Phase 1, Chapter 9.
Mid-day would find the exhausted Kalevar Savantes flopped back on a park bench, head hanging back to face the sky as a happy little doe snuggled next to his side, lapping quietly at an icecream cone. Several large bags rested at the wildcat's other side, made of coloured plastics and stuffed with thin paper to conceal their contents. Upon outwards examination they looked to be little more than petty purchases from popular stores along the mall strip.. And a few items were, to be sure. Clothes for Hannah, clothes for him. Shoes for Hannah, boots for him. Underwear for Hannah, shades for him. There were bits and pieces of conventional supply hidden away inside Kalevar's bags of treasure.. But in reality, a long day of fencing stolen goods and haggling over illegal market prices was what had left the mercenary with such a headache, not a simple walk around the mall. Specialized belts for sheaths and holsters to be strapped to almost every portion of someone's body, several dozen pounds of tools and supplies for loading personalized ammunition, enough weapons to arm a small militia, disassembled and hidden within the various bags. It was like christmas for a soldier, the sleek black synthetics of high-end weaponry glistening beneath all that paper just waiting to be assembled and used to murder people.
The thought gave Kalevar a bit of a smile, purring quietly to himself despite the terrible pounding behind his eyes. The low rumble caught the attention of Hannah, and she glanced up towards her companion to look him in the face with a tilt of her head and a smile. Slipping the rest of the frozen treat between her lips, she savoured the sweet flavoring before running a cold tongue across Kalevar's cheek.
"What're you all murry-purry about, hm?"
"I was just thinking about... How much we got done today."
"You were thinking about your guns, weren't you."
"What? No, why would I purr over weapons."
"Hun, i've known you for two days and you already can't fool me. How do you do all this agent stuff if you can't even lie?"
"Easy, I kill people before they can talk to me.. Now shush."
"Hahaha! Well, so much for hoping you were thinking about me..."
Hannah teased playfully, nudging her elbow into Kale's ribs and causing him to flinch. The doe squealed as he retaliated by grabbing her sides and tickling heavily, flailing her arms and trying to scramble away from the strong grip of his paws. She didn't have much luck at getting away, huffing for breath between uncontrollable giggle fits, kicking and wriggling around like a puppy with an itch it couldn't find.
"W-wait! Kale! S.. S-stop, No! You can't! P-please! Cheater!"
"Fine! F-fine!! I surrenderrrrrr!"
Grinning, the wildcat took his stoic victory in silence, planting a kiss on Hannah's nose before standing up to retrieve their bags. With a few in each paw, he easily managed to pick up all of them, stumbing only a little at the force of Hannah hitting his back. She had used the park bench as a stepping stool to vault up onto him, wrapping her arms and legs around his frame and nestling her cheek up against his. Laughing quietly beneath his breath, Kalevar made no objections to the piggy back ride, and began to make the walk home. It wasn't far, a few city blocks. Hannah's little appartment complex was tucked away in the heart of the lower city, a good central working point for the surrounding slums and shopping outlets. It wasn't the cleanest part of town, or the safest, but that made it ideal. Having Hannah around him was still very unsafe for her. Kalevar knew this, but what could he do? She had pulled him from that building when he was unconscious, and there was no telling who had seen. Despite his best efforts to keep her out of the loop, she had ended up in the thick of the situation at hand, and now the best thing to do was to make sure he was nearby to protect her if things got bad. When he had woken up in her appartment this morning, Kale had known there was no dodging out on the sweethearted little doe. She had helped him and that made her a target. He couldn't leave her now... And quite frankly, he didn't want to.
She had been more than just a source of excellent information, guiding him around town and pointing out different places to fence his claimed belongings.. She had been a friend. A lover, even. It made him worry what would occur when the mission was over and he was cut from this world, but the wildcat did his best not to think that far ahead. There was far too much to be done before even considering that potentiality, after all, if he didn't manage to stop Espinoza from poisoning the citizens here... Well.. Nothing else would matter, before or after. Kalevar let his thoughts roam freely as he walked along the cracked and uneven sidewalks of downtown, Hannah's form barely noticable upon his back. She weighed so little in contrast to his bulk that he nearly would have forgotten she were there were it not for the quiet snuffles of her breath where she had fallen asleep against his neck. Smiling fondly, his attention was pulled away only by the faint pattern of mechanical beeps which indicated an incoming transmission. Toggling his comm to active, Kale allowed the videofeed to condense over his left eye. Fayah was wearing a formal skirt and blouse getup, a tie fastened loosely around her neck. Her green eyes flickered towards her webcam, tiny paws a flurry of typing speed on her keyboard as she made a few adjustments to the information displays on Kale's HUD.
