[OOC: And as RPex died it shall now be rekindled, and soon to be burning away not unlike the Phoenix… Here is the setting and outline of the world… let’s begin]

The year was 3020, 20 years after what many thought was the end of all human life…

An ultimatum was set by the united nations of the world, forcing people to join together to keep their planet alive. Of course this last ditch effort did nothing to help the world's problems, in fact it caused them to spiral out of control into what can only be described as The War.

The War was a titanic shock to the system of the world, nuclear explosions blowing away parts of the large land masses and fusing them together, the smaller ones swallowed up by the ocean. It tore gashes in the sky, leaving a murderous red tinge and constant jagged lightning on the atmosphere. It was claimed world’s population had been decimated by up to 70%. And with the nuclear explosions came certain mutations, which came upon those humans and animals born after the year 3000, when the war started.

And with the fusion of the land masses some of the population had drawn together into a city of gargantuan proportions, which had at one time a name that no one remembered or really cared for, most simply referring to it as ‘The City’. There are other settlements at the far sides of the new continent each controlled of one racial sub group. No one controlled The City; it was filled with vast amounts of people from all races and so, was in the midst of a power struggle, which filled it with a constant chaos. The City was also home to a large percentage of the mutant population and was home to a new breed of people, more dangerous and cunning, having been born in the midst of a war, where only the strong survive…

Falken shifted the bike into top gear and twisted the throttle as he sped down the side road towards his destination a neon lit bar known as Last Sanctuary. He parked his bike around the back of the bar, in his usual place. Removing his helmet, stark black hair flowed onto his dark overcoat, the hilt of a sword glinted from within the folds of the coat, along with a carefully hidden holster. Falken nodded to Venus, the lady owner of the bar as he took his usual place on the far side of the bar. He was brought his bottle of whiskey as he sat and waited out the storm.

[OOC: So what do we think? Oh and hybrid fuel technology has long since been mastered, and while there may/may not be space travel it is not going to be involved in the story line… now it is up to you to introduce characters and further the plot line

As Falken's bottle was placed on the bar in front of him, he surveyed the tavern. It was a big, sombre, wooden affair, with surprisingly high ceilings and dirty windows. It sat in the street amidst a couple of run-down shops, none of which he'd ever entered. They were probably cover for various drug rings anyway.

He examined the glass. Then, satisfied that it was only moderately dirty, he poured some of the whiskey into it. While Venus was a friend of his, she couldn’t give him clean glasses when there were none in the place. She did usually make an effort to give him the least grimy ones. Just as he was about to drink, the bar shook with a sudden explosion, one that rocked the tavern and caused several of the windows to shatter. The biker put down his glass with a sigh, and swore.

"Not again..." he said fiercely.

Street gangs were another common occurrence in this part of the City. They roamed around, looking for an easy mark. Sometimes they got bold enough to attack places like the tavern Falken was sitting in. He caught Venus' eye, and nodded as she took a gun from under the counter. He silently turned to face the door, and suddenly threw himself to one side, landing behind a table where the Gatling gunner couldn't see him.

Since when did street gangs have access to Gatling guns? Hell, usually only the top gang members even had reliable handguns. He swore again as he removed his sword from his scabbard, and his own gun from its holster, he ran from table to table, reasoning that they provided him with at least some protection. In fact, the guy manning the big gun seemed incompetent. He hadn't hit a single person, and appeared to be shooting into the air on the other side of the tavern from where Falken was. He took another look at the gunner, and saw that he was sprawled away from his gun, dead, his hand in a death grip on the trigger. The coated one had no time to wonder over this, however. Other gangsters advanced on him, holding weaponry that no gang should ever be able to afford. One pointed at him with a machine gun, but he placed a bullet in his skull before he could be targeted. Jumping behind a pile of rubble from a building demolition that took place years ago, the dark-haired fighter saw a gang member spraying fire over the building with a flamethrower. The hairs on his back stood up, and he whirled around to find himself looking into cold, steel-grey eyes.

In this age, many people had mutations. Generally, they showed as the ability to do things that others could not, like moving things with the mind’s power or lighting fires without any means of doing so. Falken himself had mutations of this sort. But the man who stood before him… Well, he had wings. The biker was incredulous. The winged man sighed.

“Are y’gonna keep starin’ forever?” he asked, “The bar won’t be saved. That can’t be helped. We can, however, take out this trash.” The inn collapsed on itself as he pointed to the gangsters with an almost talon-like finger. The newcomer was tall, with short-cropped white hair. Despite this, he didn’t look old. He dressed in loose, dark blue clothing, with a sash of knives across his chest and a grey vest to match his wings. Falken found he still couldn’t speak, but as he nodded, he galvanised himself to action. He rolled around the corner of the rubble, killing several gangsters with his pistol before running to another pile. The white-haired man spat.

“Damn guns…”, he muttered before beating his wings and flying straight towards two gangers. They seemed not to notice him before a knife appeared in his hand and he ended both their lives.

A yell from the coated man drew the newcomer’s attention as a car sped towards him, guns blazing from the windows and the turret gut into its roof. Cursing his lack of caution, the winged man barely managed to escape being shot by jumping behind a burning pile of tavern-rubble. From this vantage, the winged one leaped into the air, flying over the vehicle and dropping something that stuck to its roof. As the car exploded, the remnants of the gang disappeared into the woodwork, their mission complete. The knife-wielder landed next to Falken.

“The name’s Rai, by the way. Wanna ask some questions?”

The remaining crippled gangsters yielded information, even a picture of their employer that had been used to help them identify him themselves, though only after Falken blew off some heads. Apparently the man looked like some sort of executive, apart from his long red hair and tattooed face. The man had never said who he worked for or what he did, but he had paid for the destruction of the bar, not only in money but in the weapons that would be needed. Falken looked at his newfound companion searchingly. When the winged man shrugged, he went to get his bike. Thus equipped, the two looked at the picture they had gleaned, and studied each other, trying to work out what the other had to gain from this venture. Then they set off in search of this man who had flamed the bar, each for his own reasons

A slight drizzle began hailing down upon the duo as they traveled through the dark side of town, extinguishing the flames of the ruin they'd left behind. The sky grew darker and darker as the two rode onwards, a harbinger of an oncoming storm. A chilly wind blew through the streets for a moment, although neither of the two companions seemed to be bothered at all. Of course, perhaps this was solely because of the coldness they hosted within themselves.

