l...l


Chapter Forty Four

August 23rd, 2077

Night City, Northern California

Bloodhound Sanctuary, Northside

Of all the things Iwasaki was prepared for when Cypher's Phantom touched down outside of their Sanctuary, a War Hound was most definitely nowhere near the top of that list.

In fact, it wasn't even on it in the first place.

Iwasaki wasn't quite sure what to expect, but honestly, he shouldn't have been surprised that Cypher went out and got a fucking pet with razor-sharp teeth and snarled at them whenever one of his companions got close.

Her name is Luna, and she needs medical attention. Take care of her.

The Bloodhound couldn't help but glare at Cypher's vague message. Vulture almost got his head torn off by Luna after the Phantom's cargo doors slid open.

Iwasaki would have found the entire thing amusing if Motozawa wasn't currently getting sewn up by Umeki.

And he was predictably irritating.

"FUCKING FIDO!" Vulture shrieked in pain as Sparrow looped a suture through his fresh wound. "I'm going to feed him to the fucking Scavers!"

"It's a girl, you idiot." Falcon scolded as he leaned over the chessboard. "And Luna is more than capable of ripping your jaw out if you tried."

"Fuck that noise!" Vulture retorted. "Just give me five minutes, and I'll make a carpet out of her fucking fur!"

"Does he ever give up?" Ocelot muttered under his breath while moving his Knight.

"Unfortunately, our Sensei has yet to remove his tongue."

"That's because Motozawa keeps his mouth shut around him." Falcon took a swig from his canteen after unscrewing the cap. His pride was wounded, and his mouth was parched from getting his ass kicked in chess.

He passed the water canteen to Ocelot and spared a glance towards their new canine guest and his surroundings.

Sparrow was treating Luna across the room from Vulture, and Motozawa was still behaving like the useless imbecile he was while Leopard was stitching him up. Luna seemed amused by his threats, judging by the fanged smile she flashed at her new chew toy.

Eagle and Tiger were anxiously monitoring their communication relays for a missive from Cypher. After their deep exploration in the cities catacombs, Iwasaki and his team were on standby, waiting for a call from their Sensei concerning their next move.

None of the Bloodhounds had much faith in these so-called Sirens to uphold their word and execute the necessary retribution against the Meatman. Iwasaki had half a mind to start teaching the Banshees a lesson in violence when the Matriarch called a truce between her people and Cypher's followers.

The Sirens didn't know how lucky they were that night.

Falcon didn't mind in the slightest regarding the Meatman's fate because the psychopath was off the streets and in custody. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless as far as he was concerned.

Until their Sensei's return, all the Bloodhounds could do was continue their training and bide their time.

Falcon filled his free time with playing chest with his companions, a hobby that was currently waylaid by Vulture's constant bitching especially since Ocelot was proving to be a difficult challenge compared to his usual opponents.

The CQC Specialist was down a few pawns after a failed queen's gambit opening move, and the match hadnt gotten any better for him. Unlike Vulture, Ocelot managed to keep his expression neutral and gave nothing away for Falcon to pick up on.

Things weren't made any easier with Vulture's constant whining in the background.

"Jaguar!" Yokono Kazutoshi lowered his book and turned towards Falcon. "Give him some fucking anesthetic, please!"

The Bloodhound shrugged his shoulders and approached Motozawa, who was restrained. Iwasaki had no choice but to tether him in order to keep him still and away from their Sensei's War Hound.

"Fuck off, Yokono! I swear to god if you lay a hand on me, I'll fucking gut you in your sleep!" Vulture hissed vehemently, his green eyes flashing with terror and his teeth visible for a brief second.

Jaguar was undeterred by his threats, and inflicted a concentrated bloe to the obnoxious Bloodhounds skull a proper anesthetic for e situation.

This wasn't the first time Vulture was knocked out for his mouth, and it wouldn't be the last. Motozawa's threats were rarely carried out, mostly because his companions would make his life a living hell if he followed through with them.

"Thank you, Yokono." Leopard sent him a grateful smile earning a simple nod from the Bloodhound. Vulture's constant shifting was pulling on his stitches, and she was close to losing her patience with him.

"Anytime, Ma'am."

Falcon snorted in amusement at the archaic means by which Leopard silenced Vulture, but he couldn't argue with the results.

"Why don't we do that more often?" Ocelot inquired while taking a Bishop with his Knight.

"Because our fists would crack on his thick skull." Falcom retaliated by interloping his side with his Queen, pressuring Ocelot into moving his King to safety. "Believe me, Vulture's stubborn nature isn't tied to only his god awful personality."

"Motozawa bides his time in different ways." Tiger interceded while leaning against his bunk. "For example, yours Tsutsumi is playing chess. Mine is reading, and Sparrows is staring at the night sky when she thinks no one is paying attention."

