June 17, 3053
Alarms blared, sending security guards scurrying to action, and Medron Pryde nodded approvingly towards John O’Mally. John smiled back at the sight of the diversion working perfectly and they prepared their assault. The last of the guards ran around the corner, leaving the two guards permanently stationed at the door alone, and the sound of gunfire came from the northern end of the Sardelis Estate. Medron suppressed his smile as he brought his left cheek down to the rifle, looked through the scope to see the left guard like he was standing a meter away, and let his breath out slowly. His grip on the rifle steadied itself, the crosshairs stopped shaking over the heart of the target, and he squeezed back on the trigger slowly, not wanting to disrupt his aim.
Then the gun went off and he winced as its recoil slammed his shoulder back even through the heavy combat armor he wore. That was going to leave a mark. Instead of getting back down to the scope, he looked over the rifle, eyeballing his target through the helmet covering his face as quickly as possible. The target was down. It wasn’t a man anymore. It was a target. He had to remember that. He looked over to see the other target down and turned to look at John with a quick nod. John smiled back and nodded towards the entrance with a questioning look.
“Oh yeah,” Medron whispered back, feeling a rush of adrenalin coming to mask the soreness in his shoulder. He was so ready this. “I think they just opened the door for us,” he finished and got up onto his knees. Looking around for other guards, he came up to his feet and walked towards the entrance with as brisk a stride he could manage in his full set of combat armor. The primary security systems were supposed to be offline, but he didn’t want to take the chance of something else seeing him go in. And if the systems still worked, he wanted to be in and out as soon as possible.
He just hoped the diversion wasn’t discovered too quickly. It would be really annoying if they figured out the “major incursion” was a hacker’s job before he got back out with the data. Incredibly annoying. They stopped at the two stilled targets and Medron looked down at them for a moment before smiling. They had micro-communicators.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” he asked and John nodded back before reaching down and pulling the micro-communicator off his target. Medron echoed his motion and attached the communicator to his lapel before walking to the door. He pulled the antique latch and the door opened slowly, moving stiffly on its hinges. “They need to oil this,” he muttered as a long squeak came from the door and then glanced down the long hallway the briefing had informed them would be there. “We’re clear,” he added after seeing nobody and walked in with his eyes scanning in all directions for threats.
John followed quietly, making his own scan of the area and Medron smiled innocently before walking down the hallway confidently, holding his rifle against his side. Walking past ancient suits of armor that might even trace their travels back to Terra itself, he watched for security officers. The armor would be a good place to hide if they were ready for an assault. Of course, they should be off to the north dealing with the “attack”, but there was no point in taking their gullibility for granted.
They reached the end of the hallway without incident and walked slowly into the intersection that branched to the left and right. Medron looked to the right, then to the left, and sighed in a defeated tone.
“This wasn’t in the briefing,” he muttered and heard John stifle something. “What was that?” he added in a questioning tone.
“Oh, just wondering which way we should go,” John finally growled and Medron smiled as they looked down the empty hallway. Like he was so sure those were the first words through John’s mind.
“I’ve got two intruders in the main hall!” the micro communicators transmitted and John spun away from the empty hall, muttering words that probably couldn’t have been written even if Medron could understand them, to look down the entry hall while Medron turned to see what was down the hall to the right. A single man wearing a guard’s uniform brought up a sub machinegun and started pinging him with a spray of bullets that Medron’s armor stopped cold.
“Fat chance,” Medron muttered and brought his rifle up before pulling the trigger once. The target fell back like the first guard outside and hit the ground without a twitch.
“Well, now they know we’re inside,” John whispered and Medron smiled.
“Oh yeah,” he muttered back and engaged the transmitter on the micro communicator with a wink. “Ding dong, the guard is dead,” he transmitted with an evil tone to his voice and disengaged the transmitter as the other guards started shouting at each other over the airwaves.
“That did it,” John growled. “Now they’re pissed.”
“Good,” Medron responded. “The more pissed off they are, the less rationally they’ll act. Oh, and that way,” he finished, pointing in the direction of the downed guard, and started walking.
“Right. And what makes you think this way is the right way?” John asked as he followed, watching behind them.
“Fifty-fifty chance of being right,” Medron muttered with a shrug. “And this is where the guard came from. He’s got to be protecting something, right?”
