If there is one principle in Titan that is respected at all times, its honor, in its vast sea of history, agents have always honored each other in various forms. Our past gets recorded in the form of interviews and stories. We honor our skills and achievements in the annual Titan awards. But if there is something Titan that we uphold above all else: it's the sacred exchange of the bet. And that is why I'm doing 100 one-handed push-ups while singing the titan anthem.
"Gallivanting from sea to sea what the evil of the world aspire to be.
Established in 1955, we crush all evildoers spines. To save the earth, we have the girth to protect it from all harm.
Created by the United Nations, always looking for more initiations.
If the sky falls, we'll answer the call. Wherever there's a crime, we'll be there right on time.
As soon as I finished the high note, a single applause rang out. Unfortunately, it was my paintball teammate Joe and not my partner Sarah.
"Huh, so you really can sing the Titan anthem while doing anything," he said while handing out a dollar to me.
"Backwards, forwards in 7 languages," I said taking 10$ away from the young man's hands.
"That has got to be the single most useless skill I ever heard in my life, and I knew this one kid in high school who could burp Beethoven's 5th symphony," said Sarah.
"Hey, at least I'm multilingual."
"For a song that technically doesn't exist," she quipped back.
I remember a time where Sarah would have just left to her own devices. So it was nice to have a more interaction off of her even if it is just tiny put me downs. After the pushups, I decided to look at my phone while taking a little rest on the bench. When I turned it on, I got an ominous text from Zoey.
"You know I've never been good at beating around the bush, so I should go out and say it. Paul had a relapse and died last night."
My vibrant eyes grew cold for a second. But to explain my tale, I need to go back a couple of years. Back when the Artillery didn't have one survivor left. Back when I was still young and foolish. Back to when one vile evil women tore us all apart. We thought it was going to be a mission: track down Omega, one of the world's most lethal assassins fresh off her murder of a Russian senator. It took us a month, but we had finally tracked down her hideout as we moved ready to mow down anything in our path. But it was all trap one that I set off. And they paid the price for my mistake as the building collapsed all at once. Out of the 12 of us, only 4 made it out alive. Though I think out of all of us survivors, Paul was the unluckiest. When the paramedics came and pulled me from the rubble, I could still hear the first words he said.
"I can't feel my legs."
Ever since then, the rest of us have been helping Paul through his battle with pain killers. And I was there for every step of the way, out of guilt, pity or genuine compassion I couldn't tell you. He went through a lot of relapses and downward spirals, but I always found his greatest breakthrough to be when he called 1-888-633-3239. But in the end, it seems superfluous now. All that struggle and in the end, it didn't even matter. However, thankfully, I had a release from my depressing news: a new mission.
"Hello, James and Sarah today is going to be a little bit of a gamble. Thanks to the efforts of Persona's underworld connections, we have now procured information of a major auction that is taking place in Las Vegas. In about a couple of days from now one of the underworld's most prestigious figures: The Deck, the man who seemingly has all the cards. Somehow it seems he has procured one of the KGB's most powerful weapons. This weapon, in particular, is called гнев(wrath in Russian) and from what Streamer has said it supposedly gave men the strength often. At all cost, your mission is to quietly and covertly infiltrate the auction and intercept whoever gets the steroid. In the wrong hands, we could be dealing with a new age of soldiers. I'm sorry I can't afford more back up, but Melissa is currently in the middle of a sting, and I'd rather have you 2 considering your, expertise in the ways of violence. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy seeing the sights."
So far, this mission has a high chance of death, an entirely over the complicated plan and an elaborate location. Sign me the hell up because we're about to turn Sin city red! We piled into a plane, and in hours we were off. And despite the death of one of my comrades Las Vegas was one of the few places in the world I wanted to visit the most. Hence why to further distract myself, I decided to take a picture of the city and cross off another thing off my list. But every time my eyes laid on a new sight of life, I felt guilty. Guilty that seemingly all over again, I had caused death to so many. That even in all my effort to make the most of their deaths, I was still lacking. But I push all those thoughts away and then do what any soldier does and push ahead. When we got to Vegas, Sarah formulated a strategy from what Melissa could tell us of the groups participating in the deal.
