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Mass Effect Human Revolution

Chapter 66: Operation Wolfpelt, Part 6

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[h+]


Donovan Hock — multi-billionaire, entrepreneur, investor, and trader in all things ancient and valuable, or lethal — stood outside of his mansion, near the entrance, patiently waiting for his delivery to arrive, courtesy of none other than Kim Tae-Yeon.

Four very favourable articles in Badass Monthly, winner of 3 BlackWater awards for best up-and-coming mercenary, most confirmed personal kills and entrepreneurship. Donovan Hock prided himself for having an eye for talent, and that initial investment in Kim Tae-Yeon some 10 years ago had paid off magnificently. After that fateful trip to Mars, Vampire had gone from single fireteam of goons-for-hire to a major component in the OCU military. Officially, it had been the 13th Wanzer Company (along with the five-oh-one) that had breached the hidden PSF fortress at Cagayan more than a month ago, but the hidden truth was that, after negotiating a fee in the order of two million nuyen, Kim had sent in a single squad of operators to do what Vampires did best.

All the 13th and the 501st had had to do is gun down a bunch of fleeing malcontents terrified for their lives.

Ah, there it is, he said to himself, as the last of the three trucks slowly approached his driveway. Hock wondered why Kim simply had not transported the cargo by gunship, or why she had chosen to have them take different routes to get here, but but he knew better to ask: she was the security expert, after all.

A glossy black luxury hovercar parked nearby, and its driver stepped out. Her slinky white dress was cut just right, maximizing the amount of exposed fair skin and curves without crossing over into trashiness.

"Ah, Bakjwi ..." said Hock as he walked down the steps to meet the young woman. "I was worried you wouldn't show up for my little fete. What kept you?"

"Oh, you know us girls," Kim smiled. "It took forever to find the right dress."

Hock smiled back as she took a few steps up to meet him face to face and, as any good gentleman would, gently took her hand and kissed it. "A most worthwhile endeavour – you look absolutely radiant."

"Aw, look at you, consummate gentleman that you are... but you must be eager to see your new toys, hm?"

"Eager to finish this transaction, yes."

In response, Kim snapped her fingers, and her men began to unload the armored truck's content. Three black metal boxes were arrayed before him, each one coffin-shaped, each one larger than the next.

"I... assumed the other two trucks were decoys?" said Hock.

Kim sauntered to Hock's side. "They were and they weren't," she said, as she wrapped herself around his arm. "Pick one."

Hock quirked an eyebrow at her.

"Oh, Donovan, don't look at me like that!" she giggled. "They're all yours, just pick one to unwrap first."

"...Let's go with the large one."

Kim nodded at her men, and they popped open the lid on the large cryopod, and condensed moisture bled out of the opening.

"Interesting," said Hock as the fog cleared. "I had yet to see a Roegadyn in the flesh. So rare, yet such hot commodities in mercenary circles. I suppose Cyrus could use a combat slave..."

Kim nodded at one of her mercs, and one of them produced a hologram from its Omni-Tool. Various pictures came up, including some medical scans. The Roegadyn in the stasis pod had an unusual concentration of element zero in his brain, but nowhere else. This Roegadyn wasn't just rare, he was practically unique. And if anyone loved the unique, it was the White Gloves.

And the Collectors, of course, thought Hock. He smiled, and nodded in approval. "I can sell this," he said, proudly.

"Ten percent."

"Done." Hock's eyes wandered to the middle box, just big enough to fit an adult human. Let's save the best for last... open the small one."

The mercs eyed Kim, and then obeyed the order. Once the fog cleared, Hock simply stared at the vision before him. "Oh my."

"Beautiful, isn't she? I'm sure the Venusians will love her to death..." Kim smiled evilly. "How much do you think they'll bid for her?"

"Nothing," said Hock, as he patted Kim's hand. "You've brought me... quite a treasure. This one, I'll keep in the vault."

Kim gasped, clutching her nonexistent pearls. "Donovan! What will the wife think?"

Hock didn't go for the bait. "I'll offer you a flat fee of 3 million nuyen."

