Out of the black
Location: Wandering Star & Aspid Corp. Paradise Station
Timeline: after "Rearmament"
As soon as Nexi had left the bay, Cato finished loading his gear aboard the star. Walking back over to where he had thrown his shirt and dog tags down, he picked them up and looked for a minute. The pressed letters were worn down from being against his skin for so long. They were from a different era of his life, his life as a MACO. He didn't have to wear them anymore. But like a old dog who didn't know any better, he placed the dog tags back around his neck and tucked his t-shirt half into his left pant pocket. Still shirtless, he moved to where the second cart was. Grabbing the suit he had built, threw it over his shoulder not breaking stride. He headed for the industrial replicator in the bay and chucked it inside. "Recycle" he stated coldly as he turned, dog tags bouncing against his chest as he headed back for the Star.
Stepping back aboard, he eyed the cages in the back of the runabout. Almost instantly, he had a flashback to his time being held captive by the Tal Shiar... Growling like an animal, he kept himself in check and restrained himself from punching anything inside the Star out of respect. His eyes started to well up, remembering all of the bad shit that had happened when he was held captive. Clio was right, he was damaged. He dropped to his knees on the deck before taking a moment to just focus on balancing his emotions from the past few hours. Taking time to meditate, Cato focused his mind. While he wasn't telepathic or empathic, he always joked about having been able to see a few hours ahead. When he actually applied himself and focused during meditation, he could actually see things. Some of them were real or came true, some were what you could call a daydream.
With no concept of how long he had been focused for, he saw Dahl, Greer and Laurent captured aboard the station; Being held in individual cells in the security foyer of the station's security division. One of the unknown spectre team members was being tortured for information by someone, he couldn't see who... They were using brutal MACO methods to extract information from this poor guy and beating him to a pulp.
Suddenly, he was no longer watching from a third point of view... He was the unknown teammate getting beaten to a bloody pulp. Cato's eyes snapped open, pupils dilated and his heart pounding through his chest as he fought to catch his breath and get his bearings. Whatever that was, it was stronger than anything he had ever felt before.
And suddenly he realized Nexi was there, her equipment strewn about like maybe she had dropped it running into the ship.
"Cato! Cato, are you with me?" she called out, releasing an exhale of relief when she saw his eyes snap open. "Fuck, whatever that was, don't do that again!" Nexi said with concealed concern. She had been calling him, over and over, and she even shook him a couple of times, but nothing could seem to snap him out it!
"Sorry, sometimes when I meditate my mind goes places. Most of the time they're placed you don't want to go." He smirked eyeing her gear all over the place outside the rear hatch "What time is it? When I started trying to get myself in check and my mind quiet, you had just left."
"I- I don't know, an hour, maybe a little more?" Nexi said with some hesitation as she didn't know exactly how long she had been gone. "I know we're still a few hours out from our destination. Uh, are you gonna be okay?" she asked. She got up from the floor and went out to collect her gear, hanging her new suit by one of the holding cells in her ship. "Or I guess I should ask, are you gonna be okay to go out on this mission?" she clarified as she worked.
Cato stood to his feet and glanced at her as she brought gear in "I'm fine." He moved to his suit on the ground and hung it next to hers. "I'm sorry about earlier..." he said bluntly "didn't mean to blurt out what I did." He turned and started getting his undersuit on so he could don his armor.
"Don't worry about it," Nexi said, somewhat evasively; she really didn't want to revisit this topic... "Oh, uh, I have bad news and worse news, which would you like first?" she asked as she took her new gun to her workbench, plugging in the datachip Enalia gave so she could learn how to break down and maintain this new weapon.
"Well, you visited the armory I'm still itching to go to; at least judging by that new weapon anyway. So, I'm guessing Captain Telvan was involved. So, what did you two do now?" He narrowed his eyes at her and repeated himself in a serious tone "What did you do..."
Nexi flashed him an 'innocent' smile, which given the fact that she was trying to stop herself from giggling did not bode well. "Enalia is coming along with us. Oh, and we're having dinner at her place," she said, giving it her best effort not to laugh.
Cato nodded quietly as he stood and zipped up the under suit. Silently he began the process of donning his armor. "Sounds like a plan." He replied somewhat monotone in his voice. "No seafood, not a fan. Nothing alive, either. I'm done with Klingon food" he said, continuing to don his armor.
"And no grubs," Nexi added, breaking down her new gun relatively easily and then began putting it back together. "Given any thought to what you're going to wear?" she asked just to mess with him.
"Fuck if I know..." he said, slightly colder than he had previous been to her. He was watching his emotions and doing a piss poor job of it. "Wait, why is Captain Telvan coming with us?" He was almost there, clicking the last bit of his suit together and beginning a systems startup. His gloves were 30% tighter and thinner on his hands than previous, to improve dexterity. But it didn't stop there, touch sensors were there to download things from almost any computer core. Limited functionality, but good enough to get system codes, deck layout, security protocols etc. His helmet had been heavily modified from it's previous version and now sported a polarized orange-red lens instead of clear. A HUD had been implemented in the new lens. It was still hanging near Nexi's suit.
"Because apparently we require adult supervision," Nexi said with a snicker, then looked back at him. "Honestly, I think she's bored. I don't mind humoring her," she said with a grin, then went back to learning the ins and outs of her gun. Disable sound emulator? Yes please!
He smirked "Yeah, that'll help." a sarcastic tone laced his voice as he finished his systems check and the sound of the suit tightening the armor to fit his form could be heard. Underneath, an EXO suit had been implemented into the structure of the armor for added endurance, speed and strength. Downside is his once streamline armor had now been bulked up and added about two inches of his height. He was now resembling one of those cardassian strippers if they had been armed to the teeth and armored.
