's the guy I shot," he murmurs. "We're runnin' short of time."

No time, then.. Okay. Orpheus seems satisfied with the datasticks and pockets them for now. »Alright, let's get back to our main objective. Let's go check the cryogentics room,« suggests the young adept. »With luck, what we need should be in there, or perhaps can tell us where to look.. Perhaps your friend could keep the guards busy if they attempt to get up here? Stall the elevator, lock some doors..«

The cryo room is locked, and the decker mutters, obviously struggling with the door. « They're trying to figure out where their guy is. My friend is havin' to stop them. Might be a few. » Zeta tells you, as we stand outside the room.
And then, from below, the elevator motor engages… and the thing begins to move, barely audible through the structure of the building.

Orpheus nods.. Figures! Damn deckheads, always having 'some kind of problem' or another.. Easy for them to say from the comfort of their hideouts..
Then.. that noise. Not good. Orpheus looks down the hallways toward the sound of the elevator ascending.. He looks over to Zeta then, nodding once, and reaches for one of his spare gelround clips and hands it over toward Zeta. »You ready?« he asks, already knowing the answer..

« I was born ready, » Zeta murmurs. And then he curls up a lip, and speaks quietly into his comm. Apparently, that request is easy. Because a few moments later — the lights go out. « We own the night, » Zeta murmurs, and goes to take up a position covering the stairwell door and the elevator.

Orpheus takes a similar position close to Zeta, peering down the darkened hallways with his bevy of vision mods making visual ID simplematic..
»In position.« Orpheus brings up his gel-loaded weapon ahead of him.. he's prepared to unleash a few rounds of gel, or even charge into the fray if the situation warrants, and it well may.. Provided he doesn't get in the way of Zetas shots that is.

Part 9: The Drone

Zeta is breathing a little harder; you can hear it in his voice over the comm. « In position, other end of the hall, » he subvocalizes. The elevator moves downward… pauses. And then starts back up again. Basement. Floor one. Floor two. Floor three…
*DING* says the elevator, cheerfully, and its doors open.
For a moment, nothing happens. And then there is a whirring sound from within, and you just barely catch a glimpse of movement emerging from the doors.

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Megacorporate Security vs TN 4:
2 3 4 5 17 = 3 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence + 5 (ssf) vs TN 10 for "8 for general perception, 6 for locational.":
1 1 2 5 5 7 7 10 11 17 = 3 Successes

You've heard that sound before. That's not a person. That's… a drone. One with tracks… And yeah, that would be the end of its gun, poking out of the elevator as it trundles forward, exploring its surroundings…

Orpheus ducks back around the corner of the wall hes up against, murmers softly. »Tracked Drone,« he hisses over the comm to his partner. Even if he switched back to ExEx rounds(which he DOES), they may not really do the trick against a drone.. and he lacked any AV ammo. »You got any Anti-Vehicular munitions?« he asks.. »Grenade?«
Orpheus had nothing against THAT, sadly.. Nothing reliable anyways.

« Yeah, but it'll take me a second. You got a jammer? Anything like that? » Zeta hisses. « Lemme get swapped out… »
There is a soft crackle, and then the drone comes out into view. It looks… well, it looks like a small tank, actually. ~~ Attention, intruders! ~~ it says in Spanish. ~~ Authorities have been alerted. If you surrender now, then you will live. Refuse… and die. ~~

Meanwhile, the two still needed to FIND what they came looking for. He isn't sure what, but SOMETHING they did must have alerted them to their presence.. coulda been anything, really..
»I don't got anything,« Orpheus admits bashfully.. Nothing at all. He really curses at himself for lacking at least some AV munitions.. it was really hurting him right about now, and he doesn't fancy the idea of punching the drone into submission either, for obvious reasons..

Zeta has vanished, and there is no reply from him. He might even have turned his radio off. Leaving you to die… or to fight this thing on your own. A drone. A robot, basically, that would cause no compunctions about killing it. The drone rolls forward confidently on its tracks, sensors sweeping back and forth, along with that rather evil-looking heavy machine gun mounted on top of the thing.

Orpheus might be inclined to think Zeta had abandoned him.. except that it was Zeta, and he simply wouldn't allow himself to believe such a thing was possible.. If Zeta had turned off his radio, it would likely be for the reason to making sure the Drone isn't picking up on their transmissions somehow..
Orpheus sticks his arm around the corner now and takes a potshot at the drone.. he doesn't even aim, just shoots down the hallway where the drone is then pulls his arm back and immediately runs down the hall toward the next T section or intersection.. Maybe if he can keep the drone distracted, whatever Zeta is doing will be made easier.. Or thats what Orpheus hopes anyway as he sprints..

The shot goes wild, doesn't even hit the drone - but with that, it starts rolling forward, trundling on its little tracks. It doesn't move horribly fast, but it is relentless. And it lets loose a volley of automatic weapons fire, deafening inside the confined space. There is a place you can go, yes… at the T intersection, you can go to your right toward the front of the building, to your left toward the rear — along that long corridor which would make you a perfect target.

Well seeing as the front of the building, from where he is, is a complete dead-end(as he can now see on his map overlay he's been making with ultrasound along the way), the long, frighteningly LONG hallway seems the only choice as it gives him the ability to duck around another corner at the end and perhaps even keep the drone on move forever.. assuming he can continue to stay faster than it..