"...Four," insisted Kim.

"Done. And now, finally..." The middle pod hissed, and opened, revealing the cyborg inside. Hock separated himself from Kim, and beheld the sleeping form of... "Adam Jensen. The last cyborg of his age. Finally. Finally." Hock had finally grasped the greatest of all prizes, and nothing, absolutely nothing would stop him from becoming of the of richest men in the galactic demimonde.

[h+]


Jane Proudfoot had expected Hock's mansion to be this tacky abomination the nouveau-riche assholes favored, a typical, desperate attempt at hiding humble origins behind a veneer of class that fooled nobody except themselves. However, with a four-storey glass cube overlooking a minimalist garden, it looked like Hock had turned out to be a rare exception to the rule.

An investor with a finger in the pies of most AAA-rated Private Military Companies that operated in Africa and the OCU, Donovan Hock had gained quite a reputation as a patron of art and archeology, not to mention some very lavish and very classy parties. His guests, however, tended to be an eclectic bunch: according to Spooky's intel, it wasn't unusual to see Athame priestesses amicably consorting with Terminus warlords over canapés and bubbly champagne at Hock's birthday bashes. The reason? Hock's parties usually preceded an auction for prothean artifacts, and everyone — everyone — wanted those.

"We're almost there..." said Frost in his comm implant, one eye fixed on his Omni-Tool display. He and Jane, disguised as Vampire operators, had been 'patrolling' the grounds on the periphery of Hock's property looking for a security dead zone set up by — as far as Frost knew — some cat burglar Spooky had been working with. Jane suspected that cat burglar was none other than Echo – the latest addition to Hein's menagerie of freaks, orphans, and broken things.

Jane wondered if Elsa would be next. She was certainly shaping up to fit the bill, as of late.

"...aaaand there we go," said Frost out loud as they approached a part of the white brick wall that surrounded the garden. "There's the blind spot. Need a boost?"

"Sure," replied Jane, and Frost propped her up, allowing her to jump on top of the wall. In turn, she reached down to him, catching his hand as he jumped, and helped him up. The leap down, into Hock's garden, had gone unnoticed by sentries and security VIs alike.

"We're on the grounds proper," communicated Frost. "Nobody's alerted, and I can see the hatch."

"Understood," replied Bau over the channel. "We're ready to go on our end. Maintain radio silence until the loading dock is open and secure."

"Yeah, because the last plan B worked out so well," said Jane, still feeling the ache on her chest where the huge Vampire had clawed her. It had happened right after the monster had turned Tharros into his own private canteen, too. Thank Christ that the Demonica is so tough, she thought.

Frost cut the channel, "This plan B involves getting Elsa into a gunship to cover our getaway," he said to Jane.

"Got a plan C?"

"Yeah. Wanzers. If Spooky's right, Hock's got a private museum full of military hardware."

"Hock keeps his museum pieces in working condition?"

"Even if he doesn't..." Frost nodded at two matte black Kyojun Cs that stood guard near the main entrance. "Vampire does."

[h+]


They climbed down into the hatch, and Frost cracked a chem flare. The orange light was fairly bright, lighting up the cement walls and industrial wires that fed both extra-net data and electricity to Hock's mansion. From where they now stood, it would be about half a kilometer away before they would reach the mansion's server in the basement. It would take a little while, though – the cable maintenance tunnels were cozy, and there was just barely enough room for two grown adults to stand up, nevermind go into a full jog. That left plenty of time to talk.

"How's Devereaux doing?" asked Jane.

"She's holding together," said Frost. "It helps that Taggart's death was quick, painless, and not very bloody." He recalled the sick crunch of Taggart's neck breaking as the giant Vampire merc smacked the Scotsman across the face, throwing him right into the bar and breaking his spine.

"Not like Tharros."

