xxXxx

The Beginning

The city of London was rife with history. There were a multitude of preserved castles and monuments that were hundreds of years old. It was a place of great historical significance and meaning. However, it was also overflowing with lies, secrets, underhand dealings, and espionage.

The United Nations, stitching together information from captured magi, salvaged magus workshops, and several other sources, had found that the Magus Association was a worldwide power that had its roots dug deep into nearly all continents of the world. Not only that, but according to what information the U.N. had managed to accumulate from the various anti-magus operations of various countries, magi made a regular habit of doing inhumane experiments on the human population. Some of these atrocities made the brutal dismemberments that the Cartel liked to use seem almost petty in comparison. These actions could be described as nothing but pure evil, and the United Nations were determined to stop the Magus Association by any means necessary.

And now that they knew exactly where the headquarters of the Magi was, they'd come down hard on the ab-humans.

Of course, things weren't that simple. Launching a raid on the Clock Tower would be less than ideal. Many of the panel of the U.N. supported the idea of Great Britain's military taking a few divisions of drones, as well as augmented support from the PWCD to storm the Magus Association's base of operations. However, such a tactic would result in a slaughter. The British Museum undoubtedly had a myriad of measures to outside invasion, not including the untold tens of thousands of magi who dwelled within. In addition, an uncountable number of civilians would be caught in the crossfire.

Most of all, the plan for the alpha strike would have to be expedited if such an approach was taken.

Then the President of the PWCD himself stood up and gave a suggestion. He questioned the logic of the U.N. council by trying to go into the proverbial bees nest in order to kill all the bees? Why not use the same method exterminators used? Rather than trying to battle the magi in a head on fight, why not seal the building and form a perimeter around the British Museum under the excuse of a gas leak or radiation problem? Then once the entire area was cleared of civilians, turn the entire British Museum into a giant gas chamber. Minimal lives were at risk, and should the magi retaliate, they'd have to come into the open to fight the armed forces, rather than the reverse.

Many people frowned at the brutality of such a plan. It was heavily against war time conduct to use bioweapons, especially in the form of gassing enemies to death. And the projected number of magi within the British Museum meant that thousands of men, women, and even a few children would be killed by this method. It would be manslaughter on a level not seen since World War 2.

Yet, when one looked at the actions of the Magus Association and their untold number of mass killings, kidnappings, abductions, tortures, and murders, it was hard to deny that such a method was somewhat legitimate of a response. An eye for an eye wasn't always the moral response, but things were long past the point of civility.

When put to a vote, the decision was ultimately approved. The United Kingdom would take a division of the United Nations' drone army as support, and begin gathering all the necessary resources in order to enact this plan to smoke out the capital of the Magus Association. Simultaneously, the Sea of Estray and Atlas, the two other bastions that made up the Magus Association, would come under heavy assault from two separate U.N. coalition forces, both supported with drone divisions and PWCD augments.

While war was being waged against the Magus Association, the agents of the Church would be supported by the PWCD as they led a crusade against the Dead Apostles. The U.N. had taken it in stride that the Vatican was a lot more powerful than they had ever imagined, and deeply entrenched in the magical world. There was simply too much going on in the world for them to be upset by this point, and added strength only increased everyone's confidence in the success of this alpha strike. It was unlikely that the Vatican and PWCD would be able to completely subdue the Dead Apostle Ancestors threat, but they'd definitely be able force the creatures on the defensive if need be.

The final enemy to worry about would be the youkai. While there was some questionable activity going on between the Magi and several well-known ayashi gangs, there wasn't enough information to suggest the entire youkai species would go up in arms. In the event that such was indeed the case however, there were plenty of rapid response militias, drone hangars, and military reserves across the world for such enemies to be taken in stride.

Everything was being set up for implementation. The basic attack plan had been set up, and when any changes in the situation occurred, the alpha strike plan was loose enough to allow flexibility in how the armed forces could respond. The main issue of the plan was that humanity wanted to start off on the offensive and stay on the offensive over the course of this conflict. If the enemy couldn't get enough breathing room to plan a retaliatory attack, the civilians would be safe from harm. Following this format, rapid and repetitive assaults, as well as maintaining momentum against the enemy, was key.

