The coordinates on the back of the card were easily located, in a dockside warehouse. Madripoor's tropical heat was oppressive, more so than ever inside the stinking, rotting building.
The lone man's footsteps crunched in the grit on the cracked concrete floor. He was silent, taking in the surroundings and his obvious disadvantage, despite the advanced weaponry at his disposal. With a high-pitched metallic whir, a bank of yellowed lights flickered on and strengthened.
“I'm terribly sorry,” said a heavily accented male voice. “Madame Hydra has been detained. She sends her most sincere
Calculated rage had sustained Sebastian throughout his preparations and all throughout the twelve-hour flight. It was a cold companion by now, and it whispered into the waking daze in which he found himself.
His body armor was better than military grade. Military grade equipment was mass produced by the lowest-bidding government contractor – he knew this intimately as his company manufactured enough of it. What he wore was far better, yet even so he knew this mission was foolhardy.
What was more, Sebastian knew it was a trap. That was why he wasn't in it.
When the biological monitor on his decoy flat lined, his detached conscience added yet another name to a rising body count. Sebastian himself was two clicks away, near the last location Samuel Remplaza transmitted to Yukio before his disappearance.
He had easily located the clandestine operation – you simply couldn't hide the number of people it took to staff a large research and development center. And, no matter how well Viper paid, no matter her influence in Madripoor, the Hellfire Club still had its own circles of influence.
The small charge neatly blew the sophisticated locking mechanism from the door, just a moment before a much larger explosion echoed from the other side of the compound. Smiling to himself, Sebastian stole inside.
Cold, clinical – it looked uncomfortably familiar, but he pushed the thought aside. He met no resistance at first, and the first few guards met him with simple small arms fire. Returning the favor with a nearly silent prototype laser weapon, he moved down the hall, cutting across two corridors before a green and yellow uniformed guard barreled around a corner and straight into him.
The man was greeted with a stiff-armed palm to the jaw, enough to drop a normal man – or even to crack vertebrae, but this man shook it off and grinned. Oh, a fellow mutant then. Sebastian bared teeth in a feral snarl and dove into the fray. They were a match for size and possibly for strength, but Sebastian felt the press of time and reached for another of his toys. Screams echoed down the hall for only a minute before Sebastian silenced them and moved on.
Guards were flooding the corridors now, and unfortunately the scuffle had pinpointed his position. He felt the first impacts on his body armor and hissed as an energy pulse grazed an unprotected joint. It would bruise, but the impacts were diffused enough to trigger both his abilities and his temper.
He bounced a concussion grenade down one hall, taking cover in another and activating his short-range EMP device. The Hydra guards found themselves without operational weapons, and once Sebastian had secured the small mask to his face they found themselves writhing on the floor. The mist from the gas cartridge lingered in this passageway, so he sprinted deeper into the facility.
It was a group of armored agents who met him as he set the charge on a secured interior door. Tired of these lackeys, he activated the EMP again to disarm them before one closed in. They exchanged blows until Sebastian caught the man's wrist and twisted, spinning into a joint lock and viciously snapping the agent's elbow backward. Throwing him into his companions, he raised his arm, palm outward.
Light exploded from the small disc and the group was blasted backward, into the far wall. Sebastian aimed again and brought the ceiling down on their heads to hold them before turning to the reinforced doorway. The repulsor shot blew it from its hinges.
A few steps into the new secured zone, he was thankful for his mask when he saw the gas pumping from diffusers high on the walls. More agents appeared and he dispatched them, still managing to move forward until a flash of silver caught his eye. It was too late to escape.
Roaring, the creature slammed into him, the force driving them both into the wall with enough force the monster lost form and his knee collapsed sideways with a wet pop. Tentacles sprouted from nowhere and a gaping maw formed and snapped inches from his face. The mask was ripped away and the effect of the inhibitor gas was immediate.
Weakened, he managed to get to his taser. Reacting with a screech of ripping metal, the predator lost shape once more, but only for an instant. A cord-like tendril slithered around his wrist and over his hand, squeezing and cracking the taser. This time, the shock took them both.