"Fayah to Zulu-Three.. Do you read, Kalevar?"
~Loud and clear, Overseer.. Can't talk, in public, using mental link.~
"That's what it's there for. So, you want the good news or the bad news?"
~Oh boy.. Alright, lets start with the bad news.~
"Well. Bad news is, there was practically nothing of interest on those papers you filched. Infact, the only thing we could figure from their contents is that whoever we're going up against is probably very well armed. Military level hardware has been being sold under the table, according to the ledgers... So it's almost a double negative for you, there."
~Sounds like my kind of party. Remind me to bring extra bags, so I have room to take all the toys home.~
"...You know, sometimes I have a hard time telling if you're confident or mentally unstable. Want the good news?"
"Good news is, there was actually a lot of usable information on the video footage you pulled. A full interrogation of a chemist who had been working for them, but tried to back out when he finally decided his conscience was stronger than their money. They cut him up pretty bad, the footage is... hard to watch. But thanks to him, we know a lot. You didn't happen to..."
~Yeah, I found him. He was... Past help.~
"Not surprising, considering the videos... Still, at least he was able to pass quietly in his last moments.."
"Something wrong, Kalevar? Generally you traipse over the subject of death like it's free candy."
~No, it's nothing.. Too bad he wasn't stronger, though... But I suppose he was useful for a civilian.~
"Your kindness never ceases to amaze, Zulu-Three. Ping me as soon as you reach a safe location, and i'll seed you the videos."
~Copy that. Kalevar out.~
"Wait. I have one more thing for you."
~I'm all ears, Kitten.~
"Let's not use nicknames for things we aren't really attached to. Our developmental labs are working hard to establish special programs that will instruct your psionics to release different synapse patterns in your nervous system, granting you access to a greater depth of your abilities. You can thank your original Overseer, Dr. Bastov for that. Even if he isn't the voice in your head he's working hard for you still, and with any luck they'll have one or two beta patches ready for testing in a few days."
~You're going to install experimental codes in my head? I don't know if I should be grateful, or insulted.~
"Being the lab rat isn't always a bad thing. Besides, I'm sure Dr. Bastov wouldn't risk you in any way... For whatever reason, he seems to like you."
~I knew his son. Anyways, if that's all, I'm almost to my place of operation. Go ahead and start the data transfer for those vids.~
"Yes, sir. Good luck, Fayah out."
As the pink-furred feline closed out her transmission link, Kalevar had certainly not missed the bit of a barb she had thrown into their conversation. Frowning, he supposed he had set himself up for that one.. Perhaps flirting with someone who had full access to most of what went on inside his head had been a bad idea.. Then again, he didn't see what the big fuss was about when the two of them existed in entirely different worlds. Sighing as he pushed open the door to Hannah's home, he chalked it up to being some sort of female thing that he just wouldn't be able to rationalize nomatter how hard he tried. Taking great care as he lowered Hannah onto her bed, Kalevar was a living example of the tenderness which could exist inside of a soldier. The most dangerous person in the world when he had to be, yet the softest most genuine friend when the situation allowed for it. It was a truth that he knew personally, one he had seen in many of his brothers and sisters in arms. They fought when the fighting needed bodies, and loved when the world needed healing. As soldiers, they upheld peace wherever it required defending, be it through force or example. Stroking her hair, the wildcat enjoyed how the silky tendrils tickled against his fur, brushing his palm against her face for a moment to feel the warmth in her cheeks. Kissing his fingertips, he touched them faintly to the doe's lips, her breath fluttering against them before he turned to head for the kitchen.
Priming his psionics, Kalevar rocked quietly in the chair as he waited for the footage, starting it up once he had recieved over seventy percent of the data. The rest could finish as he moved through the beginning portions.. An instinctive grimace crept across the wildcat's expression and he nearly hit the ground out of sheer reflex, as the opening scenes of the recording began with screaming and a series of gunshots. It was a feed from the room full of beakers and testubes that he had seen, the bull he had fought gunning down a series of protesting engineers as there seemed to be a conflcit over allowing the chemist to be hauled away. The mongoose he had found strapped to the chair was grabbed roughly and dragged screaming from the room. The other scientists only seemed to shake their heads in disgust, going straight back into their work and muttering about how foolish the others had been for turning their noses up at the sort of money they could have been making.
"Who cares if some people end up dead. When it's all over, we'll be rich and nobody will be the wiser."
"Yeah, it's not like we'd be at risk anyway if that idiot would just give us the antidote formula."