Orpheus knew the cryogenics room might be open.. on the other hand, it might NOT, either.. Going into a dead-end doesn't sound good either.. so he runs. Runs as fast as his elven legs can carry him down the long, long coridoor.. It's some of the scariest seconds of his life, but his incredibly athletic build allows him to pull it off.. He immediately throws himself around the corner then presses tightly against it, listening from around the corner for the position of the mini-tank..

The drone's sensors are having to work a little harder to get through your ruthenium. Radar is almost useless in close quarters like these, inside a building, leaving the thing to rely only on ultrasound and thermographic. So targetting you might be tricky. Even as you duck around the corner, the thing lets out a burst of suppressive fire, rocketing down the corridor, too late to hit you. The rounds thunk into the wall behind you.

Orpheus REALLY wishes he had.. SOMETHING to slow the tank down.. immobilize it perhaps. Or just attack it, but he had nothing at all and dared not attempt to attack it head-on and take enemy fire besides.. So he considers just continuing down the halls.. He figures if he can circle around the offices and rooms until he ends up back at the cryochambers, he can have more ample time to check the door and even look inside quickly while the tank continues it's endless persuit.. or, hopefully, whatever Zeta is doing might get accomplished by then..

By the time you get around the circumference of the room… suddenly, you sense a presence behind you. Zeta, despite not wearing Ruthenium, is stealthy. He holds a finger to his lips, though, and is standing right next to a steel door, which should mask his radar signature nicely. And he's holding… something.
The drone rounds the northwest corner, and hesitates, looking for you, trying to determine where you have gone. Zeta gestures to the thing in his hand, and then holds his thumb and forefinger very close together — just a centimeter apart. Whatever this thing is, he needs the drone to be… close.

Orpheus is startled when he sees Zeta again, though he never really doubted that he would.. He nods to his partner and stays close to him for a moment. He thinks, then nods again, and quickly dashes over to the corner of the T intersection, this time bearing right and ducking around the corner that touches the elevator.. He pokes his head around for just a moment to see if the drone has rounded the corner yet, and if so, take another potshot to keep it's focus on him, to the right.. while Zeta waited on the left of the hall..

The drone was hesitating, looking for you with sensors. But muzzle flash followed by a *PING* against its armor definitely has its attention. It turns this way, and trundles, full-speed, heading straight for you. Another volley of rounds from its gun, ripping into the walls as sheetrock explodes in white clouds — and it drives right by the opening where Zeta is crouched.
Its gun is levelled — and this time, the rigger has a lock on you, as the muzzle of it swings around to point right at you.
That's when you see the flicker of movement, as Zeta steps out — and presses a button firmly on what he is holding. And the drone… just stops. Dead in its tracks, unmoving.
Zeta leaps forward, and he works swiftly as he lands on top of the drone's turret. The thing starts to move again — but not with the purposeful motion of before. The turret rotates left and right to try to dislodge the intruder, while he swiftly works with a small multitool — removing a panel. And then he pulls out a component… and the drone is still once again.
"That's it. We're cut off," he says, aloud.

Part 10: Fire and Ice

Seconds later, there is a *snick* as the door next to you, to the Cryo-lab, unlocks, the light next to the door flickering green, then holding steady.

Orph narrows his eyes as he watches this.. flashy bit of doing. And for the moment, he isn't eXACTLY sure he knows what just happened in the slightest.. end result though, Drone isn't moving anymore and they have a clear shot at the cryolabs and hopefully, their prize..
»You are still better than I remember,« he says, implying that no matter when he sees Zeta, he's always better.. always.. no matter how good HE becomes. Always..
»C'mon, lets check the cryolab and then hopefully get the frag outta here..« So Orph heads that way.,.

As you try to transmit on the radio, Zeta shakes his head — just as a burst of static comes back. "Jammer," he says, pointing to the box he has. "No radio's gonna work anywhere in the building. My friend apparentl can cut through it, but nothin' they have can. So we got some time. But they know we're here."
The lab is just a few meters from you, and the door yields to your gentle push. Inside… it is cold, and there is the smell of formaldehyde that might well bring back deeply-buried memories of similar scents, in your past.
Inside the lab, however, is a very large freezer, which itself has a keypad mounted there. That is the lock for it. And as you approach, it doesn't flash green. You'll have to deal with it yourself.

The smell is nostalgic, in a way.. the room in general was. Anytime Orpheus was surrounded by.. scientific apparatus and such.. It's disquieting. Orpheus looks at the keypad a moment, then back at Zeta..
"Well, here we are again," says the young adept, throwing a glance back at Zeta again.. "This door looks a little more.. tempered than the previous one though." Keypad.. sucks. Not as bad as a biometrix lock, but that barely mattered when you had NO skill at breaking into maglocks in the first place.

There /is/ a piece of good news. The good news is that right there on the table is a toolkit — right next to a piece of semi-delicate apparatus. So at least you have tools.
Zeta eyes the thing, then you. "Give it a shot. Your hands are smaller than mine. I am not good at this sort of work. At all."

Orpheus puts - actually puts, full lower lip and all - at this comment. "I'm no better than you," he protests.. but it ultimately didn't matter WHO tried in this case really.. neither was particularly qualified. "But fine.. Cover me, huh?"
Orpheus looks around, spotting the toolkit.. which would help immensely. Dandy that, a microtronics toolkit being so conveniently nearby such as it is. He grabs the thing and goes over to the lock now, setting it on the ground and fiddling around with.. stuff. Stuff he isn't entirely sure what the purpose of is, but whatever looks useful, he gets.. Next comes a cigarette which he lights quickly as he stares at the lock.. Sighs.. and prepares to get to work..

