Damn The Legacy


au_icon.gif caocao_icon.gif jing_icon.gif shen_icon.gif zanyi_icon.gif

and Team Delta of the United States Army.

Scene Title Damn The Legacy
Synopsis Team Delta goes to Shanghai, and finds the dirty work has already been done for them — before they become someone else's dirty work.
Date November 23, 2009

Pudong Shanghai, China — Bunker

From overhead, the bunker looks like Pudong caught the ringworm. One hundred meters in circumference or three hundred and twenty-eight feet, far deeper— reportedly— than it was tall, Vanguard Shanghai's headquarters are simultaneously unprepossessing as one would expect of an urban terrorist organization and uglier, more of an eyesore than it ought to be. A circular inflammation of the featureless gray paving concrete, less flattering still in the dingy pewter grayscale filter of the monsoon season's rotating clot of cloudcover. The buddhas, gardens, shopping streets, and their garlands of neon seem very far away.

Alas: when all intel, intuition, and General Autumn point to the spot marked X, one follows the satellite photograph.

Team Delta moves in behind a feathery gasp of nerve gas.

A clangor of doors, boots clopping. Three entry points picked out of the defined doors and the weakest juncture of the ventilation system. Captain Fischer sends two marines forward first; Jameson because he has IR functionality somewhere wrapped up in the membranes of his mutant eyeballs in addition to the team's standard-issue goggles switch option, and Ryuichi because he's the crackshot as well as, frankly, a smaller target.

Doctor Schumacher stays at his side, and three are coming in from the storage bay doors. One of them is an illusionist, which doesn't render the rest of the team's configuration moot so much as it proportions them appropriately. One marksman, and a forcefield generator whom he still doesn't feel like he knows all that well to cover Drake in her mild fugue state. In exchange, she covers them all, a cloak of invisibility that covers a fixed radius of two hundred yards.

Twenty-one engagements have been completed with minimal casualties in this grouping or variations thereof. Fischer isn't so absorbed in the drama of his unit's political implications and the homely concerns of barracks peacekeeping that he's managed to blind himself from the op-to-op concerns of keeping people alive. Though, he had to admit, when he found out forcefield boy was gay, he found himself hoping first that he hadn't violated Ryu, first, and second that there were some things that even these people will wait to tell, even when asked. (Third, he decided to occupy himself with coddling his son before he dialled a personal call he might regret.) Regardless of how his men behave before portraiture and interviews, however they choose to accept the prestige or bitch about how much harder Registration's made things, however, he's well-aware they've all missed this, the clandestine work, moving quick and together.

Mask filters make guttural robotics out of the simple action of breathing. In, out. In, out. Catwalks form ramparts. He approaches them slowly, looks down two levels into a snaggletoothed anthill of crates, arc lamps recessed into the wall in a row of throbbing perforations. Some hallway he can't see the end of— maybe a tunnel.

Twitter of reports on the comm corkscrewed around his ear. No targets in sight.

It's quiet in here. Neither of the wreckage post-storm nor pre-; but the eye of. Their goggles don't pick up shit, no matter what part of the spectrum they hoard at, clattering promptly across corrugated iron down onto stairs. The plumbing overhead is raggedly exposed between molded plaster, not from dearangements of aesthetic conceits but some kind of expansion project. No loose powder on the floor, excess concrete long since hauled out: whatever the Vanguard was renovating for, they did so awhile ago.

Somewhat newer, are the shredded rubber-insulated entrails and smashed pinholes of what was once a state-of-the-art electronic surveillance system. Someone trying to throw dirt or knives into the old man technopath's eye. Sparks pop and arc down walls. It's the first evidence of any violence here, and at first, the only evidence there was violence here.

Jameson sees the first corpse, picks up a residual temperature halo tossed up on the tracks of some transport system. The second through fifth aren't long coming, his voice tight with wonder, questions restrained: if anyone had answers, they'd be sharing them. The light radiating up from below, weirdly recalling sunshine in reverse and a world totally turned on its axis, forms the leperous mass of a crouching troll on the wall above him, and he strains his eyes. Still, it's Ryuichi who spots company first. The living, that is: until somebody shits one out who can effectively pull necromancy out of his or her dysgenically gifted sphincter, the dead don't count.

