The Counterattack Begins
Explosions and random gunfire became a symphony of life around Libria. Normally, it is usually the Nethers that are bustling with such activity. The Council and the rest of Libria was suffering from the consequence of seriously underestimating the true strength of the Resistance as well as how much damage one First Class Cleric could to such a heavily fortified juggernaut. While Black and Preston were securing the perimeter as Jurgen and the Resistance leaders made their way to the heart of the Nethers, Preston couldn't help but ponder what would be the Council's next move? With Dupont's demise, someone would have to swiftly move in to fill in the power vacuum. To maintain control, they would have to quickly re-establish Father's public image.
The only man, other than Dupont, who would be able to turn the tides of war, would be Ducard. Preston, personally, didn't know Ducard, but knew about him. Ducard was a far more dangerous adversary than Dupont. If Preston had had to deal with Ducard when facing his original mission of infiltrating and assassinating Father, Ducard wouldn't have hesitated in completely destroying Preston and his children as well. Ducard would never take the risk of leaving loose ends behind. Some of the deadliest weapons in the Sweeper and Cleric arsenal were developed under Ducard's direct supervision.
"What's wrong, Preston? We're nearly back home. Librian forces are scarce in these areas since we took the fighting to the city streets." Black said.
"It's nothing. It's just an odd feeling. You don't think it's strange that we have gotten back to the Nethers so easily?" Preston inquired.
"Easy?! You call that last Sweeper squadron fight easy?! And I suppose that little explosion back at the Palace of Justice was just another walk in the park for you?" Black asked.
"You don't find it the least bit odd that we haven't encountered more resistance from the Cleric Corp.? The usual back-up protocol for situations like these is to enlist the Cleric Reserve Corp. and immediately deploy them in the middle of the more severe hotspots. Yet, all we faced were a few Sweeper Squadrons. They're up to something. I still have to make sure that Lisa and Kyle are both safe. By now, the Council probably would have placed the Cleric Monastery under Red Alert. No one in and no one out. I need to get both of them out of the city. The Council is willing to go to any extent to regain control, including using innocent Librians as leverage." Preston explained.
"Well, we're back to HQ. If you need to, I can have some of the men re-supply and re-arm within several hours and we could be on our way back to the city to extract your children out of the Monastery." Black offered Preston.
"No, I have to do this alone. Besides, Jurgen needs you here to secure the perimeter while the Resistance leadership makes plans for deeper incursions into the city. You still have the comlink that I gave you before freeing Jurgen?" asked Preston.
"Yes, sir. You sure you don't need back-up? If what you are saying is true, it will be twice as hard to get back to the Monastery. The enemy barricades are too tough of a defense to penetrate through by just one man. Let's take some of the heavy infantry squads and hit the eastern sector with everything we have. While their forces are distracted on the eastern sector, we can take a second expeditionary force and hit up the Monastery when their defenses have been weakened."
"That's exactly why I need to go at this alone. They will be expecting you to hit them hard in the eastern sector. After so many raid missions in the Nethers, they have adapted quite well to your strategies. They won't expect a single man to infiltrate their defenses so deeply." Preston replied.
"True, but you're a wanted fugitive. Everyone in Libria will soon know about what you did and by now they probably would have made capturing you as high a priority as getting rid of Jurgen and the rest of us. What if they have set up countermeasures to all the back-doors and secret entries that you are aware of? You don't think that they will have taken you into account, when putting together a counter-strategy?" Black asked.
"That's a risk that I am willing to take. Besides, there is something else that I need to check up on and I will need to make a trip to the City Archives. It will be easier for one man to move around than a team of insurgents trying to avoid detection." Preston concluded.
"Fair enough. What do you need from us?" Black resigned.
"Well, I could use something with a little more punch than this AK-47. I would have to empty nearly an entire clip to take down just one HSI unit let alone any Kevlar-armored Clerics." Preston asked for heavier arms.
"Take this M-6 assault rifle. Here are some extra clips with armor-piercing rounds, equipped with titanium tips. Good luck, sir." Black bid Preston farewell.
"Thanks, Black. If there are any updates from Jurgen, let me know immediately. Keep the link on Channel 57, they don't use that line at all."
Preston finished packing, taking along with him the assault rifle and extra clips for his twin Berettas (a Gunslinger's weapon of choice). He still couldn't shake the feeling that there was something amiss and that the worst was yet to come. Besides the Monastery, it was imperative that he find a way to access the City Archives. Whatever the Council was planning, John was sure that the City Archives would hold a clue as to what was going on.