l...l


Chapter Forty Nine

September 3rd, 2077

Night City, Northern California

NCPD Headquarters, City Center

Tension smothered the atmosphere of NCPD Headquarters like a dense cloud.

Police commissioner Jerry Fawlter sat at his desk, trying to make sense of the madness that had seemingly taken his city and threatened to infect his department.

Cypher's reputation and stigma had only seemed to grow in magnitude amongst his officers. He was regarded as a vigilante to some, terrorist to others, and to a select few a sociopath who lived for the carnage he inflicted.

Fawlter and most of the Night City Council were in the latter grouping and scrambling for a united response against this threat, but Councilman Peralez hamstrung their efforts. During their emergency meetings, he was the only advocate for Cypher and made it a point to push for conservative measures against him.

The mere thought of his political rival was enough to bring a sneer to Fawlters aged face.

Jefferson Peralez grew up as a native son of Heywood, who jumped from gang to gang trying to eke out a worthless existence. If Night Corps hadn't scouted him that his life would have ended like so many others, bleeding out in some dark alley while high on his own supply.

Fawlter wished that the Headhunter would have destroyed Night Corps twenty years earlier, then Peralez would never have come to such an esteem position. He was a political nightmare to face off against, and Mayor Holt was finding it increasingly difficult to push his agenda with Peralez obtaining a substantial amount of public support.

After Mayor Rhyne's death, Peralez once again reaffirmed he would be running for Mayor's office in the next election. Mayor Holt, Fawlter's political associate, retained a significant following aided by Arasaka's generous donations, but Peralez remained the more popular candidate.

Fawlter had just concluded another emergency meeting to determine how they would deal with the violence in Santo Domingo.

The district may have been written off as a non-priority, but that didn't mean the Council would ignore the Sixth Street Gang's internal politics threatening to escalate into civil war.

Plans were drawn up to intervene with a coordinated MAXTAC assault, but the City Council denied the intervention in hopes of avoiding further escalation.

In simple terms, the Council would rather sit on its ass and pray everything would blow over.

Fat chance of that happening.

His MAXTAC Commander, Margaret Enyala, was often a silent participant during these sessions in the past, but recently she'd grown into an active contributor during any discussions revolving around Cypher.

Enyala's sudden participation came from her newly established Task Force Saviour. A joint NCPD and Arasaka initiative consisting of the entire MAXTAC department, a hand-picked group of NCPD officers, and several Nightstalker teams from Arasaka's elite Black Element Corps.

With Cypher making it a point to sabotage Arasaka and Black Element's operations within the confines of Night City. Their inclusion in Task Force Saviors' hierarchy, Fawlter reasoned, would be a welcome addition to their ranks, guaranteeing that a confrontation with the Headhunter would result in his death or capture.

Enyala didn't disagree with Black Element's inclusion but only if they fell under her overall command. The Mercs begrudgingly accepted the ultimatum, and they were deployed alongside other MAXTAC squads to Watson and Japanwotn, respectively.

The City Council practically handed Falwter a blank check to handle Cypher, and he would spare no expense.

Little progress was made in the first week of TF-Saviors establishment, but reports regarding their primary target's movements soon crossed his desk.

The contents presented before Fawlter indicated that Cypher possessed a vast network of Netrunners, Bloodhounds, and Mercenaries spread throughout Night City.

Enyala detailed a report from Lieutenant Melissa Rory regarding a sudden uptick in activity within the sprawling web of Vagrant camps aligned with the Outcasts.

These camps received military-grade equipment such as rifles, ammunition, and body armor smuggled in from the long-abandoned catacombs.

Only the highest echelons of Night City's ruling body knew what laid beneath their feet, and Fawlter was not eager for a sudden return of the Sirens in these tumultuous times.

These camps were gathering Volunteers and training them in firearms, squad tactics, and physical conditioning. Enyala recommended an immediate infiltration of these camps to verify the source of their income and equipment.

Alongside these reports was a personal missive from Commander Enyala, enclosed inside an archaic plastic folder.

As per firsthand accounts, Cypher was heavily involved in the impending Sixth Street Civil War and actively supported its Patriot Faction with intel and equipment.

When you combine the situation in Santo Domingo with the rapid appearance of the Astral Claws in Japantown, even the blind, deaf, and stupid would realize that Night City was being caught in a vice.

However, the most damaging accusation that Enyala offered was a comprehensive report that Night City's vibrant and vast telecommunications network was actively compromised by one of Cypher's agents.