“He could have been on patrol,” John growled as they kept walking.
“If you have a better idea, feel free to jump in,” Medron countered as they came to a door on their right.
“Thought you would,” Medron whispered with a smile and turned the doorknob so John could kick it open. A shriek echoed from inside the room but no gunfire, and Medron shrugged before running into the room like a maniac, his rifle ready to shoot anything that moved. Then he realized he was in a poolroom and came to a sliding stop mere centimeters from the edge of the pool. Looking around, he noted a single swimmer in the pool and realized the room was as long as the entire hallway. Nuts. Then he noticed the beautiful decorations on the walls. “Sweet,” he muttered appreciatively.
“This isn’t the right place,” John answered and Medron shrugged.
“What’s the meaning of this?” the swimmer said in a questioning tone edging on nervousness and he turned to look at her.
First he noticed her short white hair and glanced down to her face. A face he knew from a hundred posters. He even owned some of them. “Terra Belmond,” Medron whispered in awe, emphasizing the last syllable of her name, and then scanned further down. A second later, he brought his eyes back up to her face and cleared his throat awkwardly. “Um, hi,” he sputtered. “I’m your biggest fan,” he muttered before realizing how terrible it sounded and then started quickly scanning the rest of the poolroom carefully for…well…anything. She didn’t respond and he kept on talking awkwardly. “I’ve always wanted to see you…um…meet you in person,” he shifted with a blush that could probably be heard as he finally found her clothes on a table next to him. Great. That made a lot of very sick sense.
“Could you leave?” she noted in a cold tone, probably emboldened by his lack of threatening actions towards her.
“What? You have this place reserved or something?” Medron asked and she cocked her head angrily.
“Yes, actually,” Terra growled and Medron winced. He glanced down at his rifle and combat armor, sighing dejectedly. Waving a gun around while breaking into a reserved room wasn’t the best way to make a good first impression after all.
“Um…Right,” he muttered awkwardly and pointed his rifle as far from her as he could. “Well then. I don’t think we’ll be finding him in here anyways,” he added and turned back to John and the door. “So I say we make like a tree and get out of here.”
“That’s leave you idiot,” Terra snarled in an angry tone and Medron turned back to glance at her in surprise. “Now do it!” she snapped, her voice echoing off the walls, and Medron winced as he turned to the door again.
“Think of it this way,” John stated in a tone that betrayed his amusement. “You finally got her to talk to you. That’s progress at least.”
“I’ll pass on ‘progress’ like that,” Medron returned and took a step towards the door, just as it started opening again. “Ah nuts!” he shouted and dove behind the nearest table, John on his heels, as two more security guards ran in, sub-machineguns tracking their movements. They spat streams of bullets, smashing the table into ruin, and Medron winced as his armor took hits all over the place. He heard a shriek of shock and then some serious paddling from behind as he brought his rifle up, locked in his target through the steady spray of bullets, and shot back with a single much larger bullet. His target fell back against the wall limply, and he turned to lock onto the other guard, only to see John handling him as well. Good.
Terra shouted something in a language he didn’t understand, but the tone suggested it was probably a less-than-polite set of terms, and Medron turned to look at her questioningly, noticing she’d moved to hold herself up against the edge of the pool tightly. A quick glance showed the pool still clear, with none of the telltale coloring of blood that would have stained it if she’d been shot. “What in hell are you doing here?” she added in English again.
“Don’t look at me!” Medron shouted back. “They started it!”
“Right. You’re the one in combat armor and looking seriously out of place.” She glared at him with hard eyes and he swallowed nervously, wondering how he was ever going to salvage this. Oh wait. He had a helmet on. She wouldn’t know who he was if they met again. Thank God for small gifts. “What are you doing here?” she repeated in a more annoyed tone and he sighed. He waited a moment, reapplying his mind to the reason he was here, and felt the familiar knowledge that he was doing what he had to do flowing through him.
“Taking care of a traitor,” Medron finally noted simply. “Sardelis is not as loyal to the Marik as he likes people to think he is. Do you know where I can find him?”
“If I did, why would I tell you?” she growled and just kept staring at him. Even behind the visor of his helmet that stare made him nervous and he cleared his throat. Now he knew how her opponents felt in the arenas facing down her Colossus.