"Melissa couldn't track down the location of the trade, but she managed to get the rules. Only three unarmed guests representing each organization could meet with each other, but there might be a chance that other subordinates would know of the location or intermingle with each other outside of the auction itself. So I say we search every back alley hotspot we can find, and we should get at least one person who can tell us the info we need."
"So basically we get to party and sightsee while in Vegas. It's days like these that make me love our job."
I quickly regretted that statement as every investigated party or bar and every interrogated man I got reminded of Paul. The guy was always a man's man. He was like a grenade, loud, brash, and always honest. It made him abrasive, but once you get to know him, he latched on. So his fall was all the more depressing. It was like a light inside of him was shut off. He would barely talk, and even when he did, it had no soul to it. I thought I was helping him, giving him a shoulder to cry and lash out on. I think that was the only thing that I was good at really — being the wall that everyone needed, taking the hits, so someone else didn't have to. But even with so much people by my side sometimes I think that I'm alone in dealing with my pain. My wife may be one of the greatest women alive, but she doesn't understand the life I lead, and every time I talk with my Artillery allies it's like my mistake is staring at me right in the face. I may be a wall, but I certainly have my scars.
Eventually, we struck a lead on where some MS-13 members were having an underground rave. We managed to get in no problem, but what we entered was a neon madhouse. Purple lights filled the entire room accompanied with green and blue laser beams cutting through the smoke. Though I couldn't tell if the smoke was coming from some machine or the sheer amount of cigarettes and weed escaping the masses lungs. Every second inside felt like an assault to the senses. With the blaring music, the only way we communicated was through our phones.
"Let's split up and blend in, Ms-13 members usually got tattoos so let's look for those," I said.
While she seemingly vanished into the crowd, I decided to blend through other means.
" Um yeah, bartender, may I have a shot of The Devils Spit, please?"
Fifteen minutes later, I find myself having the time of my life as part of the crowd. The music felt better and dulled the lights entrancing, and the smells more bold than raunchy. While I was partying, I noticed a man who had the MS-13 tattoos on their neck. Drunkenly I walked towards them and said.
"Hey, can I look at your tattoo for a second?"
I found a couple of members of MS-13, but I wanted to converse with James before acting. However, that proved to be a problem as for some reason; I felt a series of commotion coming from where James was. Through the chaos of the rioting I saw was a terrible sight. James stood there with a malicious grin, three men sprawled on the floor, unconscious with four more facing him.
"I'll kill you!"
One of the men ran with a small knife, but James stood there wholly relaxed as he sidestepped and hooked his arm over his. With the man trapped, James kneed him in the junk hard four times and pushed kicked him to an oncoming attacker. The other two men circled James and moved in to attack, but James managed to trap a punch from the front and deliver a couple of chops to his head only to corner-drop him away. Meanwhile, the other man launched himself at James performing a rear standing choke, but it ended badly for him. Herculean strength grabbed the attacker's arm and forced him out of the choke and on his legs and snap his arm! However, the moment left him defenseless from a high kick from the man he sidekick. James didn't fall however as he used his hands to steady himself and perform a swift sweep and got back up only to elbow drop right on his sternum!
With one man left standing with the knife from earlier and he swung. James mockingly jumped back until he saw an opening and in a clothesline knocked him down and made three thundering punches. The first one collides his skull to the floor; the second flattens his face, and the final one peeling the skin off his nose like a grape. After he had fallen, James let out a wolf-like howl. All I could think of was a quote "always fear the wrath of a gentle man."
And with that howl, I finally summarized that James lost what little he had left. Even still, I wasn't going to leave my partner in crime alone. I fought my way through to him as the crowd got crazier. When I finally did, my calm partner was already begging for another round.
"C' mon who else wants some! Who else wants to swallow their tongues. Oh, hey, Sarah," he said, finally noticing me.
Amid the chaos, I managed to tell him to carry the man out of the rave. Not without throwing our unconscious informant out of the door, however. I looked at him awkwardly for a second but he just goofily raised his arms as if saying. "Whatcha' gonna do shit happens."
