Bryan was in hot pursuit of the girl running through the littered alleyways of Saiba City's most prestigious district. Siren was moving as smooth as water around the buildings, which meant Bryan could only keep within twenty feet of her at the most. Eventually the two ran out of the Central district and into the dirty outskirts of the inner city. Pace for pace, Bryan kept behind his former friend until they hit a dead end littered with discarded bottles and god knew what else. The walls surrounding them weren't much better, scarred with graffiti of vulgar words and other lurid pictures
"Dead end. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Surrender," Bryan said threateningly. However, Siren had actually gone through all the motions in her head and had travelled this route many times before. As if on cue, she leapt up, and much to Bryan's surprise firmly gripped the handrails of the fire escape above her and pulled herself with minimal effort. She then continued to make her way up the fire escape with near equal speed.
"Mother of…" Bryan said to himself. Making a command decision, he pulled down the ladder to the fire escape and raced up to the rooftop shortly after Siren got there. Siren was still running away from Bryan, though for what reason it was unknown. As Bryan was in pursuit of her he noticed the attire she was wearing for the first time. He didn't know what it was, but it wasn't normal clothing for sure. Her torso was covered by a black chest plate that covered her from the neck to her shoulder blades. Her arms were covered in black guards that went from her wrists to her elbows, and were connected to her arms by a circle that went around her middle finger. Her shins were also covered much the same way, except under the guards were a pair of black boots. Under all this armor however, was the thing that Bryan found most chilling. Wrapped around Siren's body was a series of bandages the covered her from neck to toe, black in color. To anyone else, she looked like a mummy wrapped by the bandages of death. He had no idea what purpose the outfit served, but he knew that with the Order involved, he would have to be extra careful.
Just as Siren reached the end of the rooftop she leaped through the air and did a roll onto the next building. Bryan quickly followed suit and the chase resumed. They repeated this process over and over, like two enemies locked in a dance of death. If one could look down at the city below, they would've seen the broken and disenfranchised scar of an area that specialized in gang warfare and murder. If you lived here, you truly were living in a pit of hell. The streets were littered and dirtied as people walked on them, going about their lives, unaware of events transpiring above them.
When Siren leaped to the next building she ran halfway across the roof before changing her routine by going left and disappearing behind a structure. When Bryan saw this he sped up and leapt across the crevice to the building, landing running. In a mere four seconds he rounded the corner only to find an empty concrete opening. He stopped running and decided to observe his surroundings and do a quick assessment to determine if he could fight.
"A tower behind me. Could provide an ambush point. Have to watch for that. She could've run downstairs. No, that's highly unlikely. If she made the decision to reveal herself to me, she wouldn't abandon me like that. Damn it! Where is she?" Bryan thought. Now that he had stopped moving, he could feel the adrenaline pumping through his system; his breathing was heavy as well in addition to his heart rate, both of which were spiking upwards like a spire. He finally took in how far he had gone in his pursuit. Looking around, he realized he was in the inner city, known to everyone as Ground Zero. He had come a long way from home.
Out of nowhere Bryan felt a sensation of pain and dropped to his knees in reaction. The pain started cycling all through him and kept getting worse. Forcing himself to open his eyes, he saw wisps of water moving through the air, slamming into him with force. The barrage of water ended with a move that Bryan had seen before. The wisps started moving around his head in a pattern over and over again. At the same time, Bryan's mind felt like it was torn apart. This was the technique he knew as Vatn huga, or Water mind. After a while, he fell to his side as his eyelids started to close. Before he slipped out of consciousness, the last thing he saw was the figure of Siren standing over him, blonde hair still covering her eye.
Central District, 9:44 A.M
Kate raced into the Central District and parked her bike. As she got off she saw a match going on between two tournament fighters. Despite wanting to see it herself, she knew she had a mission to do and was willing to achieve it at any means. Looking around the area, she noticed a bike parked against the sidewalk. Upon closer inspection, she discovered that the bike was Bryans.
"This is good. At the very least, I know he was here. Now let's see if anyone has seen him," Kate thought to herself. When she started asking around, she got the expected fare of answers.
"Haven't seen him."
"Who is that?"
"Sorry, haven't seen him."
"I saw him."
"You have? That's great. When did you see him?" Kate asked.
"About forty minutes ago. Man got into a match with someone who called himself the Black Knight. Did a real number on him. Cleared him in half an hour and ended it by ripping an arrow straight through his head. Guy fought like a monster," the man said.