"Where are we going?" asked Falken, trailing slightly behind the winged man as he pulled his thoughts away from Venus, the whereabouts of whom he didn't know.

"Ta meet an ol' frien' o' mine," responded his new ally, "He's an information dealer. He knows everythin' that goes on 'round these parts. He shoul' be able ta tell us who the guy in the picture is." Falken nodded to his companion as a sign of his acquiescence, although he wasn't sure if he trusted the mutant's words at face value. The winged one certainly wasn't someone who seemed exactly trustworthy. Of course, was anyone really trustworthy these days?

Some fifteen minutes later, the companions arrived in front of an old decrepit shack, homogeneous with the rest of the neighborhood. The windows had long since dusted over, and the lights were off. In fact, the entire building looked as if it hadn't been used in ages. Despite this, Rai went ahead and turned the handle of the door only to find that it was locked. Not the least bit discouraged, the winged one pulled a hairpin from his pocket and inserted it into the knob where a key would normally go. It was when the door simply clicked once and opened wide that Falken began to doubt the morality of his companion's past--not that he was one to speak.

"Just another one o' my skills," explained the lock-picker as he entered the seemingly abandoned building. Cautiously, Falken went ahead and followed.

The heavy, filthy air inside the building caused Falken to have a slight coughing fit, although Rai didn't seem fazed at all. As soon as the sword wielder adjusted to the environment and stopped coughing, his eyes began to wander around the run down room, taking in everything they saw. Old books were scattered everywhere amidst empty shelves, although there seemed to be little else except for the occasional cobweb or cockroach scampering to and fro. Was it really possible that anything lived in this dump? The answer was about to reveal itself...

"The apocalypse fades from the human mind..." boomed a heavy voice from around the shack.

"...Only to be rekindled again," finished Rai.

"Huh? Rai? Is that you? I didn't think you'd come back so soon. Weren't you just here this morning?"

"Yeah, yeah, well, I nee' some mo' infomation."

"You've got the payment, right?"

"Of course."

Hearing this, the owner of the voice opened a door near the back of shack, ushering a small glimmer of light into the room. Falken glimpsed at the information dealer, who wore dark blue jeans and a purple hoodie, his face hidden behind the darkness of the hood. The dealer was short and slightly tubby, but these were the only things the sword wielder could discern about the secretive man.

Without any further command, Rai walked through the door and Falken followed, the hooded one immediately snapping it shut the moment they passed through. The new room they were in wasn't much better than the old except for the fact that there was actually some variance in the furniture--a desk and three chairs--as well as a light source--a candle. But what was a candle doing in this day and age? Falken give the wax stick a perplexed look. Noticing this, the hooded one simply responded, "Well I can't well use electricity or they'll find me, you know? Anyway, would you two gentleman like a seat?"

Falken nodded as the duo both took a seat on one side of the desk, the hooded man taking his own on the other.

"So what did you need me for so soon?" croaked the dealer, idly twiddling his thumbs around as he leaned back in his chair.

"We need y' ta identify this guy," requested the winged one as he tossed the picture atop the desk. An audible gasp could be heard coming from the information dealer as he saw who was in the photo.

"Well, this is gonna cost you some more but..."

Rai nodded, signaling his consent to the hooded one.

"Alright, well you see, this guy is...

A clattering sound to the speaker's left interrupted him, and all three occupants of the room immediately darted their attention toward the source. "It was just a couple of books," the informant determined after a moment, gesturing toward a couple of fallen books on a shelf, which had apparently knocked a half dissembled piece of electronic equipment to the floor. Satisfied, but still slightly wary, Falken and Rai turned back around and the hooded man continued, "This man is, or rather, was Tristan Radcliffe."

"Tristan Radcliffe," Rai repeated slowly, as if turning the name over in his head.

The dealer explained. In the pre-war days, Tristan Radcliffe was destined to become one of the most powerful men in the world. Son of ruthless business tycoon Cameron Radcliffe, Tristan was a billionaire at birth. By the age of ten, he already possessed more business skill than most adults. By the time he graduated high school, he was one of the most cunning businessmen in the world. Although he admired his father's legacy, Tristan hated the idea of working for him, fearing that he would never be respected on his own and chose instead to use his father's money to fund his own business ventures. His brilliant dealings, wealth of capital and resources, and charismatic personality quickly brought him success; by the year 3000, when he was only 22, he had amassed a small empire with influence in nearly any field imaginable and a growth rate that threatened to soon rival that of his father's. But war respects no man. When The War broke out, Cameron Radcliffe disappeared and hasn't been heard from since. Tristan Radcliffe was killed a month later. This is the most recent known photograph of him.

The dealer pulled out a yellowed magazine clipping and slid it across the desk to the pair.

The clipping was very similar to the photo. Both men were sitting in the same general position. Both were wearing the same expensive-looking suit. In fact the only obvious difference was Tristan's shorter, slicked back hair and clear face.

"So you think it's a fake," Falken stated after a moment. "Someone got a hold of a picture of Radcliffe, doctored it a bit, and passed it off."

"That makes sense," Purple Hoodie agreed, "except I have a lot of experience with editing photos, and this picture shows no signs of being messed with."

"So the real question is," Rai mused, "why would someone go ta the trouble o' fakin' a picture like that? Seems like a lotta unnecessary trouble ta cook up fake information like that."

"There is one other thing I should mention," muttered the dealer. "After Tristan Radcliffe died, his corporation dissolved, but certain divisions were large enough to stick around independently. One of the largest was the weapons division, which of course flourished during The War. It's one of the few surviving companies from the pre-war days that remains successful today, mostly due to the large number of high-profile gangs and private citizens it supplies."

