Born a Legend - Secession Studios


Chapter Twenty-Nine

July 29th, 2077

Night City, Northern California

Monroe Street, Japantown

Death.

All living creatures faced the grim reaper eventually, no matter what their sins or occupation.

There would exist no meaning in life unless the likelihood of death hung in the balance.

Mendez instructed every Spartan III on the significance of human life so that each cadet would understand precisely what they were dedicating their existence towards.

As Spartans, their enemies were not always confined to Covenant alone.

Everyone, Human and Alien, were potential targets.

It was a cruel methodical instruction that gave each cadet the will to execute hostile Xenos and their fellow man without a moment's remorse or hesitation.

Every cadet consumed those lessons to the best of their ability, and Cyrus was one of those chosen few who had zero qualms with slaughtering his own race. Maybe that was the lynchpin to his selection for the program, or perhaps it was little more than a passing trait.

Cyrus never knew if Mendez possessed the knowledge that a select few Spartan III cadets would go on to become Headhunters. The only predominant occupation where human targets were as plentiful as Covenant targets.

Regardless of his reservations, the lessons of human anatomy were imparted to everyone equally. What nerves to injure to inflict maximum pain, the arteries vital to the human body's continued existence, and if need be, the exact places to kill a man with a single flick of the wrist.

The Tyger Claws scattered about the Atrium were a testament to that training. Golf ball-sized holes, pooling crimson liquid, were present in a growing number of corpses. The terrified expressions etched into their owners' faces only further demonstrated the lethal nature of Spartan III's.

"Run!" A TC soldier had their Achilles tendon cut out from underneath him. His comrades valiantly struggled to drag him into shelter, but a charged projectile through the cranium ended his pitiful existence.

Shortly after the Bloodhound sent the pair of TC sacrifices stumbling through the smoke, Cyrus breached the Atrium with a vengeance. The operators manning the gun emplacements were the first targets.

None were able to squeeze off a single round before death came calling.

The TC's resistance was admirable but, in the end, ultimately futile. Not even the vaunted Tyger Claw Bloodhound that callously sent his men to their doom could only hope to match a Spartan's ferocity.

Cyrus let the Bloodhounds butchered corpse dangle at the end of his Kukri. The elite's cybernetic eyes were blown from their sockets as red blood, and synthetic blood sputtered out of his gaping wounds.

In his free hand, Cyrus unleashed concentrated firepower upon a cluster of Tyger Claws. The Achilles was truly a magnificent rifle, and he was more than happy to have acquired such a firearm from a Maelstrom corpse all those weeks ago.

The Militech firearm is an electromagnetic precision rifle capable of charging its shots for devastating power and penetration. Its base function imitated a pseudo shotgun, firing five projectiles in a pentagon pattern from the hip and a clustered shape when aiming down sights.

It was his new favorite toy.

Cyrus kicked the dangling corpse off his Kukri and charged to his right, blitzing past a TC Racketeer with a brutal clothesline. Among the crunching of shattered bones were the familiar barks of rifles and screams of dying men.

"Cover! Get to cover!"

He smashed through a concrete wall crushing a Tyger Claw Blitzer before they could squeeze off a shell in retaliation. Her comrades faired little better. Their firearms pinged off his energy shields with minimal efficiency, and a scattered shot from his Achilles killed two gangers with one pull of the trigger.

Out the corner of his eye, Cyrus noticed a TC thug scrambling for a heavy gun emplacement.

"Chamber," Cyrus ripped the spine out of a Racketeer. "Mark him."

His trusty companion outlined the thug's frame while he handled a berserker that was clearly hopped up on narcotics. Cyrus hoped the fool enjoyed his short-lived high. His two mantis blades were ripped from their sockets and shoved directly into his cybernetic optics.

A terrible scream echoed through the Atrium before Cyrus grabbed the Berserker by the throat and violently threw his body across the Atrium, smashing him headfirst into his marked target.

"Nice throw," Chamber commented offhandedly. "Twenty tangos remaining, marking now."

On cue, Cyrus's HUD lit up with an assortment of red highlights. He dashed to his left, sliding across the cement floor and stabbing his Kukri through a TC Blitzer's kneecap. As the Spartan's momentum ripped off the thug's lower right leg, he dragged the severed limb for several meters before it seamlessly dropped to the ground.