"Bite me, Fujima." The comms specialist and part-time veterinarian heatedly retorted while tending to Luna's wounds.

"You say that, brother." Ocelot gestured towards their unconscious sibling. "But what does Motozawa do in his free time."

"Bitching."

The Bloodhounds chuckled amongst themselves, and the atmosphere fell into a comfortable silence. Leopard finished up her sutures and retrieved a comfortable pillow for Vulture's crooked head.

Once Umeki finished with her stubborn companion's wounds, she moved towards Sparrow and their new charge.

"How is our guest?" Sparrow ran her hands through the War Hounds fur, and Luna preened at the attention.

"She's a little irritable, but her wounds have healed remarkably well." Hattori removed the bandages from Luna's arm, showing the pink skin of her healing scars. "Have you ever seen a War Hound before, ma'am?"

"Up until now, no." Umeki took a seat across from Hattori and gently raised her arm for Luna to sniff and prod. "War Hounds are plentiful out in the Badlands, and many have tried to bring one back to the city."

"Tried?" Sparrow furrowed her brows in confusion.

"They run in packs, and their augmentations make any attempt at poaching a deadly venture." Leopard explained while Luna muzzled into her hand. "Only the foolish or the desperate have tried to tame an uncollared War Hound."

"So which one is Cypher, fool or desperate?" The idea that their master could be one of the two made Umeki giggle.

"I believe our Sensei is the exception to the rule." Leopard's honest assessment made Sparrow snort in amusement.

"When is he not?"

It was an apt question for some, but Leopard was certain that Cypher would never prove that their loyalty to him was misplaced. Despite his harsh comments, the Bloodhounds had a sneaking suspicion that their master cared about them in some way.

And that was enough for now.

"Umeki!" Iwasaki's words wrestled her attention away from the War Hound. "Radio's hot!"

Leopard rubbed Luna's chin and then walked up to the comms table. After a few days of anxious anticipation, the Bloodhounds' patience paid off, and their Sensei finally made contact.

Umeki reached the comms station just in time to catch Cypher's words.

"…isciple One, this is Oxide come in over."

"Go ahead, Oxide," Eagle responded while Leopard leaned against his chair, placing both hands on the back seat and looming over him.

"I need two of your Bloodhounds to kit up and meet me at these coordinates for a security assignment in the catacombs and bring Luna along as well." Iwasaki and Umeki exchanged a discreet glance, both quietly questioning if their excursions into the catacombs were not as finished as they had first thought.

"Disciple One copies all, standby." Leopard hopped off the comm and turned in his seat to his anxiously waiting subordinates.

"I need two volunteers." The Bloodhounds shared various looks before Falcon spoke up.

"What's the mission?"

"Running security for Cypher while he's in the catacombs," Iwasaki clarified. "So again, volunteers?"

The only hand that didn't shoot up was Vulture, and Eagle silently wondered if that would bite him in the ass later.

"Falcon, Ocelot, kit up and take the War Hound with you." Falcon leaped from his seat and proceeded to retrieve his equipment, but Ocelot paused for a moment.

"Ugh, about that." The Bloodhound glanced towards a snarling Luna. He hadn't made the best first impression when he drew his sidearm on the War Hound upon her arrival. "How exactly are we going to do that? I don't speak canine remember?"

Iwasaki shot his subordinate an unamused glance. "You can start by asking her nicely."

"Rightttt," Inoshishi drew out with a sarcastic tone while throwing on his equipment. "Because it would be that easy, wouldn't it?"

Eagle spared a glance towards the Phantom where Sparrow had managed to coerce the War Hound with a nauseatingly sweet tone.

"Up here, girl!" Hattori beckoned Luna into the aerodyne's cargo, and the War hound reared its hind legs and leaped into the compartment. "There you go! Whose a good wolf, oh yes you are, yes you are. Oh, you're so cute!"

Falcon and Ocelot shared exasperated expressions. "Fuck this dog."

Iwasaki ignored the byplay between his subordinates and returned his full attention to Cypher.

"Oxide, Disciple Three, and Eight will arrive at the coordinates in fifteen mikes. Interrogative, do we have a secondary assignment?"

"Affirmative. The rest of your squad will split into two teams to a pair of coordinates in Heywood. I need intel on the Valentino hierarchy and their movements. There next on the list."

Iwasaki had no sympathy for the poser gang in the slightest, and a fleeting glance towards Umeki and the rest of the Bloodhounds confirmed his sentiments.

"Check. Rules of engagement?"

"Maintain covert parameters, but avoid civilian casualties at all costs."

Standard reconnaissance procedures applied to their directives tonight, and the only jarring difference was a missing member on both teams.

