Highly recommend these highlighted songs while reading. They got me hyped.


Vengeance - Zack Hemsey


Chapter Thirty

July 31st, 2077

Night City, Northern California

Megabuilding H8, Japantown

Everything was in place.

All targets accounted for, every hostile is labeled for elimination, and now all that remains is to carry out the strategy to perfection.

Cyrus spent the last two days subtly moping up Tyger Claw outposts on the outskirts of Japantown. He infiltrated the structures and killed its inhabitants before anyone in the TC command structure was the wiser.

After each incursion, Chamber manipulated their communication network to broadcast continued all-clear signals to Megabuilding H8. Keeping the Tyger Claw Chiefs in the dark while he butchered the very forces that would be called upon to bolster Clouds should the club be assaulted.

During the campaign, Chamber briefly commented on his public image that had been warped by ignorant views.

Media outlets considered Cyrus a bloodthirsty vigilante who had declared a one-man war on every criminal gang in Night City.

That was an exaggeration as far as he was concerned.

Cyrus had no desire to destroy every criminal syndicate in Night City. That path entailed an endless crusade that he had no desire to take part in. Crime is an ever-expanding issue for society as a whole to handle, and he didn't have the long-term solutions to most illicit activities.

No, his campaign was focused on those gangs that willingly committed human atrocities such as kidnapping, human trafficking, organ harvesting, enslavement, and sexual deviation.

Tyger Claws, Maelstrom, Scavengers, Wraiths, and Animals were all guilty of these charges and more. The 6th Street gang, while not nearly as morally unethical, were targeted because of their corrupt practices, manipulating the citizens of Santo Domingo for their own fraudulent activities.

The gangs were a disease to be cured, but the corporations were a cancer that needed to be cut out.

Johnny Silverhand wasn't wrong when he perpetrated his bloody crusade upon the depraved forces of Night City decades earlier.

It is the one detail that Cyrus was willing to agree with him on, and for all his shortcomings, the man was thinking too small during his time.

Johnny is blinded by his personal hatred of Arasaka. They were merely one amongst a cadre of Megacorporations that have manufactured a machine fueled by crushed hopes, broken dreams, and shattered families.

Cyrus has to ignore the bitter taste in his mouth whenever he catches sight of Arasaka Tower. It took a tremendous amount of willpower to stop himself from marching on the structure and tearing it down brick by brick, but that would only fuel his desires and turn the city into a warzone.

In order to bring down Arasaka, they needed to remove the tight grip they had on Night City piece by piece.

Starting with the Tyger Claws.

"Snipers in position."

For the second time in as many days, Spartan and Aldecaldo occupied a rooftop overlooking their target building. Megabuildings are some of the tallest skyscrapers in Night City, making any prospect of overwatch difficult.

However, most Mercs and Gangers in Night City didn't have the equipment or capabilities to extend a rifle's range.

Cyrus and Chamber were not most people.

Their assault on the Monroe district served two objectives. The first was to deny the TC a functioning operations base inside Japantown once Clouds fell, thereby removing a fallback option for the gang.

The second was to test Panam and give Chamber a chance to analyze the Nomad's skill with a Nekomata. Now, she wasn't the best marksman in the city, but Chamber didn't need her to be good.

She only needed to make observations, adjust Panam's shortcomings, and tune her strengths to change the average shooter into a world-class killer.

"All targets accounted for?" V's gentle voice echoed in Cyrus's helmet.

"Affirmative." He magnified his visor, zooming in on the infuriated visage of Marcus Ichida, an expression mirrored by the other TC Chieftains. All of them were tearing into Hiromi Sato and the surviving Captains regarding their failure in containing the Headhunter's rampage

No one seemed to make mention of Kenmochi's absence. The cowards really did hang their former colleague out to dry for him to butcher, and as far as they knew, she was a corpse. Chamber was protecting her newest potential agent and ensured a false NCPD list of casualties reached their notice.

"Copy that," V confirmed over the radio. "Strike teams are waiting on your go. Make it count."

"Understood." He keyed off the radio and glanced away from his GRAD's scope towards his ever-eager partner. "Ready?"

"Oh fuck yeah," Panam was more than happy to have another go with his modified Nekomata. The Nomad had quickly fallen in love with the projectile rifle after her liberal use of it on Monroe Street.

Cyrus nodded sharply and peered down his GRAD's scope. "Chamber. What do you have for me?"

"This one's going to be a doozy." A monitor showing an assortment of surveillance cameras inside Clouds popped up at the bottom right of his HUD. "There are still 50 tangos inside the club with a mix of civilians and employees alongside them."

"What about the penthouse level any difference?" Cyrus inquired.

"Negative, still got over 200 hostiles crowded in between the penthouse and the roof," Chamber informed simply.

"Then we better get started. Panam, we'll take the two on the helipad first."

Cyrus adjusted the scope on his GRAD, hovering the crosshair over the skull of an ignorant Tyger Claw.

"Guy in the awful pink haircut?" She pointed out.

"Yes," Cyrus replied, finger rested against the trigger. "I'll tag him. You take his partner on 3. Ready?"

"Set." Panam relaxed her posture and hovered her sights just below Chamber's ever-helpful marking. The AI made sniping at ridiculous range a breeze; it was honestly frightening how seamlessly she ran the calculations.

"1…..2…..3….." Two silent puffs unleashed a pair of ballistic shells at breakneck speed. Within seconds the Tyger Claw and his compatriot dropped to the ground with a mist of red languishing above them.

"Nicely done." She preened at Cyrus's compliment. "We have four tangos hanging by the elevator."

The Nomad adjusted her scope, centering on a quartet of Tyger Claws loitering around the elevator Cyrus marked out. Two of the TC's were leaning against a railing overlooking the city while sharing a smoke.

The remaining pair stared off into space, ignorant to their surroundings and more than likely hoping their shift would end faster.

Cyrus was willing to oblige them.

"How we doing this?" Panam questioned while Chamber marked their separate targets on their HUDs.

"We'll take the two standing guard then deal with the pair sharing a cigar. Ready?"

"Set." For once, Panam's fiery personality was masked by a calm coolness, unlike her usual temperament. Her eyes focused on the Tyger Claw dozing off with an Ajax hanging off her left shoulder.

"On your shot." The Nomad panned to Chambers designated marking on the ganger's torso, finger resting lightly against the Nekomata's frame.

She timed her breathing accordingly and pulled on the trigger once, watching the ballistic shell zoom past the smoking pair of Tyger Claws and impacting her target just below her left breast.

The ganger's body was sent flying into the concrete wall, a splatter of crimson and bone coating her impact point. Cyrus followed her shot, downing the TC to her target's right and then targeting the confused pair of smokers stumbling for their radios.

Panam was seconds away from engaging them when Cyrus fired a single ballistic shell from his Grad. The round impacted the center of the first ganger's skull and maintained enough kinetic energy to assassinate his compatriot with a well-placed shot through the right eye socket.

Chamber watched Panam stare in muted awe while Cyrus reloaded a fresh magazine. "Beautiful shot."

"No kidding," Panam commented lightly, chambering a fresh clip. "How many more we got left?"

"Sixteen by my count." The AI supplied. "They're all separated, so taking them down should be a breeze, assuming none of you miss your shot."

"We won't," Cyrus assured. "I'll start from the left, you work from the right, and we'll meet in the middle."

He didn't wait for her confirmation, firing off a silent puff and blasting a fist-sized hole through a patrolling TC's skull. Panam was acquiring her first target by the time Cyrus moved onto his second kill.

