ORCHID 1.3 HALCYON DAYS ARE OVER PT. III
Pitter-patter. Rain falls lightly on the roof of the van parked outside Skyscraper One. Inside the vehicle sits a dark figure, his face obscured by the shadows of the evening. A smirk slides across this person's face as an agitated voice reaches him over the radio.

Turning a dial on the radio, the figure listens as the agitated voice rings clearly inside the car: "Mercutio! Mercutio! Do you read me? This is Macbeth."

"Yeah."

"The operation will commence in approximately fifteen minutes. At that point, enter the building fifteen meters to your left. You will have roughly thirty minutes to secure the target. Success rate should approach ninety-five percent within the time limit. Make sure you have everything you need. Understood?"

"Yeah."

"Are you even listening?!"

"Yeah."

As the voice on the other end grows more irate, Mercutio leans forward and shuts off the radio, silencing the voice with it. Mercutio reaches into the glove compartment and retrieves a juice box from it. He fumbles with the straw for a moment before successfully poking a hole in the box.

"Grape, huh?" Mercutio says after taking a long drink. He crushes the half-finished box in his hand. "I envisaged a much more august piquancy for a devious scoundrel as myself, but I surmise I am at no liberty to air my grievous grievances in relation to the parsimonious practices of juice box manufacturers at this present moment. Woe is the revolutionary whose duty so relentlessly calls that he cannot so much as enjoy the simple pleasures of a draught of fruit-flavored high-fructose corn syrup!"

Humming to himself, Mercutio drums his fingers against the steering wheel. Suddenly, a thunderous explosion erupts from somewhere far above him. Craning his head upwards with the trace of a smirk still on his face, Mercutio watches as a searing ball of flames surges out from the top of Skyscraper One. Debris and shrapnel rain down from the sky.

The van's door bursts open as Mercutio leaps out of it. He slips a strange leathery glove onto his right hand and flexes his fingers. "Show time," Mercutio grins, gingerly slamming the door of the van shut. Gleefully, Mercutio flies into action without another word, heading straight for the unguarded entrance of Skyscraper Two.


Red eyes lurk from within the unseen recesses of Skyscraper One. They watch silently as Azure Dunbarton disappears onto the sky bridge outside. Suddenly, two pairs of footsteps ring from behind.

"This way! I know I heard a noise around here…."

The girl with long black hair spins with frightening agility, elbowing one of the fake G.L. soldiers in the stomach. He staggers backwards and trips over a fallen beam of steel as his attacker sidesteps several rounds fired from the second soldier's weapon.

"Damn bitch!" snarls the second soldier, raising his gun again. The girl's pale but calm face glimmers in the moonlight. A pair of steely black-silver eyes gazes back at the fake soldier. Undaunted, the man lobs another taunt at the girl. "Who do you think you are, anyway? No civilians are allowed here."

At the exact moment the guard prepares to fire again, the girl raises her hand. Shards of silvery glass materialize out of thin air at her beckoning. With a shimmering grace, the pieces of glass crystallize and repel the bullets fired by the soldier. The gold casings fall to the ground, sheared in half.

"What the—?!" the soldier cries, backing away at the sight of the girl's eyes, which have turned bright red. "Impossible! The R—?!"

Before the man can finish his sentence, his opponent draws a gun of her own. The girl fires one shot from the pistol that sails straight between the soldier's eyes. He immediately falls to the ground dead.


At the zenith of Skyscraper One stands the mysterious man Macbeth. The rain falls gently on his broad shoulders, but he does not appear to mind. Several blades of his dark hair, which is cropped short in a crew cut, chafe against his chiseled ears and sunken gray eyes. Two or three days' worth of stubble lines his rigid jaw.

Behind him, a circle of his fake G.L. men surround the partygoers still trapped atop the firebombed tower. Most of the guests either sit or kneel on the charred ground, frightened looks on their faces.

Macbeth holds a radio transmitter up to his mouth as he looks out from the edge of the rooftop terrace. "Group B, keep moving. Secure as much of the building as you can. The Royal Police are right on your tail. Do not break ranks."

After a couple seconds, Macbeth raises the transmitter again. "Mercutio, what is your progress?"

"Aye, aye, kindly bestow upon me another twelve minutes, Macbeth!" comes the response from the other end.

The unsmiling Macbeth nods. "All right. It doesn't seem as though the R.P. have caught onto our plan yet, but all the same do not take your time to smell the roses. Head straight to the rendezvous point as soon as your task is complete."