Rai perked up a bit at this bit of information. "This may be worth checkin' out," he grinned. He turned to Falken, "C'mon tough guy, let's move out."

"I don't recall signing up for a partner," responded the biker slowly. "What makes you so sure I'll be joining you?" Despite his words, Falken wore a hint of a smirk indicating that he did plan on sticking with the winged one, for the moment.

"Oh, I'm pretty sure ya don't wanna abandon this li'l mystery jus' yet," Rai replied, pulling out his knife and eying it thoughtfully. Falken's expression went flat.

"We'd better get going then.

The Hooded One turned to Falken and handed him a piece of paper with the words 'Forty second pier, three am' scrawled in the center. "Word on the street is some kind of deal is goin' down there.Y'might wann' be checkin' tha' out" Falken grunted in reply and moved through the door, never noticing the rest of the exchange between the hooded one and Rai.

The Hooded One shook his head and turned to Rai "where'd you find that one?" he asked. "Never mind. Y'know, those guys are pretty dangerous, I hope you know what you're doing." Rai looked back as he approached the door "I'm going to scope the place via their internal database, with some help from one of our old friends, Hahn."

Outside, Falken gunned the engine on his bike, neither caring nor knowing what was happening back inside, almost as if he had never known the location of the informant at all.At the rear of the shack Rai exited cautiously and with one mighty downstroke of his wings, ascended into the sky.

Falken went over the plan in his mind, kill two of the weapon company's high ranking employees with minimal damage in order to gain their identification and infiltrate their central ranks. He left his bike hidden in the shadows of a warehouse and started to snoop around the area.

Forty second pier seemed a dark affair, with the only light emanating from warehouses on either side of the pier, and fair amounts of cover from large piles of pipes scattered around. Falken observed the location from a vantage point on the roof of the eastern warehouse.

He waited for a short time, and exactly on three am a dark limousine followed by a heavily armoured truck entered the area from the east side.And on the west side, an equally dark limousine approached the drop off spot. Out of the first limousine stepped two large men, in expensive black business suits, closely followed by another man in a combat uniform sporting an armoured vest. Out of the second limousine stepped a balding man in a white suit with what appeared to be his personal guard. After them came a striking figure, with long blood-red hair and two scars, one going over and the other running perpendicular to his eye. He kept his arms hidden beneath a large trench coat that concealed his form.Falken was familiar with this figure. He was an underground hit man known as E. Dusk. Dusk was notorious for the guns he carried and the cold, calculating skill with which he used them.

The man in white suit walked towards the center of the area, closely followed by his guard, who was carrying a large silver briefcase. They were met by the two large executives who examined the contentsof the briefcase, obviously satisfied they turned to the man in the combat uniform, who threw them a key ring. They in turn handed over the briefcase. The deal made, each group returned to their respective limousines. Dusk climbed into the truck along with the security guard while the combat guy went to the passenger side of the first limousine. Each party drove off. As the first limousine rounded the eastern warehouse, Falken chose the moment to strike.

He leapt from the pinnacle of the roof, timing his jump to land on the roof of the limo. As he hit the apex of the jump, Falken unsheathed his sword and drove it through the roof of the limousine, into the driver's head. The vehicle skidded sideways into the wall of the warehouse, and Falken performed a quick flip onto the hood of the car, re-sheathing his blade in the process. One side of the car was jammed against the wall, thus giving Falken a large attacking advantage. The executives were not stupid though, they stayed inside the limousine forcing Falken to take a different approach.

He stood next to the side of the car and placed his hand on the door. His eyes began to burn with a white blinding heat and the frame of the car went from being black to glowing red. Then the screams began. Falken poured on the heat of his mysterious mutation. The frame of the car began to warp, and the screams

subsided. Falken stood back to let the car cool. It was then he heard three shots coming from far west in the direction the truck had gone. This was no surprise to him, as Dusk's reputation preceded him.

Once the hull had cooled, Falken opened the door of the Limousine and dragged out the two unconscious executives. After snapping their necks and removed their clothes, he dumped the bodies back in the car, and placed a time bomb (care of Rai) in with them and returned to his bike. Falken stowed the clothes and rode out of there. A satisfying boom filled the distance as Falken left the docks and headed to the Rendezvous point...

High up in the darkened expanse, Rai followed the beam from Falken's bike with his eyes, banking to his left he headed toward the weapons division owned by a friend of his, a long time militant engaged in profiteering in private small arms and technology sales...

Far above the great city he soared, taking in the whole of its macabre bulk, looking at the rundown black houses and raw, steel-grey towers that now stood largely unused but for the ones used by huge corporations, their sleazy neon signs blazing stark against the darkness of the metropolis’ streets. Rai sighed and swooped towards his destination…

Landing unseen in front of an unremarkable dwelling, the winged one looked sharply around himself, seemingly thinking that some horrible adversary would jump out to challenge him, despite his being all but invisible to most eyes. suddenly, he leapt to one side, using his wings to propel him forwards and landing with a roll a small way ahead of two small craters which smouldered behind him. Shaking his head, Rai walked the one or two paces left towards the door and knocked.

Ten minutes later, he was sitting in a hard chair opposite a bald, bearded giant of a man in a sparse chamber, discussing the equipment he would need, and how much it would cost him.

“What could I get outta y’r network?” The mutant asked

“Not much – maybe plans of the building you want ta get into, employee lists – nothing particularly confidential, which is what you’re gonna need by the sounds of it.

“True. I s’pose that means I’m in for a little infiltration.” The knife-fighter stated.

“Yep. Do ya need any more equipment?” he asked. After Rai was outfitted with additional hacker’s tools, explosives and sharpened knives, he walked gingerly out onto a window and disappeared.

The winged one flew high into the stormy, grey sky, apparently unseen by those below. He soon landed on the balcony of a great tower, another of the weapon broker’s real estate investments. He walked to the door and turned the knob.