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence vs TN 8 for "Defaulting for Electronics B/R to remove panel.":
4 4 5 8 9 = 2 Successes
«OOC» Orpheus says, "Thirty seconds for that.."

First thing was first.. panel had to come off.. simple enough, Orph figures.. Probably the easy part right? Well not so much. It's REALLY on there good.. having the kit helped tremendously as he fiddles around, finding some tools to help yank the panel off without screwing up the guts inside.. Actually, it was easier than it looked and before long the panel is off and he is ready to begin the 'hard' part now..
"So far.. not too bad. Maybe this hotwiring stuff isn't so bad…"

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence vs TN 6 for "Standard R4 keypad is TN4. +4 for defaulting, -2 for microvision.":
1 3 3 8 11 = 2 Successes
«OOC» Orpheus says, "And another 30 seconds. Hmm"

This is… easier than you expected, really. Maybe it's just luck, but Zeta lets out a crow of triumph as you disengage the lock, lying to it about the correct code being entered. And Zeta pulls the door open.
A wave of mist rolls out of the open door — and beyond it, you can see vials. Rows upon rows of them… many of them red in color. Some white. All of them building condensation.
And every single one of them, labelled with a number. And a bar code. Organized onto shelves… Little glass bottles, all identical.

Once Orpheus begins tampering with the maglock internals, he finds that the thing is actually quite easy to get into. Perhaps two parts luck, one part smarts, and three parts not wanting to fail at his mission and being damned determined.. whatever the case, the thing comes open.
"If I knew it was this easy, I woulda been doin' it sooner!" he admits.. then peeks into the cryochamber.. Well, shit. Almost no way of knowing which is which… "No way to know which is his.." Orph says.. then considers..
"Well.. Let's burn them all."

"If these are even the right ones," Zeta mutters. "But this looks right." He hesitates, and then asks, "You got somethin' to torch 'em with? We gotta make sure they all burn, and burn /well/." He eyes the doorway, fingering his weapon, eyeing the drone. "We're runnin' out of time. They know we're here… even if my friend has them trapped in their room, they'll eventually figure out how to call for help.

Orpheus considers a moment, "True. How can we be sure which is the right one, though? Unless…" Orph looks around to see if there is a terminal somewhere in the room here.. Perhaps if he files pertaining to the samples could be ascertained, the answer would be forthcoming.. Assuming of course he could find a way INTO the terminal and assuming it had no real pass protection..
"What about your freind, could he perhaps look into the base files and find out which of these is our guys?"

"Maybe. But we can't contact him." Zeta looks at the vials… "We need to destroy… all of them. We don't need them to be the right one. If all the blood mixes. Fire could do it… or just… impact, if there were enough of it." He looks over at you, looking for ideas, then glances at his wrist chrono.

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Intelligence vs TN 7 for "Defaulting with ME3 for any knowskill.":
1 2 4 5 11 = 1 Success

«Plot» Slinger says, "Huh. There's some bottles of chemicals over there in the lab outside the freezer. And some of them say 'Flammable'…"

RIGHTO, "Well then, lets get this stuff onto the ground shall we? Theres some caustic looking chemicals over there on those shelves.. maybe some acid.. We'll mix the two together and see what happens," he suggests, then starts whirlwinding into the cryolab, channeling the destructive force of the gods through him, becoming the conduit of Ares himself! DIE BLOOD! DIE!

«Plot» Slinger says, "Sounds good. There are… you'd guess about five hundred, all on shelves. But the shelves aren't bolted down, wouldn't hard to overturn them. Some of them will probably break just from that."

Zeta grins, getting into the action. He starts on the left side, overturning shelves, even lifts one up, then hurls it downward. There is the sound of glass breaking, and blood begins to spatter — frozen, it would seem, and sluggish, icy, even. But some of the samples are definitely running together on the ground, though some of the frozen bottles remain intact. The majority, even, after that are all in a pile on the ground.

Orpheus looks down at their combined handiwork. Not bad.. "Good.. Well, let's see what happens when we throw some of this stuff on there, huh?" So Orph plods over to those chemicals and peeks around.. Flammable? Check.. Acid? Check? I'd even settle for some liquid apocalypse even.. A little goes a long way you know..

Formaldehyde. Yeah, some of that. Ethyl alcohol, some of that. Nitric acid, some of that, definitely. All sorts of reagents. "What're you hoping will happen?" Zeta wants to know, as he eyes the rack along with you, a few vials crunching under his feet as he peers around the edges of the shelves. Your feet might well be a little… gooey.

No time to cry over spilt.. blood. Congealing and coagulating.. Nice.
"Not sure," Orpheus admits, grabbing a little of everything in the end. Gods willing, throwing all this stuff together into the blood pile should make SOMETHING happen. Orpheus wasn't exactly a chemist, though.. He might end up creating a chain reaction only to throw on something to make it go inert. Who knows? IT's random chance..
"We should probably step back though…" Orpheus chucks a random bottle of.. something. Probably the flammable one first.