"Well, I trust her with my life and I certainly ain't gonna turn down her help, especially when she can put my ship on lockdown," Nexi replied. Finished playing with her new toy, she got up from her workbench and started to remove her jacket and pants to reveal her new undersuit. "I'm hoping I can get her to stay on the Star and run logistics for us, but if she wants to come out into the field with us, I ain't in a position to stop her," she added as she started to put on her armor.
"No explanation needed." he smiled and moved to place a gloved hand on her shoulder, acting as if he was going to help her get her armor on. Moving a step closer, real close so only an inch or so was left between them. Fuck it he thought and suddenly that hand slid past her left cheek to the back of her neck. Pulling Nexi into a deep, passionate kiss. His lips slowly caressed hers, dancing, teasing, he wasn't rushed. He kissed like a man in love, it was truly the best kiss he could ever pull off. The term 'hanging one on her' came to mind.
Nexi wasn't at all surprised; she had sensed his inner turmoil boiling up and finally over until it provoked him to act, and she not only allowed the kiss to happen, but she reciprocated, met the intensity of the kiss and even gave him some tongue. And when the kiss finally ended and they pulled apart to gaze at each other, their breath heavy from the kiss, Nexi grinned wickedly.
"That's the only freebie you're gonna get, Boy-scout; you're gonna have to work hard if you ever wanna do that again," she said, pulling away to finish getting ready. "Now get your head in the game, we can talk about this after we get your brother out of trouble."
"Hey, you're the one who said no regrets and to stop wasting time." He grinned before moving to grab an apple and a pair of Oakley plaintiff silver mirrored aviators out of his backpack. Putting the apple in his mouth while he threw the glasses on his face. He took a seat on the floor, putting his back against the bulkhead. The sound of the weight creaking a bit as he put pressure on the deck plate.
"Why do you think I let you do it?" Nexi countered as she adjusted her armor and got everything snugged up. "I'll be up front getting Star ready. Enalia should be along soon, we'll leave as soon as she's here."
He grinned "Because deep down, once we get past that dark chocolate shell... You're one big warm nougat of a girl." he kicked back, one leg fully stretched out and the other bent at the knee. "Oh, for the record. Next time, you're gonna kiss me." he winked at her this time.
"And I'm getting a holo of it," Came Enalia's voice. Walking up the ramp was a pitch black mass that neither of them could actually see or focus on - just a humanoid shaped... emptiness. She then clicked a control on the arm of her suit and the vantablack camo depolarized and her helmet screen popped up out of the way. "Ready when you two are."
"That looks fucking awesome, and the holo is not happening," Nexi said to Enalia, then she looked to Cato. "In your dreams, and I have no idea what nougat is, but I'm pretty sure I won't like it if it has anything to do with chocolate." Without waiting for either to reply, she headed up to the front of the ship to get things under way.
Eyes shifted over to Enalia behind his sunglasses, he smiled "I need it, want it, gotta have it." he didn't move "Thank you, by the way. I appreciate the assist." he gave a nod in her direction as he took a bite of his apple again.
"Yeah Starfleet Intel made some interesting modifications to the MACO Tactical armor. Polarized vantablack paint, localized gravity shift, wrist phasers..." Enalia trailed off as she glanced up at the HUD on her helmet screen. "As for helping out, I have my own objectives. You and Nexi can work out who is in charge and I'll do what I can, but when my goal is in sight, I'm going after it."
Cato stood and took his sunglasses off for a second to take a closer look. "Here I am, having modified mine for direct action combat and regretting not getting all the cool toys" he paused before continuing "Underneath this, an EXO suit. Six-Percent boost in speed, agility and strength. Couldn't do more than that without bulking this armor up even more... We'll see how the reliability of it is along with interface response." he paused before moving to stand across from Enalia. "If possible, I'd like to get some specs on that so I can cherry pick the modifications." He moved to where his TR-116C2 was, grabbing the rifle he did a quick check before attaching it to the integrated single point sling on his armor. "As for your objective, can you enlighten me?"
"Once you have Sigma nine clearance with Intel, you can have both specs and enlightenment. In the meantime, you have a good set of armor that should last you several years." Unclipping the proton rifle from her back, Enalia added it to the collection of other weapons, then started peeling out of her suit. "Starfleet shouldn't even need these suits... They should have stayed relics of history."
"Us lowly priority three guys..." He smiled "Alas here we both are, old dogs of war finding use in the new Starfleet." he continued "I hear we're having dinner, soon. You're going to break Nexi's heart when you tell her I'll be doing brig time for violation of confinement."
"It's your department head that you should be more worried about," Enalia replied ominously as she readjusted her suit and sealed it back up. "When does your next shift start?"
"I'm not expected anywhere until 14:30 tomorrow. Commbadge is in my quarters, doors are sealed and would require a command or security override." He grinned "Well, what's left of this Spectre team will need to be explained. Unless you have another idea?" he perked a brow.
Enalia winked and started going over her weaponry. "We're an Intel ship. Nothing is ever fully explained."
"True." he shrugged before picking up his katana and placing it on his back, stowing it in the matching port lock on his back. "Nexi, if you ever want to see me in a dress let's dust the fuck off!" Cato yelled in the direction of the cockpit. Moving to grab his helmet, he clipped it off on his armor dangling it a molle strap.
"You wanna fly this thing?! Good luck if you can't read Ferengi!" Nexi yelled back. "Hera only just dropped out of warp and it takes 90 seconds for the hanger and cargo bay doors to open, so shut yer pie-hole, I don't take kindly to back-seat pilots!" Amidst the grumbled Ferengi, the Wandering Star finally lifted off the deck. Nexi cloaked her ship as she maneuvered it out of the secret bay, so by the time they were in the cargo bay and passing through the external cargo bay doors, the ship was little more than a whisper of nothing. "Okay, we're on our way. Happy?"
He smirked, taking another bite of his apple. "ETA to destination?" he asked as politely as he possibly could muster. Prepping a few more weapons, he slowly holstered everything. Cato had asked Thex to make him a monster and she had built him armor fit for a demon.