Iwasaki was confident that they could make up the difference without any lasting issues.

"Understood, Disciple one out. Gear up, we're deploying to Heywood!"

"We hunting Valentino's?" Tiger shared a grin with Jaguar. "Don't have to tell me twice, can't wait to tear those gonks down a notch or two."

"Negative, we're scouting them for now." The grins whithered with disappointment. "Leopard, take Jaguar and Sparrow. Tiger and Vulture, you're with me."

"Uh, Motozawas still asleep, lead." Iwasaki blinked at Sparrow's words, and his eyes trailed to an unconscious Vulture.

At that moment, he belatedly realized that he'd forgotten about the unconscious Bloodhound courtesy of one of his less than patient subordinates

He really should have seen this coming.

"Someone wake him up!" Falcon was more than willing to awaken the passed-out Bloodhound gripping his bunk and flipping it on its side.

"Rise and shine, princess!" Vulture's head smashed against the concrete floor, releasing him from his blissful ignorance.

"Urghhh." Motozawa sat up, eyes blinking the weariness away before he realized the perpetrator of his situation. "What the fuck! Tiger, you cunt! When I get my hands on you, I'll-"

Iwasaki grabbed the irate Bloodhound by his shoulders, forcing him to his feet and throwing his equipment into his chest.

"Stow it, Vulture! We're moving out! Now grab your shit, and let's go!"

Bloodhounds felt a rush of adrenaline surge through their bloodstream as their weapons were primed, swords were sharpened, and protective armor glided effortlessly towards their target regions.

Falcon and Ocelot were the first to exit the warehouse, making a straight beeline for their designated Phantom with a eagerly awaiting Bloodhound in tow.

"I can't believe we're heading back to the catacombs so soon." Falcon stepped into the Phantom and helped Ocelot into the cargo hold. "You think we're heading back to finish the job?"

"No, we're nothing more than insurance." Falcon doubted. "I doubt that Cypher needs us to run security for him. We're more than likely being brought in to secure some type of exchange between the Sirens and him."

"You think he's crazy enough to start a firefight with those people?" Falcon gripped the Oni mask hanging off his hip and cast Ocelot a knowing glance.

"I think we both know the answer to that." A worried expression developed on Ocelot's face after only a brief consideration of the concept.

"Right, stupid question anyway. I think we should bring some extra ammo just in case."

"Way ahead of you, brother."


Night City, Northern California

Hargreaves Street, Arroyo

Falcon and Ocelot were back in familiar territory, approaching the same tunnel network they had explored days earlier. The circumstances were different this time, but the Bloodhounds were just as apprehensive as they had been the first time.

The Catacombs were a frightening network to traverse, and the eerie howling winds only further enhanced its disturbing atmosphere.

At the very least, Cypher would be with them the entire journey, and they would have the pleasure of a Siren Banshee guiding them through the maze of dimly lit passageways.

"Sensei." Falcon was the first to approach Cypher. The Spartan stood a mere foot away from the tunnel entrance, arms crossed and gaze firmly set upon the beckoning darkness.

The Bloodhound couldn't see past his Sensei's blackened visor, but he could feel a battle raging in his mind. For whatever reason, Cypher had a history with the Siren Matriarch, and that history continued to be instigated by the Meatman's action.s

Falcon knew not the reason for Cypher staying his hand when the Meatman was within his grasp, but he had no reason to question his leader now.

A few moments of silence passed before Ocelot finally joined the pair, accompanied by a curiously silent Luna. The War Hound sought to draw Cypher's attention away from the tunnel and brushed her fur against his armored leg.

Luna's actions managed to wrestle Cypher out of his silent brooding. The Spartan came to a single knee and ran his palm through the War Hound's fur, emitting a quiet hum of approval from the canine.

"Nice to see you to girl." He rubbed the back of Luna's ear one last time before turning to finally acknowledge the anxious Bloodhounds with a nod. "Falcon, Ocelot. Keep your weapons holstered and eyes open. We are guests tonight but make no mistake; our presence is tolerated, not welcomed. Understood?"

"Yes, Sensei." Cypher nodded towards the pair and stepped into the tunnel network without a moment of hesitation.

Luna was quick to match his pace, forcing Falcon and Ocelot to readjust their standard defense formation and flanking Cypher on either side. The Bloodhounds maintained proper dispersion between themselves and kept a vigilant gaze upon their surroundings.

With each stride they took, the tense atmosphere dissipated, and Falcon was unsure if it was because of Luna or Cypher, but he felt a little more at ease this go around.

When the group closed in on the abandoned processing center, Ocelot noticed a thermal signature waiting for them at the unfinished entrance.

"Thermal contact up ahead," Ocelot called out in sync with Luna's low snarl. "A single Banshee."