The evidence was a thorough collection of deleted CCTV footage, NCPD Netrunners being disconnected from their stations, and NCPD Patrols being directed away from locations raided by Cypher and his agents.

Fawlter's department and leadership were slowly turning into the biggest joke Night City had to offer.

His position as Police Commissioner was hanging on by a thread, and there was nothing he could do but rely on Enyala to get the job done.

The foolish part of Fawlter urged that he apply more pressure onto his MAXTAC Commander, and a sneer of pure content crossed his lips at the mere notion of being at the mercy of Margaret Enyala.

His thoughts were born of false bravado, and he would never openly question or reprimand Enyala lest he loses more than his reputation.

Fawlter sat back in his plush chair, cursing to himself. "…Fucking bitch."

His eyes bugged out of their sockets when his office door swung open, and the predatory visage of Margaret Enyala drew his faltering gaze.

"Enyala!" Fawlter almost fell out of his chair, barely managing to save what was left of his dignity and composing himself appropriately. "How can I help you?"

The Commissioner spoke in a composed and dignified manner afforded to his station, but that didn't stop Enyala from giving him an unimpressed oncer over before striding into the room. Their professional relationship had always been tense, and its origins could be traced to their time in the NCPD Academy. Even though he was her superior, Enyala had known him for more than a decade and had never shown him an ounce of respect.

And he never once demanded it.

Enyala gave Fawlter's room a once-over, eyes glaring into the faux accolades and achievements displayed in a nauseating homage to his ego. As Night City's police commissioner, Fawlter received awards for generosity and diligence for commendable actions acts perpetrated by his subordinates rather than himself.

The MAXTAC Commander glanced away from the trophy case and gazed into Fawlter's wavering composure. She strode forward, leaning her weight against the luxury chair across from Fawlter's desk.

"I know where Cypher is." The fear in Fawlter's eyes ebbed away into curiosity as the gravity of her statement settled in.

"You do?" Fawlter's reservations concerning his rival began to fade into obscurity. For once, she came to him for business and not to toy with his fears. "Where is he?"

"Heywood." Enyala declared, activating her Kiroshi optic and accessing the Commissioner's holo table. "Vulture One was on station in Chinatown when they spotted a subject matching his physical description."

Fawlter was reminded of how he reprimanded Enyala for allowing Cypher to slip away when they had him at his weakest. Melissa Rory's psychotic nature interfered with her duties as an NCPD officer, and letting Cypher walk because it was too easy to capture him grated on his nerves.

He almost blew a gasket when Enyala used that same pretext as a peace officer as the sole reason Rory did not make an arrest because suspicion is not a pretext for detainment.

Fawlter conceded the point because they had a physical description of Cypher to work with. However, because he lacked any civilian, business, or military identity, this intelligence was rendered useless in the short term.

This lack of digital and physical footprint only seemed to add to the Headhunters Legend, and his Investigations department was forced to identify him as either Cypher or John Doe.

Enyala disrupted Fawlter's musings and manipulated the holo table, creating a holographic view before splitting it into two viewpoints.

One side projected an overhead landscape of Night City's central districts, while the second was a camera feed belonging to Lieutenant Melissa Rory.

The Lieutenant's Kiroshi Optic was tracking two subjects, a male and female, as they entered the nightclub. Rory scouted a better vantage point ten minutes later and positively identified the male individual with his gaiter hanging below his chin.

Fawlter observed a pair of piercing red orbs and a face he initially thought was way too young to be Cypher.

"When was this recording taken?" The Commissioner spun on his chair and shot Enyala an unamused look.

"Twenty minutes ago, and we have actionable intel that Cypher will be in Heywood shortly."

"For what reason?"

"Does it really matter?"Not sure," Enyala shrugged her shoulders. "We"But we have a unique opportunity to take him down outside of that power armor. We will not get another chance like this."

Her irises brimmed with life as she leaned forward, grasping the edges of his desk.

"ActivateYou need to authorize the Long Night Initiative."

Fawlter leaned into his chair, fingers drumming against his forearm.

The last time the Long Night Initiative was implementedauthorized was afteron the onset of Johnny Silverhand's terrorist attack on Arasaka Tower. The protocols delegated the NCPD Commissioner unilateral executive powers for a maximum of 48 hours before the Mayor could either extend or dismiss the Initiative altogether.

