Author's note: I'm not going to get too sappy on everyone here, but life's been hard. But I decided to dedicate what time I do have to finishing this story. If you readers are still out there, this is for you. Sorry it took so long.

On a side note. I have another new story in the works that I intend to start after the end of this story first and once I get farther into Last True Shinobi. Stay tuned!

Angelos D Wolf.


Chapter 35

Pray


"No sudden movements." Inspector Carmelita Fox began to slowly step back towards the entrance to maximum security. "We turn around, and we move out of here. We get out of here now!" She spoke in circles as her nerves became shot. Brassemer, in the very back kept his shoulder mounted light trained on the hole in the wall where they first saw the inmate's grasping hands. The sickly, pale and bony fingers with long curling, unclipped claws that slithered back into the wall made everyone's fur spring up on the back of their necks as they all collectively inched farther away.

A sudden pop was heard far along the hallway lined with heavy steel doors. A shatter confirmed a light bulb must have fallen out of a lamp socket on the ceiling. Not that it added to any more to the crushing darkness than was already present. One flickering light still hung from the ceiling, far on the other side. With a flash of light, quick as lightening, Carmelita strained to focus as she noticed a strange faint shadow. It seemed to be slowly swinging back and forth, moving slightly with every flicker of the light fixture. "Brassemer," the vixen spoke, causing everyone to go rigid for a moment.

"Constable, shine your light down the hallway, towards the outer wall." The collie nodded as he turned around and adjusted his shoulder lamp to bare down on the strange smudge.

"Oh my God…" Dorian spoke, dropping the MP5 from his shoulder slightly. Brassemer quivered slightly, the light mounted on his shoulder wiggling about along with his body.

"Well..." Fujiwaka spoke. "We found our team…"

The light scanned over the bodies of four badly beaten corpses that were once Interpol officers. Namely, the four other missing officers that accompanied Fujikawa and Brassemer when the riots first broke out. They were hanging by their CB radio cords wrapped repeatedly around their necks. "We need to cut them down," Dorian spoke. "This is just…no one deserves to die this way…"

Everyone's ears twitched as they all turned back from the second wing. A chorus of heavy breathing reverberating off the concrete walls was flooding Carmelita's ears, she couldn't hear herself think. "They're coming back," Fujikawa stated sharply as his ears flickered. "Hear that?"

Everyone lifted their heads and quieted their gasping breaths. It sounds much like boards slapping together, or metal rods wobbling back and forth. It was a strange, alien sound. Almost as if the walls were shuddering and moving around them. "Is it…another explosion set off by Coal's men?" Booker whispered to himself as he walked and patted Carmelita on the shoulder.

As the shuddering began to die down, a sudden feeling of dread filled the claustrophobic nightmare of the isolated hallways. Heavy breathing, but a quick inspection showed that not any of the Interpol agents were breathing next to her. Instead they were silenced, the air caught in their lungs and remained frozen in there. The breathing became sharper and faster, bouncing off the narrow walls as more strange noises came down the hallway to accompany it. What could only be described as the pained moans of some injured ungodly animal echoed down to hit the four agents with its deep, penetrating rumble.

Each officer could hear their hearts beating within their chests. Louder and louder. The sounds grew closer. The thumping became its own musical instrument, much like the jagged scratching of a fiddle in a horror movie as suspense began to build. Thump, thump. Louder still did the noises come towards them.

Thump thump…

Carmelita couldn't tell if her own heart was making the noise, or the unholy choir shuffling towards them were.

Thump thump...

"Brassemer," Carmelita spoke in a hushed tone over her shoulder. The collie shook himself out of his stupor and looked to the vixen. "Shine your light…down the hall." The dog took a few steps forward, standing next to Fujikawa and adjusted his light to lace through the darkness of the hallway. Everyone's jaws became slack as they saw what stared back at them from the abyss.