Her raven hair spilled past her shoulder as the Banshees synthetic hood hung off the back of her neck. Eyes remained dull for a moment, but they brightened once her gaze fell upon Cypher and his companions.

"Kasumi?"

"You remember me?" A sparkle of endearment crossed the oriental woman's chocolate brown eyes.

"I do," Cyrus admitted, coming to a stop a respectable distance from Kasumi. "Did your friend survive?"

"A few broken bones and torn muscles, but it was her pride that took a tremendous hit." Kasumi fidgeted in position and dug her heel into the earth below."….Thank you for assisting us in Isabel's capture."

"You can thank me by leading us into the catacombs." Cyrus tried not to seem too dismissive, but he didn't come here to talk to a Siren.

"I….Yes, follow me and stay close." To Kasumi's credit, she managed to quickly recompose herself and slide her synthetic hood in position. "It is a half an hour walk before we reach the outskirts. The Secundus and Matriarch are expecting you."

His Bloodhounds fell back on their training easily, fluidly moving into formation without hesitation or failure. Cyrus allowed Ocelot to spearhead the column while he and Luna maintained the center, and Falcon brought up the rear.

Kasumi didn't comment on their movements and continued to lead the quartet into the deepest and ever-expansive corridors of the Night City catacombs.

"Are you sure you didn't want to bring more backup, Cyrus?" Chamber's voice echoed in his wandering mind.

"Our priorities are far and wide, Chamber and your cameras can't reach every crawl space in Night City."

"That's beside the point." The AI's avatar appeared on his HUD. "As much as I would love to see Eliza and her kids, I don't exactly trust the people they surround themselves with."

The fact that Cyrus refused to take her with him did nothing to relieve the AI's concerns, and Chamber was generally beside herself if he went on assignment without her.

The least he could have done was bring more than two Bloodhounds and a mutt to watch his back.

"The Sirens won't do anything stupid, Chamber." Cyrus expressed with certainty. "We'll be fine, now focus on monitoring our Bloodhounds out in the field. They're going to need your assistance if problems start cropping up."

"Fine, I'll monitor their comms channel and keep an eye on them." Chamber breathed out an anxious sigh of resignation. "Get back to me when you're done with Eliza and her cronies."

The UNSC AI withdrew from the comm network, leaving her Spartan in a state of blissful silence for a small period of time.

As their journey towards the beating heart of the Siren Order dragged on, more than a few Banshees joined their makeshift formation.

Some Sirens chose to maintain a safe distance between themselves and the mix-matched group of Spartan, War Hound, and Bloodhounds. Others boldly ventured out of the darkness without fear of retaliation from the anxious Bloodhounds.

Falcon and Ocelot were only able to avoid gunning down a Banshee that tested their restraint because of the discipline instilled under the instructions of their late Sensei and Cypher.

That did not stop Ocelot from disputing the Sirens' subtle intimidation attempts and the sharp rise in the number of eyes focused upon them.

"Seems like half the fucking underground came out to see us." Ocelot communicated over the trios private comm channel. "These guys are one twitch away from lighting us up like a Christmas tree."

Falcon cast a backward glance, his gaze falling on the creeping Banshees trailing their stern and peering out from the darkness on their sides. "I count five shadowing us, another eight trailing our rear."

Ocelot echoed his statement, but Cypher promptly corrected their declarations.

"Twelve and fifteen." His comment perplexed the Bloodhounds, and Falcon was the first to respond.

"Sensei?"

"There are twelve Banshees shadowing us and fifteen at our rear." Cypher clarified.

"I don't see them." Ocelot magnified his visor, trying to find the thermal signatures that he'd missed.

"Look up."

Falcon turned his attention to the roof, and several distinct red orbs stared back. Several Banshees clung to the ceiling with their unique grav locks, scrutinizing every move and breath they took.

"Now that is just fucking creepy."

Ocelot was starting to despise this place, and the Banshees were only exacerbating his anxiety. Falcon edged closer to Cypher, ramping up his pace just enough to avoid drawing attention to himself.

It was difficult to tell if they were in enemy territory or not, but these Sirens seemed to trust them just as much as Falcon and Ocelot did.

"Observe but do not admire Bloodhound," Cypher stated. "You'll live longer."

"Yes, Sensei."

A dim light in the distance brightened with each step taken towards the Siren stronghold. The expansive jagged corridors grew in size along with a growing number of Siren Banshees.

Kasumi led her charges towards the expanding illumination, passing numerous checkpoints manned by several Banshees that stared at Cypher and his subordinates with disdain.

A few Siren guards showed some reluctance in letting the outsiders through, but Kasumi reassured her sisters that the Secundus and Matriarch welcomed Cypher's arrival.