Marital Law, the immediate deployment of all NCPD Officers, and the nationalization of city resources were only the tip of the iceberg. The Initiative also allowed the NCPD to contract Mercenaries from Arasaka and Miltiech in equal standing to maintain the peace.

It was only to be used when the NCPD needed every available asset to combat a threat to the city, and its implementation was tailored for the direst of circumstances.

Fawlter hesitated, knowing that if things went wrong, he could lose his job. He disliked betting everything on one hand, but he didn't have much of a choice in this case. He'd lose his job regardless if he didn't start producing results.

Reluctantly, Fawlter activated his cyberware and connected directly to Deputy Mayor Holt. The acting government official was the only one with the authority to secede executive powers to the Commissioner

"What is it, Fawlter?" With trepidation and faltering confidence, Fawlter made his final bet and took the bait.

"Permission to activate the Long Night Initiative?" Holt hesitated. His data on Councilor Peralez suddenly faded to the back of his mind.

"For what purpose?" The Mayor inquired.

"We have a lead on Cypher, and we need full authorization to act upon it." Fawlter exhumed a false sense of self-confidence, but on the inside, his nerves reached a fever pitch.

They tempered with Holt's response.

"You have full authorization. Don't fuck this up, Fawlter."

The Commissioner whimpered.

Enyala's smile widened.


Night City, Northern California

Berkley & Bay Street, Wellsprings

"Hello, Hunter. Would you like to play a game?"

It was a rare thing for Cyrus to experience a catastrophe of his own making firsthand, but tonight was a wake-up call of the highest proportions.

MAXTAC were out in force, and they circled him like a pack of hungry hyenas barring their teeth by illuminating his frame in a mass of green lasers. Chamber was scrambling to plot him a route out of the kill zone, but the overpass and the congested nature of Wellsprings' high-end architecture limited his options.

Any hope of blending in with the civilian population was dashed not long after Acadia made her departure. The populace of Night City were no strangers to violence, and as soon as one noticed the green beam hovering over his frame, they all scattered for safety.

Mothers dragged their children in the opposite direction, corporate suits immediately scrambled from their luxury vehicles, and even the small amount of Vagrants residing within sight packed up their meager belongings and scrambled.

When MAXTAC was involved, everyone ran for the hills.

Cyrus didn't blame them.

"Not your games Rory." He retorted, ignoring the hovering green beams as he stepped away from the noddle stand, its owner long gone with the rest of the civilians. "What do you want?"

"You know what I want." Cyrus often admired persistence, but her tenacity and continued interference were beginning to grate on his nerves.

"You'd have better luck preaching to the converted."

"I don't believe in luck." Rory quipped back. "I believe in…assurances."

A trio of MAXTAC aerodynes broke through the lunar horizon and shined a spotlight upon him to emphasize her statement. The lead AV maintained overwatch while the trailing pair deployed two teams of MAXTAC operatives on either side of the broadened roadway.

Cyrus's only saving grace was the congestion of civilian vehicles clogging up the avenue, forcing the aerodynes to drop their chalks a hundred meters from his position.

It gave him some specs of cover, but the Snipers of the overpass would still have a line of sight on him.

Sightlines were minimal, paths of movement were congested, and the avenue was blocked on both sides.

He was going to need better eyes.

"Chamber," Cyrus whispered, dragging the gaiter over his mouth. "Any ideas."

The AI let out a huff of frustration. "Options are limited. I can initiate a district-wide blackout and jam their comms to buy you some time, but we both know that trick will only work once."

Chamber glanced over the city's maze-like network of avenues and alleyways before centering on a route that could take Cyrus to an unregistered catacomb entrance. Because Wellsprings was one of Night City's younger districts, many of the tunnels leading into the catacombs were sealed or fully covered.

Cyrus's only escape route was through the avenues to his east and then a direct shot south to Wellsprings' Market street. From there, he'd have to make his way through several apartment complexes and abandoned buildings to the catacomb entrance.

It was the only chance Cyrus had to escape.

Night City's emergency alert system kicked in to echo the coming storm, and a shrill siren echoed across the metropolis. Men and women from all walks of life froze in terror, their eyes trailing towards the broadcasting system.

"Danger, Danger. Attention, all citizens of Night City. The Long Night Initiative is in effect. Please return to your homes and remain in lockdown until the state of emergency has come to an end. This is not a drill. Repeat, the Long Night Initiative is now in effect. This message will repeat in sixty seconds."