Sounds like Bryan, Kate thought. "Did you see where he went?"
"Yeah, he ran into that alleyway over there after he won. It seemed like he was chasing someone. I didn't see who, but whoever it was, they looked important. Sorry I can't be of more help."
"Oh, that's fine. You've been a great help. What's your name again?"
After her conversation with Johnson, Kate felt a vibration in her left pocket. The caller I.D said Monika.
"Kate, its Monika. We've got a major problem on our end. Bryan's tracker went dead. Went out near the Central District ten minutes ago," she said
"That means he can't be too far away. Listen to me closely Monika. I installed a second tracker in Bryan's phone that uses its own GPS. Try and activate it," Kate replied.
"Okay, working on it now. Hidden trackers… Bryan 2… what the? There's a massive encryption key in it! It's gonna take at least three hours to break!"
"Encryption key… Bryan! That punk must've messed with his phone to block the tracker. Break the encryption key and tell me where he is as soon as possible!"
Kate started moving towards the alleyway and took a quick inspection of the area. The first thing she noticed was the two sets of footprints that led down the alley. One set was clearly much bigger than the others. The bigger footprints also seemed to be led by the smaller ones, which were in nearly straight lines. Kate needed no more information to determine what had happened. Bryan was chasing someone, someone much smaller than him, yet much quicker at the same time. This other person was clearly an expert in movement, judging from how even and fluid this person's footprints were. Piece by piece, the puzzle was coming together to form a picture, and this was one picture that she would rather see burned.
Realizing she had started daydreaming, Kate snapped back to reality and refocused herself. She began following the footprints into the alleyways and discovered that they eventually led to a dead end with a fire escape. "Must've gone up the fire escape. This means that… oh Jesus, they're in Ground Zero," Kate realized with a shock. Ground Zero was a major hot zone at the moment and any false movements could accidently set off a gang war. Kate left the alleyway and returned to the Central District only to get on her bike and head towards the inner city.
Ground Zero, 10:50 A.M
Kate parked at the edge of the Central District and the inner city. After she dismounted her bike, she decided to hide her police badge in her pocket. Cops were heavily hated by the gangbangers around here, and Kate couldn't afford to draw unnecessary attention to herself. As she set off into Ground Zero, she noticed just how decrepit this place really was. Kate had been in this place many times before, but that was mostly due to drug busts. She decided to start asking around if there was any suspicious activity earlier today. Most people said they hadn't seen anything but she stopped when one person said that something odd had happened. Getting him to talk, however, was a different story.
"I'm not talking to you, pig," the man said. He was young, with tanned skin and long hair.
"Excuse me?" Kate said, eyes narrowing.
"You heard me. Now piss off cop."
"Okay, you wanna play it like that? Nice seal you've got there. Arena activate."
"Oh, this is gonna be fun. I'm gonna win a seal and take down a cop!" the man said.
Kate's emblem, a fist holding a sword engulfed in flame, started glowing orange on her thigh. She had to hide it because she had entered the tournament secretly and didn't want anybody to know that she was fighting. Kate's battle form started appearing around her at the same time. The first thing to appear was her pants, which were jet black and let to a pair of black boots that covered her shins. Next was her shirt, which was black and blood red and cut off at the upper middle of her chest. Her sleeves ran all the way up the length of her arms with slight puffs at the shoulders. Her weapons, dual katanas similar to Bryan's, only colored orange instead of blue, appeared in her hands.
The man's emblem, a bow with a loaded arrow in it, started glowing brown on his shirt. At the other end of the arena his battle form also started appearing. The first thing to appear was his pants, which were brown and led into his boots, also brown. The next thing to appear was his shirt, which was green with slash marks through the middle, which revealed a slight amount of skin. A small pane of glass appeared over his right eye, which had some moving objects in it, all digital. The final thing to appear was his weapon, a rifle that was the in between the length of a shotgun and sub machine gun, but still able to be held in one hand. The weapon was actually custom made, designed with carbon fiber and titanium for strength and lightness.
"Let us begin. I am Velik, the Hunter, by the way," Velik said.
"My names Kate, the Inferno Vixen," Kate replied. "Let's finish this up; I've got someone waiting for me."
Kate began the first charge by running and using a move known as the cross slash; a move which involved slashing upwards with both blades only to bring them back downwards in an X-shape. Before she even got close to Velik however, she suddenly felt herself being hit by three large slugs, as well as hearing loud booms before it.