"Aw, Christ, don't remind me," Frost shook his head. Tharros' death hadn't been as quick — despite managing to put several bullets into the Vampire, the Plan B team hadn't been able to stop the Vampire from leaping onto her like an enraged gorilla and sinking his teeth into her neck, tearing into the ballistic cloth of her armour as easily as her skin... not that he had needed to. He had had the ability to absorb Tharros' blood through his hands, and the more he did so the faster the bullet holes in his body seemed to mend. Some of these holes had been huge – Zoller had managed to tag the freak's skull with his sniper rifle, taking out a sizable chunk of flesh and bone.

The creature had just laughed at that.

Frost had thought they had a chance once Tharros crumbled into dust, and had promptly thought they were all fucked once it went for Taggart's corpse and the liters of blood inside. Weirdly enough, something about Taggart didn't agree with it, and that had given Frost his chance to do something crazy and stupid.

"What the hell made you think cutting out its heart with a knife would work?" asked Jane.

Frost shrugged. "Didn't have a wooden stake, and between the teeth and immortality, I figured we were dealing with an actual bona-fide vampire, lower case 'v'. Worked a lot better than stabbing him in the thigh, right?"

"Tch! Man, fuck you."

Frost chucked. "In any case, we both had the right idea. Massive blood loss or a destroyed heart seems to be the way to go." He patted his makeshift HF Machete. "Ramsus proved how effective that method is..."

"Yeah, about that? I'm pretty sure he was lying to us. I've seen him work — and the bodies we disposed of downstairs didn't have his signature. Some of the cuts were sloppy."

"...You figure it's Devereaux, then?"

"Yeah."

"Why would Ramsus cover for her?"

"Probably so that she'd owe him a favour, or some shit, I dunno."

"To hide the fact that she's bio-augmented? He shouldn't have bothered. Her whole team is and they're not good at hiding it."

"...Wait, what?"

"You didn't notice?"

Jane shook her head.

"What, Zoller hitting a target the size of an orange at four kilometers twice, without a spotter, and while it's spiraling the second time... that wasn't a big clue that he's not baseline human?"

Jane immediately thought of Garrus. "Hey, I know a guy who could have pulled it off."

"And then you got Taggart... for a minute there, I thought he was going to win that grapple with the merc before he stopped toying with him."

Jane was about to shoot that idea down, but then recalled the fighting pit in the krogan battle barge...

"Come on, bring your pretty face over here." taunted Taggart, covered in alien blood. "Me hatchet wants to give ye a little kiss." The young krogan bellowed what would be his last war cry, and charged and died as the Scotsman hacked through his face. That had been the first of three victories... as far as Jane could tell.

Frost continued: "I don't know what that Hermes guy's deal was, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he was some kind of mechanical genius before he got Snatched."

"...Nazir was pretty insistent on not putting Taggart's body in Ramsus' improvised chemical stew," said Jane, though she had dismissed it as religious sentimentality.

"Nevermind the fact that it's a little weird for a ship's doctor to follow a single bunch of pilots around," Frost echoed Jane's thoughts on the matter. "Not even a full squadron – just three of 'em."

"Fine, so they're bio-augmented. So what?"

"So what? Well, I don't know about you, but the fact that a far-left theocracy is putting out bio-augmented agents has me more than a little worried."

"I find that a far-right plutocracy has a bunch of bio-augmented nearly invincible techno-vampires on its payroll a little more worrying."

"Touché."

[h+]


The hatch hissed open, and the duo emerged into the mansion's underground central server. It was a small forest of computer towers and hard-drive arrays, caged in concrete and steel, and mired in coolant fog. From this room a technologically-savvy agent could compromise Hock's security almost completely. It was the perfect place to start a heist. Unfortunately, neither Jane nor Frost were particularly good at hacking.

"Alright skull-boy," said Frost as he fished Bailey out of Jane's pack. "Time to work your magic."

The synthetic skull's eyes flickered, then brightened, as Bailey's black box came out of low-power mode. "Hnng? What? Dang kids, can't you let an old robot get some sleep?"

"Quit fucking around," insisted Frost. "We're on a mission."

"Fine, fine..." Bailey's skull opened up, exposing his black box, and tongues of light flew out, creating invisible signal conduits through which the Symeon-1 AI could bypass the local system's firewalls. "Don't see why you bothered to bring me along for this: your friend left so many backdoors into the system you could have gotten in by pressing ENTER."