A dozen pale faces and shiny glowing eyes that reflected the light from Brassemer's shoulder lamp stared hungrily at the four enforcers, with many more bodies behind them craning their necks to stare at them over the taller inmates' shoulders. And as quickly as they saw the eyes, the lamp on Brassemer's shoulder fluttered weakly.

And then the light was snuffed out.

"Oh great..." Brassemer breathed.

Thump…thump…


Sly Cooper watched the screen of Coal Black's laptop, the whole thing being corrupted and under the control of Bentley's spirited fingers as the tortoise continued breaking down barriers and firewalls, digging up file after file. Sly scanned the screen as intensely as Bentley was, seeing schematics for Clockwerk's final designs scrawling across the display. His eyes narrowed at the sight of the menacing bird that to this day haunted him. It wasn't until Bentley paused in his search when he brought up what looked like very old photographs. What interested them most was that they seemed to be ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics etched into the old stone surfaces. Sly's eyes grew as he saw the display on the wall as that of a giant bird, an owl with very sharp metallic looking features.

"No…" he breathed. "Is…that Clockwerk?" Bentley nodded, though the raccoon could not see it.

"From what these files indicate, these must be the very first representations of Clockwerk ever in history. It's possible Coal's organization is older than we initially believed and has been following Clockwerk's progression for some time now."

"Could…could Coal's order be some plot to destroy the Cooper line? My earliest ancestor was Slytunkhamen II, an Egyptian Pharaoh and builder of the Cooper Vault. He stole from nobles, I'll bet anything he made himself a bunch of enemies during his career." Bentley scanned through more in the computer, looking up more data on the organization.

"It's possible, Sly. We've had quite a list of extraordinary individuals wanting to take us out over the years. I'd say your family line has been a thorn in the sides of many different barons, nobles, pharaohs, lords and whatever else history has thrown at them. I'm guessing it's all finally catching up to us." Cooper sighed though clenched teeth as he looked away from the computer for a moment.

He bit down on his thumb in thought before adjusting his blue hat. "Alright Bentley," he said with resolve. "We're taking all that data and erasing it for good. No trace of it can remain. Nothing. We're gonna scrub history clean of that stupid owl."

"I'm on it. Currently I'm corrupting any of the data files so Coal won't be able to do a system restore and regain everything he lost. After that, it'll be blown away for good. I'd incinerate the laptop along with anything else connected to the schematics."

Cooper nodded and twirled his cane between his fingers for a moment. "Alright, pal. Tell me when you're finished and I'll deal with the laptop." The raccoon reached for the door to exit the office and cautiously stepped out. Bentley glanced up at the security monitors and noticed his friend was on the move again.

"Sly, hold on. Where are you going?" The master thief furrowed his brows and shook his head as he let out a breath.

"There's one more loose end I need to tie up before anything." He brought his fingers to his radio earpiece to make sure everyone on the frequency could hear him. Gold, Blue, Crimson, 13, Tom, Murray, Penelope, and Bentley all listened in as they heard his voice over the mic.

"I'm going after Coal."

Tom was quick to cut in.

"On your own? Like hell you are! Coal's not natural, we agreed to take him down as a team!"

"If anyone deserves to kill him," 13 interjected. "It will be me. I've nothing left to lose, that gives me the edge here. He's a manipulative psychopath, he'll use anything he can against you, even your own thoughts if he can!" His normal, robotic and calm voice began to waver as he grew more irate.

"He's ours," both Blue and Crimson snapped. "He left us for dead! We were dragged through hell under his boot, it's time we give him a little taste!" Blue clenched his fist to accentuate his point, yet Sly could not see it. Tom came over the mic once more.

"Mr. Cooper, the situation is shaky at best. We cannot afford to go gallivanting and jeopardize the plan. We lie in wait for him and take him down together. It's the only way!"

"Tom," Gold's voice came over the mic as sharp as a tack. "Do you have a visual on Coal right now? If so, I say we take him now. We've got him by the balls, would we have any better of a time to make him squirm, or what?" The disguised jackal let out a hiss from his nostrils and drew away from suspicious eyes. As he whispered into his earpiece, he ducked behind a corner and cupped a paw to his ear.