Ryuichi motions to clear the stairway. "Three men." One discernibly female, actually, but that is the sort of thing one leaves out. He shrinks back by instinct, despite knowing the Chinese are deaf and dumb to their presence. "Looks like PLA."

The Captain seconds that gesture, pressing them down, hair-raisingly closer and closer even as they scoot out of the easy range of accidental elbow-bumps and disruptions, even before Ryu adds, "I think they killed the Vanguard."

Or they are the Vanguard. "Drake?"

"Illusion is holding," she answers, a little oddly. She gets that way.

"The cyberpath— Shen Gongmu— he's supposed to be in his sixties. I can't ID him as any of the corpses, and he wouldn't be clowning around in tactical gear. Concealment unit, hang back. Rest of us will make a quick sweep of the compound, and let's find out what these people want before we take them in. Doc, don't fall behind." He doesn't have to look to know the man just picked up his blocky boot-heels for a quick jolt to follow him, the handle of his briefcase squeaking on its hinges.

Delta closes in, slow and segmented, a spider locking in its leggy embrace. By then, the other six can see for themselves: there are indeed only three soldiers, garbed in the People's Liberation Army's mottled dull greens, helmets cinched smartly below their chins and thumb-sized swabs of paint across their cheekbones. Despite being arrayed out among a jumble of dead countrymen in roughly divided sentry and foreground duties, their collective interest is held steadfastly by a vault door in the wall. Combination lock the size of a manhole dead center, arrayed with dense tubed spokes, in a coat of mustard yellow paint scarred and pitted from blows— maybe a scorch-mark or three— where someone only got a fraction of an inch through the paint before machined alloy stopped the punishing urge of ingress. Looks like it opens strictly from the inside.

One woman, two men. Viewed from a distance that Drake's ability has previously indicated safe, their faces can be roughly distinguished. The younger man is dully familiar to anyone who's looked at the state of the world through CNN lately while not entirely blacked out on liquor; the other is disproportionately tall and broad-chested for his ethnicity, a strong nose and weathered tan casting salute off to a minority ethnicity.

When he begins to move for the stairs, he's so abrupt that Fischer has to step back and yank the nuke tech with him, out of his way. Cheng gan tiao means vault, and it's cast back and forth along with mi— lost. The others keep talking. Jameson has enough Chinese vocabulary in him, layman's and professional, that he knows they are talking about what's behind that door. He feels the nerves in the sides of his neck inchworm like his ears are trying to calibrate like satellites, picking at those phrases— lao tour- means old man, bing for soldier, jiang for corpse. "Gongmu is inside. They're after Gongmu."

Fischer installs Doctor Schumacher in a convenient bend of the hallway, if uncomfortably close to a pair of corpses. Claps him gently on the shoulder and tells him to wait. Fischer knows how disconcerting this can be, at these close quarters, every other measured step the tick to a time-bomb of tactical disaster.

The problem with such bombshells is ergo, naturally, the timing. Compelled by training not to touch anything, it takes Fischer a moment to notice the burns on the corpses' flesh, the moisture hanging heavy in the air.

A gunshot cracks off upstairs, pumps an eerie echo through rebar. A second shot coincides almost exactly with a liquefying shriek, a voice so far into drowning it's barely recognizable as human.

Fischer takes his M1911 out to the Chinese Captain's head so abruptly he might not have bothered torquing the muscles in his arm at all. By then, Captain Au— and that's his name, the one that all of Delta should have known, the PLA's Evolved golden boy— has his gun pointed at Fischer's head, too, but he looks impressed, is impressed, the difference in reflexes measurable in the span of synapses. He gathers that Fischer had not known he knew for long. Mostly, judging from the lagged fraction of a second it takes his men to start pointing their weapons at him, his female companion, and two hustling up the stairs once more. "American," Au observes.

"Tell your men to stand down—"

"—'re intruders," Au answers, over the clank and shout. Boots, guns.

"—or I will kill you. How did you see us?"

"We have a telepath," he says. "Like you did. You shouldn't be here."

"We were hunting these men, and their leader. Who killed them?"

Both their eyes go to the vault door, hideously bright, peculiarly quiet.