Eventually, the group managed to bypass the last checkpoint and gaze upon the glory of their intended destination. Kasumi turned on her heel and gestured towards the fortress she had called home for over a decade.

"Welcome to Solaria."

The Siren order's stronghold was a beacon of prosperity and security, contrasting the decaying society it hid underneath. The entire bastion was enclosed within a vast chamber that stretched for untold miles in length and width.

Its perimeter is outlined by a modicum twelve-foot high concrete wall sentried by multiple Siren guards and gun turrets. Several automated gates surrounded the fortress, and an independent operator controlled the final defense to the stronghold.

Kasumi led her Cypher and his charges towards a large gathering of Siren Banshees in parade formation. Their hands grasped an ornate spear, designed for ceremony more than military application.

A face Cyrus was all too acquainted with, stood at the head of this formation. Acadia was dressed in a more elegant manner than the rest of her Sirens, a high collared evening dress that reached floor level and colored in a beautiful mix of black and red.

Even his highly disciplined Bloodhounds were taken aback by her splendor, as the sire of spartan genes and cybernetic implants, Acadia was the epitome of human perfection.

Cyrus was indifferent to her beauty. He was merely here to ensure that all accounts regarding the Meatman were settled.

And those debts would be paid in blood.

"Uncle." The Secundus dipped her head with a degree of respect towards her childhood idol. "How do you find Solaria?"

"Reminds me of home." The Siren stronghold wasn't large by any means. In fact, to Cyrus's eyes, it seemed to be a mix of a prestigious village that suited those of a high social hierarchy, but it also encompassed elements of a military barracks.

He could easily identify the associations between the underground havens architecture and UEG cities back home.

"Where is your mother?"

"She awaits us in the palace." Acadia turned on her heel and motioned for her Uncle to follow her. The ceremonial guards stepped to the side, leaving enough space for their Secundus and her guests. "My sister's execution is to take place in the courtyard. Follow me and ensure your guards do not stray from our path. "

When Cypher elected to follow the Siren Leader closely, Falcon and Ocelot exchanged apprehensive glances with one another. Both were skeptical about being flanked by two dozen Banshees wielding razor-sharp spears, but their Sensei was apathetic to their worries.

"A lot of eyes on us right now." Ocelot strode backward and held his rifle tightly across his torso. A few Banshees glanced in his direction, but none commented on his movements. "Any one of them could kick this thing off at a moment's notice. "

"At least we have Luna." Falcon's statement was met with a derisive snort

"Lucky us, maybe she can kill one or two of them if this goes sideways."

Cypher and his Bloodhounds soon found themselves the center of attention for the Sirens, who weren't occupied with their duties. Anyone and everyone in the order came out to greet their guests, but with open and damn near visceral contempt.

Falcon and Ocelot clenched their rifles a little tighter, and Luna snarled at any Siren that maintained eye contact with her for longer than she'd liked. Acadia wasn't the only Siren who had noticed her guests' concerns, and she slowed her pace to match Cyrus's

"Your Bloodhounds are anxious." Acadia gave him a wry look that Cyrus met with a stern glance.

"They don't trust the validity of your generosity is all."

And quite frankly, neither did he.

"Do you trust us?" Cyrus picked up on Acadia's agitated voice, but he was ill, concerned with her worries for now.

"I trust that you won't make a suicidal decision." His words weren't hushed, nor were they silent. On the contrary, they were heard by all within earshot of Cyrus. "Because I would hate to stain this place in red."

Acadia's Sirens responded harshly to his remark, and she was compelled to quietly instruct her followers to maintain their composure. The Secundus cast a stern glance at an unfazed Cyrus.

"Uncle, your threats are pointless. Unless you go looking for them, you won't find any problems down here."

"Problems, tend to find me, Acadia." Cyrus voiced with a dangerous tone. "And I am very good at solving them."

The Siren balked at his words but did not deny the authenticity of his statement. She didn't want to think about how many of her sisters Cyrus could put down before it was far too late.

"Let me be clear," Cyrus impudently began. "Your people have nothing to fear from me. Once your sister is dead, this will be the last time we cross paths."

Acadia might have found solace in his remarks at any other time, especially considering the stature and weight of his words. Nevertheless, she did not want this to be the last time they saw one another; there was far too much work to be accomplished.

"I would hope not." Cyrus tilted his blackened visor in her direction, and she couldn't help the involuntary shiver at the all-encompassing void.

"You know the price for my attention, Acadia. Is my armor ready for transport?"

"It's my mother's armor." A barely veiled snarl came from the Spartan's mouth as he stepped into Acadia's personal space.

The Banshees raised their weapons in the direction of Cyrus, but Falcon and Ocelot intervened, moving into the line of fire and pointing their rifles at the closest Sirens. Luna was ready to tear into some throats despite the several ornate spears threatening to pierce her hide.