"None of you have any prior experience with Coal personally. I know his capabilities, if he wants to kill you, he will. This is not up for debate!" He looked over his shoulder, then continued speaking. "No, Pyrite. He isn't nearly vulnerable enough for us to take him down. Not when we're scattered around too thin like this."

"This is bullshit," Gold snapped. "I'm tired of plugging away at these grunts. I'm cutting off the head of the beast right freakin' now!"

"Gold no!" Tom spoke after the youth, but the cheetah had already cut off his connection to their frequency. Indigo Blue gave a shake of his head and chuckled.

"Stupid punk. Ran too fast for me to even grab him before he went out the door." Scarlet came up beside him and touched his arm.

"Tom," her smooth voice came over the mic. "Where is Coal now?"

"Don't tell me you two are going after him as well?" The red vixen nodded out of habit even though the jackal couldn't see her.

"We might as well. Everyone will either be searching for him on his own, or we can all meet up and confront him together. We've enough support. I say we take our chances." Blue looked to his lover by his side.

"You're sure about this sweetheart?" His brows drew up worriedly and she rubbed his forearm in assurance.

"As sure as you're buying me an engagement ring when this mess is all over. Now we best move, darling. We've never kept Coal waiting, I'd say it's time for retribution." The malamute's tongue was caught in his throat for a moment until he pulled the red fox into his arms and they shared a quick kiss. Murray rolled his eyes from behind his glasses and turned away as he started down the hallway.

"Aw jeez…let's hurry up before these two start having kids. Bentley, we're ready to go buddy!" The tortoise clicked furiously on the keyboard as Penelope adjusted her glasses and scanned the many camera monitors and heat signatures for signs of movement from Coal.

"I got em'", she chirped. "Second story….5th block. He's heading south! You all get that?" Everyone listening in had their fingers to their ears as they all heard the message loud and clear.

"He's heading for Clockwerk..." Sly mused to himself. He picked up his cane and began a mad dash to the factory level. "Bentley, keep working on those files. If you see anything about my ancestors, save em and burn the rest of Clockwerk and the organization."

"Be careful, Sly. Be careful all of you! Who knows what Coal's able to do! We all gotta be on our game for this one."

"Master Turtle," Tom's voice came in. "You have no idea." The jackal stood up and began to dust off the ashes coating his fur as he withdrew his Glock from the holster in his coat. "We're going to be in for quite the roundabout."


The prison was mostly silent, the ruined building had light pouring from the large cracks and holes punched through the concrete walls. It looked as if the roof would cave in at a moment's notice. Coal's explosives surly did their job as all of Paris was thrown into chaos while madmen in orange suits rampaged across the city. most of the cells were empty, some blown completely open while others had no walls left, leaving the inmates to simply crawl out of their newly formed exits and begin sewing torment. Inside the prison all was still, save for one towering individual. Flipping through a page in the small bible he held in his hands, the chestnut colored beaver still sitting on his cot chewed his bottom lip absent mindedly.

Glancing up, he looked at the clock on the wall that was still barely functional, and with a deep sigh, the giant of a man stood up from his bed. Throwing the holy book onto his pillow, he thumped his flat tail and knelt down to reach under his bunk. "It is good to see you again. I'm glad to see you still kept in shape." The beaver blinked heavily as he heard the recent memories replaying in his head.

"Coal sends a message." The beaver, still rocked from the large scale explosion that shuddered around the entire prison stood there, looking at the black clad agent of Coal's organization. With the small striking bird insignia on his coat, the large beaver was filled with a case of slight nostalgia from seeing the uniform.

"What does he want?" His voice was booming, he glanced behind himself as he saw the rest of the inmates swarming over the prison guards and strangling them, taking them down with sheer force of numbers. "Has he not realized I voluntarily chose to remain incarcerated all these years?"