There's no point in talking about it, and as much is obvious between two patriots wielding the highest possible power over another human being with hilt and tip directly at each others' throats. Life or death, life or death. The Chinese are outnumbered, but Fischer knows where is scorching vaporous agony coming down out of somewhere even before the first hollow-point round chunks the breath out of his lungs, starbursts a hole in the weave over his kevlar in the process. Jameson screams about heat signatures on the rise, and he twists on a heel, steps in someone's melt-sloughed skin without trying to bother sighting on either of the PLA soldiers; can barely see them for the snapping sparks of friction Ryu and Jameson are ricocheting off concrete. He backs another long stride. Hollers his orders: Schumacher to run, all others to attack.

Pudong Shanghai, China — Vault

The door opens with a yowl of metal in metal.

There's nothing obsequious about the smile that rescuee gives the rescuers, but it still has something sticking about it. "Ni lai jiu wo ah!" It's a joke, kind of. You've come to save me. Saving implies some facsimile of purity of intent and sanctity of heroism. Nowhere included is the Communist Party's specified interest in not exploding by way of nuclear warhead, or the complicated motivations that comprise each of the four soldiers he faces. Even if he can only see three with his eyes.

He offers Captain Au a hand, squints a laugh when the younger man blanches, looking at it. Dehydrated skin flaking loose out of tesselated splitting like half-peeled fish scales, gray, brackish veins woven through thick and ropy as shoelaces. Though the parts of the limb that remain visible from his shirt cuff are wider than bone, but the muscle, skin, and fat it retains are locked are withered. Crooked juts of fingernails look more like zither picks embedded into his digits than a natural growth. If the grotesque spectacle wasn't justification enough for the young soldier's moment of cowardice, the injuries already sustained— in the anemic wash to his cheeks and red rimming his clothes, would be. "Bu yaojin," the one-armed man reassures. "«The old man is gone. And if anyone carries his legacy, it isn't me. The magazines will still covet you.»"

The half-smile Au tries on doesn't fit quite right; the magazines would have called a do-over, if that one had been captured on film. He hesitates a moment longer, before accepting the handclasp; is careful not to squeeze too hard, though he doubts the man would have flinched if it hurt. He points with his eyes at the cot that lays beyond the one-armed man.

That old man?»"

Gongmu lays in it, a leather-skinned husk amid flatlined EEG boxes, thumb clip, tired restraints, intravenous tubes. Supplies in here, furnishings, the ventilation system concealed, filtration system delivered in visual feed to one of dozens of wall monitors. This had been shelter and concealment for a very, very long haul, and Gongmu had not died in comfort.

"«No. A friend of his.»" He steps forward, past the soldier, out of the vault's round mouth, bearing the weight of the other soldiers' suspicion with aplomb. He looks down at the broken angles of dead people piled up against the walls, a solitary briefcase, two distinctly different issues of tactical gear, the wan brush of sunlight across patchy asphalt and turfed-up tiles, then he looks up. He has no questions, not about the obvious Americans who had apparently died bravely, the Communist Party to whom he owes more than ever, how much being choreography and how much purely incidental. He only asks: "«Where did the ceiling go?»"

"«With the floor,»" Captain Au answers, vaguely nonplussed. He pushes sweat-matted hair back from his forehead, and gives Zanyi a nod. Her eyes are so huge, it's impossible to miss the distrust lambent in them. Still, he holsters his weapon, finally, and steps forward to usher the man up the one rickety stack of stairs that remains, hanging off half the bolts that had held it in place before the ceiling had gone away. With the floor. "«We should leave now. They'll want to know what happened to Gongmu, and why you failed to report back when the satellite hack failed. My superiors would also like a name.»"


"«Your real name,»" Au pronounces, leading the way with a sweep of flashlight.

Cao-Cao's burly frame ascends its blocky shadow to the platform above them. There's a certain muscular grace to his size as he steps around sloppily puddled blood, only now cooling enough to scab after the induction of heat.

"«Shen Ningdao. I underestimated the security protocols. There's a virus,»" Ningdao answers. He breathes deep of monsoon air. "«And it was greater than the sum of my father's skills. It seems like a common trope with the Vanguard's old men: I think he would have been happy to see what I did with the legacy, if I hadn't damned the legacy. I'm going to need another cyberpath.

"«At least one.»"

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License