House of Swords (Part 4!)/ State of the Union 2

She's pounding on the door
She's crawling on the floor
Oh, she’s so coy…

“Fireteam Charlie, what’s your SitRep!? Fireteam Charlie respond!”

Sergeant Zumadze racked the bolt and locked in the first bullet before slinging the rifle behind him and taking the rappel line in hand, clipping himself to the thirty foot long cord dangling from the vtol. His squad all did the same, two four-man fireteams designated Oscar and William apart of the larger force responding to the distress cry in Sochi, once a city of the Russian Federation.

There was no response, not from them nor from the first three that went in with Charlie team.

“All fireteams, prepare for assault.”

Below, the open field had been burnt to black ash. Scorch marks ran up intact fortified walls of the base, while wooden and synthetic structure burned. Needing only one hand to perform a drop, he wrangled his rifle back around, snug against his chest.

“Fireteams… rappelrappelrappel-"

Oh you know that she wants it
The way that she taunts me
Damn, she’s so coy…

He kicked the half broken in door the rest of the way off its hinges, the door crashing to the ash covered floor quickly followed by his team. William team announced their entry on the far side with two echoing whumps of plastic explosives, breaching a flat stretch of wall. Four more teams rappelled off the roof and entered with crashes through the glass windows.

The hall was littered with charred defenders, withered and dessicated inside the remains of their body armor. The air hung with an atrocious smell, so bad he and his team donned gas masks. “Mask up, place could be toxic,” went over the radio, but was soon lost to gunfire echoing through the halls.

“Contact! Contact! Hostile third floor!”

“Contact second floor east!”

“Contact ground floor! Engaging!”

The writing on the wall
A psalm in napalm
Abandon all hope
But try to stay calm…

Brass casings flew across his line of sight at the figure, obscured by smoke, hardly a silhouette in the darkness but with eyes burning like fire through the cloud. His rifle cracked off a dozen or so rounds in rapid succession while his gunner let rip a string of bullets.

Over the radio, all he could hear was screaming, and the operation's command center coordinator desperately trying to assess the situation.

“Any fireteams respond! What is going on in there!”

“It’s a meta! It’s a goddamned meta! Everyone fall ba-"

Thunder in the distance
Is it gunshots or missiles?
My smile is artificial
The lock clicks, eyes fix

He tripped, falling over a corpse and launching his injured into his lap, hand caught in a death grip on the carry handle of his plate carrier. Shots rang out, another burst from the gunner, but he then watched as the concentrated stream suddenly went wild, shots riding the recoil to the ceiling and then across the walls in erratic fashion as the arm holding the trigger fell to the floor. Its previous owner was thrown down the hall past them, his armor and clothes burning where the grip once had been.

He didn’t wait to gain his footing again before moving, pushing off on the debris. He lost his grip on his wounded man, but the figure was nearly on top of him, an amalgamation of fire and darkness. He abandoned his man, his shrill screams of pain and terror chasing him down the halls.

He didn’t look back, not even once.

Nobody move, nobody gets hurt
But where’s the fun in that?
I gotta satisfy the thirst

She was everywhere. She is everywhere.

His corporal stopped suddenly, impaled by a sword entering his front plate, passing through his ribs, and exiting the rear plate. He knew it was a she now. Behind blazing eyes and the aura of fire and shadow she produced, there was the full bodied form of a woman, clad in black coat reaching her calves and a white blouse, her hair red as the pulsing light that glowed under her arms.

When he turned to run away, there she was again, but loading a rifle from the muzzle.

He scrambled, but ran headlong into her as though she were a brick wall. He stared up in horror as her face burned with a hate so deep it out burnt the fuel for rage, leaving only a glare that shattered any resolve to move, to fight, to flee. She reached forward, her hand and arm aflame with light, and lifted him by the jaw.

Nobody move, nobody gets hurt
But where’s the fun in that?
You get what you deserve

She watched through the infantry drone as it entered the kill house, rifle raised, ready to engage on sight. It turned a corner, she noted the mangled, charred, and withered bodies that the drone nimbly dodged in its hunt. Armed with the latest in weaponry, a bullet from the drone’s weapon could put even Zod out of commission with its hyper-velocity magnetically accelerated ammunition of nth metal tipped kryptonite flechettes. A nasty piece of work meant for one thing, killing metahumans.