"His message states…well. I think you can read it for yourself." The black furred dog knelt down as he dropped the backpack he had strapped to him and placed a very large briefcase onto the floor, kicking it towards the beaver. "He said to give up on that old book. There's no room for it in his new world. Just do what you've always done best." The large man knelt down, flicking open the locks and slowly opening the case. Inside, the smooth curved surface of a fully stocked M32 MGL grenade launcher rested comfortably in its foam setting.

The beaver let out a long sigh as he brought the large multi-chambered launcher up to his chest, as if embracing it. Looking back up from under his brows at the agent of Coal's, the large man drew in a breath and nodded. "There's some clothing and equipment in there as well, I'm sure you're eager to get back into business."

The beaver gave a stern look down back at the suitcase and furrowed his brows in thought. Coming to stand back up from his knees, he held the grenade launcher with one arm to see its weight and balance, familiarizing himself with the weapon. He looked back to the black dog. "Who is the hit?" The agent pulled a small photo out of his coat and handed it to the beaver. The brown animal took it and held it into the light pouring from the large missing chunk of his cell's wall.

After looking at the photo, he glanced back down at the grenade launched and ran his hands along it. "What is she? Government?"

"Interpol, a very skilled officer whose death is important to the final stages of our operation. I trust you can handle it?" The beaver sighed and returned to sitting on his half destroyed bunk.

"If you contacted me, then either Coal's run out of options, or you really must want to make sure she is dead."

"A bit of both it seems..." the canine trailed off as he handed a cell phone to the beaver. "Contact us once you confirm her death. Then we'll work on your record with the police."

"Erasing a file won't erase memories of what happened. You've been with Black long enough, you know the situation." The dog nodded as he began to set another explosive charge he retrieved from his backpack for the next bombing run.

"You're not a man, you're a weapon, Duncan. The moment you get that through your big head, the smarter and sounder you'll be for it. We're all cogs to a machine."

"That's a cynical look on things, I'd pray for you if it-

"Spare me," the black dog absent mindedly spoke as he continued fiddling with the explosive settings. "I've no use for prayers."

"We're not like machines," Duncan said after a short pause. "People can't live that way, we're not ageless metal. We will die some day, don't you feel less fulfilled with a soul so unprepared for God's graces?"

"You have your orders, Duncan." The dog finished arming the device and left the trigger on standby. "Kill her, quickly, and call the number on speed dial when you've confirmed her dead." He didn't wait for the beaver to respond. Merely, the dog turned his back as he held the bomb under his arm and shouldered his backpack, leaving the destroyed prison, and Duncan's unheard prayers.

The beaver sighed as he pulled out the large suitcase that held his equipment. Flipping it open, he took out the foam insert and grenade launcher. Underneath was a folded flak jacket and a pair of combat boots. Replacing his clothing, Duncan strapped on the jacket that was littered with pockets, a loaded 9mm handgun in the built in holster. Checking all of the other pockets, he returned to his main weapon of choice, opening up the cylinder and loading each concussive shell.

Attaching the second hand grip and the adjustable AUG scope to the rail system, he stood up and fastened his boots. He then glanced back at the bible he placed on his pillow for a long silent moment, seeing the gilded cross printed on its surface and the rigid spine that said "King James Version XVII" He picked it up, feeling the weight in his hand and pressed the hard cover to his forehead. "Forgive me for what I'm about to do."


Thump thump…

The screaming rattled their ears. The hymns of hell seemed to nip at their heels. Brassemer in the back held his MP5 to his shoulder as he unloaded into the mob of screaming emaciated ghouls, the rubber bullets blasting a few of the short ones back, while the larger ones were far too strung out on opiates to even feel a thing. Carmelita pumped her legs, the blood rushing to her face, making it unbearably hot as a thick coating of sweat collected under her helmet and stuck to her fur. Dorian switched places with Brassemer as the collie signaled that he needed to reload. The group staggered slightly as thin, pale arms began to burst from the walls.