“Because these wings are no longer wings to fly, but merely vans to beat the air.” He muttered, quite unlike his usual relaxed mode of speech. This phrase was an old one, but it was also the one he had chosen to identify himself with on Hahn’s rather elaborate security system, reasoning that he had met few other students of such ancient literature. It prevented him being turned into a thin paste the moment he walked through the door. He walked to the computer terminal that was the room inside’s sole occupant and sat down.

Ten minutes later he was gliding towards the meeting place he had agreed on with the biker. He had found both the plans and the employee list, but little more of interest, not even when he searched out Radcliffe’s name. It appeared this man’s death had been somewhat of a contentious issue at the time. The gunsmith being shot by one of his own weapons. Nothing at all that hinted at the tattooed man in the photograph. Not being one to leave anything to chance, the hacker had put all the information he could find on a storage device, now residing in one of his many pockets.

“Took your time.” Falken stated as Rai landed.

“So give me a look at these clothes y’pinched.” The winged one said, ignoring the jibe.

The sword bearer showed him, and after carefully going through the pockets, the knife-fighter examined two cards, one from each set of clothing.

”This one’s a techie. No rank. Looks to be the basic code-slicer. The other guy’s an exec, about the middle of the pile.” He said, gesturing one card then the other.

“Yeah, yeah. Now what do you plan to do with ‘em?” The fighter asked.

“Put that suit over your clothes. I’ll make y’look like this guy.” The illusionist stated, gesturing to the card of the ex-executive. “I’ll go as the tech man. This card oughtta get y’ basically where we need to go. If anyone asks, I’m givin’ y’ a hand wit’ some form of problem. I'll hack the system for information. When we have what we need, which is basically info on who this guy is”, he produced the photograph, “we leave quietly. Yeah?”

His question was answered only by a scowl before the swordsman began pulling the suit over his normal clothing, leaving his coat with his bike. The knife-fighter did the same, then closed his eyes for a moment, and nodded. Rai having already proved his ability to disguise sight and sound to Falken, the biker nodded in turn. With that, the pair walked straight into the building’s front door

The security guard at the front door, a muscular man wearing a bulletproof vest, asked the duo for some identification, and, as the two were both able to provide it, the guard bowed and opened the doors for them. They were in.

The inside of the building was fairly old looking--nothing unexpected from a building that had been around before the War. Stains dotted the cement floors and equally plain walls, suggesting that the building had not been renovated in quite a long time. Here and there workers in the same sorts of suits that Rai and Falken were wearing shuffled about, but there didn't seem to be too many people. Of course, the two had very little time to take in all of the details; they had to keep moving in order to not seem suspicious.

"Okay, so where are we headed?" mumbled Falken in a low enough voice that only Rai could hear.

"From where we are, we're gonna turn around a couple corridors and pass through the second security check. After that, we'll be in the security division. Y'll pretend that I need ta fix one of the computers, and then we'll grab the information and go. Simple." Falken nodded and the two continued to walk along in complete silence.

It was when they turned around the final corridor and the security check was in sight that they ran into their first bit of trouble.

"You there," said a woman's voice from behind them as she tapped the sword wielder on the shoulder, "I've never seen you around this part of the department. Are you new?" Falken's face betrayed his surprise but only for a split second. By the time he turned around, he had managed to regain his composure.

"No, this technician here is though," responded the sword-wielder coolly, motioning towards the winged one, "I just had some time off, so I thought I'd show him the way to his next job and get him past the security check."

The questioner, a woman of about her late thirties or early forties with red hair, freckles, square glasses, and a navy blue suit, seemed satisfied, and she smiled as she wandered off about her own business. Falken let out a sigh of relief inside. Ready to resume upon their own business, he and his companion simply walked up to the security check, showed their identification cards to the security guard, and passed through after explaining the situation just as Rai had told him to.

The two then passed through into one of the nearby rooms, another plain room just like the rest of the building almost completely filled with technology. They luckily noted that there were no employees inside.

"Alright, time ta get ta work," said Rai, rubbing his hands together then taking out some of the hacker tools he'd obtained from his friend. The sword-wielder cautiously watched the door, hoping not to have to deal with any more employees. He still wasn't even sure if that last woman had bought his story in whole.

"Hmm...check this out," exclaimed Rai suddenly, though in a low enough voice that no one outside would have been able to hear. Falken immediately went over to the large screen of the computer the knife-wielder was working at and looked.

"Apparently, Triston Radcliffe had been workin' on some side projects that hadn' exactly gone down well with some o' the members o' his company nor his father for that matter. He'd been suspected o' associatin' wi' some company called Salazar Research and Development, which had also been suspected of breachin' some researchin' ethics for who knows what. It's written here that he was killed by one o' the members o' his own corporation. This is no good though. We still don' know anythin' 'bout that picture."

Of course, Falken had zoned out about midway through his partner's speech, his eyes focusing on one name in the employee list on the side of the screen. "Venus...?" he whispered under his breath before his thoughts were cut off by the touch of cold steel to the back of his head.

"Put your hands on your head and turn around slowly," commanded a painfully familiar voice from behind them. The two turned around and obliged, finding that they were both being held at gunpoint by the red-haired woman from earlier. Of course, now that she had a pistol in either hand, she seemed quite a bit more dangerous.

Rai opened his mouth to speak, looking somewhat confused, but the woman cut him off. "A little birdie tipped me off," she explained smiling, unable to resist the taunt.

"Who?" asked the knife-wielder, going through in his mind all the people that they'd brought into the plan. He could only think of a couple contacts that he'd trusted for a rather long time and...Falken, but Falken was being held at gunpoint too, so that didn't make sense.

"I don't think you're in any position to be asking questions," smirked the red-haired one.

"Is there any possible way y' coul' just let us go in peace?"

"Sorry, no, but I do believe I have some information that might be of use to you. You see, I had connections with Mr. Radcliffe back before the War began. Of course, you're going to have to do me a favor in return. I know about your abilities you see."