Bottle strikes. It's plastic, so it just bounces. Zeta picks it up — and empties it over the pile in the center. No reaction, no fizzing, no sparks, though the smell is overwhelming, as the vapors float upward. Formadehyde. You'd recognize that smell anywhere. It smells flammable, as well. "Let's just burn it," Zeta suggests. It's a pretty big jug, and he tosses it toward the pile of stuff in the freezer. "Anything else over there marked 'flammable'?" he asks, using the Spanish word of course.

Orpheus rummages into the pile a bit.. certainly something else must be flammable in here.. Whatever doesn't look good just just uncaps and chucks over toward the pile at random.. until he does find another thing marked flammable.
"This one?" he says, and uncaps whatever it is.. "Alright, let's both step back, an' I'll trow it over to the pile.. I.. I don't want you to get hurt pouring it directly on.."
«OOC» Slinger says, "Gimme a body check, TN 5."
«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Body vs TN 5:
3 4 4 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Body vs TN 5 for "2/4":
4 4 7 = 1 Success

Sadly, unlike the trids, nothing explodes spontaneously. Instead, it just sits there, dripping — and smelling fairly awful — thick chemical vapors that are making it hard to breathe. Very hard to breathe — burning your chest and nose when some of the vapors contact you. Yeah, that would be the acid. Strong stuff. You can barely manage to stay in the room, actually, the vapors threatening to send you out into the hallway…

Orpheus feels nautious from the smell of all these chemicals.. It's absolutely MORTIFYING! He perseveres though, and continues to pour chemicals into the growing abomination in the center of the room.. Orpheus coughs a bit, "This is worse than smokin' Geurerras," he admits.. "Fuck, maybe we should step back at try shooting at it.. spark might catch something…" Orph had nothing else to create spark except his lighter.. but using that required close range..

«Auto-Judge[]» Orpheus (#3849) rolls Body vs TN 6:
1 4 7 = 1 Success

The chemicals are starting to puddle up in the place, and the air is getting unbreatheable. And finally, it is just too much to bear. Zeta reaches out to grab you, pulling you clear of the room, his eyes watering, coughing, choking. It's getting dangerous in there. And yet, still nothing. Zeta goes into the hallway, and looks back at you. "It's gonna burn like mad if we can get a spark. You could shoot it, yeah… toss a cigarette…" He is a little hoarse from the coughing. "Do it, though. I'm gonna step back… too much. Got a lungful of it," he admits.

Orpheus gasps fresh air as they step back into the hallways. He probably would have stayed, persistant as he always was if Zeta hadn't pulled him back. All that, and yet still nothing was exploding.. quite dissapointing, actually. Too bad chemistry wasn't Orphs better subject. Nor the players.. So he resorts to pulling out his pistol and loading up an ExEx clip into the thing.. once both boys are a good distance away, he turns and takes a few shots, aiming more at the floor, hoping to ricochet and spark if possible.. failing that.. he isn't really sure a cigarette could actually be thrown that distance..

The first round hits the doorframe — but the second enters the room itself, striking /something/ inside. What it strikes isn't important, because of the nature of the ammunition. It detonates, and the spark is sufficient to ignite the vapores. The fireball is enormous, rushing out of the room and out into the hallway, where it licks at the ceiling tiles and flows over the ceiling itself, expanding to fill every available crevasse. You barely have time to see it — the fireball rushing toward you, to engulf you, before you are suddenly being tackled, and you are on the ground beneath Zeta as the wave of heat passes over you, enough to singe your hair. Zeta's body protects you from the worst of it, though… but even then, the heat remains, intense, the corridor enveloped in flames that hungrily lick at the ceiling tiles. Sprinklers come on immediately, but they seem to just add fuel to the roaring chemical fire…

Orpheus doesn't have much chance to react.. anyway, Zeta pounces over him more or less right away and spares him from what might be the worst of it, but at what cost? More to the point, how RECKLESS were they really being? All this because they lacked something as simple, inocuous, and common as a /hand grenade/ or similar tool. It's actually quite depressing..
"Zeta! FUCK…" Orpheus quickly grabs ahold of his partner and feircely kicks with his powerful legs, trying to pull himself and the other boy AWAY from the raging fire they just created.. hopefully in the general direction of the stairs..

The most direct route to the stairwell is cut off by the roaring fire. The good news is — nothing, none of those samples, is going to survive this. The bad news is, the fire is hot and spreading rapidly. The heat from it is intense, and spreading along the ceiling of the corridor. Already, it is blisteringly hot just meter and a half above the floor. Zeta coughs again, stays low, and climbs off of you. "My armor saved me the worst of it," he tells you. "Stay down. We go around the other way."
A loud, intense buzzing sound suddenly echoes through the corridors, as the smoke alarms set off the fire control systems. The elevators will be shutting down, returning to the ground floor, with the stairs the only way of passage. All around you, door locks transition to green as part of the building's fire safety system engaging, unlocking doors to ensure people can escape or be rescued.

Orpheus continues to crawl.. crawl.. crawl.. What about windows? Any visible windows around? "Fuck! Can you see a window?!" he asks.. they could easy descend out of here on a rope, if so.. Assuming the glass could be easily broken that is..
Crawl crawl.. Orpheus weaves through the smokey passageways, coughing hoarsely and enduring the intense heat..