"Don't try to match him," Chamber said to the slightly overwhelmed Nomad. "Just follow my markings and go one at a time."

While Cyrus set his own pace of kills, Panam followed the AI's advice. Carving through six Tyger Claws while he finished off the remaining ten. Having Chamber in their corner was like fixing a sports match; the losing team didn't have an iota of a chance to match them.

All sixteen TC guards were dead within the span of forty-five seconds.

Panam had to pinch herself to guarantee she wasn't hallucinating.

"Vargas. Landing pad is clear. Stage two is green." Cyrus stood on his toes, collapsing his GRAD and moving towards the Phantom.

In typical UNSC fashion, Chamber designated their significant action against the Tyger Claws as Operation Grey Mist.

It was separated into three separate stages.

Stage one is the capture or clearance of Megabuilding H8's rooftop landing pad, conducted by Cyrus and Panam. Once the pads were cleared out, V would lead a handpicked Strike Team to slowly breach the penthouse levels from the rooftop.

Levels 53 to 55 were filled to the brim with Tyger Claw soldiers, and V needed to deny access to the landing pads.

Stage two relied on Susie Q and Judy guiding an Assault force directly into Clouds via Maeda's office and capturing the isolated passageways leading to the penthouse levels. Chamber hard locked the elevators and blocked access to the emergency staircases, leaving the Tyger Claw Chiefs nowhere to run.

Stage three was clear and cut. Cyrus would be inserted directly into the meat grinder of level 53, a floor below the meeting location, and butcher every Tyger Claw he could find.

Levels 53 and 54 contained over a hundred TC soldiers each, and he refused any sort of direct assistance from his compatriots or the Mox. At most, Cyrus would permit sniper support from an adjacent roof, but no more.

He needed to ensure every avenue of escape for the Tyger Claw leadership was denied because no matter the setbacks or failures, every single Chief needed to die tonight.

The cost was inconsequential.

Cyrus cared not if Judy and the rest of the Mox died in that tower alongside the Tyger Claws so long as all objectives were met. V would be cross with his total disregard for their allies, but he had no place for them in his plans for Night City.

Chamber might find a way for the Mox to become helpful in the future, but at the present moment, they were little more than a useful distraction or cannon fodder. Cyrus was smart enough to keep these private thoughts to himself.

"Copy that," V replied. "Were coming in hot."

At that moment, a trio of unmarked AVs soared overhead, making a beeline for Megabuilding H8's landing pad. Chamber's ability to acquire vehicles and weapons was remarkable, but that could be partly attributed to the weaponry's unrestricted sale on Night City's black market.

Chamber damn near had a fleet of aerodynes at her beck and call at any point in time. Over the weeks, she gathered nearly half a dozen specialized AVs similar in design to Cyrus's personal Phantom but lacking the photoreactive panels for covert insertion. They were up-armored transports with an adept ability to limit their noise signature.

Cyrus watched the trio of AV 'Sabres' float a few feet above separate landing pads, and soon a combined force of 28 Mox Strikers stormed out of the aerodynes. If there was one thing he was thankful for, it was the fact the gangers didn't need to be persuaded to don proper fighting equipment.

He was worried that the gangers would willingly march into battle wearing the bare minimum of clothing, but thankfully they didn't need to be told twice.

Every Mox taking part in the operation was protected by a blackened torso plate carrier and a modified Militech tactical helmet. Their vibrant hair clashed with their dark equipment, but survivability took precedence over fashion day.

V led from the front, clutching a pair of Unity's in each hand as she approached the rooftop elevator, stepping over a Tyger Claw corpse and motioning her team forward.

The Spartan sprinted to the Phantom and exchanged his high-powered rifle for a more…..useful firearm.

Cyrus pressed a series of buttons to his right, unlocking an internal compartment that ejected a weapon of incredible magnitude. He momentarily admired the HMG's boxy frame and the multitude of modifications carefully installed with the help of his trusty AI companion.

Manufactured by Militech, the Mk. 31 HMG in its unaltered form contained 300 rounds of ammunition and possessed a fire rate of 6.21 rounds per second.

Cyrus didn't feel a need to alter its fire rate, but he did solve the issue of ammo after consuming the ammunition stored in the massive ammo box. He installed a belt feed that ran into a separate and much larger ammunition box magnetized to his upper back.

300 rounds increased to over 1500 with this significant modification. However, if he wanted to utilize this ammo without melting the barrel, he needed a quality replacement.

The HMG had a massive tendency to overheat after continuous usage, but amongst his alterations was an improvement upon its barrel. Cyrus swapped out the cheap and basic steel rod with a heavy chrome-lined barrel preventing a premature meltdown.

There had been no scenario as of late to utilize such heavy machinery, but the time for subtly was over.

And Cyrus couldn't wait to unleash the high-explosive ammunition on the Tyger Claws.

"Big gun doesn't make a big man," Panam commented while marking a trio of TC guarding the elevator on level 55.

"Depends on the man." Cyrus magnetized the ammo pack and climbed into the Phantom. "Remember the plan and focus on V and her strike team."

"What about you?" She questioned lightly.

"I'll be fine," the cargo door slid shut, and Cyrus was left in comfortable solitude.

The Phantom shuttered on takeoff, and he braced the Mk. 31's stock against his shoulder. "Chamber, time to target?"

"Twenty seconds."

Cyrus fell into a familiar mindscape for the barest of moments. Every blink he took changed his environment.

One second he's inside the aerodynes passenger hold, and the next, he's strapped into a SOEIV preparing for an orbital drop. The similarities were there, but the circumstances couldn't be any more different.

Back home, Cyrus's insertions were always precarious. Covenant anti-air of any type were deadly to an orbital drop, especially the Type-27 Mantis and a Type-52 AA Wraith.

This was not one of those times.

"Ten seconds." Chamber alerted, and an outline of Megabuilding H8 crossed his HUD. For denoting purposes, V's group was designated as Badger One, while Judy's strike team was branded as Badger Two.

The AI continued. "Strike teams are engaging their targets. Badger Two has breached the club's entrance, and Badger One is engaging tangos on level 55."

"Casualties?" Cyrus inquired plainly.

"Two wounded so far, no fatalities." Chamber hesitated for a fraction of a second before emphasizing an unsolicited question. "V's doing ok. Panam's watching her back."

Cyrus didn't acknowledge the words that fell from her lips. An all-to-familiar haze instantaneously consumed his mindset, and he was running on Spartan instinct alone.

Heat signatures detected…..contacts…..one hundred hostiles.

Recommendation…..eliminate with extreme prejudice.

Objective…..eradicate the Tyger Claw clan.

If one were to look into Cyrus's eyes now, there would find no emotion, not even a speck of life inside his crimson gaze.

Only a thirst for carnage.

Civilian presence…..negligible.

Allied presence…..negligible.

When the Phantom doors creaked open, Cyrus unleashed a barrage of HE shells into the adjacent windows, obliterating a group of Tyger Claws responding to the encroaching gun battle on level 55.

Success…..Tyger Claws annihilated. Crucial.

Failure…..Death. Intolerable.

A black shadow smashed into the glass windows of floor 53 in Megabuilding H8, and the ensuing violence eclipsed the massacre at Arasaka Tower.

The Tyger Claws died tonight.


Japantown, Megabuilding H8

Level 55, Penthouse Suits

"Well, this could be going better!"