In essence, it was the ancient World War 2 blitzkrieg tactic all over again. Only time would tell if this attack worked or not.

xxXxx


A giant fly-like creature that was the size of a man came buzzing forward, its mandibles dripping with a greenish liquid. Its 3 eyes were wide with excitement as its prey came closer and closer into reach. A burst of machine gun fire later, and the creature was on the ground, twitching as ichor oozed out of the holes in its head.

Bane walked up to the creature, looking on in interest as it thrashed its head from side to side. Ricin pulp was toxic to a deadly degree. The shock of it entering one's system was enough to cause a person to go into shock, and for their heart to stop. While Bane knew full well that ricin coated bullets were capable of bringing even the toughest of monsters down, actually watching one such creature die a slow and painful death was still the slightest bit intriguing. It was partly interesting, because Bane hadn't expected that ricin would work on insects, especially monsters.

Bane stomped hard on the neck of the fly-like ayashi, the chitin on the creature's neck cracking slightly at the force of the blow. Bane pointed the KRISS in his hands down at the insect's face, watching as it squirmed and tried to nip at the barrel of the weapon that was just inches out of its reach. The F.E.A.R. commander looked the creature in its beady and soulless eyes as he depressed the trigger. There wasn't the visible sight of panic and horror in its eyes as there was in the eyes of the many sentient beings he had killed, but the very act of killing a creature while looking in its eyes was its own reward in a sense.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

The creature's struggles ceased.

Gunshots and inhumane death cries signaled to Bane that his men were engaging more of the monstrosities that this mafia member seemed to have an endless supply of. The beings that were summoned were more of hindrances than threats. F.E.A.R. mercenaries have a saying when it comes to fighting non-humans of any sort. "If it can breathe, we can kill it. If it can hear, we can kill it. If it can bleed, then it's already dead." They applied this mindset in combat, in the form of poison-tipped bullets and knives, flash bangs, poisoned gases, and bio warfare based explosives. So no matter how tough, swift, or hardy any creature they encountered was, there was at least one method always available to kill or incapacitate it. And when pitted against creatures that were just more dangerous than average wild animals, the PMC's had very little issue with dispatching the creatures.

When Bane saw a fire-breathing bull collapse in front of the door before him, the F.E.A.R. commander felt pride swell up in his chest. Not even the PWCD's mutant super soldiers were capable of killing as efficiently as his men were able to. And unlike the PWCD augments, they didn't need to sacrifice their own humanity to do it.

The F.E.A.R. commander poked his head out of the hallway, and immediately brought his head back as bullets started pelting the door frame he was hiding behind. He wasn't alone, as his men who were only a few feet down the hall from him took cover behind the carcasses of dead ayashi, extending door frames, flipped over tables, and anything else capable of stopping a bullet. Trained soldiers never fired down a hallway when the enemy was still firing. If you popped out, the enemy soldier already had his gun aimed down range and in your direction, while you would still be in the process of aiming. Rather, trained soldiers waited until the second after the firing ceased, or at least eased for a brief moment.

"Return fire!" The squad leader called out while lying on his stomach in front of the bull ayashi's body so it could provide cover.

"Uzi. Extended magazine. Standard rounds." Bane droned out to his men, not turning his head away from the direction of the bullets.

The moment Bane noticed her focusing fire on the F.E.A.R. operative in cover behind a wall rather than him, Bane popped out and let off a brief burst of fire downrange. He didn't take the time to properly aim at the woman. Just firing in her general direction was enough for her to flinch back into cover. And when she dipped back in cover, this left the rest of his squad open to return fire. Two of the 4-man team began creeping forward out at a crouch, while the other two began snapping off semi-automatic shots at the door frame she had dipped behind, so that if she came out, they'd have a clear shot or be able to force her back in if she tried to spray them again.

Bane gave a single warning out to his men. "Tighten your masks."