"So, what's it look like out there?" asked Jane,

"Internal security is your basic LOKI and smartcam combo – cheap shit to make rich people feel both important and secure. That's the house. The underground facility around the main vault's got YMIRs on stand-by. Could have been trouble, but this 'Kasumi' made sure they'd never get out of their boxes. Clever girl, whoever she is."

"And Jensen?" asked Frost.

"Let me check... Well, shit. He's not in the main vault."

"That's good, it means—"

"He's already upstairs with the other lots."

"...Crap." It would be really difficult to steal away Jensen in front of so many guests. According to Spooky, there was easily close to a hundred of them. So much for his plan on leaving everyone else high and dry. "Tell me they haven't started bidding, yet."

"Not yet, they've only just begun serving the hors-d'oeuvres and aperitifs. Dinner will be getting served in about two hours, and the auction proper will start in two."

"Plenty of time to work out a plan."

[h+]


As Nazir had put Taggart's body in a box, as Bau and Yang had processed the intel they had gleaned from the Vampire Omni-Tools, Elsa had wondered where the plan at the Kyuden had gone completely wrong. Her conclusion? They had foolishly left the two assets best suited to kill these things — the 108 and Caim — back on the Mistral. Goddamn Bau and his paranoia, she thought. Still, it wasn't as if any of them knew that Vampire mercs were Husk-like mutant freaks practically immune to bullets.

When the time had come to hastily put together a plan, she had been very supportive of Yang's suggestion that the robot and the Templar were to lead any assault. Now, with Frost having sent them the go signal, she gave the order to the 108 to drive its stolen SydMotors Odyssey casually onto the landing pad set into the cliff. Since its landing had not raised any alarms, the six or so Vampire mercs succumbed to their sense of curiosity and approached it. When the smoke bomb went off, Caim emerged from the trunk and got to work.

"Area clear," reported the 108.

"Area cleansed," reported Caim, over the unearthly screams of a Vampire he was roasting alive.

"Area secure," reported Yang. "No alarms, Devereaux, you're clear to land."

She parked the skyvan onto the helipad, and opened the sidedoors. Bau and his two Marines stepped out, along with Pallin, and Zoller, who had a bandage wrapped around his forehead. If it hadn't been for Taggart, a chunk of brain would have gone missing. Elsa had been the last to get out after Ramsus, and the last to behold the carnage.

She turned her head, scanning the area. The Helipad itself was built to military specs – modular metal construction for ease of redeployment. A bit of a waste, since it was obviously a permanent installation. Hock must be some kind of PMC fanboy, thought Elsa. The pad was easily large enough to park their two vehicles, and with plenty of room to spare for Hock's own A-61 Mantis Variant T. A couple of Phalanx AA turrets and a squad of Hahne-Kedar LOKI mechs carrying Avenger rifles were the helipad's only defenses... which had been easily compromised by Bailey. Besides that, there wasn't much else left of note, save for an elevetor built into the cliffside, large and powerful enough to carry a Wanzer up to the Hock mansion's grounds.

One of LOKIs waved at her — hi, Bailey — while the other mechs went about their patrol, unconcerned about the newcomers, and the carnage that had taken place moments ago. Elsa examined the bodies: The six Vampires mercs added to the Helipad's security detail had been cut apart, burnt, frozen and shattered, while their killers — the 108, Caim and Yang — were barely scratched.

And just like that, the same creatures that had been so terrifying to deal with at the Kyuden had become as threatening as anonymous henchmen in a Bond vid.

"That's it?" she said out loud, her feet disturbing a pile of ash – Caim's kill. "It's that easy to kill those?" Oh, Taggart, si seulement j'avais su. Vampire mercs were extremely vulnerable to massive blood loss and incendiaries - two things that Caim could have provided in spades. But life wasn't a video game. There was no going back with that piece of data and making things right. Taggart was dead, and there was no coming back.