There are no windows in this part of the building as you head west, then back north. Finally, with two corners between you and the flames, there is enough room to stand vertically, at least if you crouch. Just the path around the north side, leading back toward the stairwell and freedom…

Orpheus wastes no time.. just continues heading toward the stairwell, constantly checking over his shoulder to ensure that Zeta is still with him as they go along, now spirnting for freedom so close now it can almost be tasted. At least, for sure, there was no possible way any of those samples will survive this. In fact, it's quite possible the building won't survive this at all.. Or at least the damage will be quite severe.
HELL YEAH. Down with the establishment! REBEL! REBEL! Down with the machine and all that circa 2021 anti-establishmentarianistic crap.

Part 11: Escape and Safety

And there's the stairwell door, right ahead. The flames are rolling over the ceiling at the end of the corridor, but you can reach the stairwell door. Zeta is right behind you. The door is unlocked, and the way out seems perfectly clear at this moment. From there — not far to the rooftop, and freedom…

Running still.. With Zeta, up, up the stairs now.. Not stopping for ANYTHING.. They fled no just for their mission but their lives.. Surely they can't go back now.. Only way out of here was to go up, then back down again the side of building.. or that is the hope anyway..

And even as you climb onto the roof, smoke is billowing from the building, and all the samples are well and truly cooked. It doesn't take long before you are down on the ground again, even as emergency vehicles start to roll along the road. Zeta leads the way, staying low, back toward where his bike is stashed… and after waiting for the right moment, he takes off, even while the fire crews are pulling out their hoses, working feverishly to extinguish the blaze that you began.

Not the best mission Orpheus has ever been on.. but at least it was finally over now, though the memories of what happened there won't likely leave him for a while yet. Most wounding was the discussion he had with Zeta.. a very taxing and draining thing it was.. Orpheus had plenty of time to mull over the finer details and little emotions now that he's riding on the electroglyde back whence they cam with Zeta driving..
"Thanks.. for coming," ORpheus manages to say finally as the two wind down the roads with the wind ripping past them.

"I'm glad I could help," Zeta says over the wind. "Where are we going?" he asks quietly. "We… need to talk, I think. Unfinished things." He pauses, but does at least add, "I'm sorry for upsetting you. I never meant to, Orpheus." There's genuine sadness in his voice, as he slows down to a more normal pace, the excitement and adrenaline rush from the accomplished mission left behind us.

Orpheus considers this.. he didn't really want to show his face anywhere very public. Granted, even the Aztlan populace barely knew he existed or whom he was.. but there was always a chance that SOMEONE would recognize him.. and then there would be trouble. "Somewhere quiet.. and safe," he replies.. "I know you didn't mean to upset me.. that is why I could always forgive you no matter what you do," he says.

Zeta leans back against you and gently rubs his head against your chest, but then smiles. "Back where we met," he murmurs, and then guns the powerful bike. It surges forward, making you hold on for dear life as Zeta navigates the streets with practiced ease, moving through neighborhoods, across empty lots, heading into the slummier areas of town.
When we arrive, the building is just as deserted — but Zeta doesn't stop. "Hold on," he tells you with a grin — and launches the bike toward the steps, shooting up them, then through the doorway of the building. Only then does he brake to a stop. The bike's engine is nearly silent, but even so, the sound of the tires against the floor makes its own peculiar noise. He grins, as he shuts off the engine, craning his neck to peer at his young friend. "Good ride, mi poco amigo?"

Orpheus would probably enjoy the thrill of the boke ride more, under more.. favourable circumstances. Even still, he cant prevent cracking a small smile and feeling just the faintest, fleeting moment of a thrill as they weave around the lots, roads, and secret paths. Once the bike is finally resting, Orpheus slowly climbs off it it and stands there a moment, flexing his muscles.. relaxing, untensing..
"Good ride," the youth agrees. "Everyone always did envy you on your bike.. even me sometimes. Looking so.. free and wild," he says with a grin. Most of the academy boys only ever got to ride in SUV's, halftracks, and humvees to and from missions.. But not Zeta of course.

Zeta grins and climbs off the bike, then reaches out to clap you on the shoulder affectionately. "Yeah, well, you shoulda asked for rides more often," he murmurs. He pulls his pack of Guererras from his pocket, snakes one of the cylinders out into his waiting lips, then shakes the pack again and holds it toward you. "Still can't believe the little runt is smokin'," he adds, teasingly. "You still look like a little kid sneaking them behind the schoolhouse." More teasing, of course, his eyes sparkling with amusement.

Orpheus takes the offered cigarette, indeed looking like a juvenile accepting his first smoke from an older brother or friend.. "Yeah, yeah.. Runty Orpheus," he says sneering. Once a fire is created, Orpheus shares the flame and spark with Zeta, leaning in close..
".. An' big, strong Zeta." Orpheus savours the flavour of his cigarette thoroughly now.. after a mission, the taste was great.. and the feeling of taking the rich smoke into his lungs.. it really took the edge off just enough.. "I bet you wanted me to smoke, didn't you?" he asks Zeta then.

Zeta has been smoking for years, and it shows in his voice, as well as in the deep inhale that he takes, recklessly inflicting the carcinogens on his masculine body. He touches his cigarette to yours, the flame springing up between us, illuminating our faces, and then he exhales, long and slow. "That was always the way. But… you were my best friend, Orpheus. My only real friend. The only one I could tell things to… and not have them reported.
"When I found out what happened to you, the assignment they put you on… that was when I had to act. You got out. I got you out… and that was worth whatever it took. I wish we'd had a chance to smoke together… the sergeant would have been doubly-pissed," he says with a grin. "Woulda been fun to share with you. But you were always too scared. Too intent on bein' a good soldier."
He smiles. "What about now, hmm?"

