Reclaiming Calm — Afterword

It’s been a long road on this — but with the final part now out, that marks the end of a fanfiction of a fanfiction.

I wanted to give a quick thank you to everyone who delved into (or created on the spot) the lore surrounding their respective safe houses and for allowing their online selves to appear as characters or references throughout the world building.

I offer again I’m no writer, so an additional thank you to the proof volunteers I had along the entirety of the way — these last few parts I was missing the usual team, so to all on the spot correction offers have also been appreciated.

And for those who have followed this whole crazy tale, thank you for coming along for the slightly insane ride!

With PSC winding down, I couldn’t well let this go unfinished. Hope it’s been happy reading, even with the delays that came about.

Happy Hunting in the future, wherever that may be!

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There was a faint rumbling, and some jostling.

Chyram cracked her eyes, and faint daylight could be seen flitting about playfully in the back of the convoy truck she was in.  With a start, she tested for restraints — and found none.

She sat up and looked around, only to be gently pushed back into a laying position, a very familiar voice requesting, “You do really need to rest.  You are malnourished, dehydrated, and exhausted.”


“Don’t Malkoris me.  Rest.”

Chryam left herself fall back with a resounding flop onto what she no understood was blankets stacked onto the floor of the rear of the the truck.  Around her, many familiar faces were asleep in various postures, most notably Beebles who had adopted some manner of meditative pose and somehow has snoring gently without falling over.

“Where are we?” she asked tiredly.

“You’ve been out for a good 15 hours.  Were heading back with Alcatraz and will probably stay with them for a bit.  Raikua was very insistent.”

“And, Charles?”

“Ezekiel Stone and Puggamoo tried to isolate him during the remaining scuffles of the night.  But it seems Cult leadership slipped away on a road no-one managed to find on maps and observations leading up to the assault.  They are planning on regrouping and resupplying at this point.”

“Ezekiel, Raikua, Puggamoo and that Agent fellow?  Just how many got involved?”

“Quite a few…seems your hope of uniting houses was more than just hope after all.”

Chyram let her shoulders relax as tiredness crept up on her again, “I’m really not dreaming then.”  And she then quietly drifted to sleep once more, feeling safe for the first time in she knew how long.

Malkoris let a smile slip on to his face, as he took stock of his fellow foxes, a bit tired and worn, but safe, recovering around him and in other vehicles in the Alcatraz detachment.  The only thing he wished that could have been different is that the Rangers had stuck around long enough for a proper thank you.

And with that, he got some much needed sleep himself.

Many found themselves oddly quiet on the rerun trips home.

Raikua found herself reflectively chatting with Pae, and how they’d be able to play host to the foxes.  Michuru fired off odd ball ideas over the radio about how they’d fix the sudden supply deficit through strategic use of ‘Drop Bear’ metabolism science.

Pugga idly talked about AP’s next move n re-establishing house communications.  Haze ad Gobz, along with Gabs and Nic over the radio, talked her back into optimistic thinking about what they could do better to foil events like the ones the Cult leveled against them.  If all else failed, they’d find Charles and weld him to the water heater in the basement as a permanent fixture as retribution, triggering a much needed laugh.

Stone, a bit more serious, spoke with Rage and Shane over radio as they planned their next move in tracking down Cult leadership, borrowing from the hastily made pan of triangulation and building upon it further.  KSAT viewed the Cult aggression as a challenge, and they intended to meet it.

Somewhere far away, in a new location.

Charles sat in the back of his transport as it sped to the new operations center.  The car paused only a few ties to gain entry into the secured location they would be calling home for a time.

Fellow leadership murmured to each other in the car before addressing Charles.

“It was unfortunate, but our losses are acceptable in this battle Charles.  We learned much.”

He nodded silently.

“She can be reclaimed, Charles.”

He nodded again.

“It seems you are still lost in thought…does the one calling himself Agent D still hold your attention?”

Finally, shooting an icy glare to one of the hooded figures, “I am reconsidering the threat these survivors may actually pose.  I will not endure such an underestimation again.  the next encounter shall not find fortune so favorable for them”

The others, accepting the answer, once again resumed murmuring amongst themselves.

But in Charles Wagner’s minds eye… the image of a Ranger, wreathed in fire, glaring back at him with hellfire in his own eyes…simply couldn’t be unburned…

Just what sort of man was this?  Who could project the intent to kill over the air itself.

That just left on more heavily involved house…

Agent had his feet propped up in the dash of one of the several electric Jeeps the park had, sunglasses already on against the daylight, and lightly bandaged from the scrapes and bumps.  Vortex had given the small Ranger detachment a lift back to their decidedly much smaller convoy.  Deployed detachments of Rangers that had scattered to provide support to houses while they sent survivors to the fight were already close to home.  Meaning Agent, AJ, and the team with them as the last on the list to get back.

Fizzzzz, Drox, Reigns, Fmo, and DB had all reported arrivals within a few hours.

Wichita and Alley, who had opted to take a break after being on tower duty for the duration of operations, were catching sleep themselves.

As everyone was now back in range of the park, communications were again being handled on short wave at the Lodge system.

The radio crackled to life, and an impossibly bright voice practically beamed over the channel, “How far are you all away!  We’re trying to plan a PARTY!”

Agent and AJ shared a raised eyebrow glance at each other, before Agent spoke, “Pink… you can’t be serious?”

Another voice chimed in, a cat like smile almost palpable over the air waves, “But she has found streamers and confetti and best of all — sparkling glitter!”

Agent tentatively shot back, “No, that is not best of all.  It took weeks down at the brook to get the glitter off me so that people could find my position by simply swiping a flashlight across the woods.”

Pink brightly jumped back in, you could nearly visualize the two wrestling ver the radio handset, “That sounds like a yes to me!  Don’t be late!”
AJ couldn’t help but laugh, and Agent lifted his sunglasses and pressed hard on the bridge of his nose, “Oy!  Is there some…Radical…Book Club…of Evil, that we can find and fight on the way AJ?”

AJ shook his head, “Sorry D.  I don’t think so.”

They rode for a little while longer, before a gruff voice hit up the radio, “Hey, this is Fizzzzz, some idiot of a bike bandit said there’s a new warlord laying claim to an area that includes our park…I kind broke his face after that, so not much more info.  Think we should look into that D?”

AJ and Agent looked at each other again, and a familiar devil may care grin slowly crept on Agent’s features.

Agent responded on the radio, “No warlord gets to claim our home and not learn to be afraid of every single shadow cast be every single tree.”

Pink’s voice came over the channel, “NOOOOOOO!  Can’t it wait?”

Agent conceded partially, “But we’ll need to do it and be back on time.”

Fizzzzz grumbled back, “Fine.”

They drove for a little while longer and got the detour they were to take to shut down the bandits, before AJ let curiosity get the better of him, “So, you saw the leader of the Cult, that Charles guy?”

Agent replied evenly, “Yeah.”

“So, you didn’t kill him?”

“Not for lack of trying.”

“Ah…so…why are we not going after him?”

Agent thought about it for a little bit, before resting his feet back on the dash, and looking out the window as they scenery became more green and mountainous, and the grey clouds that had come to hang over urban zones and tones gave way to blue sky.

“Honestly…he’s not part of our story…I’d reckon.  He’s Chryam’s enemy, and she’ll figure out how best to fight him.”

“And if they need our help?”

Agent nodded decidedly, “They’ll always have it.”


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FOXHOUND — Part 10, Hellfire

The two ran.

As a fist continually smashed through the ceiling at intervals, they kept running.

As they passed unconscious guards, evidence of Agent’s handiwork, they kept running.

As they reached the staircase and arms cracked through the walls, they kept running.

As Agent hit the final floor and they moved to the center of the building to catch their breath, he radioed over a new channel, “This is Agent, I have the final fox.  Have hot pursuit by titan class opposition.  Requesting fire support.  Do you copy Thunder?”

“This is Thunder.  Copied.  Position Confirmed.  Assault in 3 minutes.  Can you paint target?”

“Negative.  Painting impractical, organic target.  Look for thermal signature.”

“Organic titan class weapon?  Confirmed, will engage thermal targeting.  Draw target into open area.  Beginning fire support.”

The building shook, Chyram kept up her rifle as walls down the hall gave way as the creature battered it’s way through the outer offices to get closer, “Please tell me there’s a plan!”

Agent switched channels, “Working on it.”, and egaged the VOX switch to open the channel, “Vortex, do you copy?  Agent D.  You successfully escort?”