"What the hell? I was moving at high speed, there was no way you should've been able to hit me!" Kate exclaimed as she slowly rose to her feet. The slugs hadn't entered her body but they did cause lots of blunt force damage and there were large bruises where they had hit.
"Did you think this eyepiece was for show? Don't make me laugh. It actually allows me to target my opponent's weak points and after activating my lock on, I fire for a guaranteed hit, no matter the speed of my opponent. The eyepiece told me that the best points to hit were your chest, your stomach and your leg. Judging by how slow you are to get up, it was a good choice."
Kate responded by charging at him again, but this time she was looking at the eyepiece with the crosshair moving in different directions. When she saw it become red, she quickly dodged to the left and created a wall of flame. Velik fired as fast as he could, but with a poor lock, barely missed by inches. Kate then flew out of the flames and slashed down, landing a direct hit on him. Velik stumbled back and attempted to regain his footing when Kate attempted to follow up on her initial attack. Using a button on his weapon, he fired into the air and created a repelling field around him. Kate flew back and landed on her feet with effeminate grace.
"I hate having to use that ability. It requires a lot of timing and I can only use it once per ten minutes. It allows me to create a force field that repels all opponents and abilities. Unfortunately, it has almost no offensive value," Velik explained. He then rapidly fired in Kate's direction, hoping to make her move even more, thereby causing more damage to her injured body. Kate managed to dodge them and resumed the offensive by charging at Velik and slashing at him. Kate made three hits before activating her fire bolt, pushing him back while dealing a good amount of damage. Kate followed up by utilizing quick grace and vicious strikes to knock Velik back to the ground.
"Not bad," Velik said from the ground. When Kate stood over him, however, he suddenly pointed out his weapon straight at Kate's face. "But not good enough."
"The same could be said for you," Kate said as she whipped her blade in front of his face. All of a sudden, the arena had been reduced to nothing more than two people staring each other down in the face.
"Tempest Flame," Kate said as she fired a massive plume of fire from her blade directly into Velik's face, ending the match.
"Velik, the Hunter, has been defeated," the announcement system said.
After the match ended Kate received her seal, the Seal of the Charlatan's mask. She saw Velik still lying on the ground, slowly getting up. Kate walked over to him and bent over him, in a way that such that his peripheral vision was completely blocked off by her.
"You lose. Now tell me what you know," Kate demanded. The time was now 2 P.M.
"Okay, okay. Around an hour ago, I saw two people racing across the rooftops from where I'm living. Boy and a girl. The boy was in pursuit of the girl, though it seemed like the girl was winning. The female was wearing some weird suit, something made of metal and wrappings, pure black," Velik revealed.
So, Bryan was chasing a female individual. Most likely Siren, given all that's happened so far. Kate took Velik's hand and helped him up.
"That's all I needed to go. Now I need you to do something else for me. I want you to be my inside man on all that happens in Ground Zero. If you find out about something, you tell me about it, understand?" Kate said.
"Then here's a nice tidbit of information. Tensions between the Sitas and the Black Hawks have been higher than ever before. However, there's been no precedence for this. I think that they're just pawns in a bigger game. Whoever the game master is, I don't want to be here when he shows himself."
The Sitas and the Black Hawks were two of the biggest drug cartels in the city. The product they shipped in annually was worth millions, if not more. Both gangs were long time rivals and Kate knew that any spark between the two could set off a war with long lasting repercussions. Anyone who had the presence to influence not one, but both at the same time was a major player in this city.
With this new found information, Kate began walking away to search for more answers.
"How will I be able to contact you if I notice anything?" Velik asked. Kate just kept on walking. Velik started walking in the opposite direction and stuck his hands in his pocket out of force of habit. He felt something, a slip of paper, rustle against his hand and pulled it out. When he read the contents of the slip of paper, he smiled to himself. Written on it was Kate's cell phone number as well as work number.
Kate turned the corner when she stopped in her tracks to fix her pants. Whether it was blind luck or divine intervention Kate never knew, because a second later an arrow whizzed straight by and planted itself firmly in the ground. Kate quickly scanned the buildings where the general direction of the arrow had come from. No one was in site though so with a sense of apprehension she approached the arrow to take a cursory examination. The shaft was wooden, and wrapped in tape. Inscribed on the tape was a message. Kate took note of that for later and examined the head of the arrow, still stuck in the ground. The head was metallic and razor sharp. If she had moved even an inch closer, not only would she have been hit by it, she would've been killed instantly. With careful hands, Kate removed the tape and read the message inscribed on it:
If you want to see your friend again, you'll come to the roof of the Vickers Building at 8:00 P.M. Alone. Try to pull any sleight of hand, and your friend will be executed immediately.