All across Night City, NCPD Officers from every department were called into service. Layers upon layers of checkpoints and blockades controlled every avenue of travel, and citizens rushed to find shelter. The skies were choked with police aerodynes carrying munitions or officers for immediate deployment.

Within the confines of Corporate Plaza, Militech and Arasaka lent Night City their own security forces to increase their available manpower. Chamber's eyes narrowed as the full force of the NCPD was now barreling its way towards Cyrus with a singular purpose in mind.

Chamber needed to get him out before MAXTAC managed to

"Uploading, route to your eyepiece," Chamber stated. "I'm going to initiate a low-level blackout in Heywood. You'll have one minute to get the hell out of the kill zone. Make it count."

"Don't I always." Cyrus gripped his Nue a little tighter. His breath relaxed into a steady pattern, and his focus settled upon the streams of MAXTAC Operatives patiently walking towards him.

"Standby."

They approached Cyrus with caution, yet he could taste their arrogance even from this distance. It was in there every step, and the slack grips on their firearms.

"On my mark."

Steady yourself, Spartan.

Casey's tempered voice pierced his mind, a stark reminder of their first hunt as a team. Cyrus and Eliza would never admit it, but they were nervous wrecks when they were deployed to face the Covenant for the first time.

"3."

Calm your heart rate.

Cyrus would forever remember the glassed plains of Pegasi Delta until he passed into the next life. The scattered ashes of long-dead Spartans filled the vaporized landing zone for Operation Torpedo.

All of them were children, just like he was.

"2."

Focus on me, nothing else.

On that field, Cyrus learned the true meaning of sacrifice and the price it entails.

The slightest of cracks began to form in Cyrus and Eliza's confidence, but Casey knew exactly what to say to keep them on task.

"1."

Do what they didn't. Survive.

"Are you going to make my night interesting, Hunter?" Rory's poisonous voice mixed in with Casey's.

An uncharacteristic snort of amusement caught Rory off guard. "You have no idea."

"MARK!"

Darkness fell upon Heywood.


MAXTAC closed in on their target, firearms, mantis blades, and mono wires at the ready.

Cypher stood rooted in place. Abandoned vehicles surrounded him in an unorganized pattern, disrupting squad formations and forcing them to separate in pairs to traverse the vehicular obstacles.

Vulture One was uncharacteristically holding at the rear. Rory refused to commit her squad to the opening act because she suspected Cypher had a trick up his sleeve. His very nature went against committing passive action.

The MAXTAC officer wasn't surprised when Heywood's reliable power grid went down, and Cypher disappeared into the wind. On the contrary, her smile turned into a canary grin filled with adrenaline-fueled excitement.

Rory turned towards her squad, ready to relay orders when feedback scrambled the NCPD communication network. She hesitated, but her mood only seemed to expand at the technical mishap. "So he does have a very good Netrunner in his pocket. Should make things more interesting."

Granite squad was the first to make contact with Cypher. They were the closest MAXTAC section after Enyala deployed them directly onto the avenue. A sporadic burst of gunfire turned into a barrage of lethal projectiles that never seemed to find their target.

Rory watched with no small amount of awe that their prey was able to dispatch three MAXTAC officers within the span of two seconds. Cypher's movements were fluid, but they didn't possess the same speed or strength as their first encounter.

His impossibly advanced power armor seemed to expand upon his capabilities, but that didn't mean Cypher was going to be an easy snag. On the contrary, the gap in skill and ability narrowed just enough to make this pursuit worthwhile.

The flickering street lights and the flash of gunfire were a spectacle to Rory's eyes, but soon she'd grown tired of being a spectator.

It was time to play.

Rory turned to her squad, each of them waiting with bated breath for her orders. "Sharpe, take Kazee and Reynolds. The twins will stick with me, shadow Cypher as much as possible he won't be able to evade us as easily tonight."

The Master Sergeant nodded, stepping off to the side and allowing his subordinates to follow. A cursory glance towards the avenue showed that their prey wasn't about to come quietly.

"The hunt begins."


Cyrus slid underneath a hail of gunfire. As soon as the blackout hit, he struck a squad of MAXTAC operatives with a mix of bursts from his Pax modified Nue and a pair of flash grenades.

During his retreat, two squads from Granite Section managed to corner him near a blue-tinted Archer Quartz, only to balk when he ripped the driver side door off its hinges and threw the car door towards them like a frisbee. Three officers were knocked unconscious while a fourth suffered a brutal blow to the right cheek from an overhand right.