I then slapped him as we picked up back again and headed him to a more private location. A few smelling salts later he was up and running. Before his senses fully returned, James grabbed him and deepened his voice to create more menace.
"I'm a licensed medical practitioner, tell me when and where the гнев deal is going to take place, or else I will choke you by your entrails!"
I backed him up and said, "Okay, one I don't sound like that also two back the hell off."
James, still keeping the voice, responded, "Well, one you sound like that and also 2 I will back the hell off, thank you very much."
As he slumped into the corner, I took back control, though I had to work on my old routine. I wasn't used to being a good cop.
"Look just tell us where the trade is going, or I'll have to get physical."
"I ain't telling you jack or shit."
I usually would torture him, but I was pressed for time, from what I understand the deal could've been going any day now. I pressed my forearm to his throat and said.
"I understand people like you. You think you're the biggest and worst in the jungle. You think that you've done things so twisted that you think you're invincible. Let me end that little fantasy of yours by telling you I have done far worse. I've done things that would give you nightmares. I know you won't remember any of this, but I want you to remember in your soul how lucky you are."
I injected him with truth serum and got my answer in due time. The deal was happening at an underground casino called Faustian. And unfortunately, the deal was to occur in only 5 hours. With my information now secured, I force-fed the informant a modified blood pill that would give him amnesia of the past hour. Between that and the easily explainable huge fight, I'd say that our cover wasn't blown. I walked over to a still angry and mumbling James only to catch a small whiff of alcohol.
"Okay, I'm just going to ask one question, why?"
"I had to honor a former friend."
In classic James fashion, I was surprised, but with him drunk, he was no help in a stealth situation. So I carried to where we were staying and told him to stay as I got to work.
I've always had a bit of a drinking problem. Don't get me wrong I could hold my liquor to a decent amount, and I usually never drink on a mission. I felt as though just sipping Paul's favorite drink would help give my respects to him though I didn't expect it to get me so drunk so fast though. And unfortunately, when I start knocking them back, I start knocking people back. Margaret once even said that I once shitfaced we were getting mugged and I put the guy who did it in the hospital sipping through a straw for a month. And I think I understand why I get like this now. I think it's because in a way I've always had anger for myself and others over that event. And once again it seems I failed the ones closest to me when they need my help the most. Once again, I let history repeat itself in the most violent of ways. I don't know how I was lucky enough to have such amazing people by my side. After all, what was so special about me?
Grabbing a waitress outfit that fit me wasn't too hard. What was harder stripping a girl and tying her up, it didn't bring the fondest of memories. That's why I switched clothes and left a sorry little note on her forehead and a 100$ bill. All I needed to do was lie low and blend in. Which also easier than I expected as the environment was kind of hard not to be swept away in. The Faustian was a huge establishment with a theatrical nature. Elaborate, ornate design filled the carpet as a golden ceiling hanged above us. Lots of people shuffled about and each new table brought with it an aura of dominance, like a pride of lions trying to assert control over the others. However, that aura soon was somehow suppressed when "he" showed up.
Upon the stage, a thematic smokescreen erupted and out with it five figures four female one men each with card themed emblems on their suit. There was a skinny woman in short blue hair and a red heart symbol on her waist, another with a figure similar to mine with light brown hair and a mole on her left cheek wearing a red diamond symbol on her chest. The third woman was a large black woman who was a literal giant with her hair in a ponytail wearing a white club emblem on her right shoulder, and the fourth seemed to be Indian with curly black hair, a snake tattoo on her right cheek and a white spade symbol on her left shoulder. However, all of them were eclipsed by a man of average height who was completely masked. He wore a simple black and white suit with black gloves and a card symbol on his shoulders and knees. His face, however, was completely covered by a modified mask and top hat. His altered voice instantly stole attention.