The drone noted a pressure difference around the corner that spanned an almost six foot by two foot cube, and marked it as the target. Rather than finish closing distance, the drone punched a hole in the wall and aimed in the targets direction, laying down a pair of three round bursts that formed neat triangles in the next wall and confirmed hits on target.

The drone paused, waiting for the target to fall off its radar. One second passed, then two. At five, the drone emptied the entire weapon into the wall, filling it with holes and splintered off chunks of concrete, tearing through on their way to the target just beyond. The weapon clicked on empty, dust settling to the floor while the last few loosened chunks dropped.

The wall shattered, and the drone view camera was temporarily blocked by the object. In the second after, she spotted the body, then saw the pulsating fist of a woman punch into the drone, the camera being jerked around until it, along with the rest of the head was ripped from the body. For a moment there was nothing but wall, then ceiling. Then, a face, eyes burning, light pulsing beneath the woman's skin.

But why does she look so much like me?

“Call off medevac! There’s no one left! Do not land I repeat do not land!”

The gunship pummeled the site from several hundred feet in the sky, machine gun fire leaving a line of tracer like living lightning mixed with the brilliant light of shells fired down on the target below, destroying everything from buildings and cars to burnt trees and hopefully everything hostile inside.

When the violent drums of the gunship stopped, thermal registered a brilliant heat signature still at the center of the blast zone. The guns opened up again, this time in a crazed staccato of devastation, the kind reserved for kill-it-at-all-costs moments. Like the drone, many of the munitions for the smaller autocannon were actually sabot shells tipped with nth metal. Whatever this target was, the sheer volume of destructive fire, combined with the weaponized nature of the nth metal tips, should kill it.

When the guns ran hot and the cease fire was given, the heat signature remained. The gunners waited, hoping it was a fire they caused or quite literally a smoldering, half melted crater that would cool into glass. It didn’t, and the gunship watched as several assault vtols closed in, circling the target.

“God damn, its still alive! Everyone! Let it rip!”

The Apex Predator

___________________________________________________

Graves received the footage just as she touched down back in DC, and re-watched it four times in the armoured car en route to the White House, where she planned on staying the night to do some research. She turned it back again to the woman in the drone camera, the froze stills of her from the soldier's body cams and put them all on one screen.

The subject was somewhere in the range of five and a half and six feet tall, had the appearance of a young human female, though of course she was obviously something much more. She might have red hair, that was a frequent pattern in these subjects that their down-powered appearance resembled their powered appearance. It was something the analysts would have to investigate further. The rest was easy, she could have drawn a picture if she wanted. Semi-squarish jawline, typical of people indigenous to that region, a little sharper than square actually, with hard edges on for the jaw and cheekbone. The hair was an outlier in style as well, cut into a very unique take on the bob with serious side drifting to the right for her bangs, intentionally done. It stood out only because that area after the Arab expansion problem a few years ago saw almost only women in headdress, with long hair hidden beneath everything from veils to scarves depending on religious affiliation.

The thing she was having most trouble understanding was the end result. Four vtol aircraft were lost, as were all hands of the Northern Arab Army's eighth battalion, and the rescue force of fourth battalion second company. Armoured vehicles attempting to contain the situation were also destroyed, which she reviewed through the lens of overhead surveillance drone footage. And that was after being given the green light to use overkill ammunition. It seems like nothing was able to put even a dent in her.

She went back to the face picture. The woman knew what she was doing, she entered a military base without raising alarm until she had effectively exterminated the garrison. Her face here was intentional, no doubt, but why? She demonstrated she could sweep an unprepared and prepared force if she chose to, then made a point of tanking ridiculous amounts of firepower.

If it hadn’t been done so deliberately, she would say it was a sort of intimidation tactic. Done how she did however, it had a different message embedded in her effortless destruction. Come, chase me. A bold move for a meta so late in the game, but then it might not be. Between the incidents in Gotham and Metropolis, she may be on to the start of a pattern.

The car door opened and she was met by a concierge and an armed escort. “Miss Graves? The President is waiting for you in his office.”

She closed the tablet, taking a deep breath. Her work would have to wait. Tomorrow she hoped to have a presentation on the matter ready, then they could truly start taking some action.

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