10/09/2012

Cosmic Flash - Chapter 9: Derek Tempest




Honarians have always been drawn together by their brotherhood.  Their tight-knit race, built on the principles of loyalty and integrity, prided themselves in many things that they shared unity in but there was one that they would all agree was singlehandedly the most important thing that kept their culture alive and continually brought them together: Wineball.  The Sport of the Benevolos, an ancient pantheon of celestial beings once worshipped by the now extinct Paradians and later adopted by the Honarians, who founded the sport.  The rules of the game were simple but challenging.  There are nine heavily-armored players on each team and the game is played in a massive Octagon-shaped Arena on a field covered in obstacle courses.  On either side of the field, there are three rings embedded into a wall called the Tri-Port, each set belonging to the other team, which they use to score.  The rings glow red around the edges but one is always glowing green and they continually alternate between each other.  A player can only score by making a shot in the green ring; shooting into a red ring calls for a penalty.

Out of the nine players on each team, there are three "Kingmen."  They are assigned to pass and shoot the "Core," a glowing ball of energy, into one of the Tri-Ports.  They carry a two-foot long metal rod called a "Striker" strapped onto their backs, which are used combatively for defense and offense against their opponents.  Using the Strikers, they can intercept the Core from the opposing team or fight off other enemies trying to steal it from their own team.  All players are outfitted with "Breakers," launching devices kept on their left or right arm.  When a Kingman gets within a certain vicinity of the Tri-Port with the Core in his possession, they are then allowed to insert it into their Breaker, which lets them point, aim, and launch the Core into one of the Tri-Port Rings in order to score.  They cannot insert the Core into their Breaker until they cross the "Checkpoint," the vicinity they need to be in in order to shoot.  A simple Striker to a Breaker will cause the Core to pop out and can be intercepted by the opposing team.  At the start of each game and after each score, the Core is shot out from the center of the field and falls into the hands of whichever Kingman happens to gain posession of it.

Joining the Kingmen are the two "Protectors" or known better by their general term, "Proties," who are tasked with protecting the three Kingmen.  They aren't permitted to handle the Core on their own, but they can attack the opposite team and relinquish the Core from them for their Kingmen to obtain.  Proties are also outfitted with Strikers, only theirs are four to six feet long and they also have custom Breakers used to fire long-ranged concentrated bursts of energy to deter their enemies.  Unfortunately, a Proty Breaker cannot be used to attack a Kingman, but only other Proties, otherwise a penalty will be called, docking points from their score.  Proties and Kingmen are interchangeable positions, like starters and benchwarmers of a basketball team.

Accompanying them are the last four members of the team called "Riders."  They are separated into two groups with two members in each: Ace Riders and Spade Riders.  Both are tasked with operating specially-designed hover bikes called "Faeries" outfitted with their own custom devices and gadgets, some of which are sold to them by varying companies through endorsements, some manufactured by their own Faerie-Tech and Merchandising lines.  Ace Riders use their Faeries to create surface-based diversions and obstacles on the field in order to distract or obstruct an opposing Kingman's path.  Spade Riders have the same job, only they operate through an underground system and can see the action through a transparent ceiling showing the activities above them while using ground-based obstacles to deter their opponents.  Both Ace Riders and Spade Riders can battle their opposing team members and use gadgets of their own to prevent their opposing team's Riders' obstacles or diversions from working.

One of the main rules of the game is that only Wartigh fighting techniques can be used to subdue an opponent if they are not a Rider.  Using unfair, dirty, or unsportsman-like tactics to gain the upper hand will result in a penalty, reviewed by referees who observe the game from the wall just above the arena.  There are four quarters in a game, each one lasting a total of ten clicks.  However, the end of each quarter begins the most interesting part of the game known as the "Frenzy," a spontaneous sixty mark period in which all players are allowed to score, including Proties and Riders (using their own breakers), all rings turn green, all rules become decommissioned, the Core dispenses immediately after a score without any delay, and no time outs can be called,.  After halftime, the Tri-Ports on each end of the Octagon-shaped arena will begin to rotate to different sides of the Octagon, making it more difficult to get from end to end, however, they always stay across from one another.  During the final quarter, they move faster and sometimes reverse direction to keep the players on their toes.

There are teams throughout the North Circuit representing separate provinces on each planet who all compete against one another.  The sport's name was originally something different entirely but was renamed Wineball during the Terra Renaissance due to its violent nature, its aptitude for drawing blood in confrontations, and that blood's resemblance to various forms of the earth luxury elixir known as Wine (humans and most creatures have blood resembling red wine, but other inhabitants of the North Circuit bleed in colors similar to other forms of wine as well, thus the comparison).  At the start of every Arian year on Aesir 1, there is a championship tournament called the Wine Cup Finals featuring teams generating the best record of the previous season (each season starting on Vanir 1 and ending on Aesir 2, allowing players time off for a month).

This year, as with many other Arian years in the past, it came down to two teams: The Scarlin Moores and the Telx Ailosses, both of which were from Honarian provinces.  It was apparent that most of the other provinces of the North Circuit were only given the opportunity to create teams and join the Wine Ball League at the start of the Unity of Stars for the sake of good planetary neighborliness, because it had yet to occur as of the last few thousand years that any non-Honarian team in the league has ever won a championship game and few have ever even made it to the Finals.  And this was no exception.  On the night of the tournament, the teams were going at it with skill never before witnessed, a truly historic match for anyone lucky enough to obtain tickets to witness it.