One hand nearly grasped the hem of Fox's jacket as she leaned away from the needle like fingers. Laughing and cursing and maddening hackles followed the four officers as they made an insane dash to the staircase exit. "Fuji!" Brassemer patted the tanuki on the shoulder. "You got any more flashbangs?"

The raccoon dog patted down his vest until his paw brushed against a familiar shape strapped to his chest. He unhooked the metal cylinder from the grenade loop and pulled the pin. "No one look behind you!" He quickly turned around and threw it at the mob of grasping hands. The grenade smacked against an inmate's chest, causing him to stagger as he caught the object. Pausing to inspect it for a second, he was hit full force with the deafening screech and blinding light of the flash bang grenade as more of their group groaned and staggered from the incredibly distracting noise and light.

"UP! UP THE STAIRS NOW!" Carmelita held the steel reinforced door open as she ushered for everyone to evacuate. Bracing her back against the door to hold it open, she shouldered her MP5 and sprayed into the mass of tangled grasping arms. As she saw the last of her comrades leave, she slammed the door behind her and engaged the security lock. The steel bars shot out and slid into the hole on the side of doorway.

She could hear hands clawing from the other side of the thick metal door as she leaned against it to catch her breath. Dorian leaned against his knees as he took long gulps of air, blinking away the sweat that collected around his eyes. He looked up at Carmelita and offered her a hand off the floor. "Well," the ocelot gasped. "Least they're locked in there. Won't be...running in the streets."

Brassemer kicked the wall hard, causing the animals to look up. "Dammit, they got all of them. Phillips, Himmins. They got them all! They're just hanging in there and we had to leave em'!" Fujikawa placed a hand on his partner's shoulder.

"When it's over. We'll get them back. I promise." Brassemer sighed and stood up as he nodded. Bringing his firearm up, everyone looked to Inspector Fox for orders. The vixen noticed a few tears in her uniform to make note of, then breathed sharply out of her nose.

"Alright. We're done here. We lost four good officers down there, but the situation hasn't changed." She spoke with authority and sternness as she addressed them. "Paris is still overrun. I'm sure the national guard are already on the scene, but with so many inmates and the threat of civilian casualties, they'll have their hands full. We move topside now, meet up at one of the blockades they'll be setting up and do what we can."

"Yes, ma'am," Brassemer spoke, disheartened still from the sight of his coworkers' corpses. Leaving the hallway which lead to maximum security, Fujikawa locked the barred doors behind him out of slight paranoia that someone could be following. As the four continued back to where the entrance was, Inspector Fox couldn't help but notice a few things were out of place. The bodies of the men who attacked them were missing. She noticed their blood stains on the floor and a few drag marks.

She held up a hand, signaling everyone to stop. She drew two fingers out and pointed towards the blood stains. "They're…gone?" Booker quirked a brow as he glanced about.

"Well they didn't just get up and walk away…" Brassemer sighed. "I plugged one of them four times in the chest point blank."

"Everyone keep your eyes and ears open. Brassemer, you cover the rear." Carmelita drew a glance over her shoulder as they advanced, the sounds of their boots squeaking against the floor. They came to the end of the hall just before the library and saw that the door was open. This caused Carmelita's tail to flicker slightly and puff out as she grew more uneasy of the situation. "This doesn't seem right at all," she uttered under her breath.

Tightening her grip, she took a step forward until she felt a slight tug against her foot. She looked down and her eyes grew wide. She quickly threw up her hand to halt her fellow officers. "Wait, stop!" She quickly snapped and then carefully drew her foot back.

Carmelita knelt down to make out what was near the floor. Dorian came behind her and squatted down near her. "What is it?" Carmelita slowly lifter her hand and underneath it, hovering so delicately as a spider's web was an almost invisible wire. Dorian was able to see it as it contrasted with Carmelita's dark black glove.

"No one move," Dorian stood up and turned to Fujikawa and Brassemer. The collie glanced around, confused.