V only shot Johnny an irritated look before popping out of cover and gunning down an overzealous TC Blitzer.

"Shut up, Johnny!"

All things considered, their situation could be much worse.

She dragged the Mox lieutenant down, saving her from an early grave via ballistic projectile to the skull. "Stay the fuck down, Nox!"

"I can't fucking see in this goddamn helmet!" Anna unbuckled the offending object and tossed it a Tyger Claw popping out of cover. She followed up her toss with a burst of gunfire from her Ajax, splitting open the gangers head and killing him instantly.

Nox cackled to herself, sliding back into cover to eject her spent magazine. "How are Susie Q and the team downstairs?"

"One sec." V pinged Judy's communication receiver and tried her best to yell over the deafening gunfire. "Jud, how we doing?!"

"Things are tight, but these gonks weren't prepared in the slightest. All their security turrets shot them in the ass when we breached, I don't know who you got to override their protocols, but I could kiss them right now."

"I'll pass the message along!" V cut the transmission and accessed her Netwatch cyberdeck, picking out an isolated Tyger Claw Blitzer creeping up on Rita Wheeler and a trio of her companions.

She hacked into the ganger's cyberware, inserting a Synapse burnout that distorted his balance and blinded his optics. The spazzed-out Blitzer fired off a duo of premature shots drawing Rita's attention, who put him down with a burst from her Lexington.

Wheeler acknowledged V with a sharp nod and broke off from their group to push down the north corridor with twelve of her compatriots under a hail of gunfire.

The Merc took stock of their situation.

Their assault on level 55 started out well enough. Ten Tyger Claw soldiers got put down almost immediately by V's strike team, and they established a foothold inside the main corridors.

The entire floor acted as a makeshift garrison quarter.

Dozens of apartment rooms were sectioned off by a single corridor on the north and south side. The elevators were located on the west side of the floor, and the further east you went, the more resistance you ran into. Tyger Claw officers directed their men and coordinated defense efforts from a fortified command and control center on the east side.

Vast chunks of walls were torn down to make room for more equipment and living space for the gangers stationed on the level. V felt like she was traversing a maze of living quarters and personal armories that stalled their assault because of the claustrophobic areas.

She had no doubt in her mind that level 55's commander and control consoles were nullified by Chamber beforehand. It would explain the confusion by the TC leadership and their general disorganization upon first contact.

V dragged Nox closer to relay orders without confusion. "Nox! Take your team and clear the south corridor room by room! I need this floor locked down now!"

"I hear ya!" Anna turned towards the scattered Mox taking shelter behind her. "Louise, Jessica! Grab your girls and follow my ass!"

Her two subordinates shouted in confirmation, pushing their comrades forward into the jaws of Tyger Claw gunfire. V's adrenaline pumped through her body as she sprinted past Anna and went headfirst into the meat grinder. She blasted a ganger to smithereens before they could duck into a side room for cover.

The gunbattle reached a fever pitch as the Tyger Claws fought tooth and nail for every inch of space, refusing to give ground without exacting a toll on the Mox strike team.

V watched a Mox push too far ahead.

Her aggression was rewarded with a burst of 5.56 to the right cheek snuffing out her young life before it ever truly began.

"Fuck!" Nox cried out in anger. "Louise is down! Sloane, Kiana! Get your asses up here now!"

V popped out of cover, activating the Kerenzikov cyberware implanted into her nervous system with a single thought. Time dilated down to nearly half speed, allowing her to line up four headshots in little more than two seconds.

Four pulls of the trigger later, and four fresh corpses impacted the floor, sporting picture-perfect holes drilled into their skulls. Retaliatory strikes by angered Tyger Claw shooters fell short when Nox tossed a pair of frag grenades down the hallway.

*Boom!*

Limbs and corpses went flying as V curled up behind her flimsy cover; a shard of shrapnel missed the tip of her nose by inches. The Merc sent a scathing look toward her compatriot, who impassively dismissed the glare and barked out orders to her subordinates.

"Fucking gangers," V muttered under breath.

The western half of Level 55 was under their control within the opening ten minutes, but a pair of machinegun emplacements blocked access into the eastern corridors. Two Mox gangers attempted to push the first gun emplacements blind spot but were shot down by the second static defense.

"Well, this fucking sucks," Anna snarled out. "How the fuck are we getting past these guys?!"

V opened up a communication channel to Rita, who led her own group parallel to their position. "Wheeler! We're pinned down by a machine gun covering the south hallway! I need you to flank that gun and knock it out!"

"Can't do that, V. We're grinding our way through a slog of TC grunts won't be there anytime soon."

Well, this fucking sucks.

Thinking on her feet, V hacked into the floor's security network and scanned through an assortment of CCTV cameras. She was desperate to find a crack in their defenses that she could exploit before their already shitty situation got worse.

Two Tyger Claw heavy gunners had complete domination of the southern corridors. When in their original state, the apartments would have been good concealment; however, since most of the walls were torn down, that option was no longer viable.

V switched to a secondary channel directly to her favorite AI. "Chamber. My team and I are in a heavy bind right now, so please tell me you got something."

"Think I do," Chamber connected their resident Nomad to the call. "Panam, jump in the Phantom. I need you to put that rifle to work."

"Where we going?" The Aldecaldo inquired.

"South side of the building," Chamber replied. "Got two tangos needing an extra hole in their head, pushing you their location."

V creased her brows in confusion. "There are no adjacent rooftops for her to make that shot Chamber."

"Correct," the AI answered. "Which is why we're going to use the Phantom as a platform."

"That's a tough gig," Panam replied without missing a beat. "I don't know if I can make that happen."

"You will. Now jump in the Phantom." The AI's stern voice left no room for argument, and the Nomad resigned to her command. "V, I'm marking a route for you to get underneath their guns. Do not deviate from the pathway, or you're going to be pushing up daisies."

"Copy that we're moving out now."A flash of blue abruptly appeared at her feet, and V followed it into an adjacent apartment. "Nox! Follow me in!"

Anna's cybernetic eyes bugged out. "Are you fucking insane? Ain't no goddamn way am I walking out into that hallway!"

"Just follow me!" V did not argue the point further, uncaring if Nox followed in her wake.

This was the first of many consequences because of Chamber's escapade into V's mind. The AI had complete access to her neural network, which allowed her to push visual markings to her ocular system.

In this case, it was to V's benefit, but that didn't mean she wanted another voice stuck in her head, and Chamber seemed to catch onto her nervousness.

"Yeah, I was here first, after all." A pair of swinging rocker boots materialized on top of a box of ammunition.

"Can you do anything else besides give color commentary?!" Johnny only gave her a smug smile.

"Yeah, check your two o'clock." V pulled her Unity on instinct, finding a pair of Tyger Claw thugs taking shelter behind an overturned dresser.

Four clean shots ended the threat before it could consummate, and she had to avoid Johnny's arrogant stare.

"Fuck you, Johnny." V's crass remark only widened his smirk.

"You wish cupcake." The Rockerboy disappeared into thin air, leaving her to deal with the oncoming storm in mind-clearing silence. "Try not to get yourself killed today."

Nox and the rest of her gang caught up to V's position, a little worse for wear but alive for the most part. The Merc and her companions waded through Tyger Claw corpses and overturned furniture before coming to a halt barely twenty meters from the machinegun nest.

The intensive fire didn't let up once during their grinding army crawl, and a few unlucky Mox got wounded by shrapnel in the process. No fatalities since Louise bought the farm, but auto-docs were a temporary solution to the injured.