Cyrus's kinetic energy bled out as he braced against a stone pillar, giving him the necessary protection to reload his firearm and reassess his surroundings.

The Atrium contained two flights of stairs that connected three separate floors to the Monitoring station, which in turn functioned as the TC command and control center for the Monroe District.

The first floor was clear of tangos, and the survivors retreated to the second floor along with the surviving Bloodhound. Cyrus was surprised that the TC elite would abandon their comrade so quickly without retribution.

In his many encounters with Tyger Claw Bloodhounds, Cyrus realized that the elites tended to act in well-coordinated pairs. He'd never seen any Bloodhound willingly abandon their partner no matter what the circumstances.

They were the epiphany of ride together and die together.

Cyrus was more than willing to oblige them.

"Where's the Bloodhound?"

An amber outline was seen scrambling up the second flight of stairs and entering the monitoring station. It was an action Cyrus found somewhat perplexing since it wasn't consistent with usual Bloodhound behavior.

"Curious," Chamber's comment drew his attention.

"What is it?"

"Kenmochi is cutting her Bloodhound loose and ordering him to lead four TC grunts out the back door." That was an intriguing development.

Cyrus had never heard of a TC Captain giving a second thought to their subordinates. Maybe the woman had a bleeding heart because of the retribution he would inflict upon her?

It didn't matter.

Cyrus shook his head sharply, ejecting a spent cartridge from his Achilles. "It won't save her."

He activated his camo and broke from cover, sprinting up the flight of stairs towards a listless Tyger Claw blind firing an Ajax. He stabbed his Kukri through the TC's firearm, piercing the stock and its attached limb to the overturned pool table.

"ARGH!-uck!" The ganger's screech was interrupted by the barrel of his Achilles lodged into his mouth. One pull of the trigger sent chunks of brain and bone splattering across the chamber.

Three Tyger Claws broke rank and fled to the upper level while the rest fired their weapons in every direction imaginable. Cyrus could practically taste the chaos and fear as he tore through the leaderless Tyger Claws.

"I can't fucking see him! My torch is out!" A Racketeer was tinkering with his flashlight when a charged shot pierced his left cheek.

"Okubo!" A TC Blitzer sprinted towards his dead comrade only to have a fist smash through his rib and rupture his heart.

A dozen Tyger Claw corpses were scattered about the second floor by the time Cyrus was finished clearing it. The Tyger Claws entered a fit of hysteria after he palmed a pair of smoke grenades and tossed them into the upper floor.

The smoke wasn't meant to be concealment but instead a tool of terror. The atriums illumination was gone, so only the flash of lightning accompanied by the burst of gunfire and torches provided any visual direction.

"Chamber. Targets?" Cyrus inquired sharply.

"Six remaining. Four tangos are banging away on the station's doors, and the others holed up inside the station."

"Understood," Cyrus keyed his transmitter. "Panam, what's your status?"

"MAXTAC have kicked the hornets' nest pretty good. A gang of Animals started joining in on the fun, and it's fucking Armageddon out here." He could hear the staccato of gunfire echoing off Panam's transmission. "You almost done in there? I'd rather be gone before the building I'm in implodes!"

"Evac on the Phantom now," Cyrus ordered. "I'll make my own way out of the complex once I'm finished."

Panam hesitated. "You sure? I don't like the idea of leaving you out here without backup."

"I can assure you, Panam. I'm never alone." A static of approval reverberated through his suit.

The Nomad weighed her options for a full minute before letting out an exhausted sigh. "Alright, I'll meet you back at Lizzie's. Don't do anything stupid."

"I won't." The transmission cut out, and Cyrus was left to the familiar white noise inside his helmet. He enjoyed the screeching of terrified gangers, but that didn't mean he wanted to hear it every waking moment of his life.

Cyrus sprinted into the colorless cloud, barreling straight into the mass of gangers.

It was time to end this


Darkness.

That is all anyone inside the monitoring station could visualize. The terrified screams from the gangers banging away at the monitoring station doors went silent not long ago.

It didn't take a genius to figure out what made their useless flailing stop, and there was nothing anyone inside could do to save them. Something or someone tampered with the command building's internal subsystems and effectively locked them out of the security network.

Taki Kenmochi and her Netrunners scrambled to restore communications with their superiors when the system lockdown kicked in.

The chain of command was hanging on by a thread.

