Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Fear the Storm
The world was full of important events. After all, such things are to be expected when the world teetered on the brink of global warfare. The united nations were covertly building their forces up for total war with every single thing on earth they considered an enemy. The spirit world, monster world, and magical world were all preparing a combined front to challenge and defeat the human race. The Paranormal Warfare Contingency and Defense organization and the Holy Church were running counter-terrorist missions and preemptive strikes against those they considered imminent threats to humanity. There was so much going on that the lower level organizations were being all but ignored in the grand scheme of things.
This was the perfect time for F.E.A.R. to get active.
A large group of armed men with a woman leading them escorted a group of three prisoners into a castle in the middle of the woods. All three of them had their hands up and bags over their heads. They would've had their hands bound, but their captors didn't have anything to use for hand bindings. The 3 prisoners were silent and compliant the entire time. Whether this was due to the prisoners having resigned themselves to death or them being confident for some reason was unknown. Either way, it didn't matter. Once the youkai gang members delivered these three to the magus, their business was done.
The three men were brought into what amounted to the castle's living room and placed on their knees on the floor, directly in front of a man dressed in an expensive suit. The gang members lined up behind the trio of prisoners with their weapons aimed at them, since the lack of bindings meant they could move at any moment.
"So were these the intruders I was informed of?" The man questioned to the youkai group's leader.
"Yes." The apparent leader, a petite Chinese woman, responded.
Nodding in response, the man in the suit stood up, looking down on the three prisoners with a look of utter contempt. He, as a magus, had been aware of the sudden victimization by non-magical human kind. Magi were being assassinated left and right. While assassinations in of themselves weren't anything new in the magus world, the perpetrators were the cause of concern. Government agents, non-magical mercenaries, PWCD Special Forces, government aligned black operatives, all human groups that were trained killers were repeatedly seen to have been killing and abducting magi. It was no secret that magi, regardless of their allegiance, were being targeted.
There was little doubt that the three men in front of him were soldiers sent to kill him, just as they had done to countless others. And now he had them at his mercy.
"So, what were you doing sneaking around my abode?" The magus asked rhetorically. He was answered when the man in the middle began speaking, his voice surprising everyone in the room.
"Challus Valiel. Guilty of abduction, human trafficking, manslaughter, torture, and a host of other deeds. All of them carried out against random civilians." The voice seemed artificial, fake even.
Curiosity taking over, the now identified magus stood up and reached out, pulling the bag off the head of the man who had spoken. He was slightly put off when the image that met him was that of a muscular Caucasian male, whose head was completely shaven. However, that wasn't the disquieting part. He wore an iron contraption that covered his mouth entirely and had straps going over and around his head to meet at the base of his skull. The mask was clearly for medical purposes, yet it gave the man wearing it an intimidating aura. Unperturbed by the looks he received from both the magus and youkai, he continued talking.
"Given your actions, you know as well as I do why we have come." The undercurrent of killing intent in his voice was not missed, even with that contraption slightly interfering with his speech.
Challus paused for a moment, before chuckling to himself. "This is why non-magical humans like you need to be kept in line. You fail to appreciate the depths of hardship and experimentation that are required to further the practice of thaumaturgy. A few lives spent in the name of creating miracles are hardly worth notice." The magi proclaimed, making eye contact with the masked prisoner.
"Your kind baffles me." The would-be assassin began. "Things like you have killed and harassed humans for who knows how long. Not only does your kind cause suffering and death, but take pride in it. You revel in it. Did you think that your kind would continue on like this forever, without consequences? Did you truly believe that there would never come a reckoning?"
Truly intrigued by the path of this conversation, Challus continued to poke fun at the man, thinking his threats were empty. "And I suppose that you were my personal 'reckoning'? Well then enlighten me. Was getting captured part of your plan to avenge my test subjects?" He questioned with a smirk on his face.
The man looked to his left and right, at both of his fellow squad mates before answering. "Of course!" He stated as if it were obvious.
Nearly at the point of laughing at the absurdity of the situation, he decided to ask one last question before he had them all killed. "So what's the next part of your genius plan?"
There was a pause as the building seemed to rumble slightly. Everyone's attention waned as they began looking around for the source of the noise. Their attention was recaptured when the prisoner spoke again. "Do you want to know how I got the call sign 'Bane'?"