Ramsus sneezed, having sniffed the air hoping to catch the scent of roasted meat. He only got burnt rubber with a high note of pig shit for his trouble.

"That has always been the way of things," said Caim. "Beasts? Monsters? Diableries? All perish through human craft, and through that wisdom the terror they inspire fades." He looked at her. "You will never fear the Vampires again."

"Don't be a fool," said Ramsus. "You will always fear what's in the Dark."

The huge, thick garage doors opened, and a man in a tight Vampire hardsuit stepped out, hands in the air. "Welcome to the Hock estate!" said Frost as he emerged from the garage. "You're just in time for the hors-d'oeuvres!"

[h+]


"Man, it's cold in here..." complained Vega. Apparently the air conditioning in a server room didn't agree with him.

Bailey ignored Vega, trusting Pallin's glare to shut him up, and relayed the relevant intel he had gathered from Hock's system. There was much more, of course, but he thought it would be best to keep that information to himself for now. After all, he didn't trust them not to turn him into slag as soon as he stopped being useful...

"Alright, good news!" Bailey displayed several holo-screens, some of which detailed the floor plans of the Hock Mansion. Others were live-feeds of the auction party. "Adam Jensen is here, and currently on display in a stasis pod in the main hall to drum up interest. From what I can see from the smart-cams, his vitals are okay."

"What a relief," said Pallin.

"Bad news is, he's in the company of very nasty people..." He highlighted a holo-vid, showing a group of people dressed in tuxes and dresses, wearing white masks and gloves. They were admiring Adam's body, or appraising it; one couldn't be sure.

"There's the White Gloves, alright," said Frost. "Those would be the fancy cannibals, FYI."

The feed shifted to a group of Omar.

"The Zakharov Collective," said Yang, reading the Cyrillic markings on the side of their mechanical heads. "No doubt they want Jensen to serve as a guinea pig."

A trio of aliens. These ones were wearing hooded dark cloaks, and from the few glimpses of their faces once could assume that they were either sapient insects, or were wearing chitin suits.

"...Collectors," said Bau, apprehensively.

"The fuck are those?"

"Aliens from somewhere deep in the Terminus," replied Bau. "A mysterious group—"

Ramsus snorted, "Aren't they all?"

"— and as their name implies, they like to 'collect' unique sapient specimens. Not even the STG knows why; all that we know is that the people they take away are never heard from again."

"...Oh man!" exclaimed Vega. "Alien bogeymen, now? Does everyone in the galaxy want a piece of Jensen?!"

"Not necessarily," answered Bailey, as he switched the feed to a trio of humans. One of them was a bald man in an extensively modified and decorated white and blue hard-suit. The other two were obviously his bodyguards. "This guy's just here to bid on some kind of prothean club."

"Oh!" Ramsus beamed. "Darius!"

"Friend of yours?" asked Elsa.

"He's a local warlord who pretty much runs the Plutus system. I was sent in to negotiate an off the books agreement between him and the AIA."

Jane eyed him suspiciously. "...'Negotiate'?

"Quote unquote, yes."

"...But he's still alive."

"Turned out we got along fabulously! We wound up playing a game involving Red Sand... and the rest of the story is fuzzy, but I think we're now co-husbands to a Turanic Pirate queen... In any case, after that negotiating a deal was easy. We parted amicably."

Bailey switched the feed to six asari. Bau recognized one immediately. "Dahlia Dantius. Slaver. Probably wants Jensen to punish him."

"Why?" asked Jenkins.

"Jensen and Vakarian had managed to put her sister Nassana behind bars. Never got to trial; her cellmate killed her."

"Actually," said Bailey, "she was here to purchase 200 crates of Baptiste ZR-01 pod guns. Jensen's just a happy coincidence for her."

"Who are the red-clad MILFs she's talking to?"

Bau looked at him, confused. "...I don't — Oh! you mean the asari in red armor. I honestly don't know."

"It's a veritable who's who of scumbags," said Bailey, "and it gets better: they're all armed." Bailey highlighted sidearms, omni-tools and Biotic Amps throughout the video feeds. I'm amazed Hock lets them in armed."