Lieutenants and Captains were dropping like flies, and even the most opportunistic vultures in their ranks were hesitant to take control.

Morale in the gang was at an all-time low, dozens of TC soldiers were abandoning their positions in droves, and the bosses only threw more gasoline on the raging fire.

Those fucking morons threatened an agonizing death to anyone that deserted their brothers and sisters in this time of trial.

All it did was force the rank and file to decide between the Headhunter's wrath or their leaders.

Taki didn't blame them for taking their chances on the boss's retribution.

Those morons sat in their ivory towers demanding obedience when they didn't have the slightest idea of what the gang was facing out here.

The Headhunter is an unstoppable terrifying force, and fear ran unchecked through the Tyger Claws.

Death was a hair's breadth away, and there was not a damn thing anyone inside could do to stop it.

All the ruthless killers that the Tyger Claws were known for embodying were redirected to Megabuilding H8 for the summit set to begin tomorrow. Every single TC in the Monroe District was cannon fodder as far as their bosses were concerned.

She regretted ever accepting the position of Captain in the first place. For years Taki survived because of her unnatural ability to talk her way out of every situation. She wasn't a natural-born killer, nor did she have that will of iron to overpower the weak-willed.

Her charisma was her shield.

Her voice was her weapon.

And that weapon seemed useless to her now.

"Boss?" Tagawa Sosa, her son in all but blood, questioned.

Sosa wanted Taki to bring the men loyal only to her, but she denied their transfer to the district.

Every single ganger in Monroe was a dead man, and adding more corpses to the pile did nothing for anyone. This place was the most likely location to suffer an incursion by the Headhunter, and instead of giving her more men, they handed her control and said good luck.

Taki never hated Marcus Ichidamore in her life.

Sosa should never have followed her.

He was a warrior of incredible capability, and while she was more than happy to have him nearby, she never wanted him anywhere near Monroe District. Every ganger in the clan knew that this promotion was a death sentence.

He only stayed because of her, the surrogate mother that gave him a home and family to live for.

Sosa never took part in the gang's debauchery and never tolerated his bloodthirsty brother in arms, Shimizu Rinji, or his degeneracy.

Taki didn't doubt for a second that a piece of him would be grinning ear to ear after Rinji had his throat caved in if it wasn't for the fact that same perpetrator was on his way to do the same thing to him.

There was an edge to his tone that she couldn't quite place. "What do we do?"

An apt question, what could one do against an overwhelming riptide determined to rip you limb for limb.

The answer was simple.

Surrender to the riptide.

A few electrical systems were still operational, and thankfully the monitoring station's loudspeaker was untouched by the pseudo EMP.

Taki hesitated, hand inches away from the speaker system that may be the catalyst to their survival. The Headhunter rarely left survivors in his wake, and if he did, then those precious few never came forward to tell the tale.

Maybe that was the point.

Would gangers and mercenaries be frightened of the Headhunter if they knew he possessed some form of leniency?

She didn't think in the slightest it would matter in the grand scheme of things. One moment of mercy wouldn't dull the horrors he's inflicted upon the mercenaries and gangers of Night City.

But that wasn't her problem to worry about, and she wasn't willing to bet her entire hand on this deck of cards. She dismissed Sosa and ordered him to take the four juveniles that had barely joined the Tyger Claws not days ago.

The clan was so desperate for bodies that they were snatching kids off the street to replenish their numbers. Taki was determined to ensure her last moments on this earth benefited someone of worth.

Sosa nearly took her head off, but a cutting glance ended any resistance on his part. He took the kids out the back door and ran for the Salinas district. It was the only safe haven for miles that Taki was sure wouldn't turn him or the kids in for treason.

Salinas was her home, after all.

When Sosa fell out of sight, the all-encompassing fear that ran rampant through the gang consumed her like a plague. The husband she left behind not days ago to the little girl she gave birth to six years earlier.

Taki's greatest fear of leaving her husband to raise her daughter alone was slowly becoming a reality. Sosa would be there to help, but it wouldn't be the same.

He didn't have that same bond with Hora as he did with her.

Her adopted son would stay to help raise her little Anno, but her absence would drive him into an early grave. Sosa would seek vengeance against her killer and end up like the rest of those untrained fools out in the Atrium.

That could not come to pass. Taki needed to turn this entire situation in her favor.

And that meant making a deal with the devil himself.