"He's going to give it up. There's no way we worked all these months so he could hide the last piece of the puzzle. They won't use the poison until they have an antidote as a failsafe, those were the orders straight from the boss. Can't get paid unless we have something to sell, anyway."
"True. What do you think they'll do to him to get it? It's not like we can read minds."
"Oh, I wouldn't doubt if these people had a few psionics under their palms.. But even if they don't, pain works wonders. Believe me, they'll make him talk. They can't afford not to."
Hissing lowly at the selfish, immoral conversation between the two men, Kalevar quickly changed the video feeds. Channeling back over the time that had transpired back to the moment when the chemist was pulled from the room, he watched the cameras from the hallway to see the mongoose taken to precisely the room where he had found him in the night before. Altering the feeds again, he moved to the cameras from within the room. There was only a single device mounted at the front of the doorway, allowing Kalevar a view of the chemist's face as he was roughly slammed against the chair and pinned down with layer after layer of tape. The bull started to question him then, demanding compliance as he finished securing the much smaller male. The chemist refused. Back and forth they would yell for quite some time, but the mongoose did not give ground... It was then that the bull moved behind the chair. Because of the camera angle, Kalevar could not tell what was happening entirely, but judging by the way the chemist screamed... he would have guessed that his fingers were being broken, where his hands were strapped behind the chair. There was a malicious, sadistic glow in the eyes of the bull as his prisoner writhed with agony.
Kalevar's ears twitched against the sounds of the screaming, the noises fighting to bring back surges of sleeping terrors which nested within the darkest corners of his mind. Shaking it off, he forced himself to watch intently as the chemist admirably continued to refuse to give in. It was then that the knives came into play, and Kale remained unblinking as the blades were slowly pressed into the male's flesh. Screams echoed in his ears, helpless cries for mercy, for relief. Deep inside his own center, the wildcat felt an immense need to kill the bull responsible for this, even though he had done so already.. Somehow, the bullets he had used just didn't seem sufficient anymore. There had been pain, yes, the bovine had certainly suffered in his last moments.. But Kalevar wanted to hear him scream the way this man had screamed, wanted to cut the life from him with a rusted spoon. Growling darkly, his paws clenched into hardened fists as his claws reflexively extended, biting into his own skin. He didn't seem to notice, entirely focused on the images moving across his eyes as the mongoose finally gave in to his body's cries of pain. There was blood gushing onto the floor, dripping over pieces of steel which were still embedded in his legs and shoulders.. The sticky, rich droplets of crimson pooled across the floor and mingled with the helpless tears which fell with them.
"A-Alright!! Please, just stop.. Please.. I can't.. No more.. I'm b-begging... you.."
"Out with it, worthless trash."
"My.. m-my password.. is.. sing for me.. using the n-number.. four.. You'll find everything in a hidden file that i've.. i've put in the.. downloads library.."
"It better be everything. You were stupid, Kellen. You should have known not to cross us. Why don't you tell me what the fuck was going through that head of yours, before I cut you again. Because seems to me, this was an awfully fucking stupid move for such a smart person."
"You c-can burn in hell, Larz. You... and Espinoza both.. I saw w-what you were doing... in that warehouse at the pier. This isn't just g.. gang conflict anymore, you're m-making this terrorism! I.. I wont.. ... Be a part of it.."
"That's where you're wrong, Kellen. Your hands are already dirty, you've done everything we needed you to do. It was the wrong time to try and back out like a little bitch. Burried up to the hilt but trying to cum on the floor, you were. Stupid. Worthless. I ought to kill you just for trying."
"Like you've.. Been.. killing all those p-people.. In the housing center? I've been there too, Larz.. I've walked down ash street.. What you o-ought.. to do.. Is kill yourself, for sinking.. this low."
A crushing blow to the face knocked the male now known to be Kellen out cold, but Larz didn't stop there. Several more strikes were incoming, pummeling the chemist and creating the bruises and cuts Kalevar had found him with. The wildcat shut the footage off abruptly, not wanting to see another moment. He had enough to work with, and judging by what Fayah had said earlier the labs back in his home had a few ideas as to just which locations had been mentioned. They could iron out the small kinks later, for now, he needed something to calm his nerves... Thankfully, he had just the medicine he needed inside the bags he had brought home. There was ammo to be loaded, guns to be assembled and cleaned. Piece by piece, shell by shell, the soldier went to work. His breath slowed as he became immersed in the task, feeling the metal in his palms. The cool, smooth surfaces of familiar friends comforted the wildcat, and with closed eyes a light smile tugged at the corners of his lips.
"We'll make things right again, girls... Don't worry... When daddy holds you, the bad people stop breathing..."