"Hey, an armed society is a polite society," joked Frost.

"So... that's where Adam is," Bailey highlighted a room on the mansion's 3D map, right next to the extensive garage that lead to the helipad. "And we're stuck here, downstairs behind the secondary exit of Hock's vault."

"Can't you just open the vault?" asked Jenkins.

"Nope," replied Bailey. "The door on our side is analogue, it can only be opened from inside the vault, and while I've got access to the cameras inside of it, there are no mechs in there that I can use to pull the lever."

"Not that we need to: There's that Wanzer elevator," suggested Elsa. "That should give us access to the mansion's main floor."

"You'll have to go through the grounds first," replied Bailey, "which is guarded by 40 Vampires and nine Kyojuns... and whatever's in that carrier truck. You go up there, odds are good you'll be spotted and shot on sight."

"Not necessarily..." said Zoller. "We're still wearing our Vampire disguises."

"They should stand up to scrutiny," said Elsa, who then nodded at a video feed of Kim. "Unless she sees us."

"What about the other side of the vault?" asked Vega.

"That entrance is definitely electronic, but it's not connected to the server. You'd have to get me right to the entrance upstairs for me to be able to crack it open."

"I think I could manage it," said Jane. "I could go back the way we came, disguise myself as the help."

"Risky, though," warned Frost, turning to the 108. "That thing's more disposable..."

"This unit is equipped with a Cloaking system," replied the 108. "Likelihood of detection is estimated at 5 percent."

"I can get us inside the vault," said Ramsus. "My biotics can handle the analogue door."

"Good to know," said Pallin, who then turned to Bau. "So, what's the plan?"

Yang cleared his synthetic throat. "I've already considered several, if you don't mind."

"By all means," said Bau. "Do tell."

Yang nodded. "Here's a simple one: we wait here."

Caim's eyes widened. "...Pardon?"

"If we allow the auction to take place, Jensen will have to be delivered to the buyer. Judging by what I've seen so far, Hock is an extremely mistrustful man and would not allow it to be handled by anyone but himself and his mechs, and the only vehicle spacious enough to carry a stasis pod is the Mantis at the landing pad."

Pallin nodded in approval, "And we control the helipad. Laying a trap would be easy."

"Shit, we might only have to wait until Vampire leaves," added Frost. "We also control the LOKIs and the YMIRs. Once the party's over, we can take the mansion over and just walk out with Adam in tow."

"Of course, since we're dealing with brigands upstairs, there's no guarantee that they'll abide by the sale, or won't try to make off with Jensen outright. There's also no guarantee that the buyer will walk out with Adam immediately, or that Hock will use air transport. Thus, here's the more immediate, aggressive approach," said Yang. "Devereaux will engage Vampire's heavy assets with the Mantis, while Caim, the 108 and the LOKIs engage the ground troops. The rest of you will take advantage of the confusion to extract Jensen."

"I favour that plan," said Caim, smiling.

"There's a couple of Grizzly tanks in the garage," suggested Vega. "Fueled up and ready to go."

"I can drive one," said Jenkins. "Give 'em something else to shoot at besides Devereaux."

"I appreciate it," said Elsa, with a slight smile, which made Jenkins pay a lot of attention to his shoes. "Problem is, that's a Transport Variant on the helipad. Good shields, but not a lot of teeth..."

"Ah, if you want teeth," said Bailey, "Hock's vault's got quite a few nice toys..." he switched one of the video feeds to the vault, and zoomed in on what looked like a plane fused with a wanzer.

Elsa just stared at the craft for a moment, then muttered, "Ho229."

"A world war 2 plane?!" exclaimed Zoller, before he had a better look at the craft. "oh, nevermind."

"...It's short for Hotaru," said Elsa.

"...Yeah, exactly," said Bailey. "That thing's worth ten Mantises in the right hands."

"It looks fragile as fuck," said Vega. "I'd rather she have a Wanzer. She's a killer in one."

"Well," Bailey tried not to sound disappointed. "There's the original Gracilis Prototype in there, too."