A static reply offered some slight relief, “Yo!  Deranger!  Figured I’d be hearing from you.  Let me guess?  Need a lift?”

“Bingo, Vortex.  Landing site likely cold, lots of panic around here.”

“There in 5 minutes or it’s free.  Out!”

The creature now was busting it’s way into the hallway.

Chyram barked, having heard the Ranger’s preferred title over his upped volume radio conversations, “AGENT!”

He nodded, got up and made one last channel switch as he motioned them out toward the back down as the thing finally broke through the wall, laying down pulled itself through walls and office dividers toward them with a spine vibrating roar.

“AJ!  Please respond.” Agent barked over the din.

“D!  Good to hear you.  Responding!”

“I have the last fox in company, how’s the extraction?”

“We’re good, dropped some crazy muscle bound zed of some kind.  Waiting on you.”

“Negative, move out of area.  I’m calling in immediate evac; one of those things is on us.”

“What!?  We can move in and support!”

“Negative.  Called in one last favor.  This area is going to be hot.  Safer to move.”

“Wha, really?  Oh wait! Right.  I’ll convince Malkoris here to move.  It’ll be easier with what you just told me.  Don’t be reckless you hear?”

“Trying not to be this time, no room for mistakes.  Agent out!”

And with that the two rushed out into the back lot and tried to gain ground.

It wasn’t long before the creature broke through the double doors, and Agent an Chryam, while having cleared considerable ground, glaced back as it bellowed and went airborne in a bound that cut the distance in half in moments.

Chyram, beginning to lose breath to the dead spirt they had been in, choked out, “This is really bad.  How did the other’s deal with these?”

Agent shouted back between breaths, “With better resources…this place is devoid of anything I can use as impromptu advantage…so I’m hoping– nevermind, there they are!”

It was at that moment Chryam became aware of a growing engine roar of a slowing plane, and a C-130 cleared the forest canopy at very low altitude in a hard bank, setting up to circle their location.

The thing bounded again, landing only yards away and almost at a spirit.

Agent spat in disgust as he switched the radio back to the appropriate channel, “Roid raged grasshopper is right on top of us, don’t hold fire, burn it down!  NOW!”

Chyram took a few shots in desperation as it took a few more rapid steps and raised a fist, before she was pulled down and covered by Agent.
And then it was as if the world ended.

Chyram felt the earth convulse, and her ears nearly spilt under the roar of heavy rounds fired with reckless abandon. She couldn’t discern what ordinance was being used, and the endless stream of fire tinged light and repeated concussive heavy shells was almost too much to endure.

Red hot fragments of blacktop and minced flesh made it past the Ranger’s body block.  Sparks mixed into the shower of debris from the munitions, and singed slightly whatever they made contact with.  Chyram winced at each piece that made contact, and there was a momentary brief silence — as the C-130 became opposite them — only to be interrupted then by another round of pure hellfire.

It was likely only 20-30 seconds, but the terrifying experience stretched into hours.  It was perhaps a few moments before Chyram realized it was over.  The air was choked with vaporized blacktop, earth, and titan.  Fire blanketed the whole immediate area around them, as if the world had be transformed into hell itself.  She could only smell char and spent munitions.

At some point the sound of the C-130 returned to her ears.  She turned her head from the ground, and saw only olive drab.

She became keenly aware the side of her facing the blast area was locked by the Ranger, and in a moment of horror coughed out, “You idiot! You better not have just martyered–”

Agent groaned and rolled out of the way and put his back flat to the ground, snuffing the few flames that had started on his back, and cutting Chryam mid sentence, “Please…do not yell in my ear…I can somehow still hear and I’d like to keep doing so.”

Chyram bewilderedly questioned him, albeit a little more quietly, “But, how?  That thing was so close–” she now could see the flaming hole in the blacktop that once had been an imposing Golem in service of the Cult, “–you had to be caught by the ordinance, shrapnel, something…you can’t be alright.”

Agent tiredly raised a fist and beat his chest twice, a metallic thud could be heard, he did the same by banging his forearms together, to here a metallic ‘ting’ underneath his drab fatigues, “Aluminum and steel plating…more durable than I am, I assure you.”

And with with that, he painfully rose to his feet and surveyed the surroundings.  It took some time for his eyes to adjust…the eyepatch seemingly lost at some point in the volley.  Agent noted some shrapnel had caught him in a few places, but felt nothing critical…warm blood trickled from his scalp, painting his face in red streaks.  He checked for the wounds.  Superficial thankfully.  He checked Chyram, and she was taking stock of herself from a sitting position as the C-130 took another pass.

Looking through the flames…Agent locked eyes with Wagner as his hair stood on end and his teeth gritted…Wagner was mere shadow in the distance, glaring back.  Flames danced and wrapped in the air between them, Agent fighting the urge to surge forward and engage, well aware Chyram was still recovering.  Agent only broke eye contact when another distinct engine noise was heard, and a familiar military chopper swooped in low, and used the downdraft to smother the flames.

When Agent looked back, Charles was gone.

Offering Chyram a hand up, the two entered the chopper once it lowered to entering range in a hurry, and in moments, the base was retreating into the distance as Agent slide the door closed.

Chyram sank into a seat, starring a hole into the seats across from her.

Agent took up a seat in the back.

Vortex yelled back, “Good to see you alive D!  Got to admit though, that C-130 came as a surprise — another favor?  Why do you still need me, eh?”

Agent managed a tired laugh, “I still need lifts buddy.  And that favor was a favor to this little lady here, not me.  So hardly counts as replacing you.”

Vortex snorted, “Huh, and here I was hoping to be free.  Taking you back to base at the back lines?”

Agent replied, “Yeah, please.  The coalition can be cleared to move in.  Seems my radio took a beating and I can’t figure out what needs fixed right now.

“On it!” And Vortex was off on radio chatter.

It was another few moments before Chyram spoke up, “So, this is real right?  I’m not imaginging things or delirious?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“You aren’t actually a cult operative staging false hope?”

“Not unless I’m fooling myself too.”

“They’re…all really alright?  The people who came to rescue us too?”

“Last I checked.”

“…I…hope…I don’t…wake up…to that damn kennel.”

Agent’s interest piqued as she slumped over in her seat, he had a suspicion, and after a quick pulse check was confirmed.

He buckled the sound asleep Chyram into her seat, and took a much needed moment to breathe himself.

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FOXHOUND — Part 9, Nature vs Narcissism

In an upstairs office, the mood was not much better.  She had been forcibly brought in under heavy guard back into a madman’s company.  She’d taken the zeds now please.

She managed a bitter, if not somewhat hoarse, query “What now Charles?  Another project gone wrong?”

The dark robed figure in front of her paced restlessly, and the two guards that hand remained behind kept a hand on either of her shoulders.  They were under orders not to harm her unduly, but it hardly meant they were being gentle in pressing her into the seat.

“Decidedly not Chyram,” Charles Wagner finally offered up at length, “It seems that ramble you call a community is out there knocking at our door.  They even managed to free your fellow foxes that you cling to so dearly.  The method is presently unknown.”

Chyram’s mouth ever so slightly hung open.  Was that actually true?  She had sat through many a longwinded session about his grand world to come — with never any concrete new information she could glean that this frank admission was surreal.

“But I wouldn’t get your hopes up.  The Golems have broken free.  You do know how they so hate those who aren’t among the Chosen…”

Chyram recoiled, as did the guards holding her, “You…you let those things out!?  Nothing controls them!”

Charles turned to her, his eyes seeming as if somewhere distant, as if looking through her more than at her, “They need not be controlled.  They serve their purpose.  Those who came to stand against us will simply be crushed.  Even now, you can see the battle turn in our favor.”

And with a gesture out the window by Charles, Chyram was escorted to the glass and watched as the sky flashed in the distance — the flashes of repeated and sustained gunfire…

“WHAT! IS! THIS! THING!”  Rai unloaded another mag into the hulking faceless horror, and was awarded little more than attempted annoyed smashes by the monstrosity, which having trouble focusing on targets.

It howled internally again, the cry shaking the still standing survivor’s bones thoroughly.

While thankfully the survivors had suffered no casualties yet due to reflexes only seasoned slayers could develop, injuries and fatigue were mounting, and this beast was easily aggravating the situation into a dire crisis.  Momentum and morale gained in the first skirmish was eroded away after the first truck was hurled like dodge ball.