"Kubo." Taki jacked into the station's speaker system, trying to ignore the raging gunfire and shrikes of terror occurring outside her viewport.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Broadcast complex-wide, I want him to hear this."

"Who?" The Senior Netrunner stared in startled confusion.

The screaming and gunfire outside the monitoring room ceased, and only a still silence remained. Barely a minute ago, thirty vaunted killers were backed up by a vicious Bloodhound in the Atrium.

Taki wouldn't be surprised if none of them drew breath any longer.

"Him."

In that moment of stillness, an imposing figure emerged from the darkness, armor as black as night and helmet mimicking an abyss of unquestionable horror. The images and videos dedicated to the Headhunter didn't do him justice.

His size alone almost forced Taki to curl in on herself.

Couple his towering frame and the streaks of blood caking his armor, and it was a wonder if anyone in the world could stand to be in his presence. The Achilles in his grasp was pointed directly at Taki's forehead, and only the thin glass shielded her from a bloody demise.

The Headhunter's finger hovered precariously over the Achilles trigger, and her panicked voice stopped the limb in its tracks.

"Wait!" Taki cried out.

The monster hesitated, his head tilted to the side, and that black abyss nearly swallowed her whole. She couldn't see past the consuming darkness. It was instinct alone that saved her from the human-shaped missile thrown straight at her.

Kubo wasn't as fast. The Netrunner was knocked unconscious, his connection into the building's network severed as he was sent sprawling across the floor with a hefty weight pinning him down.

Whatever thoughts she had were severed by the audible click of a firearm safety. Glancing up, Taki found the barrel of a modified Unity pressed against her forehead.

She couldn't think straight, her mind was racing into complete delirium, and she required focus, but Taki needed to say something to her daughter.

"J-Just," Taki's stuttering speech was enhanced by her shaky hands. "Just let me say goodbye to my daughter."

"They're asleep." She bit out. "And I'll just..." The Headhunter's grip never wavered as he slowly crouched to one knee.

Taki's whole frame was shaking like a leaf in the wind as she continued to sputter out pleas. "I'll just leave her a message, you know. Tell 'em that I'm going away and that I'm gonna miss 'em."

The Headhunter stopped her shaky hands, grasping her cellular phone and crushing it between his oversized hands. Taki flinched with every crack of shattered glass as the machine loomed over her.

A voice as cold as the night wind froze her solid. "Are you ready?"

The pure disinterest in his tone only further frightened the Tyger Claw captain, and she began grasping at ideas to extend her lifespan.

"No, no, no!" She pleaded. "Just hang on for one second, ok. Just let me ask you a question."

A piece of Cyrus was completely neutral in the woman's begging; it wouldn't be the first parent he's killed, nor would it be the last.

Another part of him was partially invested in her words. He's never had a Tyger Claw officer beg as much as Taki was.

They typically started making meaningless threats on his life even when they were at Cyrus's mercy.

He'd indulge in her questioning.

For now.

"Speak," the Spartan stated.

"Why do you," Taki's throat went dry, forcing her to swallow back bile. "Why do you do this? For money, fame, glory?"

Cyrus loomed over her, "I certainly hope you're not pinning your life on my selfish desires Mrs. Kenmochi. Because I can assure you I am not someone who cares for such fruitless endeavors."

"Then why do any of this?" Taki's fear of her present situation was eclipsed by the sheer confusion that a statement of this nature would cause.

Why else would someone of his caliber do any of this?

"Because I fundamentally disagree with the direction of this city. I have observed its inhabitants tear themselves apart through corporate greed, a complete disregard for human life, and the corruption that has seeped into every level of its infrastructure." The Spartan drew closer to Taki, and her emerald eyes reflected off his visor.

"I will purify this place, room by room, street by street, block by block until I achieve my campaign or die in the process. And you, Captain, are another piece to that puzzle that needs to be removed." Taki's subsequent statement rolled off her tongue easily.

"I can help you."

Cyrus bit out a hollow chortle. "And how would you do that?"

"The minor gangs in-in Japantown, there's more here than there were in Watson. When you took down the M-Maelstrom, how much time did you waste plugging the power vacuum?"

Taki cursed inward. She couldn't get a read on Cyrus's expression because of the featureless helmet, and his body language gave absolutely no tells for her to pick up on.

It was like talking to a goddamn statue.