"Panam, anytime now?" V tried to keep any modicum of concern from her tone, but it was difficult considering the number of ballistic projectiles flying mere inches above her head.

"Calm down, V." The Nomad proclaimed lightly. "Doing a two-for-one deal."

The Nekomata's frame shook in Panam's grasp, and she struggled to line up a clean shot on the first Tyger Claw gunner. Chamber could calculate and adjust almost variable to long-range sniping, but the human element was unaltered.

It was up to Panam to answer the call.

And answer it, she did.

*Bang*

A clap like thunder echoed from the end of her barrel, and she watched the projectile smash through glass and pierce the jaw of the first Tyger Claw gunner. His fellow heavy felt an explosion of pain crawl up their left arm as the shell tore off the limb from the shoulder down.

The Tyger Claws taking cover behind the heavy gunners fell into momentary disarray, some dove for cover while the rest opened fire on the Phantom. However, the aerodyne was well and gone before any significant damage was inflicted upon its chassis.

"You're clear to move up, V." A satisfied smirk crossed her face as Nox led her subordinates into the mass of disorganized Tyger Claws.

"Thanks for the assist, P. I'll buy you a beer at Lizzie's when this is over."

"Damn right, you will. I'm pushing off to check on our boy. Make sure he isn't biting off more than he can chew." Cyrus had gone silent since breaching level 52, and by all accounts, that shouldn't have worried either of them in the slightest.

But old habits die hard.

"Does he need the backup?" Panam barked out in amusement at V's misplaced concern.

"Probably not, but I'm heading there all the same. Gonna skirt the perimeter and see how he's doing. He's off comms, and Chamber's assured me that he's fine, but I'm going to take a peek nonetheless."

"Keep me posted." The Nomad affirmed her request and hopped off the net.

V followed the trail of Mox directly into the eastern corridors when a rumble rocked the building. Those tremors indicated that Cyrus had breached Level 54, which meant he'd butchered hundreds of Tyger Claw soldiers.

She didn't envy the gangers in the slightest.

"Where the fuck are you, V?! Need help dealing with these fucking Berserkers!"

The Merc rid any thoughts of her wayward choomba and stormed into the meat grinder once again.

Eyes bleeding a crimson hue.


With No Mercy - Secession Studios


Japantown, Megabuilding H8

Level 53, Penthouse Suits

A boot crushed the skull of a begging Tyger Claw into smithereens. The limbs owner wiped the bloodied appendage against the adjacent concrete floor and focused on a large group of gangers scrambling for the elevator.

Cyrus unleashed a barrage of high-explosive shells upon the retreating Tyger Claws, watching their bodies implode on direct contact. Another six kills were added to a growing list of casualties for that day alone.

Level 53 was bustling with activity not moments ago, but now only a toxic silence reigned in its death choked atmosphere.

The Spartan had lost count on the amount of TC that now laid slain at his hand, but Chamber assured him that it was well over a hundred. She allowed the survivors to retreat and sow discord amongst the remaining defenders.

In typical Tyger Claw fashion, they were all butchered by their own cowardly superiors for ironical cowardice. It was a maneuver to instill discipline in their ranks, but it only served to ruin their already precarious morale.

Their leaders were undoubtedly cowering in fear behind a wall of Bloodhounds, some of which had been the only Tyger Claws to die with their honor intact.

Cyrus encountered several elite Bloodhounds, but they weren't agile enough to dodge his MK. 31's explosive shells.

"Ammo check?" The number 412 appeared at the top right of his HUD. "Equipment?"

"All systems are green," Chamber replied. "Took a few dinks from their tech weapons, but the energy shields held up. Didn't expect them to put up that much of a fight considering your reputation."

"Age-old tactic, Chamber. Throw your soldiers into a position where retreat is not an option, and they will prefer death to flight." The AI chuckled in amusement.

"Not all of them." He said nothing to contradict her statement while entering the blood-soaked elevator.

Cyrus could practically see victory on the horizon.

V's assault on Level 55 ensured that the Chieftains could not retreat via the helipad and Judy's direct assault on Clouds snuffed out the passageways leading to Hiromi Sato's apartment.

Nowhere to run.

Nowhere to hide.

Just like Cyrus wanted.

"Where are the targets?" Cyrus drummed his fingers against the MK.31's heavy frame in anticipation.

"Taking shelter in Sato's apartment." A thermal scan of the building revealed dozens of Tyger Claws moving into position to cover the elevator doors. "You got about Eighty hostiles between you and our prize, ten of them are Bloodhounds."

The skies of Night City were starting to lose the bright shade of sunset, and the darkness was encroaching. His crimson gaze had not lost a spec of life as the elevator ground to a halt, his weight added with the quartet of dead Tyger Claws at his feet grated on its supporting limit.

"Tactical options?" Chamber bit her lip in thought.

"Hmmm, a concentrated electrical pulse will fry their optics for a few seconds. The power on the level is cut, and they're running on backup generators providing minimal illumination."

"Smoke out?" Cyrus inquired. A smokescreen coupled with the emp would give him a tactical advantage right out of the gate.

"Yeah, pop some smoke grenades, and it will leak into the hallway. That will keep them off balance for the opening salvo."

"Rodger." He palmed a trio of M6 smoke grenades from his belt, tossing two at his feet and holding the third in his right hand.

"Open the doors and then activate the EMP. Sync?"

"Sync."

"1…2…3." Cyrus tossed the final smoke on cue, narrowly fitting in between the sliding doors and hearing the object bounce before sputtering out its contents.

"OPEN FIRE!" A Tyger Claw lieutenant directed his men to unleash hell upon the sliding doors, but before anyone could act, an electrical pulse scrambled their optics.

"My eyes!"

"I can't fucking see!"

A dozen Tyger Claws lost composure, hands reaching for their bugged-out optics as an electrical current utterly savaged them. Cyrus pressed down on his HMG's oversized trigger and ejected dozens of high explosive rounds directly into the torso of his closest targets.

Fragments of bones and organs were scattered in all directions, leaving steaming corpses to flop onto the floor like dead fish. Chamber transferred most of his auxiliary power into his energy shields, just in time for him to tank a barrage of retaliatory fire.

"They seem angry." The AI commented as a round pinged off his helmet.

"So I've noticed." Cyrus pressed down the corridor, smashing his way through the Tyger Claws' desperate defense.

A single berserker tried his luck jumping out of the shadows with a pair of Mantis Blades, but Cyrus snatched the ganger by his neck and tossed him down the corridor at breakneck speed.

The Berserker impacted one of his compatriots, shattering their bones and emitting moans of pure agony.

Cyrus noted the courage of a select few Tyger Claws in the face of impossible odds, even as the life drained from their eyes. In a past life and a different enemy, they may have been the future of their clan, and maybe they could have led them towards greener pastures.

But this is not one of those instances.

During the skirmish, the ammo to his Mk. 31 finally went dry. A pair of TC Berserkers charged towards him when his HMG ceased firing, forcing Cyrus to use his firearm as a makeshift bat.

A Mantis blade carved through his stock but stopped halfway through. Cyrus dragged the Berserker towards him and crushed his skull with a single brutal blow to his temple.

His partner traded blows and counterstrikes with the Spartan, but he could not land a damaging hit. The Berserker doubled down and lunged at Cyrus's head, leaving him open to a counter strike to his throat.