"He's heading for the alleyway!" Squad Leaders from Granite Section called out Cyrus' location amongst the confusing flashes of torches and vehicles headlights.

As the Spartan burst into the alleyway, he narrowly avoided a devastating slash from a pair of mono wires aimed at his legs. Six MAXTAC operators laid a trap inside the narrow corridors, and the lead operative was the first to draw Cyrus' attention.

He threw a brutal haymaker towards the man's cranium, using the momentum of his dead sprint to practically torpedo the officer into the concrete walls. Cyrus was able to pull his punch just enough to stop short of ripping the poor bastard's jaw clean off.

"Graham!" Two MAXTAC berserkers burst from cover, running along the concrete walls on each side and deftly squeezing off bursts of ballistic shells from their Arasaka Shigure's.

Cyrus snatched a discarded rebar from the far wall and hurled it towards the berserker on his right. The MAXTAC operator deployed her Mantis blade and stabbed it into the concrete wall, halting her momentum and sliding down the wall.

Her partner launched herself towards Cyrus, seeking to bury her Mantis Blades into his chest. He countered by stepping to the right and delivering a bone-crushing knee to the berserker's gut, knocking the wind from her lungs and leaving her open to an elbow to the back of her skull.

"Millie!" Cyrus dove for cover behind an overturned dumpster just in time to avoid a wave of lethal retribution. The trio of MAXTAC operators further down the alley was content to suppress the Spartan, but their Berserker teammate was motivated by anger.

"Kendal, get the fuck back here!" One of the MAXTAC riflemen called out from down the alleyway.

"Fuck that!"

A scorching mantis blade pierced Cyrus's cover mere inches from his left cheek, prompting him to scramble away from the dumpster as the MAXTAC Berserker tore through it.

"I'm going to rip your fucking head off!" The irate operator charged at Cyrus with steam coming out of her ears, but the Spartan's senses were drawn to the sound of footsteps approaching his rear.

His pursuers were starting to catch up, and the last thing Cyrus needed was to be caught in a vice between two squads of MAXTAC. A downward swipe almost knicked his left arm as Kendal sought to relieve him of his extremity.

Cyrus disrupted a secondary assault by scoring a snap kick against her left thigh, knocking her off balance and allowing him to grab the scruff of her uniform.

"Wha.." The dumbfounded expression etched onto Specialist Kendal's face was replaced by terror as Cyrus torpedoed her into a pair of MAXTAC. Sergeant Keryll Williams and the operator behind him were knocked off their feet by the human missile, triggering a pileup that delayed his squad.

Cyrus shot forward, priming one of his last flash grenades in his right hand and scoring a headshot on one of the three MAXTAC operators blocking his escape.

"Fuck!" Corporal Cory Brewer ducked just in time to avoid a nasty blow to the visor. He resynchronized his communication module, desperately trying to raise anyone for backup. Sergeant Robertson was the latest victim to Cypher's deadly accuracy, and now it was down to Brewer and Corporal Garett.

"Granite two here. We need back up now!" His calls for aid were met with static. "Goddamnit!"

Brewer strafed to his right, drawing a fragmentation grenade from his vest and throwing it towards Cypher. He watched with horror as a flash grenade bounced off the top of his hardcover and detonated a mere inch from his visor.

"AGHHH!" The MAXTAC operator's screams of anguish were silenced when Cyrus grasped the man's helmet and drove him into the ground. His skull bounced off the concrete, and darkness consumed his vision.

The Spartan shouldered past the final obstacle with a well-placed shot to the thigh followed by a swiping strike to his throat. Corporal Garett's lungs choked for oxygen, but a heel kick to the temple knocked him into a blissful sleep.

Cyrus had no time to relax. He turned south towards market street, pushing his augmented body to its limit and reaching close to 50 kph.

A beaming light from passing aerodyne struggled to keep up with his breakneck pace, and the pilot was forced to pitch his AV forward to keep pace. Two MAXTAC Ironclads burst onto the abandoned avenue, driving Cyrus to divert away from Senate street towards an apartment building.

The lead ironclad licked at his feet in the final hundred meters, and the Spartan smashed through the sliding doors shoulder first, frightening the occupants inside. The MAXTAC pursuers kicked out their windshield and swung their firearms towards their target.

"Shit." Cyrus kicked off the bumper, the kinetic force allowing him to slide across the ceramic floor as he returned fire with his Nue.