“Because you aren’t a traitor to the Marik?” Medron asked back and her expression shifted to the unfriendly side. Of course, that assumed it had ever been friendly, something he wasn’t entirely certain it had been. Either way, it was the wrong answer.
“Right. And why should I trust you? You’re the one hiding behind a helmet.”
“She’s got a point there,” John whispered and Medron turned to look at him.
“You’re not helping,” he muttered towards John before starting to turn towards Terra. Then he spun back as the door opened again and another man came rushing through. First the man saw the two guards on the floor, then saw Medron and John, and finished his entrance by spraying them both full of sub-machinegun fire. Another shriek came from the pool as bullets whizzed by him, and Medron brought his rifle in line with the newest guard before pulling the trigger. His and John’s shots arrived at the same time and the guard flew back through the door into the hallway, dead before he left the poolroom. “You all right?” he asked as he stood up, turned back to the pool, and started walking towards it.
“Yes!” she shouted back angrily as she grabbed onto the pull edge again. “Thanks for your concern but would you please get out of here? I’m getting tired of dodging bullets in here!” Then she looked over and saw the remains of the table her clothes had been on. She turned back to him, looking even angrier than before, assuming that was possible, and he took a step back away from her in nervousness. “You,” she noted in a voice that would have made Death himself squirm in his boots. “Are such a bastard.”
“Don’t look at me!” Medron cried defensively. “They were the ones shooting all over the place!” he continued, pointing at the dead guards.
“They were shooting at you,” she responded coldly and Medron gulped nervously.
“She’s got a point,” John whispered and Medron turned to him helplessly.
“You’re not helping!” he repeated loudly. “But…um…well, let’s leave!” he finally commanded, looking back and forth between Terran and the door nervously, and then started moving towards the door as quickly as was safe.
“I’ll get you for this!” Terra shouted as he entered the hallway, John right behind him, and they looked down at the last guard they’d taken out. He wore a slightly different uniform and Medron frowned as he looked at the man’s rank.
“The security chief,” he muttered and John chuckled.
“That should make things easier,” he returned with a smile and Medron winked as he brought the micro communicator online again.
“Ding dong, the chief is dead,” he transmitted in a lilting tune and turned it back off again as he smiled at John.
“Oh, that is so lame!” Terra shouted from the poolroom and Medron sighed helplessly as he looked at the rest of the hallway.
“Maybe you could think of something better!” Medron shouted back as he realized the only door was an exit to the outside. That wasn’t where he would find the data. He shrugged and started to walk down the hallway as her last shot hit home.
“No thanks! I don’t want to sound like an ignorant idiot!”
“Twice in one day,” John whispered as they continued scanning the hall while walking back towards the intersection. “That’s impressive, though you could have done better.”
“Bite me,” Medron growled in response.
“Good,” Medron muttered as they walked into the intersection, seeing nobody to their left. Good. “If you didn’t, I’d be very nervous.”
“For me or you?”
“Good. Just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.”
“Don’t worry,” Medron whispered as they approached the corner where the hall turned to the right, going deeper into the mansion, and tapped his helmet meaningfully. “We’re totally in sync.” Then he nodded at the corner and John smiled.
“Good. I’d hate for there---“ he cut off as he rushed around the corner in the middle of the sentence. If anyone were waiting for them, they’d be on highest alert at the end of sentences, rather than in the middle of them. Medron came around the corner a second later, swinging his rifle to point down the empty hall and sighed. What the heck was going on? Sure, they’d gotten lucky and taken out the security chief, but these guards had to have some kind of chain of command left didn’t they?
“Well…guess we go on,” Medron muttered with a shrug and John shrugged back as they began walking. Several meters down, it made another turn to the right and Medron frowned. If there were a trap, it would be sprung when they were halfway down the hall and would have the least ability to run or charge. At least that is when he would spring it if he were defending. And if he had men available. He took another step forward and nodded in John’s direction before pointing with his eyes towards the corner. John nodded back, understanding what he meant, and they both tightened their grips on their rifles. If he were doing it, it would be right…about…now.
They stepped forward again and Medron frowned. Maybe they didn’t have anyone left. Then he saw a sub-machinegun poke out and brought his rifle up. So they were late. It sprayed bullets that smashed deeper into his armor than previous shots and he winced in pain. He was really starting to feel those bullets. He sighted the rifle in and pulled the trigger, feeling it smash his shoulder back again, but the bullet ripped through the corner and a cry of pain erupted from his target. Nice. He was really starting to like the penetration of this rifle.