"Whaddya want?"


"...It would seem we are partners now. And partners help each other out dont they?" she stared at Falken, looking over her glasses as she assessed her adversaries.

"I'm not your partner, woman" Falken's eyes flitted towards Rai who stepped forwards at the Biker's remark.

"You'll be excusin' my friend's rudeness, ma'm. What he meant t’say was,

what d'ya require of us?"

The woman lowered her weapons and adjusted her glasses, ever watchful of the duo "I require a certain... Restricted document, stored in the bowels of the central computer at the top of the building, the file name is K231903-6".

Falken seemed to relax, his hand dangling close to the hilt of his sword

"And you can't get them because..?"

"Because the computer is on an isolated network, removed from everything, and only the highest level executives have access to it. You have eight hours to complete the task, at the end of which I will be waiting for you at the Nexus Club" And with that the woman strode out of the room, leaving a somewhat stunned Falken and Rai in her wake.

"How did she see through the illusion?" The swordsman hissed as he watched the woman walking down the passageway.

"I'm not sure. Her glasses, now that I get a look at 'em, look to be some

sorta video-capture device. Whoever's on th' receiving end prolly has some

way've seein' through 'em." The winged man explained.

"So, whadda we do now?" Falken asked pragmatically as he resecured the room.

"We revise our old plan, and I know exactly how t’" Rai turned back to thecomputer, and began to outline the new plan. "'fore we were so rudely interrupted, I stumbled on a meetin' 'tween some of the aforementioned high-level executives that could be worked to our advantage..."

Rai's hands fluttered deftly across the keyboard and a live video feed appeared on the screen. Falken leaned in for a closer look and remarked

"So here are our primary targets, but how can we isolate them for the kill?"

Rai removed a small grey box from his belt, his data utility and connected it to the computer, where a rotating three dimensional map of the facility and surrounding area presented itself on screen alongside the video feed from the meeting.

"Okay, so we’re here" a red blip appeared on the map "and the meetin's where the green marker is, t'wards the top've th' map. Now y'see those two burly-lookin' guys towards the back? They're our targets. I'm gonna bug 'em, while you plan a little... Surprise for 'em." Rai removed his utility from the computer's port and shut it down.

"I got just the right surprise in mind. I'll meet you in 15 minutes, it should be ready by then." Falken stood up and reassumed the pose of a middle level executive.

"Should be enough time. Now we oughtta be gettin' outta here. I'm not sure

why there ain't any heat from the disappearance of our 'friends' th'

techie and th' executive yet. Mayhap our new 'partner' woman has been of

some help to us. In any case, it's time t' leave" .Falken exited first, striding off to the left down the corridor while Rai exited right and headed towards the elevator.

Rai stole swiftly along the maze like corridors until he reached an almost-deserted corridor. What occupants it had seemed not to even acknowledge his presence as he strode into the elevator at the end and set it to level 18. The knife-fighter dug into the pouch attached to his belt and removed a tiny device, about the size of a human eyelash, and held it between his thumb and forefinger. The elevator reached level 18 and with uncanny luck, the two primary targets strode into the elevator. Rai casually flicked the bug onto one of the executive's backs as they turned to stand off to the side. He then made a beeline for the exit and then up some fire escape stairs to the roof, where he headed towards the rendezvous.

Rai swooped towards Falken who, looking up seemed to sense the approach of the winged one.

"Bugged 'em have yeh? I got that surprise ready and waiting to go, so where will the action take place?"

Rai opened his data utility and after keying in various codes, a crisp audio feed came out with the current conversation between the two executives.

"I've got some info on their destination via their conversation as I came here, which indicates ‘em heading t’wards a residence known as th’ Gilded Serpent. D’ya know it?”

Falken's voice took on a disgusted tone and he spat on the ground "Yeah, it's a haven of dressed up scum that have power in the underworld, two blocks east from here."

Falken climbed aboard his bike and started it while Rai flexed his wings

"I happen to know there's a window to the men's room at the back of the building, I want you to wait there and I'll have the executives to you shortly".

Falken entered the darkened bar, gazing around at the many shady booths along the wall, no doubt concealing some dodgy business dealings. At the far end of the bar, nearest the rest rooms his two targets were sitting in a booth speaking in low voices to each other. Being somewhat of a professional at sleight of hand, Falken was able to slip some of his concoction, a minor laxative, into the executives' drinks as they were brought over. Falken, never one to miss an opportunity for booze, took up a position on a bar stool with his usual whiskey while he waited for the laxative to affect the two men. Shortly, the laxative proved to be effective and in somewhat of a hurry, the two men made a beeline for the rest room. Casually, Falken drained his glass, and strolled into the restroom. Once inside, he heated his hand to white hot and melted the door lock into its frame. All this had been done in utter silence, so that when the two executives had finished, neither one expected the pistol whip to the side of the head that knocked them to ground, leaving them to be carefully passed through the window and into the street. Rai and Falken disposed of them neatly down a manhole in the alleyway after swapping identities.

Rai and Falken went back into the building. They made their way uncontested until they once again found themselves alone in the large elevator. Rai plugged his data utility into an outlet in the elevator control panel and hacked the security code for the golden panel of buttons that would send them up to the 20th level of the building where, according to his map, was the where the central computer resided. The elevator rose swiftly, and

Falken unconsciously rested his hand on the hilt of his sword as the doors of the elevator sprang open, revealing what was undeniably the executive floor of the building. It was lined with ferns and art works tastefully located at intervals, that Rai noted would provide good cover should things come to a fire fight.

Rai and Falken came to their destination, a metal door with a security guard in front of it. "ID tags please?" He asked. They flashed the identification they’d stolen from the executives. The guard checked his database, then opened the door.

"Very good, walk on through" he said.

The duo entered a room devoid of objects, obviously a secure area with two green-gel panels on either side of the wall, where Rai and Falken placed the left and right hand of either executive into the panels and entered the server room for the central computer of the building. Rai plugged one of his data utilities into the server and immediately located and copied K231903-6 onto it. They quickly stole out and back into the secure room and had just opened the door when what sounded like an alarm siren began to scream its head off. Falken swore violently as the doors began to close behind them..