The ganger choked on his collapsed esophagus, and Cyrus ended his momentary suffering with a punch through his cranium. His hand emerged through the back of his skull, caking his limb in brain matter and blood.

Bullets pinged off his shields as the remaining Tyger Claw soldiers readjusted their optics and fired a wall of projectiles in his general direction. There was no organization to the retaliatory strike, but there is no need in such a confined space.

Cyrus disengaged the ammo box magnetically attached to his back and threw his MK 31 like an Olympic spear into a Tyger Claw grunt, hitting him headfirst. He slid to his right, slamming his right shoulder against a concrete slab and pulling his Copperhead from his back.

"Three tangos pushing your front!" Chamber alerted.

"Sighted." He popped from cover and squeezed three bursts of 7.62, killing the same amount of Tyger Claws scattered down the corridor. Streams of synthetic blood trickled from their gaping wounds with lumps of mutilated flesh and damaged cybernetics.

The volume of fire exchanged between Spartan and Gangers did not equal, where Cyrus inflicted precise and deadly strikes, the Tyger Claws unleashed a mass of bullets and explosives.

"Eyes up!" Chamber warned. "I got a TC with an RPG lining up a shot! Marking now."

Cyrus grunted in acknowledgment and instinctively rolled out of his solid cover to engage the Tyger Claw heavy. A shimmering field of energy wrapped around him protectively as he fired a concentrated burst at his marked target.

A single bullet entered through the Tyger Claws' left clavicle, causing him to fire off his rocket prematurely. The resulting negligent discharge impacted the roof above, blasting a sizeable hole and reigning lethal shrapnel on the heads of those unfortunate TC grunts nearby.

The explosion also caused a duo of Tyger Claws engaging the Mox strike team to fall through, minus their lower limbs. Now, Cyrus could pick out the sounds of gunfire from the floor above, and the black haze consuming his mind lessened.

In the heat of combat, he had disregarded contacting V or Panam on his condition, and Chamber was undoubtedly moonlighting as a buffer between him and their allies.

"Chamber, operation status?" The armored behemoth moved in a blink, shoulder checking a Tyger Claw thug and gunning down another in the abdomen.

"Both strike teams are making good headway. Judy and her team have breached the second level of Clouds and are meeting minimal resistance." Cyrus broke through the smoky haze, his weight crushing the back of a crawling Blitzer and turning him into paste.

"And what about V's strike team?"

"They're dealing with a pair of heavy gunners and Panam's displacing from the rooftop to engage them," Chamber answered. "Progress on the upper level is adequate. Delays are minor."

"Do they need assistance?" Cyrus unsheathed his Kukri and stabbed an overzealous TC Blitzer in the right shoulder, jerking him to the right to absorb a full magazine of 5.56 from one of his many compatriots.

"Negative, they have it handled." The Spartan kicked off the riddled corpse and smashed the thug's face in with the stock of his Copperhead.

More bullets joined the symphony of gunfire, and his energy shields tanked a nasty burst of high explosive shells from a TC gunner. Cyrus swung his Copperhead around and sighted his newest quarry.

The TC heavy gunner mounted a recently deployed static emplacement on a curved barrier, covering the hallway, and recklessly launched hot lead downrange. A half a dozen of his comrades suffered for his carelessness as explosive shells detonated their bodies like a balloon.

Cyrus needed to clear out another fifty meters worth of space, and there was still a substantial contingent of Tyger Claws between him and his targets.

The TC gunner lighting up the hallway was halfway between Cyrus and his objective. In between the gunner and him was twenty meters of open space that he would rather not cross so rashly.

"Shields are holding at 70%! I recommend finding cover!" Cyrus followed his AI's advice and sprinted towards an adjacent apartment, shouldering past the flimsy door and surprising the occupants inside.

He pulled his Copperhead in their general direction and received cries of terror instead of ballistic projectiles. A quick survey assured Cyrus that the occupants inside were harmless to his health.

Four women, sporting bruises and fresh cuts, cowered in the corner of the apartment he had just broken into.

The Tyger Claw chiefs had been pulling working girls from Clouds to serve as maids and….entertainers. Being hunted by Night City's newest enigma had obliged the degenerate gangers to find stress relievers of any kind.

Cyrus sheathed his Copperhead and wrapped both arms around the messy mattress, depositing it against the apartment door. The flimsy cushion wouldn't protect them from bullets or explosions, but it would serve as a barrier to any Tyger Claws looking to enter the apartment.

"Chamber," Cyrus approached the apartment's western wall, punching a fist-sized hole through the plaster. "Alert V and her team to civilians on Level 54. I need them extracted immediately."

"Already on it," Chamber watched her Spartan tear a sizeable gap to the next apartment, finding a room empty of human life. "There mopping up the last vestiges of TC resistance up top. You need the backup?"

"Negative, keep them off the floor until I say otherwise." He used a thermal scan to locate the TC gunner's exact location and breached the next room over. The insane amount of thunderous gunfire inside the corridor masked his dismantling of another wall of plaster.

When the gunfire finally ceased, a Tyger Claw officer barked out orders to his subordinates. "You four get up to that room and frag him out!"

When they rightfully hesitated, the officer drew his pistol on them, "I wasn't asking!"

Cyrus planted a miniature breaching charge below an expensive television set parallel to the gunner's position. Chamber synced up to the system, and he stood ready at the apartment door, watching the quartet of Tyger Claws slowly approach the apartment he had doven into earlier.

"Detonate on my go." A hum of approval reverberated as Cyrus watched the thug's thermal signatures crossed his vision. He drew both Unity's magnetized to his thighs and patiently waited to unleash his own volatile ambush.

"Go." Chamber detonated the breaching charge on his command, knocking the heavy gunner back and caking him in wooden shrapnel. A single piece of debris lodged itself through his throat and pinned him against the far wall, slowly killing him with a mix of blood loss and choking.

One of the TC thugs sent on their suicide mission received a brutal clothesline from Cyrus as he burst through the steel door. His compatriots faired little better; each received a single ballistic hell to their cerebral cortex, dropping them like a sack of potatoes.

The Tyger Claw officer that knowingly sent his men on a suicide mission suffered the same fate as his subordinates. Any measure of coordination amongst the TC grunts fell into disarray once their lieutenant bit the dust.

A free for all melee broke out, and it was easy pickings for Cyrus to carve his way through the remaining Tyger Claw soldiers. He ripped the skull off the sole surviving grunt when the TC elites finally decided to get off their asses.

"Bloodhound, three o'clock!" Chamber's warning was followed by a flash of blue crossing his vision.

Two Bloodhounds broke off from the group of ten holding security just outside Sato's apartment.

Cyrus was a tiny bit curious with the strategy employed by the TC Elites. He was expecting a full-frontal coordinated assault once he eliminated the last cannon fodder in between them.

So this scattered assault was nowhere near the strategy Cyrus had predicted they would employ.

Maybe this was them throwing in the towel.

"DEMON!" Cyrus parried an overhead attack with his right forearm, grabbing the first Tyger Claw elite by the throat. He squeezed down on the Bloodhounds larynx forcing synthetic and crimson blood to pour out and block his airways.

"Kasai!" A female Bloodhound slashed at Cyrus's hand, attempting to sever the hand and free her dying compatriot. The Monowire wrapped around his forearm, forcing him to release the gagging Tyger Claw and drag the female elite towards him.

The Spartan pulled the Unity magnetized in his free hand and jammed the pistol directly into the elite's torso, firing two rounds that shattered her sternum and sent her collapsing on the ground, cradling her grievous wounds.