"Ladies and gentlemen thank you all for taking time out of your oh so busy schedules to make it here tonight. I promise you that what I'm about to show you is going to revolutionize the underworld forever. Something that will finally turn the tables against those who stand against people like us, the visionaries that see how the world works. But let me stop beating around the bush, you came here for business not pleasantries after all. Long story short a year ago in between deals I was coming through various reports, and I found a hidden article speaking of a particularly juicy secret. During the Cold War, it seems that a splinter cell of the KGB was in the process of making a super serum that would, in theory, grant the user the supposed raw strength of a bear. However, many of these reported tests were deemed failures, and due to the KGB's breakup, the project got dropped. However, after months of tracing, I have managed to procure the formula and voila!"
He held up a dark green syringe in his hand, and then a series of men with sticks started to appear.
"I modified the formula slightly, so the success rate is much higher, and after a few tests, I think I've finished what the Russians started. And to show that I'm a man of my word, I'll give a demonstration."
One of the men rolled up his sleeves as he braced himself for the syringe that embedded itself in his arms. The crowd was left in a chilling tension as suddenly the drug took effect. The man screamed a primal, anguished howl as his muscles strained from the weight of untapped might. He then turned his rabid eyes at the men as they readied themselves to fight. However, the preparation was in vain as the wrathful man ran towards them like a beast! He engaged in a flying kick that sent one of the men flying and knocked out cold. Before the other four guys could even react, he wildly pounced on one of them as he slammed his head again and again! Insult to injury added as he then threw him into two other opponents with the remaining one being bludgeoned with every blow from him until his face looked like beaten dough. The rest didn't stand a chance as they were thrown like ragdolls.
He turned his freighting fury to us, and all I could do was sit there in awe as my body shook in fear. Before he could kill us all, he suddenly got hit by eight darts in the back and fell to the floor in a heap with the only occasional movement being a weakness spasm. Deck holstered his pistol and continued.
"That was about twice the amount of sedative used to kill a normal person, and in a week he will be right as rain. Imagine that, the ability to turn anyone into a raging monster impossible to put down for 2 hours. The drug is also ingestible and tasteless so you can even poison some enemies into a raging beast as well. And in a few short years of refinement, every one of you will send our enemies running scared with an army of mass-produced super soldiers. Now the question is, do any of you want to pioneer or be left in the dust? Bidding starts now at 2mil."
The next 3 minutes was a flurry of furious bidding. But I look at only Deck's aura of dominance as I realized that he was the only powerful one here. The bidding contiued until one man decided to bid 10.5 million.
"And sold to the Ms-13, and with your beautiful donation, our research can continue unabated. Thank you all for coming, and I hope you all celebrate a new age of crime. And always remember, those who don't honor our deal will be discarded without a second thought."
Amongst the partying, commotion, and planning, I managed to boost the signal and communicate with Wiz to help trace the buyer's phone. With that done, I decided to return home to James. Cause with the info now in my possession I can wholeheartedly say with absolute confidence that this might be the most important mission in Titan history. And if I even had a chance what I needed wasn't a man but an army, someone that has my back no matter what. What I needed was my one and only partner James.
Note to self: never have a drink called the Devil's Spit if you don't want to feel like crap afterward. I spent a good few minutes throwing up chunks as I was starting to come to my senses. By the time I felt well enough, I already could hear the unlocking of a door as Sarah appeared in a waitress outfit. I was about to apologize for my mistake when she jumped in.
"I know it isn't fair for me to talk about what's troubling you, considering I've never told you about how I became me. But I know that this wouldn't be troubling you unless the matter were serious. So if I want you to know James that ... I'm here for you. Because I know you always been there for me, and I don't think I can be who I want to be without you."
I was at a lost for words. But then again, I always haven't been the best at them so; instead, I let my actions speak for me. I hugged Sarah with all my might and The pain and emotion that tore me up inside every day vanished for a few moments.
"Well, if you want to know I suggest you pull up a chair.
And after that, in the rush of emotion, I told her my story so that hopefully I could finally heal the scars and move on with my life. So that my continued survival meant something to all those that didn't and that I've become strong enough never to let such an event repeat itself. Because that is how you honor a sacrfice. At, least that's the only way I know how.