Those tenants whose curiosity got the better of them scrambled back into their rooms as gunfire began to stream into the entranceway. Cyrus pulled the trigger twice, firing a pair of kinetic shells into the Ironclads passenger, knocking him out of the gun battle and forcing the driver to reverse.

Cyrus shot to his feet as a team of MAXTAC operators streamed into the corridor hot on his tail.

"Chamber, I need another route!" There was no way he could reach the catacombs with the streets choke-full of MAXTAC and NCPD.

"Head to the tenth floor! There's bridge access you can use to cross the highway and enter Arcus Tower!" Cyrus holstered his Nue and tore up the stairway, shoving past a woman who was trying to reach her apartment.

"Watch it, asshole!"

Cyrus ignored the irate civilian as a burst of 5.56 chipped at the wall next to him. He rolled to his left and spotted the sky bridge access. Before pushing for the exit, he ripped a vending machine off its moors and tossed it down the stairway, forcing his pursuers to evade the tumbling obstacle.

The sliding doors barely opened in time to avoid a surging Cyrus. His breaths were heavy but even—a credit to both his augmentations and over-the-top conditioning required to utilize his MJOLNIR.

Cyrus was halfway across the sky bridge when a beam of light shined through the tempered glass. Out the corner of his eye, he saw the AV's blackened insignia belonging to Arasaka's military arm plastered across its nose.

Black Element was here. The Mercs were undoubtedly eager to tear him a new one after what Cyrus did to their brothers at FOB Prism.

The AV's 20mm cannons unleashed a wave of high explosive shells that easily cut through the sky bridge's support beams. With Cyrus still trying to cross the bridge, the pilot sought to bring it and him down along with it.

"Get out of there, Cyrus!" The Spartan wasted no time in following the AI's cries, kicking his feet with all haste even as glass and shrapnel filled the sky bridge.

Cyrus was thirty meters from crossing the death trap when a Black Element Heavy Gunner burst through the sliding doors alongside a squad of mercenaries. The brute smiled underneath his helmet and brought his Mk.31 HMG to bear.

With little options remaining, Cyrus veered to the left, shouldering into the shattered glass and plummeting towards the ground. He managed to snag a sky bridge cable cut loose by the barrage of high explosive shells and maneuver himself towards Arcus Towers 12th floor.

He slammed through the tempered glass into an empty conference room, knocking through the hardwood table and slamming his head against the far wall. The impact momentarily dazed Cyrus, and Chamber's cries of alarm mixed in with a ringing noise.

As Cyrus struggled to his feet, a beam of light shined upon him, and for the barest of moments, he froze in place. He couldn't see the wide grin on the Merc pilot's face when he fired one of his rocket pods.

"Fuck."

*BOOM!*


Commander Enyala watched as a plume of smoke and fire was ejected into the atmosphere from her observing aerodyne. They managed to cut Cyrus off at the Arcus sky bridge, but their prey was a slippery as it got.

She was impressed at his ability to remain calm under pressure, and watching him evade the Black Element mercs was a beautiful symphony in her mind. It was unfortunate that a second aerodyne managed to beset Cypher before he could make his escape.

"Sparrow Six to Saffron One-three." Enyala raised the Black Element squad scavenging Cypher's last location. "Have you found a body?"

There was a momentary silence before the mercs finally got back to her. "Negative Sparrow Six. He might have been vaporized in the blast."

Enyala could see a Black Element Sergeant walk into view, his troops searching through the wreckage behind him. The MAXTAC Commander wasn't satisfied. Cypher wouldn't allow himself to be taken down so easily.

"Do a thorough sweep. Vulture One will arrive shortly to assist." Rory would be beside herself if Cypher managed to get killed by Black Element of all people.

"Roger that we'll-" Lieutenant Garney paused his transmission as a commotion broke out behind him. He turned just in time to find, Cypher burst through a pile of rubble and lodged a Kukri into one of his rifleman's torso. "Contact!"

Cyrus swung the screaming mercenary off his Kukri, swiping his Araska Masamune in-process and firing a burst directly into the face of a Black Element Specialist. The rounds smashed through his visor, piercing his skull and killing him instantly.

Two more mercs were cut down as Lieutenant Garney attempted to rally his squad. "Take him down! Take him down!"

Cyrus slid to his left, exchanging lethal fire with the remaining mercenaries and deftly snatching a fragmentation bomb off one of their dead companion's vests. He tossed the grenade towards a clustered group of frightened mercs and charged their commanding officer.