One such individual was a young human male by the name of Derek Tempest, who stepped into the massive Wine Cup Stadium with a drinking pouch and a tray of goads, a traditional kernel ground and manufactured from Honarian crops that resembled the earthling's popcorn.  Derek held the tray at his hip and found a single seat within the massive crowd that happened to be vacant.  He politely excused himself through before sitting down and smiling as the Moores scored a goal and his side erupted into cheers now that the score was 5 to 3 in the first quarter.  As he dug into his goads and took a sip from the nozzle on his orange pouch, a large male Golem walked by, his large rock-like hands on his tray as he attempted to scoot through the crowd.  There was barely enough room for him and just before he got in front of Derek, his tray hit the edge of one of the chairs and he dropped it in front of him, spilling it all across the floor.  Just then, a Moore Kingman sprinted across the Checkpoint with the Core in his hand and shoved it into the compartment on the top of the breaker, cocking back its hammer.  He pulled his striker out from his back and bat away several Proties before jumping over a small hill and readying the breaker in front of him.  Just then, a large explosion went off, shooting him and the dirt from the field into the air and sending them flying across the arena while the Core went off in another direction, landing right in the hands of an Ailoss Kingman due to the efforts made by an Ailoss Spade Rider.  The entirety of their side of the crowd booed angrily, throwing their refreshments farther down by the wall and into the field to show their displeasure.

"I'm so sorry," the Golem said apologetically, attempting to pick up some of the goads that had fallen.  Derek had gotten up out of his seat, laying his own tray on it as he helped the Golem get his food.  The goads were still eatable even though they'd fallen on the floor so they tried to collect all of them.

"Its no problem at all," Derek said politely and saw that the Golem had dropped more than just the goads.  As the two continued to pick them up, he watched as the Golem swept a small square device under Derek's seat and continued to pick up the food.  Derek noticed this and once they were all retrieved, he smiled brightly at the Golem, who returned it and continued onward down the row of seats.  Derek picked up his tray again and sat back down, waiting for a while as he watched the Golem disappear into the crowd and turned back to the game.

The timer went down to zero at the end of the first quarter and the bulbs in the stadium suddenly went dark, now illuminating red, blue, and green lights from the wall of the octagon arena.  The crowd erupted into cheers as the Frenzy began.  Derek dipped down under the seat and picked up the small square, sitting back as everyone stood and jumped up and down, watching the Moore Kingman currently in possession of the Core get completely blindsided by an Ailoss Ace Rider's Faerie.  The Rider hopped off and grabbed hold of it but was double-teamed by a pair of Moore Proties who beat him down with their strikers and took the Core back.  Derek pulled his Cosmer from his jacket pocket and quickly stuck the small square into its side port as it lit up.  A single string of numbers rapidly slid across the screen from left to right before an "Error" message flashed across it.  Derek ejected the square from the side and snapped it in between his fingers, breaking it before getting up out of his seat and watching as the Frenzy came to a close.  A single Ailoss Proty now in possession of the Core was quickly taken out by a Moore Spade Rider who activated an explosive and emerged from underground, grabbing the Core.  He circled around to his side of the goal and passed the Core to a nearby Moore Kingman, who readied it in his breaker just as an Ailoss Kingman hopped off from a hill behind him and slammed his striker down on the Kingman's breaker.  The Core shot into the air and the Ailoss Kingman smashed his striker across the Moore Kingman's helmet, shattering it and causing him to flip onto the hard ground.  He grabbed the Core and shoved it inside the breaker, turning to his teammates that were scattered across the arena.

"MANEUVER 11," He screamed as he cocked back the breaker and fired it at one of the Kingmen standing at one corner of the arena.  The Kingman stood in position, opening the compartment on the breaker and allowing the flying Core to land inside.  Quickly, he cocked it back and shot it onward past the other players to a Proty standing close to the Tri-Port, who caught the Core in his breaker the same way.  As the Moore players looked around confusedly, the Ailoss Proty cocked back his breaker and aimed it at the Tri-Port, who's three rings were glowing green, and fired, landing an instant score just as the buzzer rang out.  The Moore side that Derek sat on was in an uproar and Derek was forced to duck slightly as food and other objects were thrown down near him, the crowd growing belligerent and yelling obscenities down into the Arena.  On the Ailoss side, the crowd was the exact opposite, jumping around jovially as the score turned to 6-5, Ailoss.  Derek shook his head but with a smile as he walked out from the crowd and traveled back into the lobby of the stadium, circling around through the people waiting in line at the concession stands and continuing onward into a hallway holding one of the excrement rooms.

Derek stopped in front of it, looking both ways before entering, and stepped inside.  He hit the light, locked the door behind him, and headed to a mirror across from him.  It was embedded against the wall but with a rough tug, Derek pulled it back revealing what looked to be an empty medicine cabinet except there was a small keypad located in its center.  Derek pressed the numbers on the keypad in the backwards order of how he'd memorized it on the Cosmer and when he was finished, the back of the cabinet swung around, revealing a set of items and gadgets along the interior wall, one of which was a small syringe-like device with no needle at its end but instead a dull hub.  Derek grabbed it first and stuck it into his ear, depressing the plunger quickly and causing a quick jolt in his brain.