“Very hard…to say…Raikua.”  Stone rasped, his usual unflappable demeanor fading as the attempts to not become crushed paste became more difficult to manage.  The beast threw another wild haymaker, sending stinging splinters into the air that used to be full grown hardwood trees. Stone’s attempts to land a saber strike were met with little success, as the monster seemed to have an unreal ability to sense oncoming assault, and any successful blow of a conventional nature seemed to do no lasting harm, healing over near instantaneously.

Puggamoo attempted a charge with a yell for a battle cry, deftly dropping out of the way of a punch that sailed over her head and attempting to slice the arm above her cleanly.  But as fast as her blade entered the arm, the path it cut seemed to seal behind it — and against logic, her blade began to drag in the creature’s arm.  She extracted it straight back hurriedly an back flipped away from a downward fisted smash from the other arm, being sprayed in shale and gravel for her trouble.  A glance at the power circuit showed it was still in fighting condition…was the thing healing faster than the blade could cut?

She breathed heavily, “Nothing’s working…nothing hurts it long enough…whew…to matter.”

Behind them, Pae and Haze kept the remaining straggling zeds away from the trio so they could focus on the monstrous menace alone.

Rai quipped as they regrouped into positions again, “Don’t think energy drinks are going to cut it for this one…”

Meanwhile, the extraction team and Foxes fared little better.  They at best were managing to not become paper cut-outs of there former selves by being caught between the ground and a fist.

Malkoris bellowed, “How do we stop this thing!?  It responds to pain by punching, it responds to not pain by punching — in fact, I’m fairly sure it’s response to anything is to punch!”

AJ rolled under a vicious swipe, that almost had a shockwave following behind it, “Nothing in the briefing about it!  News to us!”

Beebles yelled over the din of gunfire and panic as more of the survivors scrambled out pas the blasted fencing, “Well, if this stuff isn’t working how about what you used to get in in the first place?!”

AJ back peddled again as another strike arced past, “We’re too close for that!”

Malkoris, taking a momentary queue from the admission, began emptying his magazine in his stolen assault rifle into the horror’s empty face, it focused on him and he ran to draw it further off — it followed.

AJ, wanting to admonish the mad Malkoris, instead seized the opportunity to feed the strike team just beyond the woods edge a series of coordinates.

“Their plight is hopeless.  The Golems are impervious to weapons and means available to the common survivor.  They are ants against monsters.”

Chyram winched as in the distance more trees rose above the forest canopy briefly, “And then what?  You scatter them and they’ll all be back, they’ll regroup and challenge you again.  As if this would be enough break anyone that’s lived this long.”

“You still miss the point.  But I suppose it can’t be helped.”

A sudden shuddering of the building, and shockwaves buffeted the windows.

Charles shifted uneasily, “Again?  What nonsense is this?”

Malkoris’ ears rang painfully.  He reflexively beat the embers of scorched blacktop and rumble off of himself before his clothes caught fire.  He rolled to his back sorely, and took a deep breath, eliciting a fit of coughing as dust hit the back of his throat.  Rollin to his side, he spat onto the ground.  White and brown, no bleeding.  He became faintly aware of getting hit on the shoulder as his hearing began to function again, AJ was over him.

“Can you hear me?,”  he held up a blurry three fingers to Malkoris, “How many do you see?”

Malkoris choked out a bit of a mush mouthed, “Three.”, before suddenly finding his senses all at once, “Whu, ah — where’s that giant?”
AJ motioned over to a half molten flaming foot deep crater, and foxes and rangers with flares burning every piece of twitching flesh they could find, “Our artillery team that the coalition put together is scary accurate, gotta give them that. They emptied every last shell they had onto the thing though.  Turns out fire isn’t it’s friend.  It tried to pull itself back together and anywhere it was burned it couldn’t seem to manage it, so we’re finishing the job then we’re going to split.”

At that point AJ turned a bit of ire onto Malkoris as he helped him up and helped him along as they moved out of the area, “That stunt of yours was dumb though, you saw what thing can do to a person man-to-monster.”

Malkoris moved unsteadily leaning on AJ heavily as he discovered he most certainly sprained something in his back.  He had done worse however.

“Well, it worked though didn’t it? Had no idea about the mortars though…glad that was a thing.”  Malkoris offered at length, while checking over his shoulder every so often, “I suppose, that Agent fella would have done similar if he had known that was an option.”

AJ couldn’t help but nod, “Yeah, that’s very much like him.  We hit him upside the head for those stunts too ya know — even if he does have ‘more practice’ as he puts it.”

Back at the stronghold leaders fray, the situation was far more tense.  Exhaustion was nearly setting in, and only the three were still trying to be in the fight and cover their allies retreat from the area lead by Pae and Haze.

They had found cover in a think grove of pines, the three breathing heavily as they took a much needed moment to collect themselves.

Pugga gasped in a few cool lungful’s of air and spat out some grit that had accumulated over the course of the fighting, “What do we do?  We’re losing ground and we haven’t found a single way to down this thing with what we have.  The little artillery we brought we assigned to the extraction group.”

Rai stretched to ease a few bruises she had accumulated, “I don’t know…I really don’t.  Nothing conventional is working.”

Stone, having caught most of his wind back, stood collectedly and lit a cigarette.

Rai raised an eyebrow at him, “Really?”

Stone chuckled, “Of course.  We keep going with this kind of thinking and it might well be the last if it helps.  Anything we haven’t tried?”

The three tried to reconsider their options as the mountain of muscle hefted a convoy car over it’s head and launched it with ease over the trees.  It landed somewhere with the resounding cacophony of breaking limbs, rushing leaves, and an earth shaking crash.

Their radios crackled, “Extraction Artillery, confirmed target down.  Repeat, Target down.  Fire provides moderate effect.  Recommended dismemberment and cauterization of downed target, to prevent regenerative abilities.”

Suddenly, the creatures unearthly aversion to Stone’s ‘light saber’ made all the more sense…but given it’s penchant to dodge it so deftly, it still rendered the weapon an ineffective means of assault.

Stone took a short draw on the freshly lit cigarette, “Okay.  So we have established the method of attack, but not the means…we need to come up with something outside the box.”

Pugga nodded as her breath came back, “Yeah…unfortunately it’s likely going to have to be something downright mental.  Something like…”

There was a momentary pause as they arrived on the same thought, and Rai from the silence, “like Agent.”

Stone emulating the ranger’s thinking, “What do we have around us?”

Rai survived the area quickly, “Lots of trees, obviously, debris, abandoned weapons, vehicles.  Drat, not much else though.”

Pugga took the thinking a step deeper, “We need fire.  We have firewood, and gasoline.”

The monster picked up another car.  And they all three, at that moment, had a plan.

Acting quickly they rushed back out into the opening, half surrounding the creature from behind and keeping it aggravated with gunfire.

As it raised the car it still held over it’s head and lumbered to turn toward them, Rai focused fire on the gas tank.  Enough shots hit home that the tank sprayed gasoline down and across the creature’s head and shoulders and began trickling down the torso, prompting Puggamoo to then start firing rounds to draw the thing’s attention more over to her and Stone.

As it completed a turn and hefted the car up for a throw, Stone held up his light saber as if it was a beer mug, and offered up, “Cheers!” before switching the blade on, and hurling it like a plasma buzz saw, up to the area between the car and the creature’s head.

The was a satisfying roar of flame instantly as the plasma super heated the liquid gasoline midair, and the that had accumulated vapors, creating a brilliant fireball.

The creature gave a shattering internal howl, as Pugga seized the chance, and drug her blade through a puddle of un-ignited gasoline, and went to work cutting the beast down as he blade burst into flame upon the first cut through the flaming mass as it flailed helplessly against the seaming fire.  In moments, it crumpled into a burning heap, unable to recover or resist further.

The three regrouped to their morbid bonfire, with Stone taking the last draw of the still lit cigarette before flicking it into the flames, “Good riddance.”

“Agreed.” Puggamoo added tiredly.

“Well… that worked.  But I’m going to leave the insano Rambo stuff to Agent moving forward…” Rai tagged to the end half brightly half exasperatedly.

The three nodded in agreement before Pugga offered up quizzically, “Stone, what about that light saber like blade of yours?  Did it survive the blast?”

He looked at her brightly, “Oh most certainly not.  If it survived it most assuredly melted it’s internal components on it’s own from overheating.”

Rai tilted her head apologetically, “That’s a heck of a thing to sacrifice, Zeke…I can call you that right?”

