I find it ironic that after all my year's globetrotting I've finally managed to find my way to sin city. Though I couldn't even imagine living in this literal tourist trap for more than a weekThe oppressive heat combined with the hilariously unfair gambling (with James losing about $200) and the city was quickly losing its glamour on me. I was also starting to miss my dog. Don't get me wrong Brutus could take care of himself ( I think he once made up my bed though I guess I was simply too tired to remember) but I still missed him. Luckily if we succeed here then maybe I could finally take a little break.
We tracked down the buyer of rheb to an okay hotel where we set shop only a couple of hours before the deal would take place. We signed in under the name of John and Jane Doe and set up whatever we could get away with. We were reduced to only carrying the bare essentials. I was reduced to my usual costume, but much fewer grenades and a puny grapple gun compared to the almost rifle-like grapple gun that I used to have. James was even worse; His armor is highly detachable so he was carrying armor on his hands and forearms, mask, his upper body, and knees. With our resources depleted, we decided it would be beneficial to use a highly advanced spy camera courtesy of Wiz to investigate the deal. Depending on how it would go down, we were to act accordingly, but we were most likely preparing for a fight, with the possibility of Pantheon dropping in as well. We laid in the family restroom quiet as a mouse while history unfolded.
The Deck in his standard mask and subordinates while the Ms-13 showed up with about six men. The aura of formality was probably the only thing stopping these men from tearing into each other. Deck steps in first and pulls out the terrifying vial of rheb.
"I lived up to my end of the bargain, but I don't see the money that you promised."
The tattooed man then slid to Deck a briefcase, and as he looked through the bills, he gave a sigh of disappointment and quickly closed it shut. He then looked to the Ms-13 members with his voiced much more disoriented.
"It's a shame, Mr. Davis; I didn't think that you could be dumb enough to pull fast one me but traced bills just about sealed your fate."
"What the hell are you talking about those bills have no tracker on them."
"My mask can scan in infrared and UV dumbass; I can see the chemical tracer clear as day."
Mr. Davis then pulls out a gun, and in a cocky look, he replies.
"Hey, at least I'm not dumb enough to come here with the real thing."
Deck unfazed by the threat just keeps talking.
"And it seems your still dumb enough not to understand the first rules of this life. Never trifle with someone who has survived in a job where most men die young. I brought the "real thing" because I always honor the respect of the deal, and because I always hold all the cards."
In seconds Mr. Davis men all fell to ground foaming at the mouth and convulsing wildly. Davis looked awestruck at sight but with his back turned Deck fired his diamond emblemed pistol straight at his leg and shoulder. With Mr. Davis in pain Deck capitalized on his victory by placing his boot on his shoulder.
"I mixed in my failed versions of rheb into half of your crew's food and drinks; I knew exactly who you'd bring and exactly where and when I could poison them. Because for a month now I knew that you were working with the Pantheon to try and steal something that already would've made you rich in the first place if you honored the deal. You showed your hand too early and now look at you, discarded to the pile of all the other examples who think they are no rules to the game. And for you it's over."
We couldn't hear the gunshot as suddenly our comms were hit with high pitched feedback. And if that wasn't a sign of running like hell, I don't know what is. In less than a minute we busted into the convention center. Upon our arrival, all I could see was Deck dive through a window and grappled upwards to the rooftops chasing a white blur. In pursuit, I tell James to deal with the rest of his subordinates as I fearlessly leap off the edge and soon ascend to meet my maker.
Okay so call me a gentleman or a misogynist but whenever I fight a woman I usually try to give her the first swing before going all out. I'm cursing myself over that fact now as Deck's subordinates recovered way faster than expected from the feedback. Before I could line up a shot, the surrounding area is suddenly hit with arrows that soon cloaked the room in thick smoke. Without even time to process what the hell just happened, my gun gets knocked away an unseen force as suddenly a powerful punch lands dead center to the chest! The blow staggers me a little, but I recover just enough to block a series of brutal slashes from a sword my defense crumbles upon the umpteenth swing but before she could draw back I pinned her down with my drawn machete. I was going to counterstrike but unfortunately the same unseen force hit my chest and the same gauntleted fist to the head!
As I'm forced back, my blurred vision gazes at my concealed opponents. Like Sarah said Deck's subordinates all had card symbols on their uniforms. The spades girl carried a couple of twin swords; the club girl had gauntlets with diamond equipped with a spiked baton which meant that cupid was probably outside sniping. With the odds in my favor I readied my blade and braced myself for the worst.
Once I made my way to the top of the building I waste no time with Deck. He narrowly dodges a slam from my bow staff but my tempo instantly increased from then on with him barely keeping up. In a moment, I managed to throw a glue bomb to his face and unleash a hard wing that knocks him to the ground. After I pin him with another glue bomb, I quickly saw that the white blur was indeed a person. She was dressed in all white with only slight traces of gold a faceless mask and strange devices on her forearm similar to Arachne. With her left hand secured forcefully by a device she was trying to remove with her sai. I instantly pulled out Gungir to finish her off, but with speed comparable to mine, she cut the device off and pushed herself off the surface while at the same time pushing an unseen button.
The same feedback from before attacked my ears completely stopping my approach. The feedback interrupted but still lingered as she got nearer as we both prepared our now twin bo staffs preferring up close and personal(seriously is she some stalker or something).
We engaged in a series of wild kaleidoscopic attacks with my combatant matching me blow for blow. We finally reached a pure stalemate with our staffs clashing with equal power, and as we stood face to face, we engaged in the usual banter.
"So considering your trying to kill me an all mind telling me your name?"