"Can you hear me?" a young voice chimed in his head.  "Tempest, do you read me?"

"Loud and clear," Derek said quickly, flexing his jaw and shaking his finger in his ear.  "Authorization code: Denim, Techno, 344."

"Switching you to Globe now."

There was a brief silence before the voice was replaced with another one, this one deep and smooth.

"Tempest."

"Channel Clear."

"You're a-go."

"You know, you could have went with something a little less conspicuous like leaving it under the seat for me to find in the first place," Derek said, reaching in for the other items inside the safe.  One was a small pouch filled with what Derek knew to be reaction chargers, smallish magnetic gadgets capable of draining electrolytes from any tentalite-powered device, renduring it powerless.  Along with them was a thick handle, approximately ten inches in length and when both sides are forced apart create a nunchuck-like apparatus with a glowing blue wire in between, allowing the user to scale buildings or other obstacles by use of its magnetic ends.  Along with a pair of gloves, the last items in the safe were two small white earpieces that when pressed at the same time when attached to both ears would eject an electronic facemask, an important tool for what was about to go down.  Derek grabbed all of them and put them on his person in various pockets that immediately altered the shape with the help of his pants, allowing for him to carry multiple objects without them bulging from his clothes and blowing his cover.  As he equipped himself, he continued to converse with his commander, Warwick Globe.

"Couldn't risk a kid finding it or something," Globe replied.  "Stop complaining, it worked out for the best.  Were you followed?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"If you ask me again, I'm going to ruin the game for you when I get back."

"All right, all right, no need to hang your balls on a horn."

"Wow," Derek exclaimed, shaking his head.  "You really need to get out more, Globe."

"Would you shut up and focus?  In a few marks, you're going to get a transmission on your Cosmer.  You should be receiving it soon."

"Okay," Derek said, reaching into his brown jacket pocket and pulling out his Cosmer.  Before long, it lit up and an image flashed across the screen, showing live footage from the crowd on the Ailoss side, focusing on a Harpy man sitting with his mixed group of lackies accompanying him.  Harpies were a race of dark eagle-like creatures from the planet, Harpeia, once considered second class citizens by the ruling Aves until the Harpian population grew and the Ave population began to decrease, during which time the Harpies forcefully established their own government and renamed the planet after their own kind, Harpeia.  The original name had been forgotten and lost after the Harpies destroyed all record of Avian history before their reign, causing harsh tension between classes that nearly erupted into full-scale civil war.  Ultimately, two separate planetary governments, one ruled by Harpies called the Harpayan Republic and the other ruled by Aves called Avian Order were established under the Unity of Stars and the two were forced to coincide but not without hostility.  Zach English had characterized them as demons in his evaluation.  The Harpy's face was twisted and naturally sinister-looking with heavily arched eyebrows, fur-like ears, and slim golden eyes.  He wore a sharp tuxedo-like suit and his wild feathery hair was as unkempt as it was for any Harpy.  He sat watching the field with no notable reaction to the festivities; he simply stared ahead, occasionally looking down at the Cosmer he operated with his talons while his men looked around vigilantly at the crowd, also paying no attention to the game at hand.  "Ah, Morgon Cypher.  Not much of a sport's fan, I see."

"Not particularly.  He's our buyer.  He should be leaving in a few clicks to make the exchange."

"And he wants Subject 202?" Derek asked, grabbing the pair of black, white, and grey gloves, the last item left in the safe, and proceeding to put them on.

"She's a high-profile asset.  She's been gathering tons of information on Mr. Graft for quite some time now and he's going to want to use it against him after they make the exchange."

"And Graft doesn't see that coming?"

"I'm sure he does, knowing him, but he's probably hoping the points that will be transfered to him once he cashes in on what Morgon is giving him in exchange will help raise the stakes in his favor.  I'm sure he also figures she didn't learn anything from his operation since her cover was blown, at least not as much as we know she knows, and figures all Morgon will get out of her is intel on Cosmic Flash."

"I assume you had one of your subordinates switch out package 1 with ours, right?" Derek asked, sliding the gloves onto his hands and up to the top of his forearms, the ends of which were hidden by his jacket sleeves.  He surveyed the gloves intently, flexing his fingers in them.  There were small circular ports on the fingertips and a larger one in the center of the palm but they were dormant.  "Because I'd hate to hit the detonator and it take out a promising young operative by accident."

"Package 1 has been secured, no need to worry about that.  Package 2 is your priority."

"Gotcha, now can you get me Tarot for a second."

Soon, a youthful male voice replaced Globe's.  "This is Tarot."  

"Yeah, sorry but I need a refresher on these gloves.  How do I turn them on again?"

"Just merge the sub-ports over the central port and allow the tentalite particles to ignite, which will be momentarily."

"Right..."

"...Close your fist for three and a half marks."

"Oh okay, gotcha," Derek obeyed.  He closed both of his hands into fists and a blue light began to shine from within them.  After a moment of waiting, there was a small burst of pressure within both of his fists and he could see that the ports were now pulsing with blue energy.  "Okay, so I turn them off the same way, right?  Just for ten seconds."