"Hour, two tops," Nexi said as she took the Star away from the Hera, jumping to warp as soon as they were clear of the impressive Nebula class starship. "I can only do warp 6 while cloaked, any faster and Star's warp signature will give us away. But she can haul ass at warp 9.6 if we need to make a quick getaway," she assured him. "Uh, if either of you wanna take this time to talk strategy, the rear console are still standard Federation displays, you should be able to use them to look up info about the station," she suggested as she monitored their flight path.
"Enalia has her own plan and so do we..." Giving a nod to Enalia before hauling a suppressor from a pocket on his armor. Screwing it into his TR-116C2 with that all too familiar metal on metal sound. "You'll follow my lead, I work better alone... But I'll need your help, this time." finished with his rifle, he let it hang from the single point sling. "We'll data share the map via suit HUD's. I know where I'm going, because I've been there before." Even Cato had secrets.
"I'll act as a diversion and rendezvous with you when my task is completed." Enalia was checking her weaponry as well, though they looked far less deadly. "I should be able to cause a fair bit of confusion and make your task a bit easier. That's what my suit is designed for."
"Sounds good." he turned his voice back towards Nexi "Our objective is to retrieve our new team members as quickly as we can. I'll be carrying the goodie bag for them. We're going to fight out way out and once we get our reinforcements out of holding. Our primary objective is to successfully rescue Chief Dahl, PO Greer and PO Laurent. Any other members of the spectre team are optional." he added.
Enalia piped up. "And if you find anything super weird, let me know."
"I was planning on taking a few things for myself." Cato shot Enalia a wicked grin. "But if we see something, we'll let you know."
"You should stop worrying about souvenirs and start worrying about how we're even gonna get inside the facility," Nexi said dryly. "I've done work for these guys and their security is tight. They ain't just gonna let us dock and waltz on in there without an explanation for us being there."
Leaning in, Enalia typed a passcode into a terminal. "Use that and tell them that General Cartwright is here to inspect the Gemini project."
"Wait a minute, we both have prior ties to Aspid Corp? How the fuck does that work?... You did security, I was a former... Guest of their program." his voice trailed "That will work, Gemini is a Cerberus project upgrade." he smiled wickedly. "We need to use stealth to our advantage. Once inside, can we do a sight-to-sight transport and put the ship on autopilot to land?"
Enalia nodded. "Actually, I used to ferry the General back and forth in my earlier days. Nexi is the only pilot on the Hera that might be better than me and Cartwright put those skills to good use. As for the Gemini Project... The one I witnessed killed a crew of over fifteen hundred. Either way, they'll let us land and we'll either be welcomed by a team of admins or a team of a hundred mercs."
"Yeah, like that makes it any better," Nexi remarked with a roll of her eyes. Was she the only one taking this seriously? "You're both forgetting the obvious tactic; I'm a fucking bounty hunter! Both of you would have a huge payout from a corporation like Aspid, especially considering you both have ties to the place. I bring you in as prisoners, they take you to the detention block, you break out of the restraints, kill the guards, free your buddies, then haul ass back to the Star where I'll be counting the latinum I just conned off of Aspid."
"I doubt they'd accept a pair of well armed prisoners of unknown origin easily." Enalia replied with a chuckle. "But this op is up to the two of you. I'll follow your lead."
"Yeah, last time I tried something like that, didn't even come close to working..." Cato said bluntly. "I'm not going in with no armor and no weapons... Fuck that. We'll transport in, sight to sight. They have no security measures monitoring that internally. They're not Starfleet." he paused "Who wants to be the General?" he grinned.
"Jeez, you two lack imagination..." Nexi grumbled. "First off, I tell them that I overheard you two talking about the Gemini project; seeing as how I've done business for these guys and I know they appreciate discretion, they'd love to get their hands on a couple of guys who not only know about this project but are openly talking about it. Second, I never said nothing about 'no armor'; I just tell them I had a hard enough time subduing you two and just barely managed to get you into my holding cells, that I removed the power cells to your suits while you were unconscious but I ain't had a chance to remove the armor yet, only I don't remove the power cells so you have one up on your guards. But sure, ain't like I've never done something like this before, so let's just beam in, we'll be fucked if they decide to raise shields."
"One of the reasons I love having you around is your creativity. Seriously... Mayonnaise..." Enalia replied, chuckling at the memory.
"Best expense tab ever," Nexi said with a grin. "Seriously though, we can do this your way, but there's considerably more risk to it."
"Fine, we'll do it your way... I don't get to use my new toys..." Cato sorta pouted, "Fuck it, I'll take the lead once onboard. You carry the bag of thunder then, they won't question you. I'll keep their hands full." Cato grinned. "If you wanted to tie me up, all you had to do was ask."
Enalia cleared her throat. "I'm just an intel officer and a pilot. You two are the infiltration experts. However you decide to do this, I'm up for, just let me know so I know how I'm getting off the station."
"You're also the Captain, and I ain't gonna let you take a risk you don't think you can handle," Nexi retorted. "As for the plan, these are your buddies, so it's your call, I was just pitching an alternative plan; you chose what we're doing and we'll make it happen," she then said to Cato.
"We'll go with yours, it's better. Just don't lose our bag of weapons or let them get a close look at my face." Cato said as he pulled his TR-116C2 and Phase Pistol off, tossing them gently into a large bag of other weapons. "They recognize me, the Section Chief will want a word with me."
"Alright, Enalia, punch him in the face, rough him up a little to obscure his features; should add a little credence to my assertions that the two of you were hard to take down," Nexi suggested.
"Just do it and get it over with." Cato smirked as he unclicked his helmet and placed it down on the floor. "Let's go." He waved Enalia on as he put his hands behind his back and stuck his face out mockingly.
"Watch your tongue," Enalia replied right before she belted him with a series of three left rabbit punches followed by a right backhand.