Surprisingly the remaining eight Bloodhounds were unwilling to engage like their more reckless comrades—a notion that Cyrus was unaccustomed to experiencing considering their tendency to snort narcotics before a fight.

Much like their deceased brethren, these Bloodhounds were unlike the usual Tyger Claw elites Cyrus had butchered his way through.

Each of them wore tactical black clothing with a harness strapped to their torso, containing an assortment of knives and blades. Some possessed Katanas as their main weaponry, and a few had their black sleeves rolled up with Mantis Blades at the ready.

Their only standout feature for Cyrus was the blackened oni strapped over their balaclavas. That unique distinction indicated this group of Bloodhounds were, amusingly enough, members of the TC's elite 'Oni' group.

A handpicked group of Bloodhounds trained and mentored by a Tyger Claw Elite that stood tall above the rest.

That mentor, older than the rest of his compatriots by many decades, stepped forward, allowing Cyrus the first visual confirmation on the so-called Tyger Claw 'Panther.'

"Kasai and Tamai." The grey-haired Bloodhound motioned to his dead subordinates. "Reckless in life as they were in death."

Araki Shigeko was a legend amongst his now failing clan, leading the Tyger Claws Bloodhound detachment with a cold calculated intellect. In the criminal underground, he was rightly feared and possessed a gravitas that Cyrus respected.

Which made his strategy to let two of his subordinates attack him in an uncoordinated effort pause his assault in morbid curiosity.

Panther paused in belated thought, toying with a black katana held in his grasp. "Do you know who I am?"

"Another name to my list." A small smile crossed Araki's face at the Headhunter's cold response.

"You do not mince words," Araki replied sternly."I can respect that, and I understand your motivations, Hunter."

To be designated as a Hunter in the clan's culture indicated a level of reverence for a warrior's skill, especially for those not affiliated with the Tyger Claws.

The Panther was trying to butter him up with praise, indicating he wanted something out of this conversation.

Araki wouldn't waste words conversing with Cyrus if he wanted bloodshed alone.

"You understand nothing," The Spartan remarked harshly. "Now, what do you want?"

"A duel." Araki supplied earnestly. "My life for the lives of my men."

"What makes you think I'd let any of you walk away from this tower alive?" Cyrus really wished he'd killed Kenmochi now. Then at the very least, he would be trading gunfire with these Bloodhounds instead of words.

"Value, Hunter." The Panther began. "You allowed Taki Kenmochi to live because she has value to your goals, and I am willing to offer you something of equal value."

Araki stepped forward, tossing the Katana towards Cyrus, and the Spartan regarded the weapon carefully. The craft was pristine for even the uninitiated. Its squared guard was ordained in tendrils made of dragons, and engraved into the blade was an old samurai proverb.

Honour may not win power, but it wins respect

The Katana beautiful piece of craftsmanship, but Cyrus was not interested in receiving a gift to spare the life of eight Tyger Claw Bloodhounds. But the blade was not meant to be a contribution for the Spartan.

It was a weapon to be utilized.

"I propose a duel to the death. Should you prove victorious, my followers will swear loyalty to your cause above all." One of his subordinates, a Bloodhound clothed in black tactical wear, was nowhere near willing to let his superior throw his life away.

"Master, I-" Araki glanced in his direction, eyes dancing with a chilling fury.

"Be silent, Iwasaki. The decision has been made, and you will heel to my command."

The curtailed elite fell back in line, but the anxious atmosphere amongst his colleagues did not dissipate. Tyger Claw Bloodhounds were all specially trained by Araki in the ancient arts of bushido, but only a select few earned his respect during the process.

Those chosen few stood behind him even in the face of a terrifying creature that tore down the very clan they all served.

What had to unnerve their fraying nerves more was Araki's adamant conviction in giving them a second chance when honor alone demanded they all combat the Headhunter here and now.

It only further cemented how useless it was to cross blades with the Headhunter.

The offer itself was a tempting prospect to Chamber more than Cyrus. The AI's desire to increase their influence in Night City was mirrored only by his yearning to eliminate all who would stand against him.

"Cyrus?" Chamber interrupted his thoughts. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking that I should have killed Kenmochi," he snapped sharply. "Then I wouldn't be fielding questions with a Tyger Claw right now."

"I think we should take it." That didn't surprise him in the slightest. "Seven Bloodhounds under our command would be a huge boost to our capabilities."

"Maybe. But I don't need you blinded by your aspiration to increase our authority in Night City, Chamber. After this, we're setting boundaries on what agents I am willing to let you employ." Cyrus sheathed his Unity and held the gifted Katana in his right hand, slightly dipping the blade towards Araki, who nodded towards him.

"I thank you for this opportunity." Cyrus snorted in barely contained amusement at Araki's words, drawing a curious eyebrow from the Tyger Claw Captain.

"For all you know, I'll kill your men after I'm done with you." A broad smirk crossed Araki's expression.

"I believe you're a man of honor, Hunter."

"Honor has nothing to do with it," Cyrus remarked. "I'm indulging a dead man's last wish."

Araki snatched a Katana from one of his subordinates and flashed towards Cyrus. The Panther was equipped with top-of-the-line Sandevistan and Kereznikov cyberware.

To the naked human eye, the TC elite was practically teleporting across the hallway.

For Cyrus, all it did was make the fight more interesting.

As the edge of Araki's blade ground against the concrete floor, arcs of electricity licked alongside it before Cyrus parried the downward blow with his own Katana.

The impact spawned a burst of erratic energy that momentarily knocked out power to the corridor, leaving only the tendrils of electricity as illumination.

The last time Cyrus engaged in a bladed duel was when he crossed paths with an Elite Spec Ops named Vasa 'Vrarumee. An honor-bound fool attempting to avenge the deaths of his section at his hand.

Vasa died screaming.

"You are skilled in the art of the Samurai?" Araki inquired, putting his full weight into their deadlock.

"You talk too much," Cyrus retorted, grabbing the TC by his left shoulder and tossing him into the far wall.

Rising to his full height, Araki readjusted the grip on his Katana, shooting a glance towards his underlings. More than a few of them possessed a tight grip on their weapons, a collection of Katana's and Mantis blades ready to be utilized at a moment's notice.

A subtle shake of the head loosened their tense grips, but only slightly. Araki knew if his followers engaged the Headhunter now, their lives would be forfeit. They'd all bore witness to the carnage he'd inflicted upon the syndicates of Night City firsthand, but that's where a difference of opinion divided them.

Araki's followers mistook the Headhunter for a mercenary, nothing more and nothing less.

But he saw different.

The Headhunter was a force that Night City was ill-prepared to handle. There was nothing in the history of the human race where a single entity could shatter the very foundations of the world.

And that frightened him above all else.

The Headhunter wasn't a vigilante lost in the scramble of his own gratification.

There was a purpose to his madness, and Araki was the only one in the Tyger Claws with the foresight to see where that purpose was leading to.

A great storm was coming to this decadent city.

And when a storm is marching towards you, there laid only two options to take.

Endure it.

Or follow it.

Araki wished he could live long enough to see it. But his time had passed, and now all he could do was fight for the future of his disciples. He could only hope the Headhunter was a man of principle and not the bloodthirsty machine his followers pegged him to be.

Araki reengaged a patiently waiting Cyrus, and for the spectators, it was a harrowing experience. For years they had fallen short of making their master even break a sweat during spars. He was a formidable Bloodhound, capable of tremendous feats and nearly immortal in the eyes of his followers.