Stone chuckled, “Yes, you can.  And it was worth putting that thing down.  However…” he produced another cylinder from his coat, featuring more black components and some bluing work done on the metal.  He adjusted a few things on it before turning it on, a grayish blade of light spring forth with a familiar ‘thrum’, “…Rage had been working on this one for me.  Better heat sinks.  Parts are rare, so I’d not been using it until I had a reason.  I’d say now I do.”

The three, appreciating the moment of calm, then hurried to regroup those who had fallen back.

The commotion had since died down outside, leaving a very uncertain Charles Wagner standing contemplatively at the window.  Chyram was escorted back to her chair on the other side of the long table, and was tied there so the guards to take up more ready positions on either side of her, they waited for instructions intently.

A troubled quiet seemed to pervade the room, as Chyram was uncertain as to why.  It wasn’t usual for Charles to be so quiet.

Chyram looked to the floor, slowly losing herself in her own thoughts.  What could have happened out there?  Was everyone alright?  Did Malkoris hold up to questioning?  Was the guard who was lying…on the…floor…oka….WHAT?!”

Before she could make any sort of motion of surprise, the second guard fell into view and was set on the ground by a stranger in olive drag– who with his free hand was signaling for her to stay quiet.

Charles started talking, “Regardless of the outcome of those battles, that is all they are.  Battles.  The War…”

She’d heard this speech in a variation before, and mouthed wordlessly as he set to working on her rope tie with a knife, “Who are you?”

Agent mouthed back his eyebrow starting to twitch, “Rescue.”

She mouthed back incredulously, “Alone?”

Agent shrugged the side of his face fighting back a snarl, “No, but alone in here.”

“Are you insane?! …and what is wrong with your face?”

The rope came free and Agent unslung the assault rifle and gave it to her, while producing his usual combo of 1911 and knife, “He’s. Monologuing. At. Us.”

Agent leveled his aim, and Chyram lowered his gun down still mouthing words, even if they were against her snap judgements “No!  This is the chance for information!  He’s one of many and we need to know more!”

Agent’s twitch grew worse as Charles grew more dramatic, “Seriously?  He’s had you captive how long and had speeches like this how many times and there isn’t enough intel?  I hate talkative hostages.”

Chryam mouthed back darkly, “Who said anything about hostage?”

Agent nodded in an ‘ah-ha’ moment of understanding, his twitch subsiding suddenly.

The two suddenly became aware of the quiet, broken only by an impatient tapping of a shoe.

The two very slowly turned their heads from each other to the annoyed Charles Wagner, “Oh no please don’t let me interrupt.  I have the sense this is a private conversation and I’d so hate to ruin the sudden sense of hope…too soon.  I’d suspected I’d endure some manner of ill conceived attempt at rescue but this is laugh–”

Suspecting he was about to monologue again–Agent acted on reflex, and tossed an object into the air at an arc and moved forward to slam his heel into the table edge, flipping it up and into the way — shielding himself and Chyram from the blast of the flash bang.

What was odd is that there was a loud crash and splinted glass just before the grenade went off.

As their ears recovered, Agent switched his eyepatch over to his unaffected eye, and found himself routed in place as he had trouble processing the sight in front of him.

“Man of action it seems, fair enough.” Charles could be heard saying, as one of the monstrosities arms retracted from the window, revealing a highly annoyed Charles standing unfazed as the monster clung to the outside of the building.

Chyram finished rubbing her eyes to be transfixed momentarily the same as Agent.

Charles coughed once at the dust and debris that still hung airborne and then stared the duo down coldly, and spoke at length addressing not them, but the monster outside behind him, “Very well done my friend.  Would you now be so kind as to kill the spare?  Leave the chosen well enough though please, despite my attempts she refuses to realize her importance.”

Agent unfroze, reconsidering his options, and hit Chryam on the arm backhanded to snap her out of it, “We need to go, MOVE!”

She barely had time to manage a nod as the creature bellowed a howl, and threw a full room sweeping punch that Agent narrowly avoided.  The two barreled out the door and down the hall at top speed.

Charles spoke as if it was an afterthought, “Please do be quick about it.  I’d hate to have to go through the trouble of collecting her again.”

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FOXHOUND — Part 8, Is this….Too Easy for You?

Agent wasn’t much for reunions, so it was no surprise that when Malkoris greeted his housemates, and tended to the others held captive with them, Agent was busy on the radio relaying the situation and organizing a plan of escape.  Hope was nice, but Agent liked a good solid plan of action just a touch more.
Agent spoke quickly, “All set then?  I’ll instruct them to head for Point B, and have the collation forces move in.  I expect that sooner rather than later this string of good luck is going to run dry.”

Wichtia responded, the towers having swapped again to keep up modulation “Understood D.  We’ll instruct the forces accordingly.  They have word that the Cult deployed a small assault team, compete with a zeds in tow out to the location, may explain the low numbers.  Stone already reports it won’t pose much of an issue as AP arrived, and Alcatraz operatives are providing additional overwatch after arriving by chopper.  Modulation window upcoming, I’ll send the deploy before then.”

“Understood, I’ll relay accordingly and call back in.”  Agent turned to be startled to Malkoris and another standing directly behind him.

Malkoris gave a quick introduction “Agent, this is Beebles,” she waved offhandedly, she was a little worse for wear, but otherwise seemed simply glad to be moving under her own will for the moment.  Malkoris continued, “She and I took a quick count.  Everyone is here except Chyram.”

Agent gave a taken aback stare before Beebles chimed in, “Wagner likes keeping her separate apparently.  Good for keeping her, and our morale down maybe?  Man’s a nut so who knows.”

The two foxes were caught off by Agent’s sudden serious edge, “Where would he be now then?”

Beebles gave a wide eyed expression, “The guards kept say he called folks into the front office, top floor.  Probably there?”

Agent nodded, “I’ll investigate.  The Cult is moving against the survivor coalition, so staff here is slim, and chances are leadership is going to evacuate during the commotion.  I have to find him, and then by extension, her before that happens.  I unfortunately have jumped a gun and mobilized your extraction team…and we won’t be able to prevent that before an alarm is raised.”

“Malkoris immediately interjected, sensing the Ranger’s next motives, “I’m going with you.”

“Out of the question.”

“But she–”

“Out of the question.”



“You’ll need–”


“I can’t just–”

“You can, and you must, escort your housemates to the extraction point.  They trust you, and need you right now–they have no reason to trust me and I’m not the person they will rally behind on the fight out of here.  I need you to trust me to keep the promise I made the first time we met, that CSP would offer up assistance in rescuing Chyram.  Secure the escape route, and get properly armed so she and I have a place to go should I have success in locating her.”

An odd high tension silence fell between them, with Beebles shaking her head at the two, “So this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object…”

The two shot ice glares in her direction.

“Yow! Just trying to break the tension…but this fellow, Agent D?  Hate to say he has a point.  It’s the happiest I’ve seen the others in a while.  If anyone can keep this worn out crew motivated long enough to get us out, it’s going to have to be you or Chyram.”

Malkoris gritted his teeth, and as if on queue the exterior door began to open, an armed patrol with live radios rolled in under the barely opening door, on managed to get out, “Prisoners escap–” before the 5 man group got gunned down on entry with the stolen firearms.  Air raid alarms began to sound as the group took the extra equipment.”

Agent shot back at the scrambling foxes, “No more time, due west for here, NOW!  I’m heading over to the front office to see what I can do before we get positively identified!”  And with little more argument, they scrambled as directed and Agent torn across the open space, pulling the balaclava back over his head as he did so, as the entire base began to come alive in moments.

He barked into the radio as he rushed opting to the emergency frequency as the modulation would still be in flux and stealth was lost to them anyway, “Party inbound!  Requesting overwatch on paint shop and immediate evac!  Missing one, moving to Front Office as possible lead.  Live channels!”

Meanwhile, only a scant mile out from the base, a broken heap of groaning cult members lay strewn about a dirt roadway.  The survivor coalition had made short work of the advance force, and was no on to dispatching the haphazardly summoned zombie horde the Cultist brought in tow.

At some point, the three Stronghold leaders present had found themselves in a bit of a back to back circle, with Stone slicing down any errant zed hapless enough to wander into the circle with barely a thrum of his makeshift light saber and the trace amount of singed char wafting the air.

Puggamoo enjoyed an equal amount of efficiency, her high frequency blade cutting thorough anything she cared to guide the blade through.