"Exactly.  Also, you can retract the ports by pressing the little screw on the back of each hand when you're not using them."

"Okay," Derek said.  He deactivated them for now and retracted the ports, allowing them to become normal gloves.  "Now what is it they do again?"

"Come on, Derek, you've used them before"-

"Not since training.  I just want to make sure I know everything I need to know about them before I use them again.  I'm rusty, give me a break."

Tarot sighed with a light chuckle.  "Okay, remember when I told you they were like that Earth comic book, Green Lantern, and you made fun of me?"

"Oh right," Derek replied with a laugh.  "Nerd."

"Right well, that's what they do, they create constructs by analyzing your neuro-sensors, meaning if you imagine it, it will construct it.  Only difference is that the constructs have to maintain realistic sizes and have to stay connected to the gloves or else they can't maintain a physical form and will desolve, so grenades or any other projectiles are out of the question.  You can, however, create undefined long-ranged constructs by hitting the central port twice and conjuring it quickly.  Guns and projectile weapons can also work too.  All constructs last only five marks and undefined long-ranged constructs last for a single mark, so be mindful of that."

"Right, thanks," Derek said, surveying his Cosmer to see that Morgon and his crew had yet to move.  "Get me Opera."

"Opera here."

"How's surveillance looking?  Have Graft and his men arrived yet?"

"They're landing just outside the stadium near the docks on the 7th Wing.  Unloading cargo now."

"Is it Package 2?"

"Yep, Subject 202 is being escorted from their ship as we speak.  They're moving to the Trasis Footbridge right now."

Derek, observing his Cosmer, watched as Morgon stood up, ordering his men along and the group walked out from their seats together, heading for the lobby.

"He's on the move," Derek said confidently, putting the Cosmer into his pants pocket, then locked the safe behind the mirror and closed it shut.

"Remember to make sure Subject 202 is in Morgon's possession before engaging," Globe commanded.  "We need her to be secure when the party starts.  And we want to try to see if we can detain Mr. Graft, so let's try to take him in alive please."

"Understood."  Derek stepped out of the excrement room and headed down the hall, back into the lobby where he began to wait for Morgon and his crew to step out from within the stadium and make their way to the location.  When he spotted him by one of the openings, Morgon looked around vigilantly for any potential disturbances.  Derek stepped forward casually and walked into one of the concession stand lines to make himself less conspicious.  With everything clear, Morgon moved forward, walking down the lobby away from Derek while Derek turned around and headed in the opposite direction.  "Morgon is en route.  Proceeding to Graft's ship now."

Derek maneuvered through the excited crowd and made his way to an open ceiling hall that led to the back end of the stadium.  There were security guards posted at the very end, blocking the exit.  Derek hid behind the nearest wall, peaking out down at them.

"Guards at the end of the hall.  Local, not Morgon or Graft.  Tarot, can I get a distraction?"

"Sure thing, man.  Accessing their communications now."

Derek watched from afar as they both pulled out their buzzing Cosmers that were without a doubt delivering a false disturbance that would have them on their way farther into the stadium to address it.  Derek took advantage of the moment and ran up the side of the wall in front of him, grabbing hold of a pipe over the open ceiling and pulling himself out of sight.  As the guards sprinted down the hall and turned down the corridor that led them to the lobby, they were unaware of the Cosmic Flash Operative surveying their passage from above.  Once they were gone, he dropped down, headed back down the hall, and pushed onward through the double doors of the exit.

It was a clear blue night on Honario, the city lights bright and shining in the distance as well as from the stadium, making it nearly impossible for Derek to hide in the shadows.  Just across the small back parking lot that was filled with a few Carrier Overgates, regular-sized Overgates, and Overbikes resembling the kind of Faeries used in Wineball parked on their charges around the area, there was one of seven landing pads that were in various isolated areas surrounding the stadium where players, coaches, sponsors, and other wealthy proprietors related to the games would arrive for a match.  This landing pad was occupied by a starship owned by criminal figure, Mr. Graft, which he arrived in and beyond the pad was a large lake that surrounded that end of the stadium and led straight to the rest of the city.  It was large but only looked like it could carry a group of maybe ten to fifteen people, no where near the size of a Taxicruise.  A lone Ichthian working for Mr. Graft patrolled the landing pad by himself with a large machine gun in hand.  Derek hid behind a wall out of view and waited for the Ichthian to circle around to the other side of the ship.  While he waited, he pulled out the bag of reaction chargers, taking one out and putting the pouch back into his pocket.  The charger was the size of a coin and he gripped it in the palm of his hand before turning back to the guard by the ship.

When the guard was on the other side out of view, Derek sprinted forward, ripping off his brown jacket and throwing it aside with just his skin tight black thermal t-shirt on.  He hopped up onto the platform silently and pressed the top side of the charger, watching it glow a light green.  When he was close enough, he tapped the charger onto the edge of the bottom and it attached itself to the ship.  While he did so, he could hear the guard's footsteps against the platform stop.  Curious, Derek dipped down and looked under the ship to see the guard looking under as well right at him.  The guard, startled, began to rush around to Derek's side of the ship and Derek, reacting quickly, ran for the end of the platform right by the large lake that surrounded the stadium.  He jumped down and hung off of the edge as the guard came into view, looking around vigilantly with his gun at the ready.

