Emily felt a grin take shape on her face as she waded calve deep in the salty ocean water. Unadulterated sunlight shone down on the sandy beach, bringing the bright greens of the palm trees just beyond to sparkling life. There wasn't even a breeze on the air to disturb the peaceful still about her.

"Perfect little paradise, eh?" Makayla remarked from beside her.

Emily nodded, closing her eyes for a moment to soak up the moment.

"Wish we were dressed a little more appropriately for the occasion," Makayla quipped.

Emily blinked open her eyes, regarding the dark gray and silver jumpsuit Makayla wore in matching form with her. A few of the system lights winked green along her gear pack on her back. Unlike Emily, who had cut her blonde hair short, Makayla's auburn curls hung all the way down to her mid back. It wasn't regulation, but it wouldn't get in the way of their business.

Emily plodded up out of the water and onto the dry sand. It took only a moment for the meta-material in her boots to shed the salty moisture, leaving her as dry as the moment they zeroed down from command. She would have preferred a closer zero-in location, but the structure inland was well shielded. And it really was a beautiful day for a walk along the beach. It was hard to complain.

"Well I suppose we should crack to it," said Makayla.

"Suppose," Emily agreed. She clicked her tongue, bringing up her virtual HUD overlay on her retinas.

The structure, guised as a South Pacific mansion, was about two hundred meters into the island. The whole land mass was a small affair, really; mostly sandy beaches, with a tropical forest dominating the center mass. Their target structure stood just west of center, overlooking a small bay that was within shielded radius.

Emily set off at a brisk pace, unleashing her plasma sidearm as they pushed in through the tree line. The first few meters were met with no resistance, the foliage whipping by on either side of their hurried steps. She checked her proximity sensor, watching as two anti-personnel turrets sprung to life within the miniature jungle.

Several plasma explosions rocked the trees. Craters sprung up on either side of Emily, large clouds of vaporized dirt and sand sending debris pelting at her body shields. She loosed a few shots of her own, nodding in satisfaction as the first turret exploded in a burst of green light and shrapnel. Makayla dispatched the second turret, but not before taking a round to the gut that blasted her backwards with a small scream.

Emily pushed through the remaining jungle, pausing at the tree line that looked out at the structure. It stood three stories above the sandy bay, the front of the building overlooking the ocean. From this angle, she had a perfect view of the glass-covered patio, filled immediately with a response team. She switched her weapon to high-yield and bombed the patio to oblivion. Shattered glass, furniture, and bodies flailed onto the surrounding environment.

Makayla appeared at Emily's side, charging her own sidearm.

"Shields?" Emily asked in passing, focusing on a few more guards coming out of the gaping hole in the mansion.

"Fine," Makayla said through a sigh. "But I'm going to have a new bruise, and I was looking forward to a little sunbathing this weekend."

Emily grinned sideways. "Just chalk it up to a battle scar. The guys will think you're hardcore or something."

"I am hardcore."

As if to punctuate the point, Makayla sprung from the tree line, taking several enemy rounds at almost point-blank range. Her personal shields pulsed bright blue as the enemy fire pounded at her. That would leave some new bruises.

Emily laughed, springing after her friend as the two decimated the last of the guards. In moments, the remainders were a mass of charred flesh scattering the grounds around the structure. Most of the windows on the first floor had shattered, leaving burnt marks along the outside façade from their little firefight.

Makayla spun on her heels gracefully, surveying their damage. "Shall we let ourselves in?"

Emily nodded, making her way to the hole in the wall that was once the backroom door. Stepping inside, she blinked briefly as anti-personnel mines detonated in tandem around her. The kitchen and dining room shredded to pieces, sparks and fire lashing out as furniture and appliances turned to ash. All of it pelted at her shields, but her armored boots kept her locked to the ground upright.

Now she would have just as many bruises as Makayla.

It was over in a few short seconds. When the smoke cleared, Emily continued forward nonchalantly, Makayla right behind her.

"Thanks for taking the brunt of that," her friend cracked cheerfully.

"Now we can both be hardcore."

She paused at an archway into the main hall, watching several more guards take up cover positions. She even let them get a few rounds off directly at her head before deciding her next move.

"Go around back," she muttered over her shoulder. "See if we can't detain one of these guys. I imagine they have the security code."

Makayla nodded, disappearing down another corridor. Emily then glanced down at her sidearm, ever aware of the enemy rounds still peppering at her shields mercilessly. Nothing more than a light nuisance, but the guards hadn't seemed to pick up on that yet.

It was sad, really. Emily couldn't believe the Enemy employed such low-level cannon fodder. There wasn't any room for that in this war. A couple of lieutenants such as her and Makayla would walk right over such pitiful security.

That spoke to the true value of whatever they were guarding. Or perhaps the type of opposing forces the Enemy expected to assault this place.

Emily watched on her HUD as Makayla finished circling back behind the guards' cover. Satisfied, she opened up with her own suppression fire, finishing off the immediate wave of men in front of her. It was all over in moments.

Further down the corridor, she was impressed to see that Makayla's new prisoner was still conscious and largely unhurt.

"Hello new friend," Emily said cheerfully, "we need your help getting into an elevator."