Kate read the message over and over again. Bryan had been captured, by who she didn't know, but there was a strong suspicion. Another look at the arrow confirmed that suspicion. On one of the paper fletchings on the arrow was a picture of a man guarding a door with a spear. The man had two faces.
Janus, the God of beginnings and endings. The Order.
So, Bryan had been captured by the Order. Kate made a call to Wrecker and Monika for information.
"Wrecker, its Kate. What do you know about a place called the Vickers Building?" Kate asked.
"Let me see… built fifty years ago in Ground Zero by the Vickers Corporation. Closed thirty years ago back when the economy went to shit and they closed down as a result. As of now, it's unoccupied and a monument to how greed and ruthless business practices can bring you down so quickly."
"Well, it's occupied now. And by our friends the Order no less. Anyway, did you break Bryan's encryption?"
"Yeah, broke it fifteen minutes ago. After cross referencing with a map, it appears he's being held in the Vickers Building. Why he's there, I don't know, and I don't want to know."
"Great. Now find a private place. What I'm about to tell you can't reach Monika's ears." Wrecker went into his room with his cell phone still in hand. Monika was still outside searching the map for any recent activity.
"Okay, I'm alone."
"Bryan's been captured. They're holding him there. I'm supposed to go there at 8:00. If I bring other people with me, he gets executed immediately. Whatever you do, don't tell Monika about this. She doesn't need to know that her best friend is being held against his will with a possible execution waiting for him. Now go outside and reassure her by telling her everything will be fine," Kate instructed. Kate normally never did things like this, but then again, the situation was far from normal.
"Okay, what are you gonna do for the next five hours? It's only three."
What it seems we always end up doing in the end. Sit and wait."
6:30 P.M, Roof of the Vickers Building
"Wake up," a voice said, seemingly far away. Bryan thought he could make out the voice, but with his head still tearing itself apart, he couldn't be sure. However, Bryan's eyes were slowly reopening and he could vaguely make out the area. He felt that he was high up, like on top of a building. The wind blowing on his face confirmed at least that much. He tried moving his arms, which for some odd reason were behind his back. He heard a metallic clank every time he moved them. So, I'm cuffed. He finally realized that he was sitting down on something, a chair probably, given how straight his back felt. The last thing he saw before everything came into focus was a humanoid figure, colored black with a strange pairing of yellow at the head. Then everything came into focus.
"I said wake up," Siren said, standing in front of him.
"Oh, I heard you, and you better be careful about you handle things from here," Bryan responded, malice seething in his voice.
"Last time I checked, I was the one holding you hostage,"
"Maybe. But am I the cat, or the mouse holding the key?" Bryan said. If one listened closely, a pin could be heard dropping on the ground.
All of a sudden, Bryan leapt out of his chair and transformed into his battle form in an instant and grabbed Siren by the bandages around her neck. Strangely, each bandage felt separated from one another, yet held together as one when it was tugged upon. Using his free hand, he materialized one of his blades and held it firm at Siren's neck.
"Tell me what the Order is doing. All this from the shadows crap is getting old," Bryan said, the steel still in his voice.
"All will be revealed in due time. You, however, will be dealt with right now," Siren said as she launched a jet of water straight at Bryan. Bryan easily dodged it but was forced to release her grip on Siren. Siren then rolled back and shot back with two more jets. Bryan dodged the first one by a well timed jump and the second one by a forward roll. He followed up with a kick to the side of Siren's midsection and then landing a swift but firm punch straight in her stomach. Siren crumpled to the ground on her knees, gripping her sides. Bryan responded to her vulnerability by pointing the end of a sword at her face.
"This was just a message. If the Order tries to pull the same thing on me or those I care about again, I will come back, with no mercy, and I will make sure that the one who strikes the finishing blow against you will be me. Make no mistake, if I see you again, I will kill you," Bryan said forcefully.
"Very good Mr. Anderson. I see that you've advanced in the art of blades."
Bryan recognized the voice instantly, and his spine went arctic cold as a result. Slowly, he forced himself to look up and saw the leader of the Order staring from a distance near the stairs that led to the roof.