The red-haired woman negotiated the labyrinthine warren of passageways in the bowels of Radcliffe’s headquarters. After carefully looking both ways down the passageway, she walked into a long-forgotten room, locking the door behind her. She suddenly began to talk, as if to herself, but the look in her eyes was far-off, as though she was seeing something hidden to all others.

"How did you know they didn’t belong? And about the illusionist?" She demanded. "And who are they?" While none could hear the answer, it appeared to frustrate her. She began to pace.

"You don’t know? Then how are we to trust them? Even if they do have useful powers..." She began to rant and rave. Somewhere, a shadowed man smiled slightly at her confusion...

Rai, crouching behind one of the many sculptures close to the back wall of the executives’ room, surveyed the chamber again, in more detail than he had before. Around the room lay the corpses of the few security guards that had been up this high. There was, of course, the elevator, above which currently flashed an ‘out of order’ sign, with the actual lift cabin apparently situated just below ground floor. The roof was made of huge, thick glass panes held together by a steel frame.

"So what happens now?" Hissed Falken from behind a nearby fern.

"We wait t’see what they’re gonna do. We got our plan of escape. It’s their move." The illusionist whispered back. "For th’ moment, I’ll leave the disguises up – it’s possible they ain’t actually seen through ‘em, just got wind’ve my hackin’ job. There’s no cameras up here, as y’can see." He motioned.

Silence. The room was filled with it. It remained so for another few minutes before the doors from the nearby stairways, relics from an earlier time, began to open.

The bespectacled lady was walking back from her bizarre rendezvous. Her pulse hammered, far too fast, driving its rhythmic beating into her brain. She passed several people, managing to smile and nod as she usually did. As they walked away chatting, having paid no heed whatsoever to her, she stopped dead in her tracks, a look of intense fear crossing her face ever so briefly.

"A spy from Salazar? Really? Do you think it’s connected to that deal that went wrong? What are they..." Was the last she heard before they turned the corner into another passageway. She cursed under her breath before moving towards the door that would take her home. It was getting late, after all. Nobody would notice her signing out... Or so she hoped.

"Alright, spy, we know you’re in here! You might as well just give yourself up!" Yelled one of the many security staff that had just walked out of the stairwell. Rai cast an ironic look at Falken, who held his handgun at the ready, and stood up, his hands in the air. The guards gasped – this was not the man they were expecting.

"But..." The leader of the guards had time to blurt before his head exploded in a shower of gore. Rai was suddenly no longer where he had seemed to be as a pair of knives buried themselves in the chests of two more guards. He flew over, somersaulting midair as he retrieved the knives, used them both to decapitate a third guard, then bounced into the air and ‘disappeared’ in their sight as another man fell to the biker’s gun. Still in midair, the winged man signalled the swordsman to implement the plan as he dropped something small and round into the midst of their adversaries. Falken turned his face from his adversaries and ran around the walls of the room as a blinding flash brought his shadow into sharp relief against the wall. The last thing he saw as he melted his way through the elevator doors was shattered glass and twisted steel falling from the roof in the centre of the room. Then he was gone, pushing his white-hot hand into the wall of the elevator shaft and letting himself swiftly but gently slide down its length until he could open the doors of the elevator on ground floor from the inside, standing on top of the defunct cabin. Dusting off his suit and hiding as best he could the sleeve that had burned away in his descent, he walked his way innocently from the building before shedding the executive gear, putting on his coat and gunning the powerful engine of his bike, speeding downtown towards the place they’d agreed to hole up in for the night before their appointment the next morning.

Rai flew once again over the ‘great’ blighted city, leaving behind the shattered glass roof of the industrial high-rise. None saw him bank and swoop down to the deserted building that served as one of his resting-places. He stood on the roof, watching the otherworldly red lightning play in the sky. The bitter, cold rain battered his face. He smiled as he saw his newfound companion’s motorbike charging down the road towards him. Stealth was clearly not Falken’s style.

When the biker woke up the next morning, his bleary eyes stared around the room until they saw the hacker at a small computer he’d set up in the corner of the crumbling room. A look of horror crossed his face, but passed, replaced by an odd, slightly maniac grin.

"Well, c’mon, we gotta get a move on if we’re gonna meet th’ lady at this Nexus place. D’ya know where it is?" He questioned

"Yeah. It’s close to the middle of town. We can get there in fifteen minutes. Which gives us plenty of time." The swordsman said sleepily, rubbing his eyes.

"Fair ‘nuff. I s’pose we oughtta show, ‘case this vid-link character of hers can track us down." Rai tapped a few more keys then removed a smaller data utility from the device.

"This oughtta suffice…" At that moment, the news flashed onto the screen of Rai’s computer. He turned it around to show Falken a picture of the boardroom they’d sacked, along with an obviously flustered higher-up in the company stating that ‘certain important documents’ had been stolen, by two men he’d never have suspected of treachery and who’d never shown any signs of mutation before. Pictures of the two executives whose identities the pair had stolen were shown. Evidently, the bodies had not been found. The nature of the data was never revealed. The weather came on.

"Anyway, got anything to eat?" the swordsman asked.

Two hours later, precisely at the allocated time, a man who looked like a computer technician and one who was clearly a middle-rank executive somewhere walked into the Nexus club. They sat at the bar, the tech man abstaining from any drink and the executive taking a strong whiskey. A red-haired woman soon walked up to them, and motioned for them to follow her. They walked into a private room. The lady glared at them.

"The idea was to get the data, not make a huge racket." She said to them.

"Shaddup." Falken snapped. "We got your data. He’ll give it to you soon as you tell us your information."

"How do I know I can trust you?" The spectacled one asked logically.

"Y’don’t. Y’ll just hafta." Rai stated. "We’re th’ ones with th’ goods ‘ere. And y’know it’d be daft t’try anythin’ violent in this club."