"Roger!"

Sighing, Macbeth now turns his attention to the captive partygoers kneeling on the ground nearby. Among them, Mimi sits on the ground with her arms wrapped around her knees, her beautiful gown ruined by the recent blast.

"Azure…" she mumbles worriedly.

Macbeth turns away from the pitiful sight. His thin lips pressing tightly together, he gazes down at the massive sky bridge three floors down. At this moment, his eyes chance upon a sight that startles even him. Reaching for his transmitter again, Macbeth says, "Mercutio, do you read me? Mercutio!"

No answer.


Somewhere within Skyscraper Two, a headset lies forgotten on the ground as Mercutio hurtles down a corridor. On his back he carries a long, thin package wrapped carefully in black cloth. In his left hand he clutches a tiny thumb drive. Mercutio's light brown hair droops low over his eyes as he looks over his shoulder and puts on more speed, breaking into a full sprint.

"Those dastardly R.P. rascals cottoned on quickly!" he hisses. Reaching into his bomber jacket, Mercutio pulls out a handgun and fires blindly two shots over his back. Shouts ring out from behind, but Mercutio does not stop to look.

Stowing the gun away, Mercutio staggers to a halt outside a locked door. He throws his shoulder against it, but the door refuses to budge. "Curses!" Mercutio scowls. Meanwhile, footsteps echo from just behind him.

"Halt!" says one of the policemen chasing after Mercutio.

In one slow motion, Mercutio spins around with his hands raised, placing the piercing gaze of his emerald green eyes on his pursuers. Two identical red laser dots flash between Mercutio's eyes as the officers train their weapons on him.

Before the two men can do anything else, however, a crooked leer tears Mercutio's face in half. Soon, the leer morphs into a fit of lurid laughter. "I daresay you fiendishly unfriendly fiends shall forthwith regret your futile endeavor to pry me from the clutches of freedom!" he cackles, raising his gloved right hand.

Taken aback, the two policemen glance at each other before lighting their weapons ablaze with fire. However, Mercutio proves too fast. He slithers past the onrush of bullets and grabs the policeman on the right around the neck with his hand. A blast of purple lightning flies from Mercutio's hand as the man is electrocuted.

Reaching into his jacket again, Mercutio dodges as the second policeman tries to crack open his skull with the butt of a rifle. Mercutio launches a dagger straight through his second assailant's neck.

The two victims fall to the ground lifelessly. Within seconds, the empty corridor lapses into an eerie silence.

Mercutio ambles back to the locked door. Another surge of violet lightning ignites in his hand and throttles the door. In seconds it caves in, revealing a stairwell on the other side.

Mercutio hurries up the flight of stairs awaiting him. The thief breathlessly scales several floors, until he finally breaks through another door and finds himself back in the main part of the tower. Behind him, the door slams shut with a bang as he enters the middle of an observation deck.

On the right, Mercutio is presented with an unobstructed view of the smoking Skyscraper One. Flashes of gunfire and smaller explosions periodically light up the besieged tower's shattered windows.

Just ahead is a pair of glass doors leading onto a deck that connects to a sky bridge linking the two towers. But as Mercutio steps towards the doors, the rattle of a dozen or so guns training on him sounds. The dark outlines of the R.P. men surround Mercutio.

"Hold it there!"

"I would sooner visit the fiery trenches of Hell!" Mercutio roars back. Desperately, he dashes past the huddle of officers and breaks through the doors leading onto the bridge outside. Gunfire trails after him, chasing after his heels as the shells explode on the glass windows instead. Pieces of glass sail into the air as Mercutio gains the cold air outside, which is heavy with the smell of gunpowder.

Waiting for Mercutio on the other side of the bridge is a single person. Their eyes meet at the exact midpoint of the bridge, Mercutio's green eyes growing round as he spots this unexpected encounter. Behind Mercutio, several Royal Policemen reach the bridge.

"Stop him!" they holler, raising their guns frantically.

Mercutio's face contorts with prideful wrath. He raises his fist, lightning bristling in his right hand. "I implore you to try and stop me!" Hollering at the top of his lungs, Mercutio hurtles straight at the last obstacle between him and freedom like a bullet.

With a crack, a single gunshot disturbs the night. The bullet slashes through the air with razor-like precision and pierces Mercutio directly through the chest. Azure Dunbarton lowers his smoking gun.

-ORCHID ONE-