The guard struggled in Makayla's grasp. She had discarded his helmet, leaving his messy brown hair and angry eyes exposed. His mouth was set in a grimace, as if by sheer force he would overpower the two girls. A laughable thought, really.

"I say we start cooking limbs," Makayla suggesting, nodding to Emily's plasma sidearm. "That should get him talking."

Emily frowned, not certain if she wanted to resort to torture. Killing enemy soldiers on the battlefield was halfway decent: they intended to kill you if you didn't kill them. Torture was just plain mean, and Emily liked to consider herself a decent person when it came to butchering their enemies.

"Go to the hell," the guard grunted. Her yelped in pain as Makayla tightened her grip around his diaphragm.

"I have an idea," Emily suggested. Leading her friend and the prisoner down the hall, they rounded the corner to the secure blast door at the elevator base. It took some decent firepower to blast it open, but she was not disappointed for efforts. A security panel waited on the other side, complete with retinal scanner.

"Well shucks," Makayla said dryly, "why did I even leave him awake?"

Without another word, she shoved the guard face first at the scanner. A second later, the panel chirped happily, and the elevator doors parted. Makayla hefted the guard up, tossing him back down the hall like a ragdoll. What he decided to do with himself at this point was of little consequence. His best bet would be to start swimming.

This island was about to turn into a bonfire.

The two girls stepped within the elevator, calling it down to the subterranean floor. Emily folded her arms, leaning against the back wall casually as the numbers ticked off. She was beginning to seriously doubt much waited for them below.

"I think we had bad Intel," she commented out loud.

"Yeah," Makayla added in agreement. "This was piss poor security. My shields never dipped below eighty-percent before recharging. I at least thought we'd get a decent fight with one of the Enemy's Captains or something."

The elevator pinged as it reached its destination. The doors parted down the middle, bright white light shining in from a two-story laboratory beyond. It was partway obstructed by a figure blocking the elevator door, silhouetted in black. In the split-second it took Emily's HUD to polarize, she grinned at the sight of her new opponent.

She was clad in form-fitting, matte black armor and duel-wielding plasma sidearms. Her red hair trailed down over her shoulder, bundled up in a braid.

"Well, well, well," Makayla began, sizing up their new foe.

"Guess security isn't that bad after all," Emily added.

The two girls sprung forward. It would be nice to fight someone carrying their caliber of gear and expertise.

Emily surged left, going for the girl's weapon. She was close enough—she thought she could knock it free. But the girl was faster, swinging away from Emily's reach and using the momentum to land a hit on Makayla. The impact sent her tumbling over a railing into the lower level of the laboratory.

Emily didn't follow her friend's fall, knowing full well that she could take care of herself. Instead, she recovered from the failed swipe, coming in fast on the enemy girl's back. The strike against Makayla had left her vulnerable.

The girl was fast. Definitely augmented with the same kind of gear Emily and Makayla packed. She whipped around so fast that the impact from her fist left stars in Emily's vision. She watched her shields dip to fifty percent as the world turned over in her vision.

Just as fast, Emily tumbled onto her back, the enemy girl pressing one of her boots hard into her chest. Emily's shields dropped another twenty percent, struggling to keep up with the barrage. With the breath knocked out of her, she managed a faint grin at the girl leveling a plasma weapon at her face.

"Lieutenant Emily Chambers," the red-haired girl commented. Emily could see now that she had brilliant emerald green eyes. Definitely one of the Enemy's prettier Captains, if that's what she was. Her armor was a variant she had never seen before—a little too stylish, so probably custom.

"And Makayla Forza," the girl added.

Emily blinked as she raised her dual sidearm, firing a powerful shot the knocked Makayla back over the railing. Emily hadn't even seen her friend come back around, yet this new girl had. And she was carrying some powerful weapons.

"I knew the Amalgam would send two of its poster child Magnums."

Emily was starting to get her breath back. And while the overly-stylized Enemy Captain was content to monologue, her shields were enjoying the recharge time.

"You didn't leave much of a greeting for us upstairs," Emily coughed out. Damn, her lungs burned. "And you know so much, but I haven't gotten a name off ya, darling."

The girl smirked, removing her foot. "And you won't get one today."

Emily stared in disbelief as she leapt into the air, grabbing hold of structural supports running along the length of the ceiling. In the time it took Emily to stumble to her feet, the girl had crawled with superhuman speed to an aperture on the far side of the room. She disappeared through it, leaving the brightly lit white room devoid of any other personnel.

Makayla appeared by her side, favoring her left arm. There was going to be a particularly nasty bruise there.

Emily exhaled. "Tell me you scooped something from their hard drives while she was babbling."

"Place was scrubbed clean," Makayla replied glumly. "My guess? Top side was security while Miss Skinny-Pants finished packing up. The rest zeroed-out ahead of us."

Emily bit back a curse. Command had said the island was an off-target asset. How did the Enemy know they were coming so soon?


"Nope," Makayla replied. "Just one big empty building. Much more insulting that way."

With a groan, Emily turned back towards the elevators. "Let's get out of here, then. If we hurry, maybe we can tail the girl…"