The guard was visibly confused, looking for any sign of the figure he'd seen under the ship but couldn't find him.  Derek peaked up from the side of the platform to see that the guard had his back turned to him.  He pulled himself up quietly and sprinted towards the guard, just as he turned around.

"Hey-" he exclaimed, as Derek grabbed hold of his gun and shoved it upward into the guard's face twice.  After the second strike, he let go of the gun and Derek spun around, jamming the heel of his foot into the back of the guard's knee.  As the guard threw his head back in pain, Derek used his free hand and slammed his head onto the side of the metallic ship, causing him to lose consciousness and collapse onto the platform.  Derek disassembled the weapon and tossed the pieces into the lake.

"Smooth," he heard Globe mutter through his intercom.

"Momentary lapse of judgment," Derek said softly, dragging the Ichthian's body to the edge and tossing him into the water.  He then stepped off of the platform and headed back into the back parking lot.  "Won't happen again."

"I'm sure.  Meeting is about to start.  Get going."

Derek headed back over to the side of the stadium wall, where he could see a metal rim trailing along the entirety of the stadium's roof.  He pulled the nunchuck apparatus from his pocket, twisted both of its ends, and pulled it apart, revealing the blue thread in between them.  With a well-measured swing, Derek flung one of the ends through the air and the thread extended up to the top of the stadium wall past its roof.  Derek pressed a button on his end of the apparatus and felt a sharp tug, letting him know that the magnet on the other end had connected to the roof's railing and was secure.  Holding on tight, Derek hopped on the side of the wall and scaled to the top, being subtly pulled by the thread that took him higher and higher up.  When he finally reached the top, he pressed the same button on the handle and the magnetized end came loose from the railing, allowing both sides to reconnect.  Derek twisted them together once again but kept it out as he circled around the stadium on its roof until he spotted the Trasis Footbridge below where he could see both criminal groups converging in the center.  One of them was being held tightly by the others with her hands behind her back, wearing a helmet to conceal her identity, most likely against her will.  Standing in the center of the men with the concealed individual was a Light Alfimese man with a thick silver beard and long silver hair that was tied back behind his head in a ponytail.  Despite this, he still looked very young in appearance, most likely in his late 20's to mid 30's in a multi-colored pinstripe suit.  As Derek pressed onward and saw them come into view, he reached into his pocket and grabbed the two earpieces, forcing them onto the outer edges of his ears.

"Tarot, I need Audio Feed," Derek said, kneeling down by the roof's edge as he surveyed the meeting below.

"Patching you through now."

After a short pause, Derek's intercom was replaced with the sound of the conversation in progress below.  He reached into another one of his pockets and pulled out a small oval-shaped device with a button on it.

"So are we gonna do this or not?" Morgon said impatiently, visibly annoyed.  "Unlike you, we've got actual business to attend to."

"I believe we've had this conversation before, a few days ago," Mr. Graft muttered confidently but with a sinister undertone.  "The one about respecting one's company."

"You would think your brand of bullshit would scare me," Morgon responded.  "But you'd be wrong.  Because you're the one who wants what's in this case.  I could give a fuck less about the girl."

"Which raises the question, why are you providing me with such a valuable asset for the sake of some degenerate Star Crest reject who blew her own cover the first day?  Clearly you need her for more than you're letting on."

"Look, that's my business, do you want what's in the case or not?"

"Let me see the case-"

"Give up the girl-"

"Look, are we really about to get into one of these arguments?  Because I believe me and my nephew had the same fight last week over some of his toys"-

"Give us the girl and you get the case," Morgon said sternly.  "Its as simple as that."

"Is it really?"

"What do you think we are, fucking Golems?  We're gonna give you what you're paying for.  We have a little more honor than you're giving us credit for, okay?"

"Well I'm glad to hear you say that, Mr. Cypher, but the fact of the matter is I wouldn't trust you to hold my drink for me, let alone give me what I deserve.  You seem like the type that will say anything to get what you want.  So it seems we've reached an empass."

"Well its up to you, my friend," Morgon said, ruffling his feather-like hair and yawning casually.  "It all depends on who wants what more.  We ain't got all day.  Its the girl or nothing and you're the one who came all the way here, so if you want to fuck it all up by being a prideful bitch with a nice thick striker up your ass, go ahead and lose out.  I can get what I want elsewhere.  I have other outlets.  But what's in the case is one of a kind.  Like I said, up to you."

Mr. Graft stared at Morgon in thought for a moment before sighing with annoyance and turning to his men.  He nodded lightly and the men holding Subject 202 shoved her forward in front of Mr. Graft.  Graft escorted her to Morgon's side since the helmet she wore kept her from being able to see and make it over by herself.  Morgon's men got a hold of her and Morgon snapped his finger, demanding for the man holding the circular silver briefcase to hand it over to Mr. Graft.  The man obeyed and gave the case to him.  Mr. Graft moved out of the way and brought forth a man that looked like an analyst brought along to check the authenticity of the reward.  Graft handed the case to him and he held it from the bottom, clicked off its restraints, and opened it with a questionable look.

