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The Haveheight crew idled about in a privately owned and sympathetic restaurant across from the Manhattan Building. When there was the booming sound of a crash and a plume of smoke obscuring the lobby of the Manhattan Building, most of the customers in the restaurant muttered to themselves and wondered if they should call 911.

Ricky Stain simply smiled and flashed his teeth at his group. “Heh, what did I tell ya? The kid doesn’t have the balls to fuck this up. Showtime boys.”

In a professional manner, the group stripped off their civilian clothing for nondescript black sweat pants and shirts. Everyone produced an illegally acquired plasma weapon and they rapidly marched across the street to the Manhattan Building, unafraid to shove people to the side to get their point across.

To Ricky’s surprise, the sound of plasma discharge was already audible, and people were screaming and fleeing. He frowned; this meant there would be a VERY rapid police response. And if there was evidence of someone with a Level as high as Ricky’s, the force dispatched would be something more on the line of special forces. The government did not pull its punches anymore, not when most injuries could be healed.

Damnit, kid, you were picked because you were a nervous fool, not because we thought you were fucking Rambo. What are you pulling right now?

They kicked down the doors and charged into the ground floor, ignoring the debris The air was filled with the haze of smoke, and there were several small fires at the guard stations. Guards were laying on the ground, seemingly unconscious were dead. People were screaming.

Ricky’s eyes scanned through the forms obscured by the smoke until he finally located the Suite kid. He was seemingly unconscious and wearing a Ghosthound mask, smashed into the wall. Honestly, Ricky might not have recognized him if not for his Familiar Sense Skill. But the fact he was smashed into the wall made Ricky even more confused. If it wasn’t the kid, who-

But then a power armor loomed forward out of the smoke and it all made sense. Ricky had vastly underestimated both the kid and the bank. It seemed that the kid had a penchant for violence and had been ripping through the guards when the bank deployed a fucking powerarmor on him.

“Fuck me,” Ricky said quietly as he weighed his options. The powerarmor was turning away when it spotted them and paused.

“Fuck it…” Ricky gritted his teeth. “Open fire!”

His boys might be pale and coughing, but they aimed and fired, just like he paid them for.

****

A familiar sensation woke Naffur. That and the kind of migraine that would have people sticking their head underwater and leaving it there.

Congratulations! Your Skill Feign Injury is now Level 54!

Groaning, Naffur cursed his fucked up Skill and staggered to his feet by leaning against the wall. It didn’t seem to matter much to the Skill whether or not he was actually injured. If another party simply thought he was injured, he would get experience for it.

Puzzled, Naffur looked down