Raikua, having gotten separated from Pae as some point in the encounter, had acquired a veritable arsenal of several mixed firearms she was wielding sparingly at anything moving too quickly for comfort.

Stone offer casually as he dispatched another over eager reacher with a deft slash and chuckled under his breath, “Seems we’re quite an efficient little group?  Don’t suppose we could have these sort of challenges more often?  What’s the counts again?  Pretty sure I’m on 235?  Give or take a couple.”

Pugga sliced down another two in mild false annoyance, “Really, right now?  If you must know 220.  Not exactly a game though.”

Rai took down a runner at distance, “Oh blah blah!  You two are showing off, I’m only up to 80!  But somebody has to make sure you melee masters don’t get swarmed!”

Stone chuckled back a Rai, “Fair point.”

The three and many others held there ground, managing a slow advance for the effort.

At the west gate, there was an odd moment of peace aside from the alarm siren at the watch point.  The guards could swear they heard a very quiet sound, almost like a mini copter somewhere, before a deafening whistle filled the air and a rapid and numerous mortar blasts salvos leveled their watch point, the fencing, and all defenses in between.

AJamz yelled over the shockwaves as they hit their location outside the base, “Boom!  Targets flattened, we have our opening!  Confirm with HQ and secure the breach!”

The extraction team, consisting of a handful of deployed Rangers and some volunteers form other houses, rushed the area.  A few sharpshooters hung back with appropriate long rifles and optics and picked off the few guards in nests at range as they came back out of cover.

The group rushed the broken defenses and established a perimeter, in time to see the group lead by Malkrois fighting there way over.

AJ directed a small detachment force on the fly and rallied to their position, moving the survivors to the breach point and keeping cover.

Agent in the meantime had rushed any guard that took too long a second glance at him and utilized in motion CQC to keep momentum.  The fallen offered a perfect excuse in other instances, as he pointed guards off in wild chases for non-existent intruders when they didn’t take the extra time to think.

He was making his last approach to the target building, when…

…there was some manner of unearthly howl.  Though perhaps howl wasn’t the right term for what they heard.

Everyone, at each location, froze and quiet hung in the air like a chilling mist.

And then it occurred again…

Cult members seemed to suddenly go rigid, eyes wide and trembling in those close enough to be seen by the attackers.

Stone, Rai and Pugga tried nervously to ascertain the direction.

AJ and the assault team brought the Terry Fox group into the breach and formed a complete perimeter.

Agent stopped and strained to understand the direction as it seemed to be felt more than heard, but for the life of him he couldn’t make out the source…and then it happened again, louder…and with more in chorus.  There was a sound of what almost could have been called a distant explosion, but in Agent’s case, a far building’s roof seemed to peel away from the inside from an incredible force, and dark shapes rocketed up and into the night sky as they sounded again.

The Cultists ran at the sound of the destruction.  And at each location, a few were unlucky enough to be caught by hulking forms that dropped form the sky.

At the location of the Stronghold leaders, two cultists were crushed upon the landing of a hulking creature, a story and a half high at least, and one unlucky enough to be before it was punched directly into the ground, his now crumpled form coming to rest in a newly minted indent in the ground from impact.  Prompting the trio to tentatively step back.

At the location of the extraction team, another of the creatures landed, and in the lighting had no discernible features beyond being a huge mass of muscles and bone in a vaguely humanoid shape.  Even it’s face was blank–the roar it emitted seeming to be a vibration from within itself.  It’s impact cratered the cracked blacktop, and it immediately swooped up a cultist to merely rip him in half and throw each piece off and away into the darkness beyond the lights in a fluid motion before hunching down and seeming to sense it’s surroundings as it did so.

And the last, smashed down to earth in Agent’s location, and proceeded to punch an unwitting cult guard, who entered the area just after the initial destruction of the far building’s ceiling, up into the sky with a deafening crunch.  The monstrosity seemed to sense about for anything else, but only seemed to find itself in a relatively empty parking lot, with several vehicles parked and about.  Sensing nothing of interest, it lumbered about and began to flip the cars and trucks it bounced into haphazardly.

Agent himself, on the other hand, was watching in abject horror at the thing began tossing cars like matchbox toys while arguably safe from inside the double doors of the rear side of the front office building, and listened to the resulting radio chatter and the sudden fighting that resulted from the arrival of these things.

Hissing under his breath, he proceeded to begin the infiltration of the building, in the hope he’d bring a quick resolution to this inadvertent madness before it escalated further.


Agent in the meantime had rushed any guard that took too long a second glance at him and utilized in motion CQC to keep momentum.  The fallen offered a perfect excuse in other instances, as he pointed guards off in wild chases for non-existent intruders when they didn’t take the extra time to think.

He was making his last approach to the target building, when…

…there was some manner of unearthly howl.  Though perhaps howl wasn’t the right term for what they heard.

Everyone, at each location, froze and quiet hung in the air like a chilling mist.

And then it occurred again…

Cult members seemed to suddenly go rigid, eyes wide and trembling in those close enough to be seen by the attackers.

Stone, Rai and Pugga tried nervously to ascertain the direction.

AJ and the assault team brought the Terry Fox group into the breach and formed a complete perimeter.

Agent stopped and strained to understand the direction as it seemed to be felt more than heard, but for the life of him he couldn’t make out the source…and then it happened again, louder…and with more in chorus.  There was a sound of what almost could have been called a distant explosion, but in Agent’s case, a far building’s roof seemed to peel away from the inside from an incredible force, and dark shapes rocketed up and into the night sky as they sounded again.

The Cultists ran at the sound of the destruction.  And at each location, a few were unlucky enough to be caught by hulking forms that dropped form the sky.

At the location of the Stronghold leaders, two cultists were crushed upon the landing of a hulking creature, a story and a half high at least, and one unlucky enough to be before it was punched directly into the ground, his now crumpled form coming to rest in a newly minted indent in the ground from impact.  Prompting the trio to tentatively step back.

At the location of the extraction team, another of the creatures landed, and in the lighting had no discernible features beyond being a huge mass of muscles and bone in a vaguely humanoid shape.  Even it’s face was blank–the roar it emitted seeming to be a vibration from within itself.  It’s impact cratered the cracked blacktop, and it immediately swooped up a cultist to merely rip him in half and throw each piece off and away into the darkness beyond the lights in a fluid motion before hunching down and seeming to sense it’s surroundings as it did so.

And the last, smashed down to earth in Agent’s location, and proceeded to punch an unwitting cult guard, who entered the area just after the initial destruction of the far building’s ceiling, up into the sky with a deafening crunch.  The monstrosity seemed to sense about for anything else, but only seemed to find itself in a relatively empty parking lot, with several vehicles parked and about.  Sensing nothing of interest, it lumbered about and began to flip the cars and trucks it bounced into haphazardly.

Agent himself, on the other hand, was watching in abject horror at the thing began tossing cars like matchbox toys while arguably safe from inside the double doors of the rear side of the front office building, and listened to the resulting radio chatter and the sudden fighting that resulted from the arrival of these things.

Hissing under his breath, he proceeded to begin the infiltration of the building, in the hope he’d bring a quick resolution to this inadvertent madness before it escalated further.

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FOXHOUND — Part 7, Gambling Man

After checking in over radio, Malkoris and Agent dawned the guise of balaclavas acquired from the cultist guards, and rearmed with the gear they had, which they were surprisingly well armed compared to the other patrols.  Given the disturbing unevenness of cult attire, they could pass as guards if they remained at distance and moved somewhat decidedly.  Agent had switched his patch over once out doors again to take advantage of not needing to adapt to the dark.

The duo kept a brisk pace as much as Malkoris was able to get across the complex.  Their present goal a repurposed industrial paint shop of sorts  Malkrois was hiding it well, but fatigue and captivity had not been kind to him.

Agent noted the manned positions as they went as the patrols had finally swapped for the evening, as he figured he’d need them somewhat close to the forefront of his mind once escorting people out.

They waited briefly outside while Malkoris steadied himself.

“Are you sure you are up to this?  I can scope this out on my own if you just keep watch here.” Agent offered tentatively.

Malkoris shot back shortly but not unkindly, “My effective family is likely in there awaiting so terrible fate at gunpoint…I am NOT waiting outside while you risk your life doing something I should be doing.”

Agent nodded in understanding but still countered, “While I agree to the sentiment, this sort of thing is my bread and butter.  Last I checked, even on a good day this isn’t your kind of rodeo.  You always stuck me as a level headed sort of broker.”

Malkoris gave Agent a narrow glare.