Orpheus' smoking doesn't quite show yet.. He coughed a bit in the morning, but the full effects hadn't really hit him yet. Probably helped that he was an Elf too.. "Sergeant? He can fuck himself," Orpheus admits freely.. ".. so can everyone else who fucked me," he adds.. Then, with affection coloring his voice again, "Except you.. you were the only one who ever saw more in me than anyone else.. Only one to give me a chance."
Orpheus goes and sits on a nearby counter.. maybe a reception desk for a hotel or.. something similar. He reclines back against the wall like this, relaxing.. "Yeah, being a good soldier.. look where it got me, huh? I'll be honest, Zeta. I worry for you… What if they do the same thing to you that they did to me? I'm not even entirely sure WHY they did it in the first place.." Orph still sounded a little bitter about it.. but certainly not broken up as he first was. Pissed, but not hurt.

Zeta walks over behind you, gently placing a hand on your shoulder while he leans against the wall next to the counter, staying close to you. The orange dot of his cigarette glows more brightly as he inhales, consuming a little more of his life even as it grants him pleasure. He exhales slowly through his nose and mouth, bathing you with the warm smoke. "You were in the wrong place at the wrong time," Zeta murmurs. "You were expendable. Me… I have a certain amount of rank. I have some friends. And I have… things I am doing here. I cannot run away, cannot flee as you could. There are obligations I must uphold."
He reaches out to gently ruffle your hair, taking gentle pleasure from the physical contact. "I saw potential bein' squandered. You've already changed, you know. You're a lot more confident. A lot stronger in spirit than the kid I remember. Now you're startin' to become a man. Even if you still look like a brat," he teases.

A man trapped in a kids body, perhaps. Even Orph wasn't sure how old he was.. last time Slinger asked him, the answer simply was not forthcoming. He simply didn't know.
Orpheus seems to understand Zeta's position, though it made him like it no more.. "I know, but.. well. It doesn't mean anything does it? Rank, even friends.. Look at the guy we just saved. He was important, right? Doing all that remarkable research.. he was discarded; like garbage.. just like me."
Orpheus reaches a hand up to grasp Zeta's hand now, as it ruffles through his soft hair.. "Just be careful, huh? Keep an eye over your shoulder.. like you always did. If I find out you got killed or hurt by Az.. I'd.." Orpheus leaves the sentence unfinished.. partly because what COULD he do in such a situation, and also because the kinds of thoughts going through his head were a bit ugly and venmous.. not really anything that needed elaboration..
"You sure no one knows you participated in this?"

"Nobody will know. The fire will handle most of the evidence. My friend will take care of the rest," Zeta promises. He pats your hand, lovingly, taking another slow draw of cigarette smoke, holding it in his lungs. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you cared about me," Zeta adds, with a hint of mirth in his handsome, Hispanic features. He gazes at you, eyes reflecting the glow of your cigarette, the butt hanging from his lips in that rakish, rebellious fashion that dates back to his time as a recruit.
"I am very careful. I have been promoted several times now. I have many accomplishments under my belt. And I have friends watching out for me. Do not worry about me, Orpheus. You're in danger as well, but you have friends, now, yes?"

Orpheus responds quickly to this, "Yes, of course I care," he says.. Amidst his trials, Orpheus has become quite forward with his feelings. He used to be withdrawn, quiet.. introspective mostly. Sometimes he still could be.. but he could also be very blunt at times..
".. I care a lot. But you are right, I do have friends.. and they look out for me too." Slinger, most notably.. but Orph didn't want to mention Slinger just right now. Another time maybe, but right now he just wanted to talk about themselves without anything else complicating matters..
"I guess I'm lucky.. that so many people can stand to be around me. It's a mystery to me sometimes! I've always been trained to be.. despondant, disconnected.. You were always a better leader though. More sociable and outgoing.."

Zeta lightly cuffs your head, smirking. "No talking yourself down. You were always the one I liked. Always the one I wanted to be around. I tried to get us assigned to the same place." He draws hard on his cigarette, and then leans against the counter, his shoulder rubbing against yours. "We woulda made a great team. We proved that today, you know. They made a mistake, wasting you as they did."
Zeta gives you a warm, affectionate smile. "Their loss," he adds, his deep brown eyes locking with yours for a moment, while he draws on his cigarette, eyes flicking to the one in your fingers. "Even so, I think there is a reason you started smoking that brand, hmm?" he asks, with amusement coloring his words.

Orpheus feels a familiar warmth trickling up and down his spine.. that same sorta feeling he got when he was around Slinger. It was a quiet, pleasing solace in light of recent, tiring events.. A warm, pleasant feeling..
"Their loss.. My gain," he elaborates.. "I think I can see now.. the freedom to go it on my own.. Maybe it's what I always needed.. no rules, regulations.. no boundries."
Orpheus looks down at his cigarette, smiling faintly, "Well.. Partly cus it's the same brand you smoke.. and also because it's a strong brand. A warriors brand.. I know it sounds funny coming from me I guess, but I like to smoke 'em."