Another SMG poked around the corner but John sent the arm howling back in pain, without the weapon or the hand that held it, before it could fire anything. Medron nodded in approval as they walked up to the corner purposefully, and then chuckled as he brought his hand up to the micro communicator again.
“One, two, three, four,” he intoned with menacing glee in time to his steps. “Round the corner if you wanna eat floor,” he finished, emphasizing the words that hit on each step. It wasn’t the best he’d ever come up with, but if it unnerved the guards it was doing what he wanted.
“You’re getting worse,” John muttered and Medron made a face at him.
“Who asked you?” he asked as he stepped around the corner to see a guard running like his life depended on it towards another exit. Ah yes. Both halls exited into the courtyard on that side of the estate. That made sense. Medron nodded in understanding and John followed him in examining the hall. Three meters down, another hallway met it from the left and they shared a long sigh.
“Now what?” John asked and Medron shook his head slowly. He was getting so tired of this maze.
“Left,” he finally muttered.
“Last time we followed the guard and were wrong,” he noted simply and John nodded in agreement.
“Good point,” he responded and started walking towards the intersection of halls. They turned the corner, going deeper into the mansion, and met no resistance.
“So,” Medron muttered as they kept walking, towards what looked like a large room at the end of the hall.
“What was she doing here?” John asked and Medron glanced in his direction in surprise.
“Yeah. You read my mind.”
“Didn’t take long.”
“Right,” Medron muttered with a glare towards John. “Seriously though,” he added as they approached the end of the hall. “Why here?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care,” John growled and glared back as Medron looked at him. “You’re the Terra fan. I prefer Maria.”
“Oh right,” Medron responded disbelievingly. “At least Terra’s got the weapons to dismantle her opponents in twenty seconds flat!”
“Bigger isn’t always better,” John responded simply.
“That’s what House Liao thought,” Medron sniped back, walked into the room while privately smiling at the low growl coming from John, and glanced around at the rich furniture lining the walls and scattered around the floor. “Wow. I think we went the right way,” he added, and then ducked back into the hallway as they started taking fire from above and ahead.
“What was your first clue?” John asked sarcastically as bullets skittered off the wall and sank into his armor.
“The book shelves on the balcony,” Medron responded calmly as he braced himself and aimed at the couch a stream of bullets emanated from. John fired at their attacker from the balcony as Medron pulled the trigger, and two screams of pain rewarded their efforts.
“Books?” John asked incredulously as his target fell from the balcony with a sickening crunch and Medron shrugged, walking back out into the room experimentally.
“Can you think of a better clue?” Medron responded and John just shook his head unbelievingly as no more weapons fire greeted Medron.
“Oh I don’t know. Maybe the fact that we were being shot at?” he yelled back and Medron nodded towards the hallway feeding off the left side of the room.
“Details, details,” he muttered dismissively as John looked up the stairs to the balcony questioningly. “We’ve been getting shot at since we came in here and look where following that took us,” Medron added as he shook his head and nodded back to the hallway again. John shrugged and they moved into it, still scanning back and forth for enemies.
“I didn’t hear you complaining,” John muttered sourly and Medron laughed back.
“Good point.” They walked up to the single door in the hallway and Medron shrugged questioningly in John’s direction. John shrugged back and Medron hesitated, head moving back and forth as he wondered what to do next. Then he shrugged again, brought his foot up, and kicked the door in.
“That was so smooth,” John noted sarcastically as Medron ran in, and then followed him through the door. A single guard fired a sub machinegun at them and Medron pulled the trigger once, blowing him back against the wall, and then turned to scan the rest of the room.
“Give me a break. I didn’t have much time to think of a smoother way,” he muttered as he noted the large bed and the beautiful fixtures in the room. They had most definitely hit the right place. In one corner, their target shivered in fear and Medron smiled nastily.
“That’s par for the course,” John noted. “Oh wait. You prefer kiddy golf don’t you?” he added and Medron’s cheek twitched, betraying his annoyance.
“Do you see a computer in here?” he asked pointedly and John turned to look at the terminal beside the bed.
“Right,” he responded, taking the point, and walked over to it.