The men barely had a two second notice to adjust their masks to fit perfectly, just before their commander sent a mustard gas canister sailing over everyone's heads and into the doorway that the Chinese mafia member was hiding behind. It appeared that she had some special forces training, because the moment that the two F.E.A.R. operatives on over watch stopped firing to adjust their masks, she peeked out and was prepared to let off another burst of fire.

Then she saw the canister that was spewing orangish-yellow gas come flying at her.

She barely had enough time to cover her eyes with her sleeve before the gas canister landed in the room she was in and started filling it with gas. She may be a zombie, but that only meant that the mustard gas wouldn't affect her ability to breathe in any way. That didn't mean it wouldn't still burn her eyes. But now she was faced with a new dilemma. She had pursuers equipped with gas masks storming down the hall to kill her at this very moment, and the gas was burning at her eyes slightly, even while they were closed. She blindly ran forward in the direction of the nearest door she had remembered seeing.

Suddenly, bullets tore through her leg at the kneecap, sending her to the ground.

The zombie didn't actually feel any pain. However, that did little to alleviate the panic that was setting in. The mustard gas was burning at her eyes to the point of disuse and she had just been kneecapped. She also knew that the moment she moved to summon a new ayashi to her defense, they'd shoot her halfway through the summoning process. So left with no other alternative, she propped herself up on her elbows and rolled herself over on her back, looking at her assailants with a defiant look.

Bane strode toward her in long powerful strides, his gasmask wearing mercenaries falling into stride behind him with their weapons aimed at her. They may not know much about zombies, or even youkai in general, but the rule of thumb was there very few creatures that could survive a bunch of holes being poked in their heads by speeding pieces of metal. Even fewer could survive those pieces of metal being coated in poison. Ling-Ling Huang eyed the humans nervously, keeping conscious of the fact that her Uzi was sitting less than a foot away from her hand.

"Freeze! Hands up!" The soldiers started barking at her, while Bane simply stood there watching.

The four gas mask wearing mercenaries walked up on her with their weapons aimed at her. She sighed in acceptance and put her hands up, deciding to simply play along. One of the men got to her side and kicked away her Uzi from reach. Another man got behind her and put his weapon away before proceeding to bind her hands behind her back. The other two soldiers stood vigilant over her, waiting for the slightest indicator to open fire on her.

All the while, she and Bane were locking eyes. The man with the iron muzzle looked at her with a combination of condescension and contempt, as if the very sight of her angered him. Ling-Ling stared back at him, slowly turning her face into a gentle smile. Maybe she wasn't powerful enough in this situation to fight him, but she was certainly capable of forcing an opening or a slip up on the man's part by irritating or unsettling him.

"You went through a lot of trouble to capture me. May I ask why?" Ling-Ling inquired, once again wearing her signature smirk. She somehow managed this while being hauled to her feet, despite her left kneecap being riddled with bullets and oozing far too much blood for any living person to still be conscious while enduring.

"You have valuable information. Information that I wish to make use of." Bane simply stated, before turning to leave, signaling to his men to bring her.

"And why should I talk? If you haven't noticed by now, I don't feel pain. Any torture you have in mind won't work." Ling-Ling called out to him in a sing song voice, despite the clear damage to her leg.

"You will." Bane ensured. Then he turned to look at one of the men holding her arms. "Silence her." One of the four FEAR operatives took a small band of cloth and wrapped it around her mouth, tying together behind her head. The other operatives proceeded to keep dragging her by her arms, while the other two made sure to keep their firearms leveled with her head.

Bane wasn't a fool by any extent. He knew an attempt at provocation when he saw one. And while he wasn't particularly quick to anger, the best way to shoot down such attempts was to shut the person up from the get-go. The PMC commander put a hand to the side of his mask, activating his radio.

"All F.E.A.R. operatives come in. The target has been taken. We're pulling out."

xxXxx

1 Njal carrier and 2 raptors entered China's airspace, quickly being identified and cleared by the nearby monitoring towers and patrols that dotted their way across nearly the entire eastern hemisphere of the earth. The PWCD warships were carrying some of the most well-equipped soldiers they had for dealing with spiritual beings.