"Odiom," Bryan said with a sense of rage, but also fear. Odiom was a man who face had been rarely seen, so whatever he was here for must have been big. Siren stealthily fell back and knelt in front of Odiom, still gripping at her side.
"You failed me lieutenant. I gave you a simple order, to eliminate this man, and you manage to let your feelings get in the way."
"I'm sorry, milord. I was..." Siren began before her superior cut her off.
"You can tell me about your failure later. Go back to headquarters and await further instruction," Odiom said with the same even tone and calm tone that he always used. It was unnerving, but also showed the arrogance of the man. He thought he was invincible, always two steps ahead.
"Yes sir," Siren said quietly. Bryan barely registered the sound.
"Oh well, I guess it's true what they say. If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. Ready yourself." Odiom came in with quick speed, landing two hard punches and two elbows to the sides before Bryan could even react. Bryan lost his footing and attempted to strike back with a hard right hook, but Odiom saw it coming and easily caught his arm. He twisted Bryan around while somehow managing to grab him by his shirt collar and lifted the young man into the air. Bryan looked down and finally saw the extent of what he was facing. Looking at Odiom's dark skinned arms, he saw a tattoo of two demons circling each other moving on a lean arm of pure muscle. His legs made him tall, about a foot higher than Bryan was, and had the same muscular tone and litheness as his arms. Looking at his face, he saw the face of a man who in other circumstances might have been attractive, but had instead been warped into some twisted being of violence. The black cloak and clothing didn't help his cause much either.
"Do you know what you lack?" Odiom asked Bryan, who was flailing his legs in order to attempt to loosen his grip.
"And what… would that be?" Bryan countered back, gasping for air. All of a sudden, he felt his feet touch the ground, followed up by a vicious punch to his chest. Bryan staggered backwards.
"You lack conviction," Odiom said as he drove his right elbow into Bryan's left arm. Bryan once again staggered back. "The conviction to do what needs to be done, no matter the cost. And that is why I will always be better than you. I kill without mercy, something you have. Mercy is for the weak."
Odiom finished his statement by delivering the finishing blow to Bryan's body, a forceful knee to the space in between his ribs and stomach. The power of the blow was too much for Bryan to handle, and he spat out blood as a result, staining the roof with a crimson red color. Without so much as a word to counter with, he collapsed to the floor on his side and lied there, unconscious and badly broken. Satisfied with his work, Odiom said that because Siren allowed him to live, he would be given a second chance at life, but reminded him that next time would be different before leaving the scene. Two minutes later, a bell rang out in the area, signaling that the time was now 8:00 P.M.
"The construction is nearly done anyway," Odiom said before he left.
"Enter and make your way to the roof, nowhere else. If you attempt to look inside any doors, you will be shot and killed." The text message, number blocked, read. With a grim sense of unease, she entered the building and pulled out her gun. As she made her way to the roof, she held it out in front of her at all times. What she saw on the roof made her go nearly hysterical. Bryan lied on the center of the roof in his battle form, swords scattered away. There was blood on the roof , and more pooling around Bryan's mouth. With shaking hands, Kate whipped out her cell phone.
"This is Lieutenant Willinsdale, requesting medical backup at the Vickers Building! Repeat, medical backup. There is a man in critical condition at my location!" Kate said to the policeman working the desk.
"Roger that lieutenant. Backup is on the way. Stay at position. Over."
9:30 P.M, Warehouse 8
After an excruciating hour of intensive care, Bryan's condition was finally declared stable though unconscious. At the request of Amanda, Bryan was taken back to the warehouse where she performed some healing spells.
"How's he doing?" Kate asked Amanda outside Bryan and Monika's room.
"He's fine. I wasn't able to heal all of the bruising, and movement will hurt for a few days, but he'll be fine afterwards. Mentally, I can't say as much. He's probably scarred after all that's happened," she replied.
"I don't blame him. Finding a person he worked to save, only to have her come around and backstab him again is tough for anyone to go through. Anyway, the real question now is, how will Monika react?" Kate wondered.
"Probably not well. The next couple of days aren't going to be fun."
'Especially not for Bryan. I'm going to give him a real shakedown soon about his actions. He acted without caution or reason. Idiot. Plus, the Order has finally upped the ante. What they did was commit kidnapping and hostage taking. As of now, the police department is at war with the Order."