"Not nearly as much as you think." The grave tone leaking into his modulated voice sent Taki scrambling for a veritable life raft. "Are we done?"

"No! Just give me a second, ok!" Taki scrambled to her feet, hands raised in surrender. "Listen to me! Listen to me, please!"

"You have five seconds to convince me. Five."

Cyrus watched the panic cross across her face. The abject fear was plain for his eyes to see. It was and always would be disturbing to watch a human being plead for their own life, especially for the uninitiated.

Taki was a Tyger Claw. She was responsible for dozens of casualties in her long history with the gang, and that fact alone would lead many to believe she is a ruthless sycophant like the rest of her compatriots.

The dossier Chamber had drawn up for him painted a different picture. Kenmochi was a woman whose life was dictated by fear and an absolute desire to separate her personal life and business life.

Taki wouldn't be the first story of hardship Cyrus would cross paths with, and she wouldn't be the last.

What she did have in her corner was charisma and connections with Japantown's teeming underground network. She is a well-known Tyger Claw officer who maintains good ties with the gang's rank and file and dozens of associated minor syndicates.

In effect, Kenmochi was in a unique position to assert her dominance in Japantown's criminal underground. This exclusive trait placed her in Cyrus's crosshairs, and he was unwilling to compromise with a TC Officer of any kind.

She only lacked the necessary motivation to achieve this goal.

It was to Taki's benefit that there was another near-omnipotent entity that concluded she could be helpful to his plans. A conclusion that Cyrus was highly reluctant to allow before the Tyger Claw attempted a sustained dialogue with him.

She lived now because of his partner's curiosity.

"Four." Kenmochi scrambled into the pitch sale of a lifetime.

"There are thirty-six gangs in Japantown with two hundred plus registered members! As soon as you take down the Tyger Claws, the entire district will explode in a bloodbath, and you can't be everywhere at once!"

"Three." Cyrus didn't even flinch at her declarations. He and Chamber had come up with a decent contingency plan to handle the fallout of the TC's annihilation.

The Tyger Claw's established position as one of Night City's most notorious gangs ensured that their destruction would leave the city with a devasting power vacuum to manage.

The AI's most optimistic calculations indicated Cyrus would be swamped inside Japantown for at least a week to a month max. He was more than willing to commit to the plan at hand, but as always, Chamber wanted a more subtle solution.

Although Cyrus didn't doubt Chamber's desire to manipulate Kenmochi's skills. However, the Tyger Claw had to convince him that her talents could be appropriately used for their cause.

"Two."

"I can help you manage the power vacuum! My position inside the Tyger Claw command structure gives me the necessary authority to gather whatever scraps are leftover, then I can work for you!"

He leaned ever closer to the Tyger Claw, pressing the barrel of his Unity ever deep her into her skull. "Authority? You have no authority, and you don't have the manpower to call upon. I just finished killing most of your men, Mrs. Kenmochi."

"Not all of them!" She shouted in hushed defiance. "Monroe district was handed to me because of consolidation. My men! My loyal men! Are in the Salinas district, and they answer only to me! I give you my word that I can prevent this district from collapsing in on itself when the TC are gone. You can count on that!"

That defiance grew into subtle confidence. Taki threw every ounce of courage into her words in a bold last stand to prevent her own death.

"One."

That courage turned into despair. The Unity was straightened out, its warm barrel moved directly in between her eyes, and Taki was left at the mercy of an unstoppable killer.

"Please."

Flashes of long past memories echoed inside her brain, and she wouldn't let her last thoughts be centered on the end of a barrel.

A serene recollection from six months ago snapped to the front of her wayward thoughts. Sosa finally meeting her husband and the teenaged youths stumbling attempts to act polite in the presence of her one and only.

Taki wading in the crystal clear water of Pinewoods pristine swimming pools with her daughter not feet from her, kicking water at her sheepish husband.

Kubo.

Her only regret was that he never truly knew what she did for a living, and now she would die before coming clean about her so-called 'Enterprise.'

Seconds dragged on until Taki's mind could only register darkness. For the barest of moments, she didn't hear a gunshot or the sound of her own body impacting the concrete floor.

When she finally drew the courage to open her eyes, the monster's darkened visor consumed her vision.

"Two days."

"What?" The haze cleared up momentarily, and Taki's speechless expression was an amusing sight.