Through it all, neither Acadia nor Cyrus acknowledged the spark in tensions amongst their subordinates.

"Your, Mother, lost any right to her MJOLNIR when she buried it in a tomb." Acadia's brows narrowed in response to his accusations, but her dignity as Secundus of the Siren Order overshadowed any fear she might have felt beneath his piercing gaze.

"As you say." She said with a veil of hostility. "But regardless of your opinion, she has asked to speak to you in private before we begin the transfer."

"I've had my fill of your Matriarch and her words." Cyrus chose to deescalate the tension by stepping away from Acadia's personal space. As much as his blood yearned for a conflict, his logic tempered his aggressions. "Does she know about your visit to the surface?"

Acadia gestured for her Sirens to stand down, and they did so with great reluctance. "A few of my bodyguards chose loyalty to their former Matriarch over their Secundus."

"Were you surprised?"

"I was disappointed, and I made my displeasure well known." Acadia turned away from her Uncle. "Now, if there is nothing else to be said, we must make for the palace."

Cyrus exchanged a nod with his Bloodhounds, allowing the tension in their arms to ebb away as they shared a mutual glance of contempt with several irate Banshees. As a result of the rapid de-escalation in potential combat, Luna became increasingly agitated, and the Spartan was forced to calm her fears with a scratch to the back of her head.

Eventually, Acadia took them to the throbbing heart of Solaria. The emerald palace seemed just as impregnable as it was beautiful, and Cyrus appreciated the ornate and practical architecture that beguiled everything a Spartan could want in a fortress-monastery.

"My mother is inside," Acadia halted their group just before the entrance. "Your guards will have to stay out here."

His Bloodhounds bristled at the concept of leaving him unattended, but a stern glance from Cyrus kept their thoughts to themselves.

"Falcon." The senior Bloodhound perked at Cyrus's words. "Keep Ocelot in line."

"As you say."


Night City, Northern California

The Emerald Palace, Solaria

There was a time when Cyrus would have found solace in Eliza's company, but that time had long since passed, and now all he felt was disappointment and a burgeoning disdain.

Eliza stood at the center of an empty room that once belonged to her firstborn daughter. Any and all recollections of Isabel's past were washed away by a flood of anguish and wrath, and Cyrus could feel the raw emotion lingering in the air of this desolate chamber.

However, a few steps away from Eliza was a singular object that drew her attention above all else, standing vigilantly in the center of the room.

Her MJOLNIR.

As Cyrus approached, the Matriarch's voice echoed across the barren room from all sides.

"You met Acadia." The accusation and anger in her voice only ignited a contemptuous response.

"Not my problem that you can't keep your household in check, but something tells me that Acadia is well past taking orders from you." Eliza whirled on her partner with fury in her eyes.

"She is my daughter! I will do everything in my power to keep her safe!" Cyrus responded to her rage with a calm demeanor.

"Undermining Acadia's authority in the Sirens is not keeping her safe." He emphasized while crossing his arms. "It's keeping her on a leash."

"I am not here to debate you on my parenting, Cyrus."

"Then what are we doing here?" The rage that had been carved into her countenance began to fade when he asked the simple inquiry.

"I-I don't know."

However, whatever the Matriarch planned to bring up with the Spartan was swiftly shattered by the realization that he was once again a presence in her life.

He inched closer to Eliza's side and silently stood vigil over the armor she had worn alongside him. Neither Spartan was quite sure how to break the deadlock; the last few weeks had been draining for even their mental fortitude.

In the end, after much internal debate, Cyrus decided that it was time to break the tense stillness.

"You weren't wrong about our MJOLNIR. But it is not the catalyst to your fear, and it does not deserve the blame you set upon it…." Eliza shifted her gaze away from her armor and its golden visor towards her erstwhile partner.

"….In the thirty years you've been here, you have forgotten what this armor meant to us. Our MJOLNIR is a tool that we cherish above all else, and it will always hold a piece of our souls past the end of our days…."

"…But to Humanity, to the downtrodden, and even your Sirens. This armor embodies the future of our race, and it shoulders the hopes and dreams of a people who desire nothing more than to wake up every day without the world crushing their spirit…."

A Spartans duty was eternal, and Eliza's actions would have disgusted any one of their comrades that died on the fields of Pegasi Delta, let alone Casey.

"…If you will not shoulder the burden, then someone else will." The implication regarding her daughter was easy for Eliza to pick up on.

"You mean Acadia?" The Matriarch responded with a condescending voice.

"I mean any who are willing and able to answer the call to duty until the day a Spartans existence is no longer necessary." Cyrus's unraveling emotions were on the verge of bursting forth, but he managed to keep them under control by turning away from the source of his turmoil.