Zeta chuckles. "Yeah. It's the brand of a lot of soldiers. Will kill ya faster than most," he says with a grin. "But it's got the best flavor of all of them. Rough on the throat. Takes a tough guy to handle them." His hand slowly slips out to embrace your shoulder, affectionately, then slip around you in a one-armed embrace. "It's wonderful to see you again," Zeta murmurs.
Your words draw a chuckle from him. "You're free as a bird. But always remember the hunter with the gun as well. Little birds are easy targets, if they do not fly carefully," he teases.

Orpheus smirks, "Yeah.. but most birds can't evicerate their predators, like I could," he says.. though, this comment draws another small sigh from him, "Not that I would anymore.. You are right about one thing, recent changes in my life have.. changed me somewhat. I've decided I don't have a taste for killing… I won't do it anymore. I can't do it, because to continue doing so.. I think it would only self-destruct me. I have to shed off the things that Az once taught me.. discard those ideals like Az discarded me.. An' .. I think for the best."
Orpheus leans into that embrace, and finally just plunges in, pressing himself against Zeta more fully.. "I'm sorry for what happened before.."

Zeta exhales a cloud of smoke, gazing into your eyes. The smoke bathes your face. He's handsome, older than you to all appearances, and he lightly runs his finger along your cheek. "It's all right. I understand. But… you will learn that sometimes people need to die. Like the one who betrayed you. He is dead now. I made sure of it, Orpheus. So he couldn't harm you again."
He sighs, lets out a slow breath, and then murmurs something. "You are not yet sixteen. You were two years younger than the rest of us — and you wondered why you were little. I found… a piece of your file. It's not exact. But you /were/ younger than the rest of us. I just turned eighteen, myself. Not that much older than you," Zeta adds, with a curl to his lips, gazing back into your young eyes.

Orpheus nods solemnly.. it was a lesson he still needed to learn, perhaps.. but one that was going to be very hard for him to master. Zeta knew how to be more ruthless, while Orph now knew how to be more merciful.. perhaps they could learn from one another.
"I.. See. You are sure?" he wonders. He really can't be certain.. the exact effects of the aging virus aren't fully known.. yet Zeta's aproximation seems fair. "Well, if that's true, that means YOU are subjecting a minor to the influence of tobacco," he jeers, throwing Zeta a smile, followed by billowing a plume of warm smoke from within his tender, young lungs..

"Bah. It was two years ago when you first caught me with one. And I was only fifteen, then, still too young to smoke. But I did it anyway, just as you do." He leans in, inhaling the scent of smoke coming from your nose and mouth. "I am a bad influence upon you, mi poco amigo. As I have always been." His lips are close to yours, so tempting, so tantalizing. Full lips, on his bronzed face, his handsome features — features that you have dreamed about for years, gazing at you. So real, so close.
"As for sure? As sure as I can be. The record has been destroyed. Most of it gone. Just references to it have survived," he murmurs, lightly tracing his fingers over your cheek, and up over that pointed ear.

Orpheus smiles gently, "Yeah, you have been a bad influence; an' I wouldn't have it any other way you know.." Orphs face slowly shifted tones.. gettin redder and redder as he blushes, feeling Zeta so close.. Even just this simple closeness brought many fantasies for life to him.. but he is different now than he was then.. he didn't just have his fantasies, he strived for them.. reletnlessly saught after them.. why should Zeta be any different?
Orpheus' breath catches in this throat, his body hot.. he can't stop himself.. he leans in and places his lips directly on Zeta's, throwing caution to the wind.. his face fully blossoms red now as he crosses that threshold.. but Orpheus simply wasn't content unless he was pushing a boundry or siezing a goal with all the willpower he can muster.. He lets his lips linger there, waiting to find a reaction from Zeta.. waiting, hoping to feel a return of affection..
Worse comes to worse.. well. It was a very brazant and spectacular way to admit to your lifelong friend you are wholly and completely gay.

Zeta's eyes are locked on yours, but even so, what you do in that instant was something he could not have predicted. As your lips touch his, he freezes, and then there is the smallest response, his own lips brushing yours, returning the kiss with a hint of passion as he tastes the smoke on your lips, and you the smoke on his. He has a hint of stubble around his face, clean-shaven, but that is something that Slinger lacks, being elfin. Instead, though, he has a rugged masculinity to his lips, which part slightly, tasting yours, returning the kiss as he starts to sink into it.
And then he pulls back, eyes widening, staring back at you. "What are you doing?" he whispers, his voice fierce, intense… questioning. But he is not actually pulling away from you. Not releasing his arm around your shoulders — just gazing back at you, cigarette smoke curling around the pair of us.

Orpheus visibly shivers from the sudden, intense feeling of pleasure that ripples down his spine.. kissing Zeta, something he had imagined in his mind countless time.. imagining the feel of his masculine features on his body, his lips..
Once Zeta pulls back Orpheus eyes the other youth with a sort of mischievous, lopsided grin that he sometimes got.. That shameless, freespirited sort of expression that only someone like Orpheus could express.. someone truly ininhibted and free to explore his feelings without regret or remorse… when he had a mind to.
"What.. you thought I liked girls?" asks Orph sincerely.. "You know, it was always the boys at a academy I looked at," he admits, blushing again.. when he blushes like that, it really did a lot to accentuate the juvenile, young qualities of his appearance.