"In two days, your clan will not exist. When this comes to pass, you will have exactly three weeks to establish a power base. Succeed, and I may find a use for you."

A wave of subdued relief seeped into Taki's bones.

"Fail," the Spartan let the word hang, ominously waving his Unity in her face. "And I will kill you."

Cryus stood on his toes. "Are you religious, Mrs. Kenmochi?"

"No." Her breath began to level out as the Spartan took a step away from her, holstering his Unity.

"I'd reconsider that outlook." A blink later and the seven-foot-tall war machine disappeared into the night. "Because a God saved your life today."

Taki Kenmochi has met a lot of sociopaths in her life, but this guy.

He was built different.

She gathered what composure she had left and dragged a barely conscious Kubo to his feet. Sirens and muted gunfire continued to echo just outside the complex. Taki didn't think the deal would hold if she got snagged by the NCPD, and she most certainly didn't want to end up dead inside a holding cell.


Night City, Northern California

Lizzies Bar, Kabuki

"Monroe district is clear," V announced to Mox leadership gathered around a singular holographic table. Every person gathered around the projection was either a benefactor or a contributor to a conspiracy that would inevitably shake the foundations of Night City.

Cyrus stood off to the side, devoid of his MJOLNIR for the sake incognito, forced to observe the meeting's tedious nature to ensure everything ran smoothly.

In a perfect world, he would be out in the city hunting more Tyger Claws, but the majority had gone underground or strengthened their stronghold inside Megabuilding H8 after their Monroe District was burned to cinders.

They still had their work cut out for them, but there was little Cyrus could do tonight but ensure the meeting with the Mox went according to plan.

V was a natural orator, soothing Susie Q's aggressive inquiries and hushed concerns with all the charisma of a politician. Judy stood to her right, filling in details that the Merc didn't have a complete understanding of.

He wasn't entirely sure why his presence was needed in the first place. Cyrus didn't exactly bring a calming presence to the meeting, and he doubted Susie Q cared for his opinion in the first place.

"How much longer is this going to take?" Panam echoed his wayward thoughts. The Aldecaldo found a resting spot on a rundown couch and was content for a time to watch the meeting from a comfortable distance.

It didn't last long.

"An hour at worst," Chamber replied. Her voice echoing through Cyrus's and Panam's earpiece.

The Nomad bit out an irritated groan. Patience was never her strong suit, and watching a handful of people bitch about the 'risks' of attacking Clouds so aggressively when they only had to contend with barely thirty percent of the TC inside the Megabuilding didn't help her frustrations.

"They're talking in circles," Cyrus noted as he leaned his weight against a server box.

"Please don't tell me that," Panam stated quickly. "I might shoot someone if this keeps up."

A pair of Mox standing guard shot the Aldecaldo a humorous look and chose that moment to amuse themselves. A dozen of their fellow gang members maintained their equipment for the assault, kindly provided by Chamber, in a side room adjacent to them.

Cyrus recognized the two women as the bouncers he ran into while searching for V. They didn't recognize him, but Panam was a familiar face that they grew accustomed to seeing whenever V visited the club.

"I see you're still a junkyard dog, Panam." Rita Wheeler chided. She approached the lounging Nomad with Anna Nox in tow, shooting a sly glance towards Cyrus's hulking frame. "Didn't think I'd see you again anytime soon."

"As far as you're concerned, I'm a figment of your imagination." He retorted.

"Hmm," Anna glanced towards Panam, who propped her head with one arm against her furniture. "I won't ask how you, of all people, made friends with walking statue because honestly, it's right up your alley."

"The fuck does that even mean?"

Cyrus tuned out the inevitable storm of shit talking and rang up Chamber. The AI was given the task of observing Taki Kenmochi's movements and actions by proxy. He was half-convinced that the TC Captain would turn tail and run towards Clouds after cutting her loose.

So it was with mild surprise when her first move was to beat a hasty retreat towards the Salinas district, all the while dodging swaths of scattered TC patrols and NCPD barricades.

The entirety of the Monroe District was placed on an emergency lockdown as the NCPD sought to contain the violence spreading throughout the district. Cyrus spent an hour cleaning up several TC detachments when he was recalled to Lizzies for the meeting.

He was regretting even taking the phone call by now.

"Where's Kenmochi?" Cyrus inquired softly.