Agent backpedalled halfheartedly, “Alright, alright…but if you’re coming, if I say to do something, you do it.  Act, don’t think.  I’m not a strapping survivor like the hardcore survivors you hear about.  My one, and perhaps only, combat strength is decisive use of what I have available, and ALL that is available.  Understood?”

Both shared a nod of agreement before they geared back up, cracked the door for an all clear, and entered the building.

While the building was large in size, there wasn’t much to be had in the way of rooms.  The two found themselves in a glass office space, looking out into a large open shop with a concrete block garage bay with it’s doors closed lined up with the exterior shutter doors, a narrow space on the right allowing for staff to go to the opposite side and the opposite doors, minus additional office space.

A patrol walked away from them in the area in the narrow space, a lone guard could be seen watching into the interior garage space via a window in the door.  The space they were in now was low lit, and featured a lone switched off radio and a laptop computer.  Readouts on it showed the status of the immediate building entryways and power draw.  Available power was confirmed, as Agent suspected, very low.  A hasty sign out sheet on the screen showed 3 active staff on duty for the night shift, and a prisoner roster of numbers.  Malkoris noted in a hushed voice that would account for his house and then some, 25 in all.

Thankfully, it seemed no one was yet the wiser to their presence as the two patrollers round the corner.  It became clear the guard at the window was antagonizing those inside the enclosure –his weapon propped against the door, they vaguely made out the line, “your friend will be joining you here soon — you know the loud one.  You all can have one more night as a bunch of foxes before you’re all undead.” and as a result Malkoris’ ire was becoming progressively more evident.  They also noted that the door looked to be kept shut via a hastily installed keypad…likely locked by code.

Agent cautioned, “If you can’t separate yourself from the situation at hand you should let me handle it.  But otherwise, if you can keep your cool, I may have an idea.”

The two shared a quick exchange of Agent’s plan, leaving Malkrois questioning the man’s sanity, but nonetheless ready to attempt it.

The guard was interrupted form his gesturing through the window to the prisoners with a start when a gruff voice called out, “Bringing back this one, Malcork was it?”

“It Malkorissss–” Malkrois hissed as the gun barrel was pressed into his back sharply.

“Didn’t ask you.”

The guard saw Malkrois, now against a head covering being lead with his hands on his head at gun point up to him, escorted by a man in the uniform balaclava, who was surprisingly well equipped…maybe one of the favorites up the chain?

The guard chimed back “Oh, so here’s finally back huh?  Maybe he has more life in him than this lot.  They stopped being fun hours ago.  Say, why’s he not tied up?”

The unknown guard shrugged,  “Dunno, guys dragging him round pawned him off on me outside when I was leaving my shift and helped subdue em’. Almost thrashed himself free they said.  Put a barrel to his head and kept it on him sense.  I call it proper motivation.”

The guard nodded, still a bit skeptic.

The unknown guard jabbed at Malkoris again, causing a painful grunt, “So we putting him in?  Or what?”

Bewildered, the guard turned and began to enter the code to the keypad, “I could have swore he…well, whatever, doesn’t really mat-” and once his finger hovered over the okay button, the guard’s head cracked against the wall and he slumped over…which was Agent’s and Malkoris’s queue to switch up, with Malkrois pulling a handgun out and then taking the slumped guard hostage.  Agent feigned additional struggle sounds while still masked, and crumpling to the floor out in front of where Malkrois took up position.

The two remaining guards had called out at the noise and sudden scuffle and asked what was wrong, and when no reply came they rushed down the narrow passage and around the corner to a crazed Malkoris holding the unconscious guard hostage.

Expectedly, the two laughed, with one offering, “Oh, good planning!  Now what?  So you have a hostage?  But where are you going to go besides back into holding?”

One guard rapped Agent on the shoulder, “Hey, pal, you okay?  Hey?  I think he’s out Biggs.”

The guard called Biggs grunted, “Well then, we’ll just take it out on ‘Milkweeds’ fox friends if he doesn’t start behaving himself, right Wedge?”

When the two leveled their weapons at Malkoris and moved by Agent, still tossing out casual insults.

Malkrois offered unsteadily, “You keep talking like that, and your friend here is a dead man.”

“As if you’d really do that — your type doesn’t stomach killing without good reason, so go on then prove us — URK, AKck ulph urr….uuuuuhhhhh……”

Agent finished slamming their heads together multiple times with a bit of undue satisfaction as they collapsed to the floor, “Idiots…at least take the safety off if you are going to talk tough…”  He then resoundingly cracked their heads into the floor for good measure, and repeated the process with the guard Malkoris held as well.

“Wasn’t that… a little much?”

“Do you feel sorry for them?  They’ll probably live though that if it helps, though perhaps with some memory loss…which is against my better judgment.”

“I don’t really no.  And I can understand why.”

Without much more of a word, Agent hit the okay key on the pad, and the door began to lift itself up slowly the resounding rumbling echo of a metal shutter door…

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FOXHOUND — Part 6, Long Time No See

“You’re lucky to still be alive, but seems he wanted you to make it long enough to join your fellow rabble in the end…”

Agent strained to hear the voices through the still closed door…they were getting closer.  Probably would pass close…

“…so you get your wish, fella, you get to know how those foxes of yours are doing finally, at long last.”

Agent could make out two sets of boots, and one distinct sound of dragging.  Very close now…

“Mrhblm, grble!”, by all accounts a gagged voice, a bit raspy.

“See, look how excited he is!  The whole lot of them back together!  And no more travel for the crew either, they finally can all rest and relax.”

They passed by.  Agent cracked open the door a millimeter and saw them dragging a man by the shoulders in ripped up and mudded clothing, his hands and ankles tied and mouth gagged by rolls of cloth.  Agent quickly and silently swung the door wider and survived the area as he did so until he had scoped the full 180 view.  Empty!?!  Save for the 4 of them.  He fell into a silent crouch and began to catch up to the 2 cult members and the hostage heading left and south.  They were lightly armed and weapons stowed on shoulder straps.  Agent gratefully accepted the good fortune.

In the low lighting, Agent could recall the man’s face, despite the grime and slight malnutrition that had come into play — and Malkoris looked back in surprise recognition as well, albeit a bit weakly.  The escorting duo kept talking in thinly veiled metaphors for ‘bad things await’

Agent slightly motioned hush as he caught up to the three, and Malkoris nodded slightly, then he waited for the appropriate moment as the trip he was tailing come to a part of the production area that narrowed due to a safety barricade.

“…pal, you won’t have to worry about much of anything right soon, you know wh–” CRACK

“”Hey, wha–WHO–” CRACK

In a fluid chain of motion, Agent took his elbow and leapt into the escort on the right, planting his elbow at the point of the skull meeting the spine, forcing the hapless soul full force and face first into the edge of the barricade with a resounding crack.  As the other tried to respond, he spun into the barricaded area, causing the first escort and Malkoris to separate and the full weight of the captive survivor drug down the second escort.

Agent then braced his side against the barricade and side kicked the other’s head, catching him flat of boot to temple, into the opposite concrete wall.  The force stung Agent’s shoulder, but the resound crack was more than ample proof, if the slumping form wasn’t, that there wasn’t going to be a fast recovery.

Within a breath, Agent had already set to work on cutting Malkoris free, “Can you walk?”

As soon as the cloth was free of his mouth, Malkoris coughed once cleared his throat, and replied horsely but decidedly, “I’m fine…at least, fine enough.  When…How?”

Agent motioned him to remain silent, and grabbed one of the unconscious guards and bid Malkoris do the same.  Once the two where back in the direct office, stripped the guards of their equipment, and stole the balaclavas they took a moment to speak.  Malkoris mainly barraging the Range with a series of questions.

Agent expressed the basics of the current plan, before Malkoris went into a different line of questioning.

“The last time we spoke, you weren’t unsympathetic, but this level of involvement seems…almost a complete reversal of that.  Why you?  Why here?  Why so much for us?”  Malkoris tried to wrap his head around the rogue ranger’s thinking.

Agent paused and considered it himself momentarily before speaking, “I suppose, it’s because I began looking into Terry Fox’s handiwork.  Once I did, I understood all too well what this Cult could really represent, and what you, and Chyram, and everyone at your stronghold meant for the survivor ‘community’ at large.  In a cut throat world…kindness is rare…unconditional kindness is even more so.  Terry Fox was trying to bridge the gap between groups of survivors in a world that encourages burning them.  Losing that…well… you’d feel those effects no matter how far into the woods you’d retreat.”