“So, mister Sardelis,” Medron began affably, waving his rifle in the noble’s general direction. “You can think of me as your friendly neighborhood priest. Do you have an confessions to make?” he asked pointedly and Sardelis shook his head as he shuddered in nervous convulsions. “Ah, come on,” Medron cajoled. “I won’t tell a soul,” he added in an evil tone as John started accessing the computer’s memory. Sardelis shook his head harder and Medron shrugged sadly and walked back to the door. “Your choice,” he muttered and glanced out. He pulled his head back in as a spray of bullets shredded the door jam where his head had been.
“What was that?” John asked and Medron sighed nervously.
“Oh…I think they finally figured out it was a diversion,” Medron muttered and turned back to Sardelis.
“How many?” John asked and Medron leaned back against the wall. He looked down at the armor that was looking decidedly ragged, and started feeling his adrenalin rush fading away. He was starting to hurt all over. No surprise really. The surprise was that the adrenalin had lasted as long as it had. He winced and glared at the noble.
“Too many,” he finally muttered, pain starting to show in his voice. John looked over to him, nodded, and turned back to the computer.
“So what now?” Sardelis asked, a little bit of hope starting to show in his body language. “If you shoot me, they’ll kill you,” he added and Medron winced again.
“Who’s to say that wasn’t the idea?” he growled.
“I’d be dead if it was,” Sardelis responded, licked his lips nervously, and John glanced over at Medron again. He shrugged and got back to hacking into the computer. “What do you want?” the noble asked, the nervousness and fear fading away. “Money? I can give you millions,” he offered quickly, trying to get the upper hand in the situation. Medron turned back to John questioningly. The man nodded, stood away from the computer, and tapped the small memory module in his hand. So he had the data. Good. Now he just had to decide what to do next. Shooting their way out was not going to work after all. “How about Women? How many do you want?” Sardelis asked and Medron’s cheek twitched, but he suppressed it and turned to Sardelis slowly, as if suddenly interested. He had a chance to find something out.
“Just one,” Medron noted simply. “Terra Belmond.” Sardelis actually laughed out loud at that demand and Medron brought his rifle around to point at Sardelis coldly. “I’m not joking,” he added and the noble shook his head, pityingly.
“Kid, I’m her primary sponsor and even I haven’t been able to get her to roll over for me yet.”
“Funny,” Medron muttered and glanced over at John reassuringly. “I would have thought you didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
“I won’t much longer,” he responded threateningly. “Now, if you don’t want to die, surrender to me now.” Medron turned over to John, wondering if he should do it. John shrugged back and Medron sighed. They couldn’t shoot out through that many guards. They just couldn’t. But he didn’t want to give in either. Sardelis wouldn’t have the same patience for a Blood Pit fighter as he did for Terra Belmond, and the last thing he wanted was to follow a traitor’s orders. Sardelis had to be stopped. Somehow.
“I don’t think so,” Medron growled back, surprising Sardelis as he tried to come up with some idea to get out of this in one piece. “I’m not doing this for money. Or for women,” he added with an evil smile. Then an idea came to mind. The noble hadn’t fully judged the situation correctly, and Medron had finally found the loophole. The one that just might work. “I just want to get out of this in one piece,” he whispered slyly, feeling his anger fade away, and walked over towards Sardelis, putting the rifle in the noble’s face. “I’m sure you do as well,” he added in an evil tone and smiled as his target’s eyes widened.
“But…but if you shoot me my men will kill you!” Sardelis shouted.
“But you’ll still be dead,” Medron noted coldly. “Tell them to stand down and let us leave. Tell them you’ll be coming with us. And when we get out, we’ll let you go,” he finished his offer and reached for the micro communicator he’d taken off his first target.
“No,” Sardelis whispered, a touch of fear in his voice again. He was losing control and didn’t like it all. “You’d be able to kill me and run!” he shouted and Medron simply stared at him through his spider-webbed visor. When had that happened? Oh well. That didn’t matter now.
“You said it yourself,” Medron noted in the same cold voice as before. “If that was why we were here, you’d already be dead,” he finished as he held the micro communicator out for Sardelis. The noble glowered at him hatefully for a moment, and then swallowed, his Adam’s apple convulsing with the motion.
“I’ll get you for this,” he growled and grabbed the micro communicator.