"Salinas district. Girl knows her way around the city, barely squeaked past a couple MAXTAC squads in the process." When he failed to respond, Chamber let out an exhausted sigh. "You didn't make the wrong decision cutting her loose."

"I do not share in your opinion."

When push came to shove, Cyrus was seconds away from painting the ground with Kenmochi's blood. He wasn't lying when he told the TC that god saved her life because Chamber is a god amongst men.

It was her reassurance that Kenmochi could be a viable asset in the Night City underground that stayed his hand.

Chamber was creating an intricate web of agents in every level of Night City's infrastructure, and she convinced Cyrus that Kenmochi could provide them with unique opportunities.

The woman had no idea how close to death she really was, and she'd never be able to thank her savior in person.

"Giving people a second chance isn't something to be disregarded so easily. Taki Kenmochi is-" Cyrus cut her off with a frozen tone.

"A loose end." Chamber fell to silence as a CCTV camera feed crossed his optical sight. "And I do not leave loose ends."

"I have faith that she will come through for us."

"And when she proves you wrong?" Cyrus spied a nerve-wracked Kenmochi stumble her way to a Tyger Claw warehouse.

The TC officer that took her position relinquished command to Kenmochi, and she reasserted control over the Salinas district. Her former subordinates didn't even question her sudden arrival and instead ferried her towards her old office for safety.

"She won't." Chamber countered.

"How can you be so sure?"

"Call it a woman's intuition." Cyrus snorted in barely held amusement. He understood the reasoning behind Chamber's actions regarding Kenmochi, she could be a valuable asset in the field, but he had his own doubts.

The AI always had machinations running around in that digitized brain of hers, simulating millions of outcomes in the span of barely a few seconds. He never presumed to keep secrets from her, not when she had complete access to his memories and in his presence nearly 24/7.

Cyrus closed down the CCTV monitor. "Kenmochi isn't a priority. Give me a status on the 6th Street command structure after our remodeling."

Chamber forwarded a report sent by Alex Decker on the situation inside the militant gang.

Nathaniel Green's death sent a shockwave up the 6th chain of command. His sudden demise left many inside the Purist Faction stunned, and his XO Jacoby Hall was recalled to Tributari, the 6th Street Stronghold, for an explanation.

The Captain's death was blamed on a Wraith sniper that managed to get off a lucky shot due to a glitch in the Viking Stations defensive barriers. The explanation was taken without resistance, and he was given command of Gypsy Company by proxy.

The promotion was precisely the decision Decker was hoping for. Jacoby Hall was a member of the Patriot Faction and had managed to instill his own following inside Gypsy Company that could be exploited later.

Hall would be instrumental in Decker's plan to alter the gang's goals and leadership, but he was merely one cog in the machine she was operating. The 6th Street's war with the Animals was in full effect, and while skirmishes had been more subdued as of late, that still didn't take away from the conflict's pure savagery.

Decker was also well aware of 6th Street's continued lack of proficiency against the Animals, despite evidence to the contrary that the militant gang was more than effective against drugged-out psychos.

She is under the working impression that Gunner is sabotaging the gang's war against the Animals.

The working theory is that he is manipulating the war with the Animals to subtly weaken the Patriot's influence inside the gang. The considerable casualties amongst company's with a heavy Patriot influence were in stark contrast to the infantry detachments with Purist ties.

Gunner is an opportunist in every regard, so the theory Decker had drummed up contained more than enough credence.

"Any missive's from Decker?" Cyrus inquired. The 6th Street Captain only sent him audio messages and never conversed with him over the phone. By doing so, she protected his involvement in the gang's reorganization away from prying eyes.

It was imperative that the gang's change in direction did not come from an outside source. 6th Street soldiers are wary of outsiders, and the very basis of the gang's motivations dictated that no one outside of Santo Domingo can be involved with their internal decision-making.

Should his involvement be discovered, he'd probably have to kill every 6th Street ganger in Night City.

It would be a time-consuming process.

"No, nothing from her so far," Chamber replied. "We still have a standing task to eliminate Captain Gregory Duran. He's in charge of Nomad Company, and they're operating a racketeering ring on the Wolleson dockyards."

"Sounds like they need a visit sometime soon." A crushed beer can bounced off his head.

"Hey, you alive in there fuckface?" Panam's pestering voice questioned.