Armored hands on bare human skin felt like shit, Cato took the hits like a man. Spitting blood out onto the deck of the star, he smirked a bloody smile towards Enalia. "Even me out."
Enalia shook her head no. "As much as I'd love to, I think that's good enough, unless you want me to break a rib or something."
"Tainted love." he spit more blood mixed with saliva onto the deck. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and slinging the drops of blood onto the deck. "They get out before I do, it comes down a choice... It's them." he paused "ETA?"
"Ah, you can't pay for entertainment this good," Nexi said as she watched Enalia beat on Cato. "We ain't far now, so get anything you want with you that you gotta leave behind, like the weapons and the helmet, on the transporter pad. I got a transponder thingy that'll activate the transporter and beam your weapons to you when you activate it." Nexi reached for something sitting on her console and handed it to Cato; it was round and smooth, and smaller than a standard commbadge. "Tuck this in your armor somewhere they an't gonna find it and don't lose it; in case of an emergency beam out, I can use it to find you. Once we're there, I'm gonna put some restrains on you, ain't gonna lock 'em though, then you're going in the holding cells so I can show Aspid a live feed of you two 'unconscious'. Once the deal is made, I'll beam you two over and you'll take it from there. Sound good?" Clearly, she had done this a time or two...
Reaching for the small, round smooth thingy, he took it and stowed it in a secure spot on his armor. "You won't be able to beam us in, you'll have to land in one of the shuttlebays. They have strict protocol on transporters now, more than likely because of my last visit." Cato paused "Once you land, they'll want to do a hand-to-hand transfer of HVT's. No doubt, whoever is around will want to congratulate you one way or another. Expect it, mercs are always invited to stay, get their fill of booze, drugs and blow all of their latinum."
"Feh," Nexi huffed with disgust at the mention of drugs. But she could adapt to the hand-to-hand transfer; it wasn't like she'd never done one of those before either... "Alright, get your gear ready, we'll be dropping out of warp soon," she cautioned them, then looked around for her cuffs.
Cato quickly tossed everything into this extra large black duffle bag. Helmet included, grenades and other goodies as well. Pulling things from pocket was always easier than putting them in there. Before taking a moment to take a deep breath, he was about to go back down an old path. Dipping a toe back into this circle meant he was going to be pulled back in faster than he could escape it. "Nexi." he moved to stand next to her while she continued to dig around looking for her cuffs. "If it comes to it, don't let them take me alive. Yeah?" Suddenly there was something more serious and dark about his tone.
"Only outward weapons I have are the proton rifle and collapsible zanbatou," Enalia commented as she unclipped an ornate four handed sword hilt and set it next to her rifle. "As for taking us alive... We all come back in one piece. That's an order."
"Aye Ma'am." Cato gave a nod in her direction, fully well knowing that when he was scanned, they'd take him again. It was a risk that he owed to someone who once risked their life to save him. He couldn't quit, he couldn't just not go, it was a debt that had to be repaid.
"Wow, 'don't take me alive', what a wuss," Nexi said with a roll of her eyes, pulling out two pair of cuffs, she input some commands on the security locks, then turned to put them on her captives, Enalia first. "Alright, now once these are on ya, go chill out in the cells in the back and look unconscious. I'll make contact with Aspid and we'll get this party started," she said. "I'll run interference when and where I can, and don't lose that transponder!" she reminded them. Once she was done with Enalia, she cuffed Cato and sent them on their way.
Once they were gone, Nexi stood up from the cockpit chair to shimmy out of her armor; for this to work she had to be Nexi the Collector, not Nexi in Starfleet. To save some time, she simply threw her clothes and a beat up jacket (not her starfleet inspired jacket) over the the undersuit, then popped back into the cockpit chair just in time to drop the ship out of warp. Still cloaked, she let the Wandering Star coast along closer and closer to the Aspid Corp. station. This was it, do or die...
With one swift move, she opened a hailing frequency with the station.
Sitting in his office, Jean-Baptiste sat back in his chair. A monitor popped up on his desk "Sir, we have an incoming hail from the target vessel. They're cloaked." a smirk cross his smug lips as he flipped his black hair out of his face. "Oh... Is that so." he replied, the southern drawl in his accent laced his voice like a bad rash you just couldn't get rid of. "Patch it through." he sat up in his chair and faced the monitor as operations switched the channel. "Unidentified vessel, this is Aspid Research facility Paradise, how may we help you?"
"Jean-Baptiste, it's been a long time," Nexi said as her face appeared on his monitor. "Put on a few pounds, I see. I told you to watch it or as soon as you hit 40 it'd all go downhill," she said to the familiar acquaintance.
"The flattery. Such sweet words could only come from you, Miss Nexi." he smirked "What have you brought for me today?"
"I think you're going to like this catch," Nexi replied, opening a live feed from the cells in her cargo bay to show Enalia and Cato, bound and seemingly unconscious. "I found these two while on another job, and I heard one of them drop the name Aspid and then bragged about some project called 'Gemini'. And since I know how much you appreciate discretion, I thought you might like to handle these two personally. So once I was done with my job, I... 'acquired' them, just for you."
"Well, look at that. I very much appreciate your canny with the situation." he smiled wickedly, Jean-Baptiste was known for his flamboyant personality and style. "Why don't you land your ship in bay four, I'll meet you there with a detail. We can rid you of your unpleasant company. Then we'll have ourselves a beverage, for old times' sake." he grinned.
"Oh no, you are not going to ply me with liquor and get out of paying me my fee," Nexi said with a grin. "Latinum first; I believe you have my account on file..." Well, she'd never be able to use that account again; good thing it wasn't her only account...
"After all this time, you still think I'm fixing to cheat you. Decloak your ship, prepare for tractor and automated landing protocol. Funds will be transferred momentarily." he quietly picked up a PaDD and transferred the required amount of latinum to her account. "Check your balance."