"What the hell"- he muttered before Derek forced his finger over the button in his hand, causing a bright explosion that incinerated the analyst and caused gas to immediately spill from the case, out over the men standing on the bridge.  Derek pressed the two earpieces simultaneously and the facemask/visor materialized from them, covering his face.  He then clasped his hands together and pressed the small screws on the back of his gloves, ejecting their ports, then closed his fists with his thumbs under his fingers, waiting three marks for the burst of pressure to let him know that they were activated.  Now that the two factions were incapacitated, he looked up at the cable just above him that connected from one of the stadium's light towers behind him to the footbridge and unscrewed the nunchuck apparatus, pulling it apart and tossing one side over the cable.  As it landed back by him, he held on tightly and ziplined his way down into the crowd of gangsters below.

Derek let go of one side and as he landed on the draw bridge, swung the apparatus around, cracking Mr. Graft across his temple.  As the apparatus zipped back into place, Derek screwed it back quickly and sheathed it as he proceeded to fight his way through the struggling crowd.  With the mask on, he could see and breath as he moved through the gas and was able to grab hold of Subject 202 while maneuvering out of the chaos.  Guns were already blazing as the two opposing forces took the sudden action as a betrayal from the opposite side and were engaged in a heated battle.  Derek escorted their hostage away from the scene and off of the bridge out of view near the side of the stadium.  When they were a healthy distance away, Derek stopped and sat the hostage down on the bench, her arms still restrained behind her back.  He retracted his mask and proceeded to pull her helmet off but saw that it was a human woman with spiked hair and several piercings on her face.  She smirked deviously when she saw him.

"Uh," Derek said, just before the girl shot forward and headbutted him right in the nose, causing him to fall to the ground.  As he did, she stood up, quickly unloosened the restraints to her hands, and drew out a pistol from the back of her pants, immediately pointing it down at Derek.  He reacted quickly, bringing his hand up to his face and just as the shot went off, confured a blue transparent shield that immediately dissolved the blast.  She fired again and got the same result when he blocked the shot.  With his left hand still up to protect him, Derek slammed his palm onto the ground beside him which shot him upward immediately back onto his feet, catching the girl offguard.  The shield disappeared from his left hand and he took advantage of her surprise, slugging her across the face and knocking her unconscious as she slumped back onto the bench.  With her out of the way, he sprinted with all his might back in the direction of Mr. Graft's ship where he knew his crew would be headed.

"PACKAGE 2 WAS A DECOY!  I REPEAT, GRAFT IS STILL IN POSSESSION OF SUBJECT 202!  ENGAGING NOW!"

There was no telling where Morgon and his men had gone but he could hear gunfire coming from around the corner of the stadium and when he got close to the landing platform that held Mr. Graft's ship, his men were seemingly firing at nothing as they tried to cover their boss's escape.  These guys aren't very good under pressure, he thought to himself.  Derek quickly conjured a construct of a pistol in one hand and a shield with the other, firing at the men as he approached while simultaneously blocking shots fired at him.  Several of the men dropped where they stood from the blasts but before long Mr. Graft had boarded the side of the ship and the doors closed as it rose from the platform, leaving the rest of his men behind.  Derek threw away the pistol construct and it desolved quickly as he replaced it with another weapon.  He threw his arms up into a machine gun position and sure enough, a machine gun construct manifested itself in his grasp and he pointed it upward at the fleeing ship, firing repeatedly.  Unfortunately, his shots did little damage and before long, the ship had taken off in the opposite direction.

Derek reached into another one of his pockets and readied the detonator to the reaction charger he'd placed on the bottom side of the ship in his hand.  As he prepared to press it, Globe's voice chimed into on his intercom.

"Derek, No!  We don't know if Subject 202 is still on Graft's ship!  Do not detonate until you have confirmation she's not on board, I repeat, do not detonate!"

"Then what am I supposed to do?!" Derek asked in frustration, putting the detonator away.

"We're sending transport to you now, get close and Ruby will get you closer.  Make sure you I.D. Subject 202 next time."

"Damn it, Globe!" Derek shouted, scoping his eyes across the area for the nearest vehicle and spotting a single blue Overbike that was closest to him.  He sprinted for it.  "Tarot, I need hacking protocols sent to my Cosmer now!"

Derek pulled the Cosmer from his pocket and hopped on the overbike, placing the device's screen over the senser on the right side of the front of the bike which was meant to scan your scanner brand for paid usage.  Soon the bike roared to life and Derek put the Cosmer back into his pocket as he lifted the bike off of its charger and high into the air.  He swung it around and shot it over the lake before lowering it to just above the water.

"Patch me over to Ruby now," Derek commanded as he followed the ship that was already too far ahead.

"Ruby speaking," a slightly deep female voice spoke into his head.

"Hey, how far out are you?"

"ETA 2 clicks."

"Okay, I don't know the direction Graft's ship is going in before it heads to the upper atmosphere for warp drive, so I'm going to head down Force Street and hit that momument to get to you.  You can take me closer in from there."

"You sure about that?" Ruby asked worriedly.  "Never seen you make a jump like that before."