His attacker recovered first, sprouting a forest of razor-sharp tentacles to encase Shaw and squeeze. The coils unraveled with lightning speed and slammed him into the wall. Sliding down it into a panting, bleeding heap. Shaking, he set his hand against the floor and pushed himself back up.
He had no time before the beast was upon him again.
<Shaw> He heard the hard casing of the repulsor housing crack at the pressure of the thing's massive jaws. A tentacle whipped forward, wrapping around an ankle and jerking him from his feet. Sebastian swore loudly, in several languages, until he connected with the wall. His head rebounded off the sterile material.
<Shaw> Stunned, he scrabbled with the release on the repulsor and located the hidden button under his wrist. The crushed device clung to his forearm, then finally ripped free at another shake of the creature's head. He closed his eyes, keeping count, and curled his body inward, toward the monster.
<Shaw> Grabbing the tentacle that held him, he swung, using his momentum to put the silver body between him and the explosion of the repulsor.
<Viper> The sound of slow applause echoed in the silence that followed. "I see you got my invitation?"
<Shaw> Sebastian's ears were ringing, and the voice sounded far away. Slowly, he pushed himself up to his elbows and turned toward the sound. He leered at her with blood on his teeth, then spit it toward her.
<Viper> Viper raised an eyebrow at the display. "Now is that any way to greet a lady?"
<Shaw> "Show me a lady and I'd be happy to remember my manners," he choked out, coughing. It made his head spin, and he dimly realized this was a bad thing. Now on his hands and knees, he started to his feet only to come face to face with a singed, snarling silver face.
<Viper> "Oh dear, you seem to have upset number seven. You should be more careful. Seven has a very bad temper."
<Shaw> Easing back to lean against the wall, he endeavored to ignore the monster. There was blood in his mouth again. It wasn't coming from a simple bit cheek then, was it? "Get this over with, witch."
<Viper> Viper rested her hand on the head of her pet, which was in its most common form of a very large silver cat, it stood ready to protect its mistress at a moment's notice. "Get what over with, Sebastian? What do you think I summoned you here for?"
<Shaw> "I've no idea. To gloat over your insanity? To seek to add my head to your wall of trophies?" He spit another gob of blood, this one landing on her boot. The catlike creature snarled.
<Viper> Viper looked down at the blood on her boot and pulled a face. "If you continue to spit at me, I may add punching you to the list of reasons."
<Shaw> Sebastian sneered and loudly worked up another shot, this one aimed much higher.
<Viper> Viper activated her force field so she wouldn't get any more stains on her clothing. "I must say... I was curious as to whether or not you would come here. I am sure you considered the possibility of this being a trap?"
<Shaw> "The possibility?" he scoffed. He'd noted the activation. "Why bother? Clearly you wanted me to see what you'd done before you killed me. What have you done to Jessica?"
<Viper> "Nothing she didn't want me to." Viper replied smoothly before adding: "And if you expect death after I invite you for a chat, why come at all?"
<Shaw> "Why do you keep questioning why I came? Why did
you summon me?"
<Viper> "To tell you to stop this nonsense, of course." She eyed him, "You will not find her."
<Shaw> "I will not
stop," he barked, then winced, putting a hand to his stomach and bracing himself against the wall. It came away bloody, and he felt along the edge of the largest gash in his body armor.
<Viper> "But look at yourself, if you continue like this you will be dead and then this is all pointless. Go home, Sebastian. Move on."
<Shaw> Using his self assessment as his cover, he activated the last EMP in his personal arsenal.
<Viper> The force field generator and her teleportation ring shorted out, much to her annoyance (she would be having words with her manufacturing division for not shielding them properly). Her pet moved into a protective stance in front of her and snarled threateningly at Shaw. "Are you going to make me use force to get my point across to you?" she arched an eyebrow at him, "I won't pretend that I don't find the idea of that entertaining."
<Shaw> "Perhaps." Sebastian leveled his small snub-nosed revolver at Viper and pulled the trigger.