"FUCKKKKK!" Lieutenant Garney's eyes bulged as the towering Spartan collided with his torso, slamming his Kukri into the mercenary's chest and pushing both men through the smoldering breach.

Enyala's smile grew a fraction as she watched Cyrus plummet to the ground.

The hunt wasn't quite finished yet.

Garney choked on his own blood as Cyrus ripped the Kukri from his chest and adjusted his position to allow the Merc to absorb most of the incoming landing. The pair smashed into a scaffolding, dislodging the Spartan and crushing Garney into paste.

Cyrus tumbled through several awnings before crashing into a construction barrier. Blood dripped down the corners of his mouth as the fresh wounds from the rocket attack and rough landing began to take their toll.

He spared a moment to recover from the traumatic ordeal. The back-to-back ambushes were one thing, but Cyrus was slowly starting to feel the effects with each breath he took.

Cyrus struggled to get back on his feet for the first time in a long time as he fought to swallow the excruciating pain spreading throughout his body.

A large piece of hardwood pierced his skin and lodged itself into his right shoulder after the rocket attack practically demolished the conference room. His hardened skeleton prevented the wood from going through, saving him any more trauma in the process.

Cyrus took stock of his situation and remaining equipment. His AIG was gone, and along with it were his direct comms with Chamber. He lost his Nue in the blast, and the Masamune he snagged was out of ammunition.

Thankfully he was on the other side of the causeway, and his current position placed him with three hundred meters of the catacomb entrance. MAXTAC and Black Element wouldn't be able to locate him if he made it to the tunnel without being detected. It didn't exist on any official records, and only the Sirens knew of its existence.

"You're good, Hunter." Enyala's AV circled Cyrus's prone form like a vulture. "You're more than just a killer like the rest of my men. You're resourceful, calculated, and probably the most dangerous thing on the planet. I can't wait to see what makes you tick."

Enyala looked on as the Spartan stumbled to his feet and ran with all haste to the northeast. She eagerly activated her transponder while her gaze remained rooted firmly upon Cypher.

"Sparrow Six to Vulture One. You are cleared to engage."

"About damn time." Rory's excitement bled through the comm channel. "Is he heading where I think he is?"

"Yes." Enyala's eyes trailed towards the embers and one of the few places with access to Night City's underground.

She used to crave the opportunity of returning to her former home and burning it to the ground, but it was not to be.

Fate decreed that Isabel's death end any notions of revenge. Enyala and Rory did not mourn their leader's passing, nor did they particularly care about a return to the catacombs to exact vengeance.

That war was lost years ago.

Now all they cared about was expanding upon their bloodthirsty crusade by adding Cypher to their ranks.

Willingly or not.


Every nerve in Cyrus's body demanded retribution and inflict every aching pain upon those who dared to come after him ten times over. His mind, however, tempered his fraying emotions, keeping him from making a poor decision.

Cyrus managed to evade a couple of patrols, thoroughly searching every inch of Heywood, all the while he inched ever closer to salvation.

The catacomb entrance was within eyesight, nestled into an abandoned roadway east of Embers.

The hanging moon illuminated the spacious tunnel, but a thunderstorm was developing in the skies. He searched for the catacomb entrance when a familiar voice echoed in the chamber.

"You made it." Melissa Rory stepped from the shadows clad in her MAXTAC uniform, and her thermal Mantis Blades deployed at her side. "How nice of you to join us."

One by one, the other members of Vulture One made their presence known.

Sergeants Sharpe and Casdin stood on Rory's flanks, each of them holding an Ajax in their palms.

The twins popped out from the shadows on either side of Cyrus, their mono wires dragging as sparks of electricity as they trailed behind them.

Cyrus glanced back to find Sergeant Reynolds and Corporal Kazee rolling into view, each brandishing a pair of nasty gorilla arms and Copperheads.

He internally questioned how the fuck they knew about the catacombs. The only people who knew about this entrance were Sirens, and there was no other viable reasoning that he could think of.

As Cyrus stared into Rory's eyes, he belatedly realized that not all of Isabel's followers had died during the civil war.

Damn it all.

Rory took his silence with ease, shooting him a poisonous grin. "Beautiful work tonight, I was almost worried you wouldn't make it this far, but here you are."

Cyrus flexed his knuckles, drawing his Kukri to his right hand and sliding his left foot back. Rory's shimmering grey eyes brimmed with excitement, and adrenaline coursed through her veins.