To see their master being taken to task so easily was…degrading.

Cyrus kicked Araki in the sternum, finishing off a flurry of attacks that he had no hope of defending. His left ribcage caved in on itself, and his internal subdermal plating was fractured along his torso.

This was no duel.

It was a surgery.

And Cyrus was the surgeon.

A moment's uncertainty cost Araki.

The slight hitch in his form telegraphed an overhead strike that Cyrus intercepted with his right forearm. The Spartan's energy shields flickered as the electrical currents fought against it, and Araki struggled to pierce the protective barrier.

Cyrus kicked at Araki's right calf, forcing him to disengage or suffer a broken fibula.

The Headhunter advanced on the Bloodhound, slicing long the line of his ribs and cutting a sizeable laceration underneath his right arm. It was a killing blow for someone without subdermal armor, for the blade would have slid in between his ribs unimpeded.

However, the force behind the blow was enough to knock the wind out of Araki, leaving him gasping for oxygen as he struggled to parry a lightning strike to his neck.

With a silent dash, Cyrus pressed the attack. Araki's off-balance posture left him at the mercy of a brutal strike to his abdomen. The gifted Katana pierced through his back, and blood sputtered out of Araki's mouth.

It was a valiant yet ultimately futile effort to draw swords with the avatar of death, and Araki knew this was the only way it could end.

The Spartan pulled the Katan free of its meaty sheath and rested the blade just beneath the crook of his neck. Cyrus would have left him to bleed out if he were anyone else, but the Bloodhound had managed to earn a modicum of respect from the Headhunter.

A quick death was the least Cyrus could do for him.

A flick of the wrist later, Araki's head flopped to the floor, belatedly followed by his bruised and bloodied corpse.

Araki Shigeko, the feared 'Panther' of the Tyger Claws, laid dead at the Headhunter's feet. Where mercenaries and vigilantes would celebrate in jubilation, he stepped over the corpse, not giving it a second glance.

To Cyrus, it was just another name on a long list that got shorter every day.

Shigeko's followers tensed up, hands falling onto their weapons once more, unsure if Cyrus would follow through with their master's dying wish.

Seconds ticked by, and the only sound was the clang of Cyrus's Katana magnetizing to his back. The Spartan regarded the now-former followers of Araki Shigeko, and for an unknown length of time, no one made a move.

"Tell me, Iwasaki Tsukasa," the Spartans metallic voice drew the man's gaze away from his dead master. "A man of your talents and skill, why join the Tyger Claws?"

Whether he knew it or not, Iwasaki had the fate of his comrades in his hands. Cyrus let Taki Kenmochi live because she could be helpful to his plans, and he would apply that same concept upon the seven Bloodhounds before him.

Iwasaki stared into that black abyss that his master fell into not seconds before. Any previous opinions he had about the Night City Headhunter were replaced by a freezing terror.

And yet, the inquiry took him by surprise and forced his mind to register the question slowly.

Why did Iwasaki, a man of incredible capabilities and talent, fall in line with a demented gang like the Tyger Claws.

The answer was far simpler than most realized.

"Fear. I feared death," he began, tentatively waving to his nervous compatriots standing behind him. "I fear waking up one night with nothing because I was born to nothing. All of us joined the Tyger Claws because Master Shigeko gave us a home where we could protect ourselves through strength, and now we have nothing once again."

"You have your lives." Cyrus retorted, drawing a humorless chuckle from the 25-year-old Bloodhound.

"Not if they're held in your hands."

"The promises of a dead man do not affect the living." The Bloodhounds bristled at the insult towards his deceased master.

"That, 'dead man,'" Iwasaki bit out. "Was the reason I came from nothing."

"He's also the reason you're still breathing, but I am not here to debate the wishes of the deceased. Araki died under the hope I would let you all live, but that is not my prerogative." Cyrus stepped towards the Bloodhounds, watching them take a hesitant step back in mild amusement.

"I do not demand allegiance from any of you. The question I ask is simple. Can any of you see yourself dying for a cause not defined by greed or lust for power?"

It was an apt question that came to his mind. If change was to come to this city, it must be cultivated in the hearts of its inhabitants. Hope alone does not ensure change. Opportunity was as much a factor in the eyes of those with more to lose than gain when expecting them to serve a cause bigger than themselves.

The Spartan's gargantuan height loomed over Shigeko's followers. "If you are unable, I will give you a chance to flee. To leave this city before the night is over because if you are still here when the clock strikes midnight. I will hunt you, and I will kill you."

The sheer blankness in Cyrus's tone sent sparks of fear up the Bloodhounds spines, and none could find even a trace of emotion in his voice. He spoke with such emptiness that it was almost like he considered it a meaningless chore to kill seven of the Tyger Claws' best killers.

"But," Cyrus began. "If you chose to follow me, if you devote yourself to an ideal that fights for the people you once were. The very people that have nothing but the clothes on their back and the oxygen coursing through their lungs, then you will be called upon to serve the interests and aspirations unfit for the egotistical or the greedy. I will give you a foundation to live by and a purpose to die for."

"I will give you and your children a future. A future not dictated by quotas or corporate interests." His voice no longer terrified them, and each of the Bloodhounds hung on every word he spoke with fervent belief. This wasn't a vigilante seeking to indulge himself.

This was a man devoted to fracturing the very foundations of decadence and corruption. Traits that every member of Araki Shigeko

"But that is your choice, and choice is all anyone can ask for." The Spartan stared into the souls of every single Bloodhound, his will easily consuming theirs like a shadow in the moonlight.

Finally, Iwasaki, the only Bloodhound to voice his displeasure with his master's suicidal decision and speak to the Headhunter, acted.

The Tyger Claw elite bowed his head and fell to a single knee, crossing his left hand over his chest and planting his right on the bloodied floor.

His actions caused Cyrus to narrow his eyes, but they widened slightly when it was mimicked by his subordinates. One by one, the deadliest Bloodhounds in the Tyger Claws employ kneeled at the feet of Night City's newest legend and declared their new allegiance in a single powerful voice.

"We will serve."


Night City citizens could take to the streets in the future and wonder when everything changed, and they would get a single date in response.

July 31st, 2077.

The day the Tyger Claws ceased to exist.

The events surrounding their demise would reach far and wide.

Some said it was at the hands of the Headhunter himself.

While a select minority believed it was a coordinated strike orchestrated by him alongside the Mox.

But all agreed that he played a part in their destruction.

They would never know the final nail in the coffin was arranged by the Tyger Claws own elite detachment of Bloodhounds that swore allegiance to the Night City Headhunter himself.

"Leave the Chieftains. Kill the rest."

Six words was all it took to send his newly acquired demons on a rampage through Hiromi Sato's apartment. The pure shock in the cybernetics gaze of each Tyger Claw Chief was plain to see, and their meager security guards were no match against the Bloodhounds that once served aloingside them.

Sato's once pristine apartment was now covered in crimson liquid and scattered corpses. The entire command structure of the Tyger Claws was destroyed in one fell swoop.

The half a dozen remaining TC Captains and several lieutenants were butchered to a man. Iwasaki and his fellow demons saw fit to end their lives with a single slash to their necks, especially those who disrespected Araki Shigeko when he served under their command.

Minutes later, six Tyger Claw Chieftains sat on their knees before the Night City Headhunter. Each of them had a Katana held precariously against their vulnerable necks by their former Bloodhounds.