"I'm done with this conversation." The Spartan hostile proclamation made Eliza internally flinch. "And I am certainly finished trading words with this shadow that now stands before me. Acadia!"

The Secundus was quick to enter the chamber alongside his Falcon. Both made a silent pledge to intervene should their conversation turn exceptionally violent.

"Have your technicians work with my Bloodhounds and prep this armor for travel. Falcon, you and Ocelot are on security ensure nothing happens to this armor until my return."

"Yes, Sensei." Cyrus spared one final glance at Eliza, who had remained still since his scathing remarks towards her before exiting the room towards the courtyard.

Falcon followed after Cyrus, silently allowing the Matriarch and her daughter some sense of seclusion before carrying out his responsibilities.

Acadia approached her silent mother, sparing a glance towards her armor before questioning her in a low voice

"Are you sure you can do this?" Eliza's gaze was fixed on her MJOLNIR, but her voice held the power that came from decades of experience as the leader of the Siren Order.

"Isabel's insurrection was my failure, and I intend to correct it." The Matriarch's statement did little to convince her daughter in the slightest.

"You didn't answer my question." Acadia watched her mother turn away from her with an expression of pure stone, betraying the turbulent emotions raging inside of her.

"Come along, Acadia."


Eye for an Eye - Secession Studios


Night City, Northern California

The Emerald Palace, Solaria

"Follow me, Uncle."

Cyrus spared a nod towards Falcon as the pair of Bloodhounds, alongside several Banshees, protected Eliza's MJOLNIR. The armor was being prepared for transport inside a large container by a team of Siren technicians, and Ocelot's discreet shuffling indicated that he wished they would pick up the pace.

"Where is your mother?" Cyrus silently prayed that she was not avoiding her daughter's execution. Eliza was just as much to blame for Isabel's acts as she was.

"She is…." Acadia struggled to find the words for a moment. "…taking the responsibility of passing down the sentence."

As the two entered the main courtyard, the site of Isabel's execution, Cyrus remained silent. The firstborns sentence would be carried out with an audience consisting of the entire Siren Order and broadcasted to those chosen few occupied with their duties.

The Spartans body went on autopilot following after Acadia while his eyes fixated upon one of two reasons he was in Solaria in the first place.

Isabel sat on her knees, her limbs shackled to the cement floor beneath her, and was clothed in rags that barely covered her modesty. Despite being humiliated and paraded in front of thousands of her former sisters, her gaze was firmly fixed on her idol and sister.

"Acadia." The beautifying smile made Acadia sick to her stomach, but she wouldn't give her twin the gratification of an instinctual reaction.

"Isabel." Acadia bit out with no small amount of disdain.

"Uncle." Isabel drew out with a cheshire grin. "How nice of you to visit me. I regret that it's under these unfortunate circumstances."

Silence was all that greeted her.

Few could stand underneath the Spartan's imperious gaze, and even fewer could meet them. Isabel for all her belligerence and bluster was no exception to the rule but she hid it behind a seemingly relaxed grin.

Cyrus wasn't here to exchange pleasantries.

"Silent treatment?" Isabel's grin grew in size. "That's fine. You being here has done wonders for my enjoyment. I am….ecstatic that you would grace my final moments with your presence."

"Be silent, Isabel," Acadia issued the command in a chilling voice, but before Isabel could respond, their shared mother approached her errant daughters.

The ruling family stood in front of thousands of Sirens for the first time in nearly a decade. Not a word was spoken by any within the confines of Solaria, and not even Isabel could bring herself to break the silent atmosphere.

Eliza stared at her firstborn with an indescribable expression that was absent anger or grief at the prospect of executing her own flesh and blood.

"Clear the platform." Acadia complied with her mother's orders, but Cyrus remained still. His crimson gaze had yet to leave Isabel since he first laid eyes on her, and Eliza was forced to draw his attention.

"Cyrus." The Spartan's gaze snapped towards the Matriarch. "Please."

After hearing Eliza's pleading tone, Cyrus paused and cast one final glance towards Isabel. A silent promise that had remained unfulfilled rang to the front of his mind.

No matter what happens, all accounts will be settled.

Cyrus joined Acadia, and a Banshee approached Eliza with a ceremonial katana in hand. The Matriarch took the katana in her hands and unsheathed the elegant single-edged blade carefully until it was fully drawn.

Etched into the blade itself were the words embodied by every Siren that took up their mantle and duties.

Multi Enim Unum.

Eliza nodded to Acadia, who had been chosen to preside over Isabel's execution rather than the council of elders who generally mediated over these proceedings.

"For treason and instigating the deaths of thousands of our sisters. I the Secundus of the Siren Order sentence you who shall not be recognized or remembered, to die for your ignorance…." The Secundus spoke with decisiveness and authority that signified her status within the Order.