Zeta's breath catches in his throat. "I never… thought about it," he whispers, though his cheeks are flushed a deep crimson. His eyes gaze back into yours, watching as that impish smirk comes onto your features. He glances over his shoulders, as if expecting to be watched, then lifts his cigarette to his lips for a nervous drag. Inhales slowly, breathes it into his teenaged lungs… then leans forward, exhaling, as his lips find yours again, tentatively. You can feel him shivering in your arms, tight around you as he literally trembles with fear — and excitement.
"We are not supposed to be doing this," he whispers, and then lightly, gently kisses your lips, with a soft little murmur of fear… and desire.

Orpheus can feel this trpidation.. that fear.. maybe even that desire. Orpheus can feel it because he himself felt the same way more than one.. when first meeting Slinger, especially.. That unsuredness. Slowly, Orpheus works his arms around his lifelong friend - his idol - his distant desires. He holds Zeta gently, soothingly, resting them on the small of his back.
"I know.. that's what makes it so fuckin' hot.." he says, shivering at his own words, then leans in for another kiss at the corner of Zeta's mouth, letting his warm, tender lips press against the other boys.. showing him how nice it could be to feel the touch of someone you cared about. Orpheus tremors again, slightly. ".. But this time, no one is here to tell us we can't.." Orpeheus says this in a way that Zeta would understand.. Orpheus had thought about doing this before. Long before..

From the touches, the tentative way his lips brush yours, the soft little touch along your back, you can easily sense that Zeta has never done anything like this. He has loved you, of course — loved you as a brother. And this feels like incest, in its own way, like incestuous touch between two brothers, doubly, triply forbidden. Even so, his lips caress yours. The words from your lips roll over his mind, and he gasps, a soft moan of pleasure, before he kisses you again, some of his inhibitions falling away as his rough, masculine mouth finds yours.
He kisses you fiercely, with almost feral desire, his lips seeking yours, teeth softly nipping at your lip. "Extranyo," he mutters fiercely, the insult in Spanish rolling off his tongue. "That is what you are." His eyes are fiercely blazing as he stares back into yours… his own emotions barely contained…

In a way, it kinda was.. Zeta was like the big brother to him.. strong, fast, masuline.. so very masculine. Maybe part of Orpheus' desire for Zeta was that he was sort of all the things Orpheus wasn't, in certain cased.. So fiercely masculine, unlike himself; Orpheus was so small, juvenile..
"Maybe," Orpheus murmers into Zeta's lips, gently nipping at the other boys firm lips, feeling them pressing upon his own young lips.. the presence of Zeta so close to him was almost overwhelming.. he felt like he could get lost in his aura.. that masculinity, that power and intensity.. Orpheus wasn't timid either though.. not about this. He matches that passion with his own, years of inhabition releasing in that single moment as his hands explore in the ways they've always wanted.. his lips tasting Zeta's, exploring the flavour, the sensation.. ".. Zeta…" he murmurs intensely.

« Fade to Black »

A few long moments pass, with the two naked male bodies in this abandoned structure, open to the night, in the midst of the downtrodden part of Aztlan. And yet, there is nothing but warmth and passion, the sticky wetness of sweaty male bodies, both covered with male seed. Zeta's eyes are closed, his body trembling against yours, as he rests his forehead against that of his young friend. "I've never… done anything like that," Zeta whispers, and you might realize something else — that in the nearly all-male Aztlan military, that Zeta might never have had the opportunity, even with a girl.
"What have you done to me?" he whispers, though there's no hostility in his male voice, his breathing gradually slowing, his heart decelerating from the fierce throbbing that accompanied his orgasm. He finally dares open his eyes, gazes at your handsome face, and reaches up to gently push your hair back from your eyes. "That was… that was intense," he murmurs.

Orpheus has a big smile on his face. It was nice to be bad, ruining the good name of another Aztlan soldier.. Making him fraternize with an enemy agent.. Snuggling with another man. Orpheus enjoyed it immensely though.. He enjoyed giving Zeta this, and.. it was nice for him as well. Even if it was a mostly lusty and spur-of-the-moment thing, it was good, he thought, for Zeta.. something he needed even more than himself.
"Did you like it?" Orpheus wonders, giving a tender kiss to Zeta's lips, gently cooing and comforting his large, male friend as they sit up on the large counter, naked, covered in cum. "What we're doing together.. It's wrong in Aztlan's eyes.. but. You don't regret it, do you?" he asks, hoping that Zeta wouldn't have shame or regret afterward.. He might a little.. Orpheus could understand that. It was a guilty pleasure they could share together.. Unlike the open, free love he and Slinger shared.

Zeta is still shivering, but he does move up onto the counter with you, feeling the coarse wood against his exposed rump. "Si," Zeta admits, eyes closing with guilty shame washing over his face — and yet, you can tell, that is part of the pleasure. "I have never been one to follow the rules. You know that," Zeta murmurs, with a secretive smile on his handsome features. "I do not regret it. Fraternizing with an agent of the enemy… that is what you are. What I am, if they only knew.
"No. I do not regret it. Even though… you know we cannot be together. It is too risky for you to be here… and I cannot leave Aztlan. Not yet. We may meet once in a while… and when we do… I would not mind doing this again." He gazes back into your eyes, then reaches out and places his hand on your cheek, his fingers still moist with your seed. "You… you have someone, do you not?" he guesses — correctly. "Someone who has showed you these things. I am glad for that. And glad you shared this with me. But you should go to your… to your man. I only hope he will not mind. I'm afraid I left a mark or two," he admits sheepishly.
Zeta chuckles, then coughs softly. "I need a cigarette," he admits, with a sheepish smile. "And I left them in my clothing down there."

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