Malkoris didn’t really know what to respond with, and so Agent filled in the momentary lapse into silence, “Besides, two of my trackers are in FEMA care because of these morons.  Before you ask, they are recovering and are very much alive.  However I intend to pay these Cultists back for that, with loan shark levels of due interest…I can think of no better a start than repossession of their hostage assets.  From there, I think I’ll start accepting blood…”

The attempt at humor at the start wasn’t lost on Malkoris, but the ice in Agent’s eyes by the end made the statement far more threatening than funny, and the two guards now bound with the ropes once holding Malkoris lying motionless –and quite possibly lifeless– at their feet punctuated the thought.

Agent seemed to snap back into focus, “They were taking you somewhere, do you know where?”

Malkoris shook off his momentary apprehension of the Ranger, “Not precisely, they move folks about using blindfolds most of the time.  But if I heard enough banter it’s a place that used to be subject to ‘overspray’, a paint shop I’d guess?  They use it as an airborne chemical lab now, and run mass tests on new strains.  I suspect that at dawn they plan…”

Agent nodded, “We’ll be out of here well before dawn.  Come Hell or high water.  And with the crew gathering a short way from here, I’m placing bets on Hell first.”

Malkoris shook the negative thoughts from his mind, “So, how many others are with you?”


“I mean, here inside their base.”

“Same answer.”

Malkoris’s jaw dropped, “Are you insane?!”

“Okay, how did you get in then?!”


“I’m beginning to lose track, is that a joke?”


“Corrected assessment: Very insane.”

Agent gave a wry -devil-may-care grin, “Now you’re getting it.”

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FOXHOUND — Part 5, Infiltrator

The altitude clicked by.  An audible tone would occur when Agent needed to slow himself down.  He would be attempting to accomplish a very low parachute opening to avoid detection.  The gear for automatic detection was a gift from Alcatraz.

The outpost below continued to reveal more and more detail as he rocketed downward and on target, the reports and images — a mix provided by more technology rich Strongholds and a touch of information supplied from CVC itself — appeared to be quite accurate.  Flashlight beams of patrols could be seen as reported.  Many spotlights appeared off, or dimmed, however.  Perhaps power was presently a concern  — but Agent counted it a small blessing.  Only the outermost lights appeared on, leaving his target zone effectively pitch dark inside the base perimeter.

The base kept taking up more of Agent’s view, and he clamped down on his nerves and kept using his hands — finally warming back up as the temperature kept increasing — to stay on target.

At last the tone sounded, and as instructed smoothly maneuvered himself so that he created the most drag his body could provide.  He slowed in descent, and shortly after a second tone sounded as the ground now was becoming a little close for comfort.

This was the queue to alert that the automatic fire should occur for the chute.  Agent held his frame somewhat braced, so that the shock wouldn’t pull anything to hard, just in case…he felt the pop of the chute, and counted to 3 as instructed, and looked up.  The night sky was blocked by an open chute.  Agent tested the brakes in the brief time he had — all good, but almost late.  He adjusted, steered and had 20 seconds of airtime as he purposely jettisoned the chute and tumbled the last 5 feet, quickly righting and bringing down the chute cloth before it could drift further beyond the area into better lighting and potentially give him away.

On quick assessment, the area around him was indeed a waste disposal designated area.  trucking containers turned dumpsters littered the zone and rotten smells pervaded.

No search lights or patrols seemed alerted, this timing was to be in the last quarter of an observed patrol schedule, and so it was hoped inattention would be at its highest as patrols would be without food and at the end of a long day before changing out.

Agent collected the chute hurriedly and tossed it into one of the disposal dumpsters, and removed any excess kit in turn.  The extra weight and cloth would ultimately be a hinderance.  Agent had adopted a splitter style face paint to reduce light glare, but retained his olive drab gear color.  He dawned an eyepatch as well, intending to use it as a means to transition from dark to light when making it indoors inevitably, and he rapidly adopted the usual 1911 and knife combo.

Flipping the VOX switch on his right shoulder he spoke quietly into the clear channel, ” T1, D here.  Touched down.  No alerts at present, surprisingly and thankfully.  Moving into operations.”

Tower 1, Wichita, radioed back, “Understood, no new information from the FHQ.  Stick to the plan and investigate target buildings as directed.  Modulation shift in 10.  Alley will pick up on Tower 2.  Stay aware out there.”

“Understood.  Will adjust frequency and check in upon arriving at first location.”

Agent clicked off VOX and reviewed the path to his target through a small set of binoculars he produced from a side pack.  He’d be going past an old depot delivery building now turned scrap yard just a couple hundred yards away, and past an open gravel lot littered with vehicles of many shapes and types that was poorly lit.  From there, he’d stick to the outside of an old weld facility, now rusting from lack of care, and move on to what was once a final production building.  It was highlighted as a likely place to keep detainees, as it featured the most securable entryways and was generally a more secure environment.

One patrol looked to be going through the area, only 3 in total.  They were heavily clothed, faces obscured by balaclavas.  One had a pistol at his side — too far to make out model, the other an assault rifle, and the final a shotgun.  The disparity of equipment was interesting to note.  Only 2 seemed to have flashlights.  Perhaps they had more people than they had supplies at the moment?   And judging by a searchlight fizzing out in the distance followed by loud curses echoing across the surprisingly quiet industrial complex, the guess that power was scarce was not to far off — an attempt to restart it caused the base’s lights to dim.  If this was the sudden norm, it was no wonder they had been planning to move from here in the coming days.  Defense would become untenable.

Despite the many patrols Agent could make out, only the one posed an issue at present. Low murmurs of conversation could be heard in the cool night air, so numbers appeared to be strong.  Staying low, Agent began the trek across the spaces, staying far enough back from the patrol to have ample time to find cover and sticking to walls and objects so as not to freely present a silhouette in the open.  He noted that the ‘nests’ highlighted in imagery where indeed present, but only a handful manned, and fewer still seemed armed with actual long range arms.  Most had at best low caliber hunting rifles with narrow optic scopes — making darkness shots highly improbable.

After an agonizing time of low to the ground skulking, and a narrow miss of sighting by a surprise patrol rounding the corner of a building that Agent dodged by baseball sliding under a military style truck, he stood pressed against the exterior wall of the first building in question.

At length he found an entrance that was guarded only by a passing patrol, and after an inspection yielded no sign of security devices nor activity on the other side, breached the entryway with a well placed kick. and clear checked the interior.

“T2, D Here. Beginning investigation of TL1.”

Alley’s voice came clearly over the channel “T2 Responding.  Understood.  Guardian T5 hails ready.  Overwatch capable.  Modulation in 30.”

“Affirmative, hold until mark.” Agent confirmed quietly, noting this meant his close support team had arrived in the area outside of the perimeter and included a repurposed scout drone if needed.

But back to the room at hand, the inside was dimly lit by emergency fire alarm lighting, and seemed largely clear.  Dust swirled in the air in what was once likely an office space for the assembly line workers.  Old computers and papers sat idle and forgotten.  The next door was barred from this side, denoting this space was likely an ‘airlock’ against escape, and possibly attacking zeds.

Agent closed the other door again behind him, doing his best to make it visually appear intact despite having bent the aluminum door frame, and saw faint traces of better lighting on the other side of the interior barred door that would presumably lead out into the production floor.  He carefully used his hatchet to begin undoing the barricades as quietly as possible.

As the last board fell, Agent could make out faint conversation as he readied his regular equipment…

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FOXHOUND — Part 4, Freefall

Engine Roar.  It could be calming when it wasn’t rattling your brains in their skull.

Still it was something to focus on.  Nerves tended to get the better of you when you had too long to think about things.

A loudspeaker buzzed and the pilot’s voice came across to the rear bay, “Flying to within visual range.  Cutting exterior lights.  Altitude 30,000 feet.  20 Minutes to drop-off.  Beginning depressurization.”

The co-pilot came across next, “Still have high pressure in drop zone.  High Visibility.”

At this point, his knee bounced continually and involuntarily from nerves, better to let jitters play themselves out now than later.  The briefing played out in his mind again as the pilot instructed over the loudspeaker to put on the oxygen mask.

The base, as it was now being taken to be called, was about 1 mile by 1 mile and was marked by roughly 15 or so aging industrial manufacturing buildings.  It was indefensible by anything less than a large occupying force given the size and scope, but it was nonetheless fortified all the same and as a result could not simply be breached by conventional means.  Razor 10 foot fencing, patrols, searchlights, half walls, storm abatement ditches and possible sniper nests meant an approach would be spotted easily, and being spotted was counter productive at this stage.