"Nor have I ever but there's a first time for everything.  I'll meet you there."  As he came up to the shore of the city's streets, Derek lifted the Overbike higher into hover mode and glided onto the road before sending it back down into traffic.  The glowing city was lit up with vehicles that were honking angrily as Derek zipped past them on his own.  He watched as Graft's ship flew higher into the air and knew he needed to hurry.  He turned down a single street and headed right into the sea of the massive skyscrapers surrounding it to see a lone red starship coming out of another street and flying directly over him before moving forward slightly.

"You better time this right, Tempest," he heard Ruby mutter through his intercom with tension in her voice.

"I'll do my best."  Derek moved into the center of the street, which had thinned out slightly enough for him to drive with no obstructions.  Just ahead, there was a small park with a large sloped monument that Derek was about to use as a ramp to jump onto Ruby's ship.  Derek sped up the bike and narrowed his view, focusing on hitting the target with maximum precision.  Just before he hit the road right in front of the monument, a lone Overgate slid right into his path, nearly catching him offguard.  Fortunately, his reflexes allowed him to hit the Overbike's gear and shoot it higher into the air in hover mode, gliding right over the Overgate of which he had nearly collided with head on.  Because he was slightly higher than usual when he glided over the sloped monument, he knew he was going to propel much farther than intended.  As he vaulted off of the monument, he flew high above Ruby's ship and let go of the Overbike, tossing himself through the air.  As he began to glide over, he realized he was about to land even farther than he had initially thought.  "Ruby, move the ship up!" he exclaimed quickly in midair.

"What?"

"Move up, move up, move up, MOVE UP, MOVE UP!!!" he screamed as he began to descend to the Earth and just in time, Ruby shot the ship forward slightly, catching him on its wing which lurched to its side, Derek hanging on tightly.  The cockpit window slid back, revealing a silver-haired silver-skinned Ave with almost clear white eyes, smiling at him brightly as he crawled his way into the backseat of the ship, the window closing behind him.

"Nice landing," she said with a chuckle when he was settled in.

"Yeah, I nailed."

The ship shot upward past the buildings and high into the clear blue night sky, the nearby planets completely visible across the vast living canvas.  Eventually, Graft's ship came into view and Ruby headed straight for it, flooring the ship's engines until they were flying right beside it, high above the city.  Derek got his nunchuck apparatus ready in his hands, pulling it apart as Ruby pulled back the cockpit window.

"Be careful," Ruby shouted at him.

"Careful is overrated," Derek shouted back swinging the nunchuck forward and pressing the button, allowing the magnetic end to attach to the bottom rail just below its entrance.  He hopped from the ship and held on tightly to his end of the handle when suddenly the ship diverged away from Ruby's, almost deliberately.  As Derek activated the handle to pull him up towards the other end, Graft's ship suddenly began to spin wildly through the air, swinging him by the thread of the apparatus.  Derek's grasp on the handle began to slip and he gripped it tighter for dear life as the world below continued to travel above and under him.  He was swinging so fast that he was becoming increasingly disoriented and just before he lost his gut, the ship stopped spinning and he swung upward one final time, gliding over the top of the ship and landing right on the door of its side entrance with a vicious slam.

Just then, its door open and there were several men standing inside looking at him curiously.

"Oh crap," he said, just as he let go of the apparatus and let himself fall down to grab the bottom edge of the ship's entrance.  One of the men ran forward and started to kick him off, but Derek lifted his hand and conjured a small shield that held back the man's foot.  He pushed his hand forward at the same time, forcing the man off his feet as he felt forward, Derek dissolved the shield quickly and grabbed hold of the falling man by the shirt, pulling him over his shoulder and tossing him out of the ship to the distant city lights below.  With him out of the way, Derek pulled himself up with his other hand and took a step inside, just as several others drew out their weapons and began to fire at him from both sides.  Derek threw up both hands on either side of him conjuring two large shields to block the oncoming blasts but knew that since they only lasted for five marks, he needed to move fast.  He diverged farther into the back to the cargo bay, where there was an unarmed man standing by vigilantly holding on to who Derek figured was the real Subject 202, although she looked identical to the decoy with a helmet and bound arms, so he couldn't tell.

As he drew in closer to the armed man in the back who was continuously shooting from his machine gun while the one on the other end did the same, Derek waited for the one near the pilot's seat to reload before letting down one of his shield and using his free hand to strike the one armed assailant in the back across the face to stop him from shooting.  Incapacitated, his gun was grabbed out of his hand and Derek smashed him in the head with it, knocking him to the floor unconscious.  He turned around with the gun firing it at the enemy who had just finished reloading, causing him to fall to the floor with holes in his chest, then turned the gun on the unarmed overseer who had just charged after him.  He fell to the floor by Subject 202's feet.

Spotting a button by the wall, Derek hit it quickly and a large orange shield separated him and 202 from the front of the ship.  It was close call because Mr. Graft, who had been sitting in the front with the pilot had just turned around with his pistol and fired a shot as the shield went up which instantly dissolved.  Mr. Graft got out of his seat and walked slowly to the shield as Derek pulled out his I.D. Processor, a gun-like device, activating it in front of Subject 202's helmet, and surveyed the small screen on the side of it.  When the name of the subject flashed on it, he was visibly surprised.