The lights within the entire castle died, the power lines having apparently been cut. Less than a second later, a door was heard being smashed open in another part of the castle. Challus' eyes widened in surprise at the noise. More intruders? How'd they slip through my bounded field unnoticed? They must've followed the youkai gang in through the opening! His thoughts were cut off when multiple canisters blowing out tear gas smashed through the windows of the very room they were in.
Panic didn't even have a chance to set in as Bane swiftly got on one knee, twisted his torso around, and batted away the AK-47 pointed at him while the gunman was busy watching a smoke canister roll across the room. With his other hand, Bane grabbed the side arm strapped to the monster's waist, flicked the safety off, pushed it against the monster's chest, and fired off three shots at point blank range. The gangster collapsed to the ground, Bane relieving him of his weapon.
The other two men snatched off the bags on their heads, and immediately reached down and placed pocket sized re-breathers over their mouths and closed their eyes to avoid the effects of the tear gas. Immediately after doing so, they rushed forward and tackled the magus before he regained enough sense to flee the scene. Pinned beneath the weight of two grown men and now exposed to the tear gas, the magus thrashed fruitlessly to get free.
By the time the others in the youkai gang had realized that the tables were turning, the door to the hallway was suddenly kicked open. Men in all black clothing stormed into the room guns blazing. They wore old World War 2 era gas masks with white skulls painted over the masks. They also had 'F.E.A.R.' in big white letters going across the sleeves of their uniforms. Armed with assault rifles, pump-action shotguns, and sub-machine guns, the men fired on the youkai gangsters. With tear gas burning their eyes and choking their airways, most of the youkai didn't even manage to raise their guns in time; much less get a shot off. All but one of them was cut down in the hail of bullets, the exception being a Chinese woman who seemed unaffected by the bullet wounds she received.
Suddenly the Chinese woman blew a hole in the ground below her, whether from some kind of magic or monster ability, the humans couldn't tell. She fell through the hole effortlessly, evading the next salvo of bullets and escaping the gas chamber that was once the magi's room. Swiftly rushing over to the hole, several of the FEAR mercenaries scanned the pitch black room below, looking for a sign of the monster hiding inside. One of the men took a grenade off his belt and flicked off the pin with his thumb, letting the explosive cook in his hand for a few seconds to ensure the woman didn't throw the grenade back up.
"Fire in the hole." Grunted the man, just before dropping the grenade down the hole.
"Move! Move!" A man armed with a semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun barked, just before jumping down into the hole. He was quickly followed down by three more F.E.A.R. mercenaries.
All the while Bane dragged the unconscious body of the magus out of the room. The tear gas exposure had caused him to pass out, and any longer exposure would likely kill him. Meanwhile the two men who had went in as prisoners with him were already outside the room, placing on proper gas masks and equipping themselves with spare firearms that the rest of their fellow mercenaries had brought for them.
In total, there were 15 FEAR operatives present on this mission, counting himself. There were three 4-man squads, one squad of which was in pursuit of the fleeing youkai. The 2nd squad was here with him. The third squad was camped outside with long range rifles to pick off any who escaped the castle or ran by a window they could see. Then there was him and his two men with him who had allowed themselves to be captured while wearing wires, specifically to take the magus alive while the rest cleaned up the youkai.
Bane turned his attention to one of the gas mask wearing soldiers jogging out of the room, carrying an M16 in his hands. He stopped directly in front of Bane, craning his neck up to look at the face of the giant man and giving a quick salute. Bane returned the gesture.
"What was the affiliation of those youkai?" The leader of FEAR inquired, his mask altering his voice.
Unperturbed, the man responded, his own gas mask somewhat impairing his speech as well. "They're members of the Chinese Mafia. Ran by the Wong Family."
Bane pondered on the name for a moment, thinking about why that name sounded so familiar. Then it hit him. "The Wong family? It is to my knowledge that they shy away from human affairs. Why are they working with magi of all people?"
"That was our thought too. But according to our contacts, there are multiple youkai gangs suddenly working with known magi. Something's going on here." The F.E.A.R. soldier stated, looking to the side in clear unease. Non-humans were bad enough to deal with separately. Now they were suddenly organizing in mass, and directly against human anti-terrorists and anti-monster cells. The Vinnell Corporation, a fellow Private military company and close allies of F.E.A.R., had their base of operations hit by a case-less and residue-less explosive, which was something only magi and youkai could do. The lack of traceability meant that the chances of finding the perpetrator were remote at best. But with this new development, one had to wonder if the Magi and youkai were working in tandem.