"…The Matriarch will carry out the sentence."

Eliza pressed the blade underneath Isabel's neck, allowing the firstborn to truly feel the last moments of her life.

Predictably Isabel chose to spend her last moments speaking her poisonous words.

"Try not to hesitate this time, Mother," Isabel remarked mockingly.

"Be silent." The Matriarch's words earned her a bark of laughter from her daughter.

"Did you lose your nerve that night? If that's the case, you should probably let someone else handle this because you're not up to it."

"Shut up!" Eliza smashed her fist into Isabel's cheek, whiplashing her head and earning a bark of amusement.

"Come on!" Isabel spat out a wad of blood. "You can do better than that! Really make me feel it!"

The Matriarch drew the katana above her psychotic daughter, and as Eliza was about to deliver the long-awaited justice that her people craved for years, she stayed her hand.

"Why?" Isabel's eyes widened in confusion at her mother's emotional words before hysterical laughter fell from her lips.

"Seriously, you want to ask that question now…?" Amusement disappeared from Isabel's expression. "No, I don't think I'll tell you because you already know the answer. You just don't want to admit it. Now shut up and get this over with…."

Eliza regripped the katana, but her hands trembled as fresh memories of raising her twins and the innocence that once danced inside of them hampered her.

No matter what the Matriarch told herself, she couldn't muster the willpower to end her psychotic daughter's life.

Acadia was right to question Eliza's ability to carry out the sentence because some mothers find it difficult to watch their children die in front of them.

And even fewer could muster the willpower to carry out the sentence.

"God, you're pathetic," Isabel exclaimed with a smile. "Your-"

*BANG!*

A gunshot rang out, and Acadia, along with dozens of Sirens, visibly flinched at the sudden bark of gunfire. Isabel's left shoulder was pierced by the bullet, and the firstborn's blood began to stain the floor below.

"Motherfuck-" Cyrus advanced on the Meatman, squeezing off a second-round that was fully intended to make Isabel suffer.

*BANG!*

The ballistic shell pierced her right collarbone, shattering bone and cutting through flesh. Eliza was stunned by Cyrus's actions, and Acadia immediately dissuaded any attempts by her Banshees to intervene on her behalf.

If her mother would not carry out the sentence, then she was more than willing to allow Cyrus the opportunity.

The Spartan snatched Isabel's head and raised it high enough to press Dana's Unity into her skull while she groaned in pain.

"For Dana."

*BANG!*

Blood and brain matter scattered across the concrete floor, and Isabel's body slumped to the ground. Cyrus stared at her body with a narrowed gaze, ejecting the spent magazine and placing Dana's Unity next to Isabel's corpse.

None who bore witness spoke a word in exhilaration or anger at the manner in which Cyrus executed Isabel, for they couldn't quite believe the reality that the greatest stain upon their order now lay dead at their feet.

Eliza's attention remained fixed on her daughter's body, and Cyrus gave her a passing glance as he walked out of the courtyard. Acadia wanted to say something, but her mind went blank as the Spartan disappeared into the shadows.

Cyrus activated his commlink, and the Bloodhounds were quick to answer his call.

"Falcon, Ocelot, prepare for egress to the surface. We're done here."

All accounts have been settled.


Act Seven, oddly enough our longest of the story, has finally come to a close. The Meatman is a corpse and now Cyrus turns his attention to a long list of targets. The next two Chapters will introduce a few key players to the Custodians air force and their expanding military arm.

In other news, I am putting together a writing schedule for updating two stories a week instead of one. Obviously, the Cyberpunk one will be a priority but I am willing to add an existing story or one I have not posted yet from the choices I give.

It might be overstretching but I am more than willing to try.

The choices will be on my profile for everyone to vote on.

1. Halo/Skyrim Crossover, title TBD.

2. RWBY Story, Heir to the Crown.

3. Halo/DXD, Only in Death Does Duty End.

4. Young Justice Story, Sins of our Fathers.

As always I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and remember to review to your heart's content every little bit helps my motivation.


Reviews:

1 love m4gic: I'm going to answer the automaton one for now. Warbots and other cybernetic assets are not massed produced so they would have to manufacture some themselves. This requires people and materials to make. It is cheaper and easier to gather dissidents and others who sympathize with their cause than to make an army of robots. It's something they can do, but not just yet.

Albatross079: yeah Lemons aren't my go-to and I am still working on them.


No Chapter next week. It is my birthday on Friday and I am heading out of town for the weekend.


Next Chapter: October 25th


The next chapter is available on my Pa t re on for those who would like to see it. The Link is below.

www .(p)at (r) e o n. co (m) /Cypher1597 (remove the spaces and () to access)