The woman sighed

"Alright. Radcliffe. Tristan Radcliffe..." She told the pair everything they already knew about the businessman. Seeing their sceptical looks, she sighed.

"OK, OK. Near the end of his life, Radcliffe became somewhat morbidly interested in the mutation that had begun to spring from The War. He ordered machines made that would turn ordinary humans into mutants. He had himself tattooed with dyes that he believed would begin the process of mutation in him. This, contrary to popular belief, is the last known picture of the man." The redhead showed the pair a photograph identical to the one they’d taken from the street gang. The disguised winged man raised one eyebrow.

"Hmm… I guess that’s prolly worth it. D’ya know where he carried these experiments out?"

"No, I wasn’t that high in his trust, I’m afraid. It shouldn’t be hard to find, though. The techniques he used weren’t exactly subtle."

"A’right then. I get’ch’r meaning. Here, I guess this’un’s yours." Rai tossed over the small data device. The woman brightened visibly.

"Thank you. It wouldn’t have looked right if I’d done it myself." The woman beamed with this somewhat cryptic statement, and gave the pair a card before leaving, claiming her name to be ‘Carmen Imlach’, a middle-ranking higher-up in the Radcliffe Corporation, along with several contact details. After a quick scan, Rai, ever cautious, backed the information up, but left the card itself in a bin, lest it contain some form of tracking device.

"And now, we’d better get a move on. If you go back t’my hole-up, I’ll try to get th’ location of this lab. I’ll also deliver a coupla weapon designs I... Liberated from Radcliffe t’a friend’ve mine. They might be useful. C’mon, move now, quickly, ‘fore they come back with some difficult questions."

"Difficult questions?" The gunsman inquired.

"What, y’thought I’d give ‘em real data?" The winged man sounded shocked.

"You… Didn’t?" The biker cursed, but moved to the door.

Back at his crumbling base of operations, Rai told his companion the news he’d gleaned, of an unusual radiation a few kilometres from the city. That night saw a biker and a man with wings heading south out of the City, towards, they hoped, some form of a clue..

The sprawling, twisted expanse that is The City, now a shrinking mass in Falken’s rearview mirror, had been replaced by a series of canyons and valleys, marred by the burnt-out wrecks of vehicles from times past, those already fallen prey to the hordes of bandits and thugs that seemed to plague the world’s infrastructure.

The lone rider slowed his pace as seemingly from nowhere, a winged man came in to fly beside the traveler “Trouble ahead, we got ourselves a firefight hapnin’ and yeh ridin’ right inta it”. The biker smirked, “Of course there is, have you ever traveled outside the city flyin’ man? We’re headin’ into Tombstone Valley, the central hangout for bandit groups in the South”. At the biker’s words, a slightly annoyed expression flickered across Rai’s face, before regaining its usual emotionless gaze “Accordin’ t’ m’data there’s a place by the name o’ the Terminal not too far ahead, y’wan’ stop there?” Falken’s eyes flashed, “Oh I intend to” he smirked again, and Rai ascended back up into the sky.

As the road snaked its way into the valley, a massive dust cloud lay in Falken’s path, and from its midst a berserk laugh could be heard “Woo-hah-hah-ha-ha eat this!” The deep voice yelled. Falken skidded his bike sideways and stopped, mid-road. A gunmetal grey van, with heavy armour plating and automated minigun turrets was firing upon a blockade of assorted trikes, motorcycles and jeeps loaded to the hilt with tattooed, pierced road-punks with a variety of weapons returning fire.

Beside the van, a shoulder-mounted pulse cannon lay discarded. Falken’s eyes narrowed, as the source of the laugh was revealed, a giant bald, bearded man with a cigar clenched between his teeth slammed a gloved fist, that seemed to have some form of corona enveloping it, into the hood of one of the jeeps, whilst firing bursts from an Uzi held in his left hand.

The dust clearing, the remaining bandits fled for their lives, as the crazy giant fired bursts of uzi-fire after them. The big man holstered his Uzi and approached Falken “Wooh! If it aint the ice-man hisself! Falky I thought you were dead!” Falken dismounted his bike, his hand resting on his hip “Fenix. It’s you. And here I was thinking I’d never see you again”. Fenix laughed “What kinda greeting is that to an old buddy like me? And what’s with bird-boy up there not coming down to join us?” Upon hearing those words, Rai swooped down to land beside Falken. “M’name’s Rai, ‘n who ‘re you?” Rai seemed slightly bewildered that someone other than Falken could see him “the name’s Fenix Murdock, I used to be a part of Falken’s squad, before we were disbanded at the end of the war, two years ago…most just call me Nick”. Falken chose to ignore Nick’s revelations on his past and re-mounted his bike “C’mon lets get to the Terminal before sunset, we can finish our conversation there”. Falken gunned his bike, while Rai took off and Nick followed in his van.

The Terminal stood three storeys tall, it stood out in sharp contrast to the surrounding wasteland. Guests stay on the upper two floors, while the bottom floor was largely a tavern, which most of the denizens of the Valley frequented. Inside, Falken, Rai and Nick were seated in a darkened corner away from the general populace, even so, anyone who looked their way seemed not to notice them, especially Rai. If Nick noticed, he chose not to comment as they discussed their plans. “So y’sayin this Radcliffe guy is the one who used to run the laboratory to the south?” Falken leaned in “Whaddaya mean used to?” he questioned. “Well it’s just ruins now, has been in the months I been down here” “So y’know th’ place?” Rai chipped in. “Know it? I know it better’n the back of me hand! I mapped the place out, while trailin’ Bandits while on the job ‘round here.” Nick sat back “’n frankly I’m bored with this joint, ‘n since my old mate Falk here has a knack o’ finding interesting things to do, I may as well travel to the facility with y’ as a guide of sorts and a bit of backup if y’need it”. At this, Rai looked over at Falken, who shrugged in response. “Looks like y’r in, we’ll set out t’morra”

Dawn the next day saw the trio outside the Terminal. As Falken mounted his bike, the huge man beckoned to Rai.