Bane gave no comment, letting the information sink in for a moment. Just before the soldier went back to his squad, Bane asked him a question. "You got a good look at the Chinese woman correct?" The soldier nodded. "Did she, by chance, have several of pieces of signed paper adorning her dress?"
"Yes sir." The man stated, wondering why the accessories on her clothes were worth any mention.
"Dammit. Tell the squad to keep track of her, but avoid a direct engagement. They're chasing a zombie youkai that can possibly summon feral monsters like attack dogs. They'll need more than poison coated bullets to put her down." Bane ordered. The soldier nodded and ran back to his squad leader, relaying their commander's orders.
Bane did his homework when it came to monster gangs. The Wong family was well known for its tendency to use seals to reanimate the dead and call forth ayashi as attack creatures. It was their trademark. The leader of F.E.A.R. didn't know the seals by sight, or even how they worked, but knowing that their enemy was a fairly high ranked member from the Chinese mafia was enough of a warning. The mission wasn't in danger, and he doubted that the woman would follow them after her client had been captured and her men had been gunned down right in front of her. However, you didn't become and remain a major player in the private military world by leaving things to chance.
Bane looked back down at the magus he had come for, who was being bound and gagged by the two members of his team that had pretended to be prisoners alongside him. "Take him back to the pre-set extraction point. If he shows signs of waking up, knock him out again. It doesn't matter if he gets a concussion or not. We just need his still living body."
"Yes sir, Bane. But what are you going to do?" One of the men asked, speaking through his newly fitted gas mask while kneeling over the incapacitated magi's body.
"The Magi is for our employer. We turn his body in alive and our business is done. But we need to know what's going on with this entire situation. We can't afford to be in the dark. And a captured higher up of the Chinese mafia would divulge all the information we need." Bane explained, rolling his shoulders in preparation. "I'll need to borrow one of your weapons for a few moments."
The two soldiers stood up, one of them hauling the unconscious soldier over his shoulder and handing his KRISS Super V over to his superior. Bane took the weapon and picked off 2 clips from the 6 or 7 on his belt, sticking them in his pocket. He cocked the hammer back on the weapon and pointed it down the hall to check the sights. Satisfied, he took the gun in a two handed grip and began jogging down the hall, activating the radio in his muzzle-like contraption to be able to communicate with those men of his who were already hot on the target's trail.
"Time to hunt."
Hollows were getting to be a larger problem in the human world.
The heartless creatures were flying through the skies over the Pacific Ocean in desperation and confusion. They were being repeatedly blasted out of the sky by multiple shapes that resembled winged pencils with eye balls just above the tips of the needle points. The aircraft flew in rigid and preset patterns, within stiff and near-seamless "V" shaped formations.
The smarter hollows were able to predict the patterns the planes flew in, and shoot a few of them out of the sky by firing ceros directly in front of their paths. Even still, the pencil like aircraft didn't break their formations and engage individually, where they'd be much more efficient predators. At least, they didn't initially. After the smarter of the hollows started catching on, and had shot down 8 of the pencil shaped aircraft, they all separated in a perfectly unified fashion, as if all thinking with a single mind. However even after this, the planes still flew in stiff flight patterns. They were just harder targets to hit now, because they weren't flying in groups.
These were Hunter drones, the newly invented cousins of the predator drones. Armed with 2 anti-tank missiles and a nose mounted turret each, these drones were cheap and easily mass produced. They were self-piloting drones that received orders such as when to break formation, when to attack, when to stop attacking, and other such issues. When stacked against piloted aircraft, they were jokes. They'd be easily outmaneuvered and shot down by any piloted aircraft, especially the new and high end ones. But just like the Predator drone, Hunter drones weren't purposed for the task of taking down aerial targets. Rather, they were meant for overwhelming targets both air and ground based. Their sheer weight of numbers, coupled with their aerial supremacy made them foreboding to watch, as multiple flights of them flew over enemy positions, darkening the skies with their numbers.
And it just so happened that they were perfect for dealing with hollow infestations, while preserving human soldiers and pilots. Because they were machines, they didn't have souls, and thus feral hollows couldn't comprehend them as threats any more than they could comprehend a rock as a threat. Only hollows with control over their minds could actually realize that the drones were a threat, and respond, but they weren't all that common to encounter among normal hollows anyway. Now that reiatsu could be identified on the energy spectrum, the drones were programmed to be capable of seeing hollows and target them. And because the United Nations had been secretly building drone hangers all over the world (mainly places that lacked a very strong organized military presence), the Hunter drones could be dispatched against hollows the moment they entered into the real world.