Reports gathered gave a high probability for this base to act as a hostage or captive keeping location, and new reports verified some, if not all, of the abducted Terry Fox Stronghold crew had found their way to this location as supplies and materials were pooled by the Cult in lieu of a massive relocation and probable conflict with survivor safehouses.  Leadership in the Cult was also purported to be gathered at this location temporarily to orchestrate this effort.  This could be the last practical chance at a rescue attempt before the Cult vanished back into obscurity, and a golden opportunity to squelch a shadow organization at it’s root.

The overhead map of the location flickered in memory, he’d be entering in an isolated area — suspected to be a disposal zone.  It should be largely vacant, and that way no one would be readily alerted to his entry.  It was well enough inside the boundaries that eyes should reasonably be elsewhere.

“Your parachute shows as armed.  Oxygen live.  10 Minutes to Drop off.”

An audible dying hiss in the rear hold marked the end of the pressure, the copilot now crackled over the speakers, “Internal depressurization complete.”

Mental equipment check occurred as a matter of habit, aside from parachute and oxygen equipment, the usual kit was in tow.  Now including extra mags, medical gear, an additional hollow blade hatchet, and an assault rifle in place of tent, flashbangs, hand grenades, rations, and survival kit.  The fire starter and kerosine soaked kindling was kept.  Each piece of equipment was mentally reviewed, in location and use, the last spot check of the 1911 was made, and knives properly secured.  Radio tuned to proper frequencies while off.

“6 minutes to drop off, opening rear hatch.”

The air buffeted the hold as the rear door of the C-130 opened.  The darkening sunset sky barely came into view.  It was to be a moonless night.  At this altitude, the last glimpse of the sun could be seen as the airplane banked for the last time on approach.  At ground level, it would already be nearly dark.  This was the last chance to get mental clarity and calm, so he took it and focused on breathing.

“Outside temperature is -50 Degrees Fahrenheit.  Try to avoid frostbite on the way down.”

“2 Minutes to drop off.  Agent D, stand up, switch to radio.”

Agent did as instructed, the now unabated roar of the engines becoming a dull thrum.  His earpiece crackling to life and going quiet as it picked up the boosted and clear signal of the secure channel from back home.

His earpiece echoed the shortwave radio signal, tuned in to the second channel, the pilot came through clearly, “One minute to drop off.  Status okay.  All green.  Move to the rear.”

“Secured CSP radio here, we show green from Tower 1.  Awaiting drop.”

Agent nodded to himself, unable to reply properly due to the oxygen mask and parachute rigging.

The copilot rang for one last over the radio. “Agent, 10 seconds to drop off at count.  Do us a favor?  Bring’em home, or bring the Cult leaders down.  Good luck.  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,”

Agent stood at the very edge of the rear hatch, as the count continued, the Cult base appeared from the hatch edge far below–more than enough lights on to make for a clear target.  Agent tried to not let his knees lock.  Truth be told, heights were never his thing.

“4, 3, 2, 1 — Time to fly!”

Agent hesitated for only a moment, but recalling how much work had been put toward this moment, those gathering some miles away to facilitate the escape and assault, those who still survived directly below…he relaxed his legs and let himself overbalance forward, and in an instant, experienced all the confusing sensations of free falling as the engine roar grew dimmer and dimmer, replaced by the whistling of air past his mask as he slowly tumbled.  It was only another moment more before he figured out how to right himself, and soar toward the base below on target as he was trained to do at takeoff.

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FOXHOUND — Part 3, Last Minute Reinforcement

It was loud.  Really loud.  Raikua wasn’t used to being in a helicopter like this one.

Rai kept her hand pressed over the ears of her headset to make sure she could hear any communications that happened to come through.  She slightly envied Pae, who seemed to be quite comfortable across from her seat in the rear.  They were aboard a reconditioned military helicopter, piloted by a man named aliased Vortex.  Rai and Pae had been helping set up secured communications relays for the upcoming assault — but had decided at the last minute to want to be in the area of operations rather than heading up things at the safehouse.

Alcatraz was in a better position than most houses to operate as an HQ, and had technology to spare to provide functional intelligence.  Michuru also happily agreed to man the helm so to speak while the two inmates sped to the meeting point to help rally their volunteers and provide any help they could.

Vortex barked across the crackling headsets, “Halfway there, if the visibility and pressure keep up like this, we’ll be well early.  Might even beat that Ranger if we’re lucky.”

Rai nodded to the rear view mirror along with Pae, as the mics on their headsets were set to broadcast outside of the copter.  Rai ran through the discussed plans on last time in her head, and tuned her headset into a secured frequency of 141.12 with a slight smirk of recognition.

She tentatively spoke as clearly as she could given the din of the helicopter, “Raikua reporting, clearance S-L-0-W-H-4-N-D.”

The channel crackled slightly before a voice, a bit echoey, but still largely audible, responded back, “Confirmed.  CSP Responder Tower 2, frequency modulation pattern 2, variant B.”

Rai adjusted her radio to the predetermined plan, “Raikua Reporting, S-L-0-W-H-4-N-D.  Key, Laruel.  Please disregard.”

A slight hiss followed and then a clearer and new voice came over the radio on a cleaner channel, “CSP Encrypted Tower 1, Thank you Raikua for authenticating your code will expire in 27 more hours.  Wichita speaking, what can we do for you?”

“Wanted to be sure the latest information was in — we are on our way to the meeting point KSAT established.  Are…is he…I mean, are things still going as planned?  Does he want to use any of the already setup channels so we can monitor and assist?  They are now all secured.”

Wichita replied assuringly, “Everything  as planned, correct.  And while we thank you for the offer, No, off channels like these are still best for us.  They modulate rather than encrypt and are far harder to intercept.  It’s crude, but it’s what we have.  On top of that, the Cult’s attention should be on the large movement of manpower and all communications therein.  If we want this surprise to be effective, then we can’t take chances on being found out.  The more people think everyone is meeting at that one point, the better”

Rai shifted uneasily, “I’m still not happy with it.  I feel like it’s unfair.”

“I doubt he thinks so.  Knowing him he considers it to be acceptable losses if it goes wrong.  Some of the Rangers abroad would gladly trade him…but we know he wouldn’t have it so we didn’t bother to argue.  I know Fizzzzz was chomping at the bit to go in and bust a few skulls.  The Cult has been getting under his skin lately.  If it wasn’t for the fact we’re bolstering house defenses for small houses while they send staff to the forward camp we’d probably have forced his hand.”

Rai shook her head disapprovingly and performed a midair headdesk, “How do you all deal with it?  He practically seemed unfazed when he made the declaration,” Rai put on her best puffed up voice, “Leave the hostage situation to me; this is best done covertly and, with respect, that’s got CSP Ranger written all over it.”

Rai’s impersonation got a laugh out of Wichita, “He can be a little bit set in his ways, and the bravado I’ve come to understand is more to quell counter arguments moreso than act tough.  But, its how he rolls.  No sense in trying to talk sense into the decidedly senseless.”

Defeated by Wichita’s upfront assessment, Rai could help but add quizzically, “And the Rangers are okay with that?  Taking on the nigh impossible at the drop of a hat?  Having a leader that makes up plans and weapons on the absolute fly?”
Wichita responded back a bit playfully, “Would we still be calling ourselves Rangers if we weren’t?  Besides, I think we came to terms a long time ago with the idea that the bigger the challenge, the better a team we can become to face it.  In his case, he just internalizes that idea at an individual level.  So when he can place his trust in everyone around him to make sure the job gets done, he usually can’t help himself–and then put’s himself in the position of greatest dependance on others.”

Rai retorted, “But he’s…!”

Wichita cut her off politely, “…running on information gathered by AP informants, processed by Alcatraz systems into real intel and map data, and relayed to him over KSAT provided towers that are extending CSP range.  Rangers are moving into position to provide recon and realtime scouting and have already forward deployed more fitting kit for what he plans to do.  He would tell you he’s doing the easy part, hands down.  He’s anything but alone.”

Rai didn’t have anything to reply with, so she settled for, “Well, guess that’s a FACT, huh?  I hope it goes without any incident.”

Wichita replied on last time before they ended coms, “You and me both, but if anyone is going to pull a fox out of this mad hat — my bets are on Agent D.”

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