When China relayed their images and relevant information to the PWCD of the Meta, the PWCD recognized it instantly. They had encountered the being at the battle of Karakura. Of all the arrancar and shinigami, whose powers were capable of leveling entire cities if left uninterrupted, of all the super powered hollows and behemoths that streamed in from Hueco Mundo, the Meta was the single threat that the PWCD feared the most.

The other spiritual beings were pure powerhouses, which were easy to rout and takedown with the proper assets in place. Spiritual beings were essentially walking WMD's that were easy to dispose of and neutralized before they powered up. The Meta was something far more lethal. It knew the PWCD's tactics. It fought and moved like a trained soldier, which was something that couldn't simply be imitated. It destroyed the PWCD's soldiers and war machines with an ease that horrified them. And what worried the PWCD the most was that it was completely unpredictable. It had seemingly killed as many arrancar and shinigami as it did the PWCD's men. It was an enigma with no clear purpose or agenda, but the clear drive and ability to cause horrific damage to whoever it targeted.

The very idea of such a being terrified the PWCD.

A task force had been assembled for the express purpose of finding and eliminating the hybrid. One of the new arrancar units were deployed for the operation. Alongside the trained arrancar, Grizzly squad from the Shock Trooper division was also deploying. Given the enemy they were fighting, the arrancar unit and shock troopers were the best units to deploy. The PWCD's commando division was incapable of fighting the Meta when it got airborne, the terminators were too slow, and drones were all but useless. Of course, there was a slight issue with whether or not the two units could effectively work together. The entire shock trooper division had been locked in vicious combat with the arrancar for several days straight after all. There was more than likely a bit of bad blood there.

Especially since Yuri Boyka would be leading the shock troopers in this mission.

The basic plan was simple. Flights of cheap target practice drones were flying all across the airspace of China, tempting the Meta to make an attack. The second the creature assaulted one of the drone flights, the raptors would be coming in hot. Even if they couldn't kill the Meta, they'd at least be able to stall or track it long enough for the shock troopers and arrancar to catch up with it. The PWCD didn't particularly like having to rely on head up firefights for the completion of a mission, but it was sadly the only attack plan that wasn't liable to end disastrously.

Unfortunately, until the Meta came out of hiding, Stark, Ulquiorra, Grimmjow, and Lilynette were forced to share space with a group of armed and clearly unfriendly super humans. They both may have been wearing similar uniforms, working for the same organization, and aiming for the exact same goals, but the augments certainly didn't see the arrancar as allies. With all the good men they had lost to the evolved hollows, and all the evolved hollows they had in turn killed less than a year ago, there certainly wouldn't be any notion of false civility here. Professional attitudes be damned.

Stark sighed while looking at a shock trooper, who was sharpening his cleaver sword with a piece of flint. The augment was looking back, out of the corner of his eye, thinking of the easiest ways to kill an arrancar in such a cramped area. Stark teased him by aiming his finger at the man like a gun and snapping it back like he had shot him. The super soldier scowled at him, pausing in his sharpening to make vague chopping motion toward the arrancar with his cleaver. Lilynette kicked Stark in the shin and told him in a hushed voice to stop antagonizing the soldiers.

Grimmjow was smirking wickedly at Yuri, hoping to eventually get a rematch with the shock trooper commander after their last match had ended unsatisfyingly for the both of them. Yuri gave the arrancar one glance and looked away in annoyance. The fact that he was expected to be around these things at all was aggravating in its own right. The fact that he had to actually tolerate their presence and attempts to provoke him, and not give in to the urge to break their teeth in was nearly unbearable.

Ulquiorra for his part simply sat quietly. Any looks the shock troopers of Grizzly squad may have shot at him, he didn't acknowledge. His eyes were closed and he was patiently waiting for their mission to begin. It was clear that the shock troopers were a few ill-phrased words away from starting an incident. Given what he had heard about the jet packing augments from other augments, he was surprised that they hadn't tried to kill them on sight.

The atmosphere wasn't exactly "welcoming", but everyone had the self-control and common sense to not start any infighting. When the Meta showed up, there'd be plenty of chances to vent any anger. Until then, the soldiers of the PWCD were capable of restraining any urges they may have had.

That didn't mean they had to like it however.