Six names. Masaki Osawa, Takehiro Chiba, Taki Kazo, Jun Azegami, Marcus Ichida, and Hiromi Sato.

"You sons of bitches!" Jun Azegami was always a hothead, and even in the face of death, he couldn't keep his mouth shut. "You think you can betray me and get away with it? You're all dead men! You hear me! I'll-"

With a nod of his head, the Bloodhound sliced his throat open with a flick of her Mantis Blade. Spurts of crimson sputtered out, and the Tyger Claw chieftain was left to die in his own blood.

Taki Kazo, Masaki Osawa, and Takehiro Chiba begged for their lives, but the only mercy they were given was a near-instantaneous death via decapitation. Hiromi Sato prayed that his silence would buy him some alleviation, but Cyrus had other plans.

Sato was known to take advantage of the Clouds working girls, and that was a transgression that needed to be handled by the offended parties. Cyrus knocked him unconscious with a tap on the head and had one of the Bloodhounds drag him into the hallway.

That is when a smug-looking Marcus Ichida spoke in an arrogant tone.

"You didn't think it'd be that easy, did you, Hunter?" Cyrus leaned closer, allowing the Tyger Claw to see his reflection in his visor. "You kill me, then this entire tower goes up in a ball of fire. I got enough explosives to take out the top twenty floors, and they're all synced to my heartbeat. If I go, everyone goes."

Somewhere in that feeble mind of his, Ichida believed he could turn this into a negotiation and not an execution.

"Do you know how many people live in this block, hunter?" Cyrus's following words took the wind out of his lungs.

"130,000 souls." The Spartan tossed the number around his head for a moment. "That's a lie, actually. There's about two hundred less after today."

"There's going to be 40,000 less if you kill me right now," Ichida countered, trying to regain confidence in his foolish plan.

"Are you so sure?" Cyrus snatched the Tyger Claw chief by his throat, dragging him to the porch outside and holding him high over the side of the building.

"Tell me, Ichida. Does your trigger have the ability to get through 55 levels of concrete and steel or cover the distance of half a kilometer?"

Marcus's frightened eyes was enough of an answer for Cyrus. He pulled his right arm back and slung the Tyger Claw chief over 500 meters through the Night City Skyline.

His terrified screams dissipated until only the audible smash of human bones on concrete echoed through the city.

"I didn't think so either."

Cyrus reentered the apartment, directing Iwasaki and the Bloodhounds to start tossing the place for any useful intelligence.

"Would you have done that if I hadn't disabled his explosives already?" Chamber chimed in lightly.

"Probably not," Cyrus admitted without hesitation. "Are we ready to begin phase four?"


Drunken Whaler - Dishonored Soundtrack


Phase four.

The final piece to the operation that no one else knew about.

"Ready and waiting," Chamber replied with a broad smile.

"Then let's spread the word."

Throughout Night City, monitors televising entertainment, news media, and other miscellaneous forms of nightly television turned into static. Radio channels broadcasting on every non-essential channel produced only white noise.

In Camp August, Dana Parker and her outcasts waited with bated breath as their Ham Radios fell into disarray. Cyrus warned beforehand not to worry about the loss of signal as it would be done by his hand.

In the safety of Complex 29-B, Alex Decker stared at her screen in momentary confusion before remembering the date and the reasons behind it. Her tech sergeants and platoon commanders scrambled to reestablish their comms in the command center when she entered, assuring them that this was a temporary loss of communication.

In the Salinas District, Taki Kenmochi and her men waited with anticipation. She had already informed her subordinates that their days as Tyger Claw gangers were over. The confusion in their eyes and expressions was plain for her to see, but she convinced them that there would be no retaliation.

Because the TC had bigger problems.

In a hidden base nestled in the forests of Venezuela was a cadre of talented but overlooked individuals standing stoically around a monitor. Tonight their convictions would become a reality they could set their eyes on. They required only a single solitary spark to light the fire brewing inside them.

In a house on the outskirts of North Oak, a woman whose age and kindness was mistakened far more than she liked stared into her television screen in a trance. Her youngest daughter nestled in between her arms and sleeping soundlessly. Memories flashing in a cacophony of images that would have overwhelmed the typical human mind consumed her vision.

All across Night City, millions of people stood in nervous silence as a humanoid shape outlined by white and black lines appeared on their screens.

A single voice filled with a static tone broadcasted a message for some and a warning for others.

"Citizens of Night City. My name is Cypher. Some of you call me a different name, but that is irrelevant. I come from a place far from here, and I have journeyed across inhospitable lands to reach you. Tonight I broadcast a message for the few Tyger Claws that have managed to escape my wrath."

All objectives were met, and now exfil was the only logical option remaining. Cyrus stowed his remaining equipment and motioned for his Bloodhounds with a subtle glance in their direction.

"Follow."

One word was all it took to make the former Tyger Claw elites fall into a near practiced formation, trailing his flanks and matching his quickened pace.

It was a scene that made Chamber's broadened smirk grow into a canary smile.

It was a sight that Valerie Vargas and a group of Mox stumbled onto in muted awe.

It was an action that would shake the very foundations of Night City.

V, who was beckoned by Chamber to retrieve the hostages held on level 54, could only watch in astonishment. Cyrus led a group of Bloodhounds that served their enemy not seconds before into the darkness.

"Your leaders are dead. All of them, every Chief, every Captain, and every Lieutenant you call master are corpses. To the survivors, I say this. Your time as a clan is over. I will grant you chosen few a reprieve. You have two hours to burn your flags, tear down your colors, and remove your insignias. Because after that deadline I will hunt all of you. Starting tonight, the Tyger Claws are no more."

The Merc didn't know it at the time, but on that night, in that tower. Cyrus was laying the foundation to a carefully crafted plan months in the making that would turn Night City on its head, and she would get a front-row seat to it all.

"To the corrupt politicians, the greedy corporations, and the criminal syndicates that have bled this city dry, I say this."

A cold sweat crossed the foreheads of every corporate executive and criminal kingpin still breathing in Night City. And for the first time in decades for the select few who instilled fear in the souls of Night City's population felt a frozen hand grip their beating hearts.

"You're next."

On this night, Cyrus laid the groundwork defined in two words from a long-dead language.

Two words that produced an uneasy chill that slowly crawled down the spines of corporations, criminal syndicates, and corrupt governments worldwide.

"Semper Vigiles."


This was a fun chapter to make and I hope a Spartan taking charge of seven elite Bloodhounds doesn't kill your enthusiasm too much. Because a Headhunter needs more than augmentations and skill to change the world.

Everyone needs allies.

Anyway, I am taking summer classes so this will affect the release dates of the next two chapters, unfortunately. Fitting a semester's worth of courses in one month will eat up a lot of my time. So unfortunately updates may happen every two weeks until July or the next one may not release until a month from now.

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

To the hundreds of people leaving reviews and following the story. You are breathtaking. Stay classy everyone.


Reviews:

MEleeSmasher: She will be one of several agents in an intricate web consuming Night City, but if she doesn't come through death is around the corner.

CandyBaron: She does but the issue is finding the materials to manufacture those weapons without causing alarm. Stealing equipment from corporations is an easy cover up but it's hard to maintain anonymity when new and deadly gear is introduced. They're always looking for improvement but bringing in UNSC gear isn't a top priority at the current moment.

edboy4926: Still working on my summaries but I am happy you enjoyed the story so far.


Next Chapter: Earliest June 13th. Latest July 4th.