"I have no name. I'm only an Echo," the woman says disturbingly in my voice.
Before we could get more acquainted with one another a gunshot separated us both. Deck then comes in with his pistol and a club emblem stun baton saying.
"Sorry, ladies but I just have to cut in."
Even with all of my years as a Titan agent, I was never as overwhelmed as I am now. But even with hope dim, I was not about to fail my partner nor Titan again. Even still, this team displayed almost perfect cohesion. And I am barely able to hold on. Diamond comes back for another downward swing, but with my machete, I execute an ideal parry and grab her arm as I force her to release her left baton and brutally knee her away. But I'm forced to kick her even farther as with both of us pushed back the explosive arrow misses its mark.
Spade tries to attack, but with my new weapon, I had the advantage as I quickly disarmed one of her swords but Club jumped in with a dropkick knocks me down, but using the extra momentum I roll back, aim my machete and land it dead center in Diamonds head! With the shock of their former comrade dead, I engaged in a set of massive swings against Spade but using her grace she parries them all. With surgical precision, she lands a combo which resulted in a stinging cut on both my right leg and shoulder and the palm of a sword to my back. Even with all my wounds though I didn't allow myself to fall for even a second! Before she could even land the final blow with a grand slash I caught her sword dead in its tracks! With a disarmament and a kick following my small victory, I finished it off with a definitive a kick in the shins and an overpowering hold that soon ends with the snapping of a neck.
With half of my opponents dead, I circled Club who had readied herself in a fighting stance. And without hesitation, we charged at each other with primal roars! But even with my blood searing my charge was uninterrupted as I lifted her off her feet elbowing and screaming until I crashed her into a wall! But I don't even give her a second to recover as I gave a barrage of thundering strikes without hesitation. Club tried in vain to counterattack, but even with her empty right hook, I punished her for it in the form of a couple of wild knee's. Her pained screams for mercy shook the room as her life slipped away. And in a grand finale, I flip her over my shoulder and end her life in the form of a quaking elbow drop to the head! Which was an immediate regret as now I had to perform my next daring feat with a sore elbow to go along with my fists, busted lip and bruised side. That feat being taking a single grenade Diamond's batons and a great swing right in the direction of Heart who was latched onto the side of the opposing building. But I won't bother going into detail over the result as I simply let the sound of an uproarious explosion behind my back do all the talking while I add a mental note of what next to add to my list.
Saying I was in between a rock and a hard place was certainly an understatement. Between Echo's near equal skill to mine combined with Deck's arsenal created a long yet even fight with no particular victor in sight. Speaking of Echo, we had engaged in frenetic close combat unleashing an opera of martial arts. Even still the slight edge went to Echo with her not only copying but predicting my moves as they happen, ending with a palm strike that sends me back. In frustration over my difficulty, I decided that if the fight were to continue, then it wouldn't end well take a gamble. Still, I question my decision as in response Deck charges at me with a stun baton that I was barely blocking with a sai. With my face inches away from becoming dropped pizza, I appealed to my attempted killer.
"Hey, I've got a deal for you. You and I team up; you get the vial I get the girl."
" I'm interested, but why help the cause? Why take the gamble with you and Titan?"
"Because I'd rather let you have rheb then the Pantheon, and I know there are rules to this life."
Deck let the thought sink in and soon relented.
"Fine, a deal it is."
He relented his attack, and soon enough, we fought together. Deck throws a bunch of heart emblemed explosives that distracted Echo long enough to drag her with my grapple gun lining her up for a hard hit from Deck but Echo I. Response quickly countered with a judo throw. Not wanting to lose our momentum, I stepped in with a palm strike that knocks her away only so that Deck can flow up with a bola to the upper body. With Echo now trapped, we raised our guns and gave our orders.
"If you want your funeral to be open casket one day I suggest you surrender the vial."
"I'm honored, but you simply don't know the full extent of my skills," she said chillingly in my voice.
A split second after her speech two balls of super silk from Echo's gauntlet completely captured us. And by the time both of us had freed ourselves, she made her escape Scott-free. Per our agreement Deck and I left with civility but still promising that next time we meet it would be as enemies. When James and I regrouped and got patched up, we ended this nightmare in the same way always do after a crappy mission. While James enjoyed his guilty pleasure of a smore, I was enjoying a slice of beautiful chocolate cake still gloomy over my defeat.
"You know my dad always used to say that it was never about how high you fall from but how you fall that's important. These Hidden Wars are going to be a long and hard fight Pally, and I don't think a single person has fought that war harder than you."
"Thank you, James, that means a lot coming from you, I said slightly perked up from his words, "But please don't call me Pally ever again."
"Okay, we've discussed this before you get a nickname I get a nickname. I'm completely fine with being called Jamie."
"And I told you that is something a lame dad does."
"And last time I checked Sarah I am a lame dad."
We continued our blissful argument until suddenly I get a beep from my phone. I pulled it out to see that it was Melissa with a message. We exchanged contacts back in Tomsk and had built up a steady friendship over these past few months.
"You need to see this, Sarah."
I assumed it was nothing more than another funny video but instead what I saw was something that made my blood run cold and my heart skips a beat. My surroundings started to blacken and slow down to a deafening crawl as an all too familiar voice soon replaced any sound that could be uttered along with a thousand crap and a half's.
"Everything you touch dies."
I couldn't hear exactly what James said, but I showed him the picture nonetheless and the terrifying message from the Pantheon that came with it. The news that proved that my gamble at redemption had now ended in flames.
"Paladin Wanted: Dead or Alive, Reward: 1 billion dollars, State of Contract: open worldwide, Status: effective immediately."
End of part 1.