"Shall we begin?" The twins attacked first, swiping at Cyrus with their Mono wires while the rest opened fire on him with their rifles. He managed to dodge the sparking wires and most of the ballistic shells, but a lucky round managed to catch his collarbone, forcing him to slide with the kinetic force.

Aliya Siegfried was the first to reach him, wrapping a mono wire around his left arm and dragging him towards her. Tendrils of electricity bit at his arm, slicing through his sleeve and digging into his skin.

Cyrus reacted quickly, cutting through the mono wire with his Kukri even as a second ballistic shell slammed into his back, adding another wound to his battered body. The Spartan dashed forward, heading straight into the jaws of Reynolds and Kazee's gunfire.

Rory watched with a critical eye as Reynolds suffered a brutal shoulder check to the jaw knocking him to the ground in a daze.

Kazee was targeted next and had his rifle kicked from his grasp, forcing him to draw his Katana. After narrowly parrying Cyrus' downward stab, the swordsman traded a series of powerful strikes with his blade.

It did not take long for the twins to get drawn into the chaos. Aliya and Amanda divided Cypher's focus and maintained an efficient tempo to wear him down.

Cypher was stuck between a rock and a hard place since the triumvirate had effectively covered all of his offensive vectors. Kazee was seamlessly working in between the twin's attacks, never once getting in their way. Their strikes were calculated and initiated without hesitation, putting him on the defensive for most of the engagement.

A stalemate began to form for a time, as none could score even a glancing blow before Cyrus overextended himself. Kazee took advantage of his opening, slashing through the Spartan's right arm and drawing blood. Amanda followed up by wrapping her mono wire around his neck and using it to slingshot herself into his sternum feet first.

Her heels dug into his torso, sending him stumbling backward, wincing in pain as another stream of electricity consumed him. Kazee shot forward, intending to bury his Katana into Cyrus's gut, but he was a fraction of a second late.

Cyrus regained his bearings and fought through the pain, sliding to his left and driving his elbow into Kazee's cranium.

"Roland!" Aliya screamed in indignation as Amanda fought to restrain Cyrus's movements. The Spartan pulled on the wire, fighting through the burning sensation consuming his hand and dislocating her left arm with a vicious leg kick.

"ARGHH!" The twin felt her arm pop out of place, and she was forced to loosen her wires grip on his neck.

Cyrus shot after Amanda intending to finish her off when a pair of painful bites tore through his back. His balance was immediately disrupted when a weight settled onto his lower back.

His arms shot out to keep him from colliding face-first into the concrete when a warm breath washed over his right ear.

"I told you this would happen." Rory extracted her Mantis blades from his back and immediately stabbed them into his shoulders, cutting through flesh and pinning him to the ground.

Cyrus didn't know what hit him until it was far too late. Mono wires were wrapped around all his extremities feeding lethal voltages through his body and frying his nerves. For the first time in decades, a terrible scream of anguish erupted from his throat, and through it all, he fought to find his feet.

A boot slammed into his cranium, bouncing it off the concrete and turning his head towards the tunnel entrance. Through the haze of blood loss and excruciating pain, he found a pair of golden eyes staring back with blatant satisfaction.

Commander Enyala arrived at the catacomb with two platoons worth of MAXTAC in tow. She trusted Rory to complete the task at hand, and her Lieutenant came through like always.

And as she stared into Cypher's hate-filled eyes, a shiver of delight rolled through her.

Isabel would have liked him.


So resumes the MAXTAC Ark. Where all accounts will once again be settled.

It's been a tough week, in part because of a very emotional funeral, upcoming finals, and a bunch of other nonsense. I will, unfortunately, have to add another week delay because I have finals next week but there is some good news.

If you are an old guard who found this story in the first month of existence which was last December, my uploading rate was insane. We're talking two chapters in the span of 48 hours in some instances.

Now that rate won't be mimicked but there is a high possibility of a large dosage of chapters for bot Semper Vigiles and Only in death for the upcoming weeks so stay tuned.

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


Reviews:

Ssj1998: An old question but I'll answer it once more. He was given MJOLNIR in the final year of his Headhunter assignment to pair up with Chamber. So he did use SPI for a majority of his deployments and only recently received it.

Cipherical: Same for me and while there was only a sneak peak of them they will make their presence as one of Cyrus's top lieutenants in the near future.


Next Chapter: December 13th (Possible 9th if everything works out exam week)


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