"Are we being watched?" Dorian glanced around again nervously as he was able to spot more wires lacing around them.

"There's trip wires all over this place…we don't see what they're rigged to, but don't make any movements. There could be some farther down this hallway." The other two officers looked around as they were able to see a slight glint of light coming off the transparent wires.

"Shit…" Brassemer spoke as he looked to his partner and jerked his head back towards the end of the hallway they just came.

"We'll have to turn around and find another way," Carmelita stood up and looked away from the wires. "Whoever rigged these is a professional. Most likely one of Black's men."

"Black?" Fujikawa craned his head to the side in puzzlement. Carmelita shook her head and gave a sigh.

"It's a long story. If we live through this, you can read the after action report." Dorian moved closer to Carmelita and moved his mouth to her ear.

"You think Coal found us here? How would he know we would be here?" The vixen bit her lip in thought, then whispered back as the group turned around.

"He staged this whole mass riot. He knew we wouldn't be able to contain everything, not this quickly. This prison was one of the worst ones hit and the highest concentration for inmates." She popped a few stiff vertebrae in her neck and rubbed her shoulder. "He calculated everything to a fault. But…he knew the inmates still in here wouldn't take us all down. If he drew us out here in the open without the support of Sly and the team to back us up…who was meant to take us out?"

As they rounded the corner to the other wing of the building, Fujikawa and Brassemer froze, causing Dorian and Carmelita to bump into them. They looked up over their shoulders to see more wires blocking their path. "They're luring us," Carmelita spoke. "They're herding us into an area for an ambush I assume."

Dorian looked to his partner and patted the two officers on the shoulder in front of him. "We'll double back and look for any holes in the wall." Carmelita shook her head.

"That won't work. He's already got the exits blocked off." The three other officers looked to her with puzzlement.

"What?" Brassemer blurted out. "How? We've only gone through maybe half the prison. What if a piece of the walling broke off while we were looking for our team?" Carmelita swallowed hard as she raised her chin to gesture down the hallway.

"Because the man who rigged all these traps is here, right now." Everyone glanced to the end of the hallway. After a short pause, the silhouette of a large, burly man stood in the doorway, behind the spider web of tripwires that separated him from the group of Interpol agents on the other side. "Coal sent you I take it?"

There was no response other than the man flicking the arming cap of what looked like a remote detonator with his thumb. "These traps are good, but you've not only caught us, but you as well. How are you going to get any closer to us than that?" The man continued flicking the cap lid on the button, but remained silent. "This stage you built for us is too small. You won't be able to maneuver at all, and we have automatic weapons. For one of Coal's men, you didn't plan this all very well."

"You didn't take one thing into account though, Miss Fox." His booming voice echoed down the hallway, causing Carmelita's brows to raise as she heard her name. She watched as the slightest movement of the other arm that wasn't holding the detonator held a very large weapon. Placing the detonator into his jacket, he drew up the large grenade launcher into the double hand grip and raised it to his shoulders.

"I don't have to reach you, my eight little friends here will do it for me…unless…you surrender?" The sudden offer took Carmelita by slight surprise, but she didn't show it. An assassin offering mercy to their target was an odd thing indeed.

"I surrender? Then you blow this whole place and let us be buried? How tempting." The large man shook his head and stepped out of view of the four officers. They all pressed their back to one another, covering all angles of the area they were forced into from the wires. A slow fall of footsteps signaled their attention to the end of the hallway to the left of them.

A pair of booted feet walked out into view, along with all of seven feet of a large brown furred beaver, the large M32 gripped in his hands. He flexed his jaw slightly as he looked over his targets. "Surrender, and I'll let you live. But you'll be coming with me." They brought their weapons up as the beaver drew up his launcher.

"Think we'll just quit while we're ahead? There's four of us, and only one of you." Dorian shot back a defiant glare to the brown animal.