Nexi waited for the funds to hit her account. "Aww, and a bonus? You really do know how to speak my language, don't you..." Nexi replied with a smile and immediately decloaked her ship. "Coming about to hanger four. I'll see you momentarily."
As soon as she cut the feed, she opened the comms to the cargo bay. "Alright you two, the game is on, we're going in," Nexi said to give her teammates some warning before she raised the cell shields and released control of the Wandering Star to be docked via tractor.
Jean-Baptiste smirked as she cut the feed, the channel switched back to Operations. "It seems Ares has found his way home. Get fourteen of our best to meet me outside shuttlebay four. If you want something done right, you've gotta do it yourself!" standing and shoving his chair away he began to walk fast, his black hair bouncing as he walked briskly out of his office. Soon enough, he had arrived outside of Shuttlebay four.
While the tractor beam drew the Wandering Star into the shuttle bay, Nexi finished getting ready, quickly tying up her heavy work boots and securing her weapons. When the Orion class runabout finally touched down, she was ready, and lock down her ship so that if any sneaky Aspid toadies decided to poke around they wouldn't get very far. Then she moved to the cargo bay, standing between the two cells and her teammates as she waited for the loading ramp to lower.
"Showtime," Nexi said as warning to her friends, then put on a smile when she saw Jean-Baptiste and the compliment of soldiers awaiting them. "Oh, all these men just for me? Makes me all hot and bothered..." she said in an amused tone. She wasn't quite 'flirting' with Jean-Baptiste, but she definitely wasn't the usual Nexi that Enalia and Cato had come to know; she was warm and personable, but it was just a mask she wore when dealing with clients, she didn't know how to be genuine about it, there was always an angle to work when she played this game. She had tried to use this mask on Enalia once, but she had seen right through it, thought there were extenuating circumstances at the time...
"I'm sure you boys know the drill; don't touch anything except the prisoners," she instructed as she entered the codes on the cells to lower the shielding. "They had this armor stuff, never seen anything quite like it before. I couldn't get it off them, but I was able to remove the power cells. Lemme tell you, they were tough to take down, that one especially," she said, pointing to Enalia. "I could barely get a hit in on her, and the other one was fucking tank, he just wouldn't go down! I had to dope them both, so be careful if you decide to give 'em another dose."
"I know." Jean-Baptiste smirked, a cigarette dangled between his lips; the smoke filling the air like a hazy poison. His men moved past Nexi to board the wandering star. "That one." he motioned towards Cato, his slight southern drawl managed to make simple words feel dirty. "I'm surprised you managed to get him down at all." Six of his men began to wrangle Cato's limp body out of the holding cell. His eyes scanned the form before a wicked smirk crossed his lips. "Take this one to the Hades Project, Cerberus tasking. Tell Doctor Sinclair that I'll be along shortly." one of his men gave him a nod and began to carry Cato off the ship. "That one can go to holding with the rest of the Starfleet trash." he pointed towards Enalia. "As for you Miss Nexi, our beverage." he gestured for her to go first, off the ship.
"She's Starfleet? Huh, guess that explains the designs on the armor," Nexi remarked. "As for the other one, no man can withstand a strong enough strike to their pride; apparently his armor don't protect him from a shock to the nuts," she added with a chuckle, recalling the memory of their spar to make the laugh real. Although this was a problem; she was anticipating that Cato and Enalia would be kept together, otherwise she would have given Enalia a transponder too! "Now let's go get that drink! If you're interested, I've got a case of some Devronian Brandy, very good year; been saving it for a certain client, but I could be convinced to part with a bottle or two."
"I've got something more special in mind." he smiled before turning his gaze to the team carrying Cato off the ship."Wait a minute..." His voice trailed. "Restrain him." he moved to step off the ship, pulling restraints off of one of his men. Double securing Cato's hands with his restraints. "Continue" he said in an arrogant tone. Eyes darting back to Nexi. "If you want something done right, gotta do it yourself." he once again motioned for her to exit. "Shall we?" he motioned.
FUCK! "I know, sometime people just ain't got the sense to do things right!" Nexi said in agreement. "Well since you're restraining him, lemme go ahead and get my cuffs back," Nexi said, unlocking her cuffs around Cato's wrists, taking the time to get a look at the Aspid Corp cuffs. Tritanium, locking mechanism resistant to overloads, and won't unlock if powered off; this just kept getting better and better! She could try to slip a pick into his armor so he could pick at the mechanism pathways and get it open, but Jean-Baptiste was watching Cato like a hawk, there was no way she'd be able to slip the pick to him without attracting notice! "Here, let's get her too," Nexi said, stepping over to Enalia and removing her cuffs, using a bit of sleight of hand to pull a pick tool from her jacket cuff and hide it under an armor plate on Enalia's glove. She got a set of Aspid cuffs from the guard and made a show of securing them (for real, she couldn't leave these unlocked like she had with her own cuffs) and showing Jean-Baptiste to appease him. "Now, how about that drink?" Nexi said, tossing her cuffs into one of the cells and following the guards out as they carried Enalia and Cato off.
As soon as they'd left the hangar bay and were far enough down that hallway to not be too obvious to the people outside the hallway, Enalia sprang into action, her wrist phasers powering up in one point two seconds and burning her restraints off neatly. She then grabbed the two guards carrying her and, getting her footing, slammed their heads together hard enough to make a hollow thunk. Before they had hit the ground, she'd turned and fired both wrist phasers into the two carrying Cato, putting them down, likely for good. Then there was the sound of a door opening and boots on the deck from the far end of the hallway.
Security was there.
Sighing, she raised her left arm towards them, wiggled her fingers, then clenched her fist. A small rack popped out of the forearm of her armor and half a dozen small micro-torpedoes shot out of the rack and zoomed towards the incoming troops. Needless to say, there was a big boom and the security forces had been neutralized.