"Yew wantin' a ride? From here on, yew might find things in the sky that yew really don't want to meet, if yew catch my meaning.''

"Things that c'n sense me?"

"Yeah. Yew could fool the beasts, o'course, but there's also a fair number o' rogue aircraft from the War period floatin' arawnd up there. Yew can't fool heat-sensors, now can yew?"

"Hmm... A'right. I guess that's th' best course then. Thanks f'r the heads-up."

So the two vehicles set off down the turnpike, headed towards the old laboratory.

The biker could see Murdock's van in his rear-vision mirror. He was some way ahead, though he guessed, knowing his old squad-mate, that was a fact which could change quite rapidly. He'd never been known for his subtlety. Even less so, in fact, than Falken himself.

"So why'd he have to show up NOW?" The swordsman cursed into the headwind.

Some way back, the heavy-weapons specialist grinned as he watched his friend up ahead.

"He's a bit agitated at the moment, I'd bet. None'a this is going his way."

"His way?" Rai questioned, his wings somehow crammed uncomfortably into the space behind him.

"Yeah. Even back in the War, he'd always walk his own road."

"It's hard t'imagine him walkin' anyone else's."

"Guess so. He took a while to... Settle in ta military life. He started a little high-up, I suppose"

The winged man raised an eyebrow in question.

"Yeah, almost straight after training they took him into an elite strike force. Just 'soon as they picked up on his mutation."

The knife-fighter glanced at the giant sharply, then looked out the window.

"I guess that's why y'can see through my illusions then, is't? Anti-cloakin' trainin'? I mean, if y'were in th' same unit n'all..."

"Yew're pretty sharp for a guy with wings. Yeah, what yew do's pretty much the same as what a lot o' cloaking devices do."

"Ay. I know."

They travelled on in silence, Rai lost in his own thoughts, Nick clearly reminiscing about the battles he and Falken had fought together.

The closer they got to the lab, the less they had to fight. That much had become clear; where at first they'd had to cut through bandits every so-many kilometres, they'd reached a stage where they had been travelling for about an hour with no interruptions at all.

"Must be something up ahead that's keeping the gangs away," drawled the giant.

"Or 'tcould be that there's just nothin' there." The knife-fighter pointed out.

Murdock looked at the hacker strangely, but said nothing more.

Around sunset, the two vehicles came into view of the disused laboratory. As the rider dismounted, the giant hopped out of his van, and Rai slowly disentangled his wings from their steel prison.

"Thanks f'r th' ride, but I think I'll just risk th' planes next time if y'dun mind." Said the grenadier as he stretched out his huge vans, much to Murdock's amusement.

"Enough chitchat. We gonna set up camp for the night, then go in tomorrow?" Falken cut in.

"Sownds good to me." Nick agreed.

Rai took off a little gingerly, soon returning with news of a relatively sheltered space close to the old facility where they could stay the night.

The next morning saw the trio standing outside the burnt-out husk of a laboratory, with smashed walls, no roof, piles of rubble everywhere, and nothing of import seeming to show its face

"Something weird abowt this place, ain't there?" Fenix said.

"Uh-huh." The biker agreed, " but what good's it to us?"

The better part of a day was spent investigating the ruins, every aspect of the remaining walls was checked. Bits of rubble were examined. Even the shattered glass lying around where once windows must have been was looked at. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all.

The three once again stood puzzled outside the collossal wreck.

"I guess whatever's causing th' radiation could be buried underground. Well, I'll go tak' a look from above, I guess." Rai stated.

"Pfft. This is going nowhere." Falken said as he entered the ruin complex to look at some more rubble.

A cry sounded out from above, which brought the biker back outside, his gun already in his hand, but it turned out the winged man was already back on the ground.

"You just walked in there, ay?" Rai asked.

"Yeah. What of it?" replied the swordsman as he holstered his gun annoyedly.

"Well, from above, 'tlooked like you disappeared."

"So... Yew're sayin' this thing could be just one big illusion?" Nick connected.

"Aye. But if 'tis, it's the most complete I've ever seen. I got no idea as to how we're gonna get 'round it."

"But we're gonna have to." Falken stated. "So let's go back and sleep on it for now. We can take another look in the morning."

He walked off, back towards the campsite. Rai looked slightly taken aback at his companion's sudden assertiveness, wondering what had suddenly made him care about this strange quest they'd set out on. With a shrug, he followed the other two men, thinking that it may all become clear on the morrow..

The relentless sun crept over the horizon, seeing the trio seated around their campsite. Murdock slowly cooked breakfast while they decided on their next plan of attack. "Y'know Falk... think this might r'quire a more.... forceful approach, like old days" he paused from his cooking, noting the flash of the Biker's eyes.

"Seems like our only option, considering you had the whole place mapped already and we came up short" the Biker turned to Rai, snapping an order like it was his born duty "You get on that air surveillance and keep your distance when this goes down, we need eyes and ears in the sky so we know what's coming when we open this sucker up". The winged one raised his eyebrows at being ordered about like the soldier he was not, sighing at the simple war-time logic the biker employed.

Under Falken's watchful eye, Murdock set charges strategically around the site. From the safety of his van, the pair detonated the explosives, a colossal boom and plume of dust rose through the valley. After the dust had cleared, Rai swooped back in - having completed his surveillance it was only once his feet touched earth did he notice it. The massive crater was visible to his trained eyes, and yet if anything the radiation had increased and Murdock's van lay seemingly empty, with himself and the Biker nowhere to be seen. Tapping out a message into a communication device hidden in his jacket, Rai sighed before striding purposefully towards the massive crater...

[So I figured 3 years was enough time for everyone to read the story and really get a feel for it. And for me to forget a lot of what had ever been planned for it and my own ideas of the characters. So basically I left this pretty open since I'm a little hazy (and overtired it's 3am) on the characters and I was determined to have something written this evening - er morning

Copyright © 2013