Chapter Thirty Six
January 11th, 2097
New Athens, The Commonwealth
Lake House, Laguna Bend
Achievements, tragedies, and catastrophes define the entire cycle of humanity's bloody history. From prehistoric times to the modern era, Earth's most dominant species has ensured that every moment of its existence has been marked in blood.
To document these events is a taxing prospect that requires the unedited accumulation of knowledge about the critical events that have shaped humanity.
Journalism is one of the few trades that can reach the darkest corners of society and the brightest in the same narrative. It exposes all to the truth, but it is also subject to biases from source and receiver.
Amanda Wilson, a journalist with the NA29 news network, clenches her fist tightly. Her attempts to stamp down the nervous butterflies pooling at the bottom of her stomach meet with little success despite her surroundings.
There is a pleasant sensation quietly seeping from her comfortable environment. The Lake house is a quiet little café hosting a small town of over 6,000 inhabitants, many with ties to the venerated Custodians.
Her object of interest was a former member of Blackwatch, the Custodians Special Operations Corps, living alongside other retired operators at Laguna Bend. It is a peaceful little town on the edge of a crystal lake where many of the Old Guard now resided with their families.
It is a scenery that is unlike the recent tumultuous nature of humanity.
Peace is a foreign concept that will never be used lightly during the stagnating and debilitating age known as the 21st century. While technology reaches the inconceivable, human nature remained forever limited by its capacity for bloodshed and greed.
If corporations and corrupt governments weren't fighting one another, then they spent their time manipulating the citizenry into husks of human emotion. For nearly a century, despair ran rampant through all facets of civilization until a near-supernatural entity emerged from the darkness.
Since his emergence more than twenty years ago, all spectrums of Night City's citizenry have made up their own assumptions of the enigma that forever would be Cypher.
Some regard him as a god amongst men, who must be vehemently worshiped at all times, and the institutions he founded must be venerated second to none.
Others simply view Cypher as an enigma whose motivations and beliefs would forever be lost to history. Still, his uncompromising stance against the decadence of society leaves him in a favorable light.
A grumbling few continue to disagree with his methods, but their complaints ring hollow considering the society he helped establish, even if it was built upon the ashes of the old world.
The Commonwealth is still a budding nation, but its foundations are built upon the blood and legacy of its motherland.
When explorers first stepped upon the American heartland all those centuries ago. They set in motion the events that would birth a nation dedicated to the full spectrum of human achievement.
While the United States of America was born of principled virtues, the last century has proven that it has fallen far from its roots. Corporations ruled over public services and superseded all government functions in all levels of society.
Knowledge, innovation, integrity, and adaptability are but a select few virtues of humanity lost under a century of corrupt and depraved leadership where greed took precedent above all.
For decades many wondered if the whims of corporate masters would forever direct their life. Unfortunately, many would spend most of their natural life stumbling in the darkness without a beacon of light.
For change to be affected, weapons and soldiers must be raised under a common banner, and Cypher became the uniting factor for the Commonwealth.
So it is unsurprising that the winds of revolution that established the Commonwealth started with two words from a long-dead language.
Amanda chuckled to herself, tugging on the hem of her skirt and pressing down the wrinkles forming from her constant fidgeting.
She had grown on his mythos like many children of Night City during his emergence, and it was hard not to venerate him on instinct. Cyrus was always a quiet man who kept to himself during his short stay at Dana's camp.
Amanda missed him dearly, and she was certain Adam felt the same way, but the legend of Cypher has grown with each passing year.
Her anxiety threatened to take hold of her, but this was an interview Amanda had fought tooth and nail to obtain. While the Custodians became a public face for the Commonwealth, the old guard who fought in those early bloody conflicts under Cypher's banner fell silent.
Hundreds of reporters sought to obtain firsthand accounts of the elite operators who were the first to take up the Custodian cause, but all were professional soldiers who lived in a cone of silence.
Amanda was lucky to have the connections and reputation to convince this former Blackwatch Operator to come forward with his story.
His name was Sergeant James 'Grim' Morrison. He served with Blackwatch's 1st Drop Trooper Battalion, nicknamed Warlock by their sister detatchments. A storied military unit that fought from the tropical forests of Venezuela to the desert plains of California.
In most cases, Amanda would have been livid that her source would make her wait nearly an hour for their arrival, but Morrison was an exception to the rule.
"Ms. Wilson?" A voice rustled Amanda from her thoughts, and she found an older gentleman who aged like fine wine over her right shoulder.
"Mr. Morrison." His tiny smile was infectious, and the slight nod in confirmation put her at ease. Amanda motioned to the booth in front of her, heedless of the subtle glances of the cafe's customers and employees.