As soon as Enalia had taken out the team holding Cato, his body hit the deck. Pulling the transponder out of the pocket on his armor and activating it. Letting the ball roll on the deck, soon enough the bag of goodies materialized on the deck where the ball was just a split second before. "Jesus, those were worse than my airburst rounds!" he grinned. Holding his restrained hands up so she should shoot those restraints off.
Which Enalia made short work of before grabbing her helmet and weapons and clipping them back in place. "A little gift from Aspid a few years back. I just wish I had more than two sets of them." She then readied herself for a bit of an onslaught.
Cato had quickly made his way to the bag, snapped his helmet into place and began rigging his load-out almost as quickly as he had gotten the bag of goodies. TR-116C2 in hand, setting the sling integrated into his armor."I want that." he motioned with his head as he stuffed the last magazine of replicator matter into a mag-pouch. Re-zipping the bag with remaining weapons in it, he slung it over his back. "Security Center is this way. See you on the other side." Cato said through his helmet comms as he turned and began to sprint down the corridor faster than a human should.
Enalia, on the other hand, polarized her vantablack camo and strolled casually, shooting out the lights with her wrist phasers as she went. She knew where she was going and she knew why they didn't care about her. It didn't matter though - she had a job to do.
Soon enough, Cato was at the Security Center. Battling his way through what passed for the security detachment for Paradise Station was a joke. Moving into the center, he quickly dispatched the six guards with great ease. Dropping the bag onto the deck, he approached the cells which held Laurent, Greer and Dahl; All of which were looking at him.
Dahl canted her head to the side, looking at the armor clad madman. "You're either shit hot, or fuckin Ferengi stupid."
"I'm the rescue team." Cato said through a modulated PA which deepened his voice and made him sound demonic. Quickly tapping on the controls and dropping the forcefields for the cells. "Weapons are there" he motioned towards the bag with the muzzle of his TR-116C2. "You three all that's left?"
Greer meanwhile went right for the bag and began to pull three compression rifles from it.
Laurent in his thick accent replied "Yes. We were on an assignment to eliminate a construct. Aspid security overwhelmed us and got the drop on our location."
Cato smirked "You're getting rusty, old man." he let his TR-116C2 dangle from it's sling. His hands moved to un-click his helmet, pulling it off his head. "I mean, so far this has been a walk in the park." he grinned wickedly.
"CATO!!! YOU MOTHERFUCKER!!!" Katee yelled with happiness, grabbing his face with both hands, kissing him hard on the lips before smacking the shit out of him after breaking the kiss. "That's for not calling first!" she smiled before walking back over to the bag and grabbing a rifle and type two phase pistol.
Laurent smiled "Brother West." he moved to give him a hug. "This armor isn't standard, even for us. What have you found yourself into that you rescue ghosts?" he said, moving to the bag and plucking weaponry from it.
"Same shit as the old days, let's get the fuck out of here, shall we?" he said, re-clicking his helmet and gripping his rifle. "Follow my lead." he said as they began to file out from the Security Center to pay a visit to an old friend.
It was then that the lights on the station dimmed and klaxons sounded. No announcements unlike Starfleet, just pipe hitter mercs from the corners of the galaxy getting geared up and ready to descend upon the escaped prisoners.
Meanwhile, Jean-Baptiste and Nexi had been enjoying some 400 Year old single malt Macallan scotch. As soon as the lights dimmed and klaxons sounded, he knew what had happened. "Here we go, again. Miss Nexi, did you actually drug them or are we just playing games?"
Nexi scowled at Jean-Baptiste and pulled down the collar of her shirt to reveal a nasty bruise she had earned while sparring with Cato. "Does this look like a game to you?" Nexi replied sternly. "You know how seriously I take my reputation; you may not have contracted me, but you still paid me and that's good enough for me." Then she straightened out her collar with a huff. "I gave the woman a lighter dose because I could sense she was joined and I've had Trill die on me because their symbiotes don't react well to the sedatives. You've paid for my loyalty, now let me uphold my reputation and set this mistake right."
"Two prisoners, two million, ZERO PRISONERS, ZERO MILLION." he bellowed, which was uncharacteristic for Jean-Baptiste as he rarely ever raised his voice. Flipping his hair out of his face and regaining his composure "What the hell am I supposed to do with Ares running around, blowing up my station for a second time? Hmm? " He said to himself, his southern draw more heavily accented than before "I don't care about the woman... I have unfinished business with Mister West, however unpleasant it may be." he shifted his eyes to a security playback on his monitor of Enalia blasting the security detail in the corridor "I don't like warriors. Too narrow-minded, no subtlety. And worse, they fight for hopeless causes. Honor? Huh! Honor's killed millions of people, it hasn't saved a single one..." he stood "Kill the woman, drag Ares... Cato West..." he said, through his gritted teeth "By his hair to the Cerberus Lab, ALIVE. You have one hour."
The sound of phaser fire echoed outside of his office. Jean-Baptiste canted his head to the side, standing from behind his desk and hauling one of the new Aspid ARG 7 integrated weapon platforms to his shoulder. The sleek weapon's scope raised from the top quickly as a suppressor extended from the muzzle of the weapon. "Death is... whimsical... today." a green laser put a dot on the door leading into his office.
Cato moved through that office door rather quickly while Greer, Laurent and Dahl secured the corridor from any others attempting to join the party. "No spray and pray?... I expected more John-Baptiste. Tsk tsk." Cato said
John-Baptiste snarled looking at Cato in his armor, in his office. "Ares, you came home to finish what you started." he said, keeping a weapons lock on Cato with his right arm extended, one-handing the rifle.
"Oh look, he came to us! Now I don't have to go looking for him," Nexi said playfully, drawing her new pike and extending the staff with a well practiced snap of her wrist, the plasma mono-filament blade igniting with an eerie blue-green glow. She turned the blade on Cato, levelling the weapon with a grin. "And he brought friends! You want them dead or alive? No extra charge, of course..."