Cyrus had a bad habit of blocking out all outside visuals and audio when he was in a designated safe haven. He enjoyed the ignorant silence far more than he ever should.

Rita and Anna returned to the side room to evaluate the rest of their gear after a shit-talking session for the ages. Cyrus was not disappointed to have avoided such a pointless conversation.

"Depends," he remarked. "Is the meeting over?"

"Yes," V's soothing voice leaked into his ears. Glancing to his left, he found the red-haired Merc staring at him and Panam with a raised eyebrow. "And I don't suppose either of you paid any attention to it?"

"Why would we?" The Aldecaldo countered, rising to her feet and stretching out the kinks in her back. "We're the ones who came up with the fucking plan! It's like asking the teacher what the questions on the exams are?"

"Jesus, it was only a question, calm down." V raised her hand in mock surrender before flipping off the Aldecaldo, who responded in kind.

"I am the purest example of calm," Panam shot a look towards Cyrus. "Aren't I."

"Of course you are." He answered bluntly as he turned back towards V. "Any issues?"

V's expression immediately went subdued, waving over to the holo table where Judy was placating a visibly irritated Maiko Maeda demanding a private audience with Susie.

"Nothing I couldn't handle. Susie's on board, but as usual, Maiko trying to fuck it all up. I'm sure Judy can handle her tirade, for the time being, lord knows I'm going to blow her head off if I hear her condescending tone again."

"If she doesn't, I will," The Spartan commented.

It was a well-known fact by now that Cyrus possessed a severe dislike for the Clouds Manager. The nickname 'Parasite' as he aptly designated her stuck with Panam and V. The fact Maeda hadn't been removed from the equation entirely was because of her previous relationship with Judy.

Panam was no better, but she wasn't willing to completely smash Maiko's head out of respect for Judy.

He had no such reservations.

Cyrus would have snapped both her legs and ripped her voice box out far sooner if V hadn't placated his growing irritation around the woman.

"If this meeting is over, I'm heading back to Charter Hill." Cyrus pushed off the concrete wall. "I have a few loose ends to tie up. I'll see you both in two days."

Panam and V nodded in muted understanding, expressions losing some of their radiance in the process.

"Will you meet us back here?" Panam inquired softly.

"No, I'll meet you all at Clouds before we step off. I have a list chock full of names that needed to be removed in the next 48 hours."

"Ok then…" V paused before running her hands through her hair. "Just try not to do anything stupid in the meantime or burn down the city in the process."

Cyrus nodded swiftly, strapping the Achilles to his back and brushing past V. The Merc savored the brief moment of contact before nodding towards Panam, whose eyes danced with pestering notions as she glanced between them both.

"I won't," Cyrus began as he glanced towards Panam and back to V. "Besides, I'm leaving all the stupid with you."

It took a moment for his words to kick in and by the time realization hit the pair of women, Cyrus was long gone.

Panam was the first to recognize the subtle and uncharacteristic dig directed towards her.

"THAT MOTHERFUCKER!" V couldn't help the hearty chuckle that drew Panam's ire. "The fuck you laughing at?!"

The twitch in the Merc's mouth left the Nomad to fume in simmering silence as she cracked open another beer bottle before tossing her finished drink at V's forehead. The resulting impact started another round of comfortable shit-talking that became a constant event whenever they were left alone.

It was a brief moment of levity before the chaos.


It's good to be back, needed that extra week to fine-tune my mind and make sure I wasn't throwing out unfinished chapters.

The next chapter will be the culmination of weeks of butchering and retribution. And while that would be the climax to most stories this is far from the mid-point for what I have in store.

As always I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and remember to review to your heart's content.

On a side note we reached 500 followers and I can't thank you all enough for the support. Stay classy boys and girls.


Reviews:

SilverExcel115: The end goal for me is to at the very least make a partnership that is damn near unbreakable between the three of them. I believe I have managed to obtain that in my opinion, so the romance part between the three is a tentative process. I have no desire to rush but it also won't be a one-time thing. I am just taking my sweet time developing it and hopefully it won't be a random occurrence for the reader.

Random Reader: You don't know how close you are to this prospect, but I can assure you it won't be a simple gang and it will be intentional.

gabekaykwok: The News and the city will have a ton to bear witness too next chapter.

tamagat: I was hoping their chemistry would be easy for people to pickup on.


Next Chapter: May 31st