Small towns like these knew one another by heart, and even the barest of conversations had the potential to draw unwanted attention. Morrison knew this and sent the potential rumor mill grinding to a halt with a stern visage.
"Thank you for coming." Amanda's amicable statement was answered with a sharp rise of Morrison's hand.
"I wouldn't be here if we hadn't vetted you already." She took his veiled meaning at face value.
Morrison may have been retired, but the soldiers of Blackwatch, current and former, are a tight-knit group. Few could pierce their veil of secrecy without retribution, and even fewer walked away without physical reminders of their transgressions.
"Now," Morrison's chocolate brown eyes bore into her diminutive green orbs. "What do you want to talk about?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Her statement was light and full of mirth, and Morrison nodded in humourous understanding.
"Where do you want to start?"
Amanda cleared her throat and adjusted her posture, activating the recording software in her cyberware with all the grace of a seasoned reporter.
"Tell me about yourself." The journalist began. "From what I understand, you came over with Colonel Reyes from the Lazarus PMC corporation."
"I did," Morrison stated. "I and a handful of other Lazarus Operatives took issue with the corporation's approach to the unwilling natives of Costa Rica. It was my first and last deployment with Lazarus."
Morrison blinked, mouth turning dry as he recalled the brutal butchering Lazarus inflicted on dozens of innocent villages. His azure-colored eyes became hollow, and it took a tremendous amount of discipline not to fall into despair over the recollections.
"…..The events that led to this split are only for me to know, but it opened the door to me joining Sicario. It is a decision that I have never regretted in my life."
Amanda adjusted her optics, centering on the reminiscing expression crossing his aged features. For a moment, Morrison lost himself to memories that had long since been forgotten, some pleasant others not so much.
It came as a surprise when he immediately schooled his features and asked his inquiry. "What do you know of our actions in Venezuela?"
Amanda's brows furrowed as her mind raced for an answer. "The only concrete truth I know is that Venezuela was where Blackwatch first came about."
Morrison nodded sharply. "Back then, our Special Operations Corps was called Sicario. Concurrently it was the designation assigned to all Custodian forces while we were moonlighting as a Mercenary Company contracted by the Assembly. We didn't feel the need to expose ourselves to Arasaka or Militech just yet."
"Why the name change?"Amanda inquired mainly for the ignorant members of the audience that would watch the interview at a later date.
"Sicario is Spanish for hitman," Morrison politely answered. "Cypher wanted us to step away for ay sort of relation to mercenaries. He made it clear that the Custodians were not guns for hire that could be bought out. We had a purpose, a calling that every one of us believes in."
"What did you believe in?" A pair of azure orbs regarded her with a conviction that practically rooted her in place. That same fanatical belief is reflected in the eyes of every former Custodian in the café.
"That there was a future outside of being nothing more than a slave to corporate ambitions." A fire brimmed in Morrison's gaze. "That there was more to life than being a cog in a corrupt machine that ringed you dry until you dropped dead."
Murmurs and shouts of agreement came from all angles, and Amanda couldn't help the small smile playing on her lips. The people here came from differentiating backgrounds, and yet all regarded one another as flesh and blood.
For all his faults when it came to social interactions, Cyrus united the masses and disenfranchised under a common banner. A trait that she was lucky to experience firsthand all those years ago.
Amanda sought to reengage Morrison once again and inquired about the most famous battle in the Venezuela campaign.
"Were you at Maracay?" The former Blackwatch Operative blinked once before recollections of Sicario's first combat deployment.
Morrison barked once in amusement, eyes glassed over as he recalled the brutal combat at Maracay.
"It was my first day as a member of Blackwatch...It was hot, sandy, and chaotic." A memory flashed to the front of his mind. "Nothing at all like the luxurious and candid operations of Lazarus….."
He took a deep calming breath. "…Of course, that's pretty much the way it was for all of us, wasn't it?"
Morrison's gaze turned to the customers who were quietly listening in on his retelling. Dozens of eyes began to recall the violent and brutal action at Maracay, the first of many mass deployments involving Warlock Battalion.
"….All that misery, all those years of training...It doesn't really prepare you for all the screaming or the blood, does it? Frankly, I'm still amazed we made it through the first hour, never mind the first day."
Decided to release a short Chapter for everyone while I recover from my burns and go on vacation. This will set the stage for military action based in between Cyrus's actions in Night City. Enjoy the rest of your summer and stay safe out there.
Next Chapter: August 17th. AC in my house is out and I am still recovering from my burns. I am delaying it another week to give myself more time to recover.