Jean-Baptiste smirked "Alive, of course. What use are they to Mr. Shadow if they can't serve the cause." a cryptic statement, he continued to keep his aim and vision locked on Cato.
As soon as the order was given, Nexi sprang into action; but instead of attacking Cato, in one fluid movement she drew her shiny new gun and unload a single round right into the ball and socket joint of Jean-Baptiste's shoulder. The sound emulator was off, so it barely made a sound as it propelled a .50 round into his shoulder, turning bone into dust. As Jean-Baptiste staggered back and cried out in agony, Nexi looked at the gun with a grin.
"I really love this gun," she said, planting a kiss on the barrel and then holstered it. Then she moved again, grabbing the front of Jean's shirt with her free hand and practically throwing him against his desk, slamming him against the desk's top with a satisfying thud. She hopped up in his lap straddling him, then she pulled a dagger and slammed it into his good shoulder to pin him to the desk to keep and him from moving.
"Do you have any idea just how much I loathed working for you?" she said, grabbing a fistful of his greasy hair to force his gaze onto her. "Can you even fathom just how hard it must be for me to work for someone that puts Ferengi to shame?! I mean Grek was greasy, but you are just disgusting!" She said to him. Gone was the flirty Nexi he had known and worked with for years, and gone was the terse thrill-loving Nexi that Cato had come to know; as she stared down at Jean-Baptiste with her lethal gaze, there was a madness that danced in her eyes. She raised her pike and began to scrape the plasma blade over his scalp, burning off greasy hair and skin until there was nothing left but a patch of freshly cauterized flesh. All the while she just grinned, the madness growing evermore.
"And I don't just mean the hair, JB, you are slimy even to the depths of your soul! I only took work from you because you paid so damned well, but I guess it's good for me that I found something I value more than money, because now I never have to work for you ever again!" Nexi said with glee. "Try to offer me money now, I dare you! Let's see how far it gets you," she added with a dark chuckle as she as she attempted to make another pass with her pike.
Cato had let Nexi go native for a moment. The first pass was understandable, but before she could make another pass he locked onto John Baptiste. His right index finger fired three precision shots; Two in the chest - center mass and the final one splattering his freshly scalped head all over his desk. "We don't have time for this native shit." The sounds of phaser fire echoed the corridor outside. "We need to go, NOW.". The words had barely left his mouth when Greer, Dahl and Laurent all suddenly retreated into the office laying down heavy suppression fire back into the corridor.
"You moron!" Nexi said, taking a swing at Cato. "I was killing time until we got a signal from Enalia that she was done with what she had to do!" she barked out angrily. She took JB's hand and placed it on a biometrics plate next to his computer terminal, silently praying it would still work. "Why do you think I didn't just kill him the moment I got him alone in here?!" she added in a surly tone as she attempted to disable the automated weapons as well as the security force fields and tractor beam so that they wouldn't have any trouble escaping; thankfully she got that much done before the biometrics system recognized poor little JB as dead. "Don't ever interrupt my fun again!"
Cato quickly removed his helmet and right glove from his armor before he tossed it atop desk. "Don't ever speak to me that way again." His tone wasn't anything she had become accustomed to, Cato's switch had been flipped and the softer sweeter man that had said 'I love you' the night before was gone. Moving to where she had placed Jean-Baptitse's hand just a split second before, he placed his hand atop and closed his eyes. The biometric scanner turned green, accepting his hand print.
"Initiate Ares protocol. Authorization Ares Bravo-Foxtrot-Six-Six-Six." Suddenly, the station's soft hum turned into nothing. The sound of power, lights and systems shutting down echoed. The secure areas stayed secure, they had secondary systems. But all of the automated weapons and measures to prevent their exit seen and unforeseen were eliminated. But, it came at a price, they were now in pitch black darkness.
"Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated... But we are initiated, aren't we?" he narrowed his eyes at Nexi, the glow from the suppression phaser fire being laid down by his teammates provided enough light to guide him to his helmet and glove. Quickly putting clicking both pieces in, his hands gripped his TR-116C2. Cato switched to the 18mm micro-airburst rounds, stepping out into the corridor he began laying down suppression fire.
The modified airburst rounds tore through Aspid Security like a knife through warm butter. Six rounds later, nothing but silence echoed the corridors. Activating his suit lights as he stepped back into the office, "Let's move." Cato said through his suit PA, which made him sound evil. Cato quickly went back over to John-Baptiste and picked up the ARG-7 that laid on the floor with blood splattered all over it. He needed a new toy, anyway.
"Let's get one thing straight," Nexi said as she strode beside him, her senses open and alert for anything he might have missed, "I don't do theatrics; I am whatever I need to be for a job. And I will talk to you however I damned well please. Don't forget, I got us here and if you don't like the way I talk, then you can just stay here; pilot sets the rules, shotgun shuts their pie-hole." Nexi had once heard an Earth phrase, 'Keep your head high but your middle finger higher' and felt that in many ways it applied to her; well, a person in her line of work really should keep their head down, but in terms of dignity and pride, the saying really was fitting to her way of life... And so she did as the Terrans did, kept her head high and proceeded to raise her middle finger at him with a grin.
"Next time, I'll fly." Cato said, biting his tongue. If she was anyone else, he would've been dead as fried chicken. But back to the Wandering Start they went, making decent time...
"Oh look, more playmates," Breaking her stroll for a jog, Enalia activated the gravity plating manipulators and ran up the wall at an angle as a dozen mercs stormed through a door towards her. Once she was running along the ceiling, she almost took her time phasering each guard, shooting each in their confused faces. She then continued along the ceiling and turned down a corridor marked Echo Tango, shooting out lights there as well.
Enalia had nothing to do with that office door though. She was heading for a door deeper in the facility and soon, after taking down another dozen people, she was in front of the right door.