"Is it her, Tempest?" Globe asked in the intercom.

"Yeah, yeah, its her," Derek replied in a slight daze.  "I didn't know it was HER though."

"We'll worry about that later.  Secure Package 2 and blow that son of a bitch."

"Right," Derek said, putting the ID Processor away and helping Subject 202 onto her feet.

"You think that shield is going to protect you?" Graft said confidently, walking up to them with a trickle of blood trailing down the side of his face from the apparatus Derek had struck him with.  "You do realize its going to have to come down for you to get off of this ship, right?  And once it does, you'll have a bullet in your head immediately after."

"You'd think that.  But its also a tentalite-produced shield.  And these gloves produce tentalite-powered constructs, so"- Derek immediately conjured a pistol in his free hand and fired it through the orange shield, the blast phasing through and going straight into Graft's leg.  He cried out in pain, falling to the floor of the ship and holding his thigh tightly.  Derek moved to the shield's button and pressed it, letting it down.  With it and Graft out of the way, he held tightly to Subject 202 and headed for the opening.  "Get ready for a jump!" he warned her and he stepped out with her in his grip.

The pistol construct had disappeared by now and as he began to fall back to the Honarian city below, he reached into his slim pockets and pulled out the detonator to the reaction charger, hitting it swiftly, and watching the starship's engines immediately give out as it began to plummet from the sky back down to the planet below.  Derek smiled to himself as he fell at rapid speed, holding tightly to his target, as they reaccompanied the buildings of the city on a collision course with its glowing streets.  The rush of air made it hard for him to see but he couldn't reactivate his facemask without both of his hands, which were currently holding on to 202, so he would have to estimate his next motions carefully.

Just before they collided with the ground, Derek shot his hand out, tapped his fingers over the central port in his palm twice, and then threw out a large sheet-like construct onto the pavement of the city sidewalk which they collided with for a much softer landing than they expected without so much as a jolt from the sudden stop.  Immediately after it was conjured, the sheet disappeared and they lay in the middle of the sidewalk among startled passerbys that were trying poorly to keep moving and mind their own business but couldn't help but look on curiously.

Derek stood up and addressed his intercom.  "Subject 202 is secure and Graft's ship has been compromised; probably crash-landed somewhere in the city.  Have local authorities secure the area to make sure Graft doesn't escape.  Send a team to the Alley on Kibari Place and we'll converge on the position from there."

"Understood," Globe answered with a heavy sigh of relief.  "And Tempest...Good work."

"Thanks boss.  Out."

As Derek tuned out of the intercom, he helped Subject 202 up, took off the mechanical restraints on her arms, and pulled off her helmet to reveal the familiar face of a young Light Alfimese woman.  Jeila Halos.

"Are you okay?" Derek asked with concern.

"Zach!" Jeila exclaimed in surprise.  "Thank Doen, I can't believe its you!"

Derek chuckled.  "You have to call me Derek when we're out on the field, remember?"

"Oh right, I'm sorry.  Its just...I didn't expect them to assign you to come after me.  They know how close to home it would have been to put you on it."

"Yeah, a certain somebody didn't let me know who 'Subject 202' actually was.  Apparently, I was the only Operative capable of pulling off this job, so he didn't want me getting emotionally attached.  I knew you were undercover but I didn't know you had been missing all this time."

"Yeah," Jeila said, as they began to head away from the crowd and made their way into an adjacent empty alley between two of the largest skyscrapers in this part of the city.  "Graft is a crafty bitch.  I got what I needed from him though.  And if he survived the crash, we may have even more."

"Yeah, let's hope," Derek/Zach said, just as the headlights of an Carrier Overgate came into view at the other end of the alley, entering and parking in front of the two of them.  "Here's convoy I called for."

The door to the large van-like Overgate Carrier opened and the driver stepped out.  It was Morgon Cypher.  His men followed behind him and they all exited the vehicle, walking towards the two operatives standing before them.

"Well well well," Morgon said menacingly as he began to approach.  "Look who we have here.  Long time no see."

"Nice to see you too," Jeila said with no emotion.

"You don't exactly look happy to see me."

"Well its a little hard to be happy when you're being so fucking creepy," Jeila said with a chuckle.  "Seriously, you should keep that as part of your cover, not when you're with us unless you want to lose friends."

Morgon laughed and his demeanor suddenly softened.  "Its been too long.  You guys need a ride to the crash site?"

"Yeah, that's what you're here for," Derek/Zach said with a touch of sarcasm, heading for the Carrier.

"Really?" Morgon said, leading them to the back and opening it for them to step in.  "I thought I was here to 'shut up and save your asses' as Ms. Halos so charmingly put it on our last Op together."

"Well so far you're not really doing either, Mr. Cypher, you need to step up your game," Jeila replied, smiling.

Morgon shook his head but smiled back at the two when they were settled inside.  "After this is over, we need to catch up over drinks."

"Sure thing," Derek/Zach nodded and Morgon returned it for the both of them before heading back to the front of the carrier.  One of his men handed him a small needless syringe device, which he pressed into his ear and then addressed his own intercom.  "This is Morgon Cypher, Authorization Code: Magic, Candy, 457, preparing a convoy to Graft's crash site.  Proceeding at once."

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