The heavy suits in the PWCD had essentially been made obsolete due to the Hunter drones being able to do their job quicker and cheaper. The only reason the PWCD didn't re-purpose all the heavy suit operators to being standard special operations units was that there was still the off-chance that Vasto Lorde and possibly even high level shinigami may show up, and the Hunter drones would be too underwhelming.
The hollows were made short work of. The group that had once been 20 strong was reduced to three, and a handful of Hunter drones were looping around for another pass. The feral hollows moved aimlessly, trying to avoid whatever it was that was killing them, but doing nothing to actually retaliate. They were gunned down by the nose guns on one of the three passing Hunter drones, the fast moving bullets tearing through the hollows' skin with ease. The one remaining hollow capable of seeing the drones as a threat fired a cero at one of the Hunter drones in the air, striking it in the tail and letting it helplessly flop out of the sky and take a nose dive into the water.
Then an anti-tank missile moving at mach speeds struck the hollow, blowing the creature into unrecognizable pieces.
"Good job. Call the drones back." A short Chinese man with a thick beard ordered.
Inside a military base along the coast of China, there were multiple men and women seated around computer screens, monitoring and directing the performance of the Hunter drones. Seeing as China had been the ones to put forth the concept of a drone army in the first place, they were given access to one of the largest drone hangers in the world. With a store of 500 Hunter drones, 3,920 whippet tank drones, and 215,000 dragonfire drones, they could single-handedly defeat 63% of the countries in the world, using only their drones (assuming drone hangers in other parts of the world didn't intervene). And the number of drones of all types and varieties being made was steadily increasing.
Of course, China was next door to Japan, so they were entirely justified in having an unmanned army that could deploy in scant seconds if need be. It'd definitely ensure that should a similar attack to the Japan massacre happen within that entire region, the tables would turn against the attackers rather quickly.
Yu Kon, the director and head of this drone hanger walked around the room, observing the progress of the Hunter drones as they made their return trip. He made it a point to oversee any and all drone deployments when he was able. They weren't too common of an occurrence, but certainly common enough that a vigilant eye was always needed. 32 drones had been dispatched. Only 24 of them were coming back. The cost for assembling a single Hunter drone was only 2 million, which was cheap compared to the piloted aircraft that usually cost around 15 million at a low end. War wasn't cheap.
Then suddenly an entire formation of Hunter drones got knocked out of the sky. The drones, lacking any sense of self-preservation, didn't respond to the threat due to the attacker not being visible on their sights. Yu Kon gaped as he watched 8 drones suddenly drop off the radar.
"Order those drones to attack whatever just hit them!" He barked, watching as the man in front of him started putting in orders to the drones through the keyboard.
The drones just started breaking formation when a shower of balas started raining down upon the drones, scoring hits on many of them. The handful of drones that had evaded the onslaught and managed to turn and face their attacker was struck once more with pinpoint accurate balas, the balls of reiastu smashing completely into the light aircraft like wrecking balls. The flimsy armor of the Hunter drones crumpled inward like soda cans on direct hits. Only a single drone was still in the air, and it just managed to get a lock on to its target, when said target suddenly slammed into the front of the aircraft.
The last image it saw was a hollow wearing damaged white power armor, cocking back a hand that held a charged cero. In a movement too fast for most people to see, the creature's hand went straight through the optics of the Hunter drone, killing the video feed.
Yu Kon, as well as everyone else in the room, was flabbergasted by what had just happened. An entire flight of Hunter drones had just been swatted out of the skies in mere seconds. Not even the most deadly anti-aircraft weapons could match that level of destruction. And the image that last drone had sent them was... disturbing to say the least.
And what was worst was that the creature in question had not only gone undetected when it showed up, but completely dropped off the grid right after. It wasn't emitting any traceable levels of reiatsu, and due to its nature as a hollow, it could fly by every military institution in China, but unless someone happened to spot it with ectoplasmic vision lenses, it'd pass by without notice. It was a threat that couldn't be tracked, and thus couldn't be found and destroyed.
It was like the manifested nightmare of every conventional warfare tactician ever born.
Yu Kon immediately got into connection with the Chinese government, informing them of this recent and worrying development. Creatures too dangerous or unpredictable to be handled by conventional armed forces had a group specifically built to counter them as well.
It looked like the PWCD's heavy suits would get some use after all.