She opened it and entered, depolarizing her armor and popping her helmet screen up to reveal her face.
Across the room was a woman secured to a chair, covered in scars and wearing thin medical robes. The same face stared back out from under unkempt hair.
Enalia raised her proton rifle at the woman with her face... and paused.
She knew what she had to do.
But she hesitated.
"Are you going to kill me?" asked the figure in the chair, glaring at Enalia through unkempt hair like a stray demon.
Enalia re-aimed her rifle. Try as she might though, it wasn't as easy as she had thought it was. She knew that this person had to die. That they shouldn't even exist. Yet it felt wrong. Like if she did it, she would lose a very important part of herself.
Then she made up her mind and squeezed the trigger.
She didn't shoot the figure... But the equipment she was hooked to. She had let the demon free and biohazard klaxons blared annoyingly to punctuate the bad decision that that was.
"Come with me if you want to live," Enalia said as the figure slowly stood. She then turned back to the door and started making her way back to the Wandering Star, the sound of bare feet pattering against the floor behind her.
As the new alarm sounded off, Nexi looked at Cato. "See! This was the signal I was waiting for!"
Cato glanced at her and remained quiet for the moment, she had royally pissed him off. But Greer, Laurent and Dahl were all in tow. That's who he came for and they were almost the fuck off this station. "What's her twenty?"
"I can sense her, she's not far," Nexi said, then paused in her stride. "And she's not alone, but... something feels off." Her eyes narrowed as she tried to pin down what was so wrong about this other person she felt with Enalia. Then she looked up Cato. "Remember how I got mad at you? I think I'm about to get pissed again; I have a very bad feeling about the reason she came here..."
"Yeah? We all have our secrets. Who cares, not our fight." Cato said looking at Dahl, Greer and Laurent. "We'll stay here, you guys go ahead and secure the shuttle bay. If you get jammed up, fall back here. We're going to wait for our last man."
Laurent nodded before Greer and Dahl began walking away down the dark corridor. Weapons lights lighting their way as they continued.
"They'd better get here soon then," Enalia called from an adjoining corridor. "Friendly approaching, please don't shoot me." As she stepped out into the main corridor, a face peered around the corner with her that vaguely resembled Enalia, or a demon from classic pop culture that climbed from monitors and screens.
Nexi was quick to raise her pike and level it at the Enalia-demon thing; she could get over the sense of 'wrong' that she felt when looking at her. "Enalia, what is this?" Nexi demanded, unwilling to let this thing on her ship until she got an answer.
"Let's just think of her as an evil clone created from a failed project. Lock her in a cell if you have to." Enalia explained before shooting a trio of guards behind her in the face without even looking.
Well, she did have cells in her ship for a reason. "I don't care what she's promised you, I will not hesitate to space you if I think you're an imminent thread," Nexi said in a cold voice to the Enalia-demon, then lowered her pike. "Let's go, I'm ready for this day to be over." And with that, she turned to lead Enalia and her clone back to the Wandering Star, that disturbed feeling clawing at her. She looked over at Cato; people were allowed their secrets, but Nexi was of the opinion that this one should have stayed buried...
Cato remained silent, again. Turning and walking shoulder to shoulder with Nexi, the sound of his armor on the deck as he walked quickly. TR116-C2 at the ready as they walked. "Not our fight, Nexi." Cato said to her in his head, knowing she might pick up on it. Approaching the shuttle bay, it was completely empty save for the Wandering Star which had been secured by Laurent, Greer and Dahl.
Nexi did pick up on the thought directed at her, and she cut her eyes at him as they made their way to her ship; she wondered if he would feel the same way if this secret came to bite them in the ass... But now wasn't the time for such discussions, they needed to get out of here and back to the Hera! They arrived at the hangar bay and there was her ship, safe and unharmed. She could feel Cato's three friends, one of which (and she couldn't tell who just yet) was frustrated with the inability to access the Star's controls. While somewhat annoyed, she was not angry; it was unlikely that Cato had the chance to warn his companions that this wasn't just a ship, it was her home, and she also knew it was mostly likely their SOP to try to make ready to leave. They would get one warning, same as everyone else got! Nexi strode up the ramp into the rear of her ship and prepped a holding cell, looking back to Enalia and her copy.
"Get in, before I change my mind and leave you here," Nexi said coldly to the Enalia-demon.
The Enalia-demon padded her way into the cell and stared out at her apparent new captors. "Will I get food and water?" she croaked out eerily in Enalia's voice.
"Yeah, once we're underway I'll get you something," Enalia replied, finally setting her rifle aside as Nexi secured the cell.
"You can see to her comfort once we're back; I ain't opening this cell 'cept to transport her directly to one of your brig cells," Nexi said to Enalia sternly as she locked down the holding cell. Enalia may have been her superior on the Hera, but on the Wandering Star, Nexi wasn't taking any chances with their safety. "Cato, make sure your people are ready to go," she said in an aloof manner as she headed for the front of the ship.
Enalia nodded and spoke to the demon-clone again. "Sorry, captain said no. You'll have to wait until we're ablard the Hera."
The Enalia-demon grinned and chuckled like a box of rocks. "The Hera... I remember the Hera... So much blood..."
"They're ready to go." Cato replied, watching Laurent, Dahl and Greer strap in. Unclicking his helmet and placing it on the ground, his hazel eyes shifted to look at that demon-thing in the holding cell. Nexi wasn't wrong, he too had a bad feeling. "If that thing boards the Hera, the risk is monumental."
As Nexi sat in the cockpit, she wiggled in her seat uncomfortably; someone else's ass had been in this chair! Sighing at the prospect of getting the chair to once again mold perfectly to her ass, she lit up the consoles and fired up the Wandering Star's engines. Within seconds, the Star was lifting off and peeling out of the hanger bay, cloaking and going to warp just as they cleared the bay doors. She leaned back in her chair, relieved that this mess was all over...