"I was ordered to take you out if need be. I can arrange that since you keep asking for it." He took a step to the left, keeping his sights on Carmelita especially. "All the exits are rigged with tripwires connected to a series of highly combustible explosives."

"And let me guess," Brassemer spoke up behind Dorian. "You're blocking the only exit out of here."

"Guess that makes you on a tight leash, dog." Carmelita shifted her weight onto her right leg as she leaned in a bit more, lining up her sights toward his uncovered head.

"Guess we'll be going through you then, you overgrown pond rat." The beaver furrowed his brows and took a step back.

"Then I guess you chose. Fine." A sudden click, and he hurled a grenade at them with the strength of a major league pitcher. Everyone scattered as they saw the explosive leave his pocket, trying to stay as far from the explosion as possible without running into any of the trap systems. "I am Duncan Brown," the beaver said as he adjusted the sights on his grenade launcher, resting his back against the concrete wall. "And I don't plan on leaving any bodies."


Sly rushed madly, his legs pumping as he dashed through the office building. He noticed a guard on the other side of the door he was about to open, through the window. Jumping off the floor, he threw his legs out and kicked the door open with such force, the swinging door slammed into the guard and caused him to spin around as the edge caught his jaw. As he was forced back into the other guards behind him, Sly quickly sprang up and brought his cane down, knocking the others unconscious before they could even get back on their feet. Vaulting down the staircase, he slid down on the railing to increase his speed, using his cane to hook onto the adjacent railings to turn himself around as the stairs continued to spiral downwards.

As he burst through the doors towards the factory area, he noticed the balcony above him that were lined with guards, all with leveled SMG's at their hips. "There he is! Rip him apart!" As the animals above him let loose with the hail of fire, Sly focused on the door in front of him as the speed of the bullets began to suddenly decrease, so much that Sly could follow their traces through the air. His thief reflexes kicking in, Sly leapt forward and tucked into a roll, using his hands to spring off the floor as he twisted in the air, narrowly missing the hail of bullets.

The cursing of the guards above him sounded hallowed and thunderous as the effects of slowing time around him made their words drawn out and lower pitched. Dashing and weaving through the lacing lights of the bullets whizzing past his nose, the smell of gunpowder was almost overpowering. Kicking down the door, time reverted back to its original pace as the guards cursed and reloaded their weapons, moving off the scaffolding to get to another area of the factory district. "Cooper's in the factory, he's going after the project. All units, converge around the bird!"

Bentley heard the radio chatter of the guards as they all clambered about themselves, reporting the movements of Sly, but they were all scrambled before they could reach any of the other guards thanks to the turtle's signal jammers. Cooper saw the tarps that lined Clockwerk's frame. He was so close, he could almost see the shadow of the giant mechanical avian behind the thin sheets. Then something caught his eye. A black smudge from his peripheral vision, and suddenly his jaw was met with the outstretched open palm of a lightning quick assailant. The raccoon was flung back and landed in a pile of oil drums.

Groaning, he touched his throbbing jaw and attempted to stand up. A tall, lean well dressed figure cloaked in shadow loomed over where Clockwerk was resting. "Enjoy your poultry victories?" The dark voice was smooth as syrup, yet held a lingering waver of psychosis. "You know Mr. Cooper, I don't know whether to kill you or bow to your cunning and wit. I must say of all the gallant "white-knights" who thought they could end my organizations, you're the one who's given me the most stress."

The master thief coughed as he stood up, still jarred from the incredibly hard palm of Coal Black's strike. He opened and rolled his jaw slightly, checking to see if it had been dislocated. "Black…" he breathed. "How long have you been dogging my family's heels? How many Coopers did you kill with that stupid bird?" Coal's shaded face could not be seen, but his head tilting to the side slightly gave indication that he heard the raccoon's words.

"Me? It's always been him." He hooked a thumb over his shoulder towards the slumbering mechanical behemoth behind him. "See we've kept tabs on Clockwerk for some time, however with his brain becoming more and more machine as the ravages of time began to rot it, he became unstable. He went rogue. No longer did he share our vision of our future in this organization, he was hell bent on erasing the Cooper line from the history books. You did us quite the favor of finally putting him to rest all those years ago in Paris. Now we can start over anew without him interfering. We built him better, smarter, and most importantly, he's fully controllable."

Cooper gritted his teeth as he boiled with a primal rage. Coal continued. "I won't do the cliché villain route of telling you everything about my plans. I have a schedule to keep," he said as he glanced at his wrist watch. "And I plan to keep it. But I will tell you this, you've no place in my new world, nor any thief or criminal. But for getting this far, I have a present for you." Reaching into his dress vest, Black withdrew a large, gold plated Desert Eagle custom pistol and fired rapidly towards the raccoon. Sly, thinking in a split second, activated his thief reflexes and narrowly dodged the bullets.

Ducking his head, one bullet passed through his cap, pulling it off his head. Cooper twisted in the air and landed, tossing his cane like a baton at Coal who side stepped out of the way of it. Bringing his hand up, the shadowed figure landed his sights back onto the raccoon. A quick burst of gunfire from above them caused Sly to glance up and see Tom with his Glock 18 pointed at Coal, the barrel smoking slightly. The jackal squinted down the sights as his gun shook in his paws.

Coal glanced down, seeing four new holes in his vest, then looked back up at Tom and gave a soft, deep chuckle. Cooper's eyes grew wide as he saw the shots had no effect on the dark man as Tom fired once more. Black dodged and jerked his body around as he sidestepped every shot, faster than any normal man could react, and then leapt backwards an incredible distance, landing atop of Clockwerk's metal head. "This game is far from over." Coal reached into his pocket and withdrew a large rectangular object.

"The hate chip…!" Tom aimed his firearm at the object in Coal's hand, switching his Glock to automatic fire. As it sprayed bullets towards him, Coal dodged most of the shots, one stray bullet clipping his shoulder. As he recoiled slightly from the shot, he brought his desert eagle up to bare on Tom as he shot out the locks holding up the scaffolding the jackal was standing on. Tom leapt off the ledge, landing hard with a grunt into the pile of oil drums.

Sly ran over to Tom to help him out of the pile. Looking back up with Coal perched atop of Clockwerk, the dark man drew open a panel in Clockwerk's head, seeing the large CPU that acted as a sophisticated brain for the bird. Pulling back a lid, Coal held the hate chip in his hand and jammed it into the slot. A surge of power erupted as the humming of the bird's internal parts reverberated off the walls as he began to activate. With an ear splitting shriek, the bird roared to life as its sharp metallic beak parted and let out another screech, it's orange eyes opening with a bright, burning fury.

Cooper looked up in complete horror to the sound, failing to even reach for his hat that rested next to his foot until it blew away from the air rushing through the whole factory as Clockwerk began to slowly ascend. He could see as Coal stood atop of the metal bid before throwing open a hatch in the machine's main body and dove inside. As the large bird began to turn, the scream of the jet turbines causing the glass panes to shudder slightly, Clockwerk raised his large razor sharp legs and began pushing up on the concrete ceiling, causing cracks to lace out of the surface until it gave way to the robotic monstrosity. As it ascended further up the levels, destroying floor after floor as it searched for the sky, Blue, Crimson, Gold, 13, and Murray rushed through the hallway, looking up with their mouths agape. "Aw, man! We're too late!"

Murray threw a fist into his other palm and stomped his foot. Gold cursed and threw up his middle finger to the large bird and yelled out Coal's name. Blue and Crimson embraced one another as they shielded themselves from the dust of the concrete crumbling above them. 13, the black fox glanced up as he knelt down to help Cooper and Tom up from the floor, handing the raccoon his hat. Sly took it with a nod in thanks and dusted it off as he reached for his cane. They all looked up, seeing the bird break through the entire building and it began to soar away into the sky. The master thief's heart sank as all he could do was watch. Clockwerk has been reborn again.