"Hold on," said Pallin. "There's no telling what will happen to Jensen once that kind of firepower goes off. There are also civilians present. Most of them are crooks, yes, but there's the catering staff, those maids."

"Those maids are fucking clones," said Frost. "No reason to give a shit about them."

"And," added Bau, "they'll be readily available to replenish those 40 blood-fueled pharm augs that will no doubt swarm over us. As capable as Caim is with a blade, he's still vulnerable to their guns, and the 108 no doubt has limits."

"Do not doubt me, Alien," seethed Caim.

"This unit has a 35.4 percent chance of remaining functional in an extended combat scenario against 40 physiopharmaceutically augmented adult males."

"I would have to do most of the heavy lifting, then," said Elsa. Ouais, et quoi de neuf?

"It's a risky plan, but it has the advantage of allowing us to go all out with the resources we've got. Finally, there's a third, more balanced plan."

"Mind hurrying this up, Yang?" said Frost impatiently. "I think they're going to serve dinner soon."

Yang nodded. "Jane and the 108 will plant small explosives on the Vampire trucks while we set up a trap at the Helipad. Once that is accomplished, I'll send out the LOKIs and YMIRs up the elevator to attack the mercs in the garden... while Ramsus does what he does best with the guests."

Everyone turned to Ramsus. "It's a powder keg up there," said the blonde man as he examined the helmet on his newly-purchased armour. "A web of old rivalries and paranoia. The right word in the right ear will spark a violent conflict. I just need to figure out which and which."

"Surrounded by violence, Hock will be herded to his only escape route: the Mantis, and if he is as greedy as he seems he'll try to get away with Jensen as well."

Bailey's optics blinked. "Oh, he will, he just transferred six billion nuyen over to one of Kim's off-world accounts. That's more money than he spent on this damned mansion."

Vega groaned. "Again, I gotta ask, what the fuck makes Jensen so damned valuable?!"

Yang continued, "Assuming everything goes exactly as planned, Adam will fall right into our hands. Of course, this plan will test our ability to adapt to any changes in the situation, particularly Proudfoot and the 108."

"Wait," asked Zoller. "What if Hock gets killed?"

"Then either Bailey or I take control of the mechs and deliver him to the helipad."

"Looks like you covered all the angles," commented Pallin. "As you humans say."

"Sounds like the best plan," said Jenkins. "Don't know why you bothered with the others."

"It's not quite the best plan," explained Yang. "Because we won't be able to make full use of the arsenal available to us. If Hock sees anything missing from his vault, he might figure out he's being played."

"I'm not certain about Hock..." said Elsa, "but if Kim is with him, she'll certainly know what's going on."

"Devereaux," said Yang. "I leave our approach to you."

"...Me? Why me?"

"You'll be the one responding to the most changes, if any, and will be taking on the most risks... and I am not your commander. Only you can know your own limits."

"...Thank you, I appreciate it."

Elsa took a moment to consider her options. The cautious plan: less points of failure, but if things fail at any point the mission would be done. The balanced plan: more points of failure, but more leeway in case things go wrong. The aggressive plan? Death or Glory. That one depended the most on her skill in a Wanzer or gunship, and if she had to be honest, that meant the highest chance of success... but the others would be immediately facing a small army of superhuman freaks. There would be losses...

I'm the only Drake left, she thought. Why should I care about losses?

"Fraulein?" asked Zoller. "Have you decided?"

"...Give me a moment."

[h+]


A hybrid craft of metal and chitin entered the high orbit of Bekenstein, and inside the pilot waited for permission to enter the atmosphere. His goal was simple. He would find his wife's killer. He would hurt him, then hurt the ones he loved, and then finally, after days of torture, finally kill him.

Yes.

"Bekenstein control to unidentified ship, please transmit ID codes immediately."

The pilot obeyed. All he could do was obey.

"Control to the Raven, you are clear to enter low-orbit. Welcome to Bekenstein, captain Leng."

Yes, Jules Kai Leng would kill Adam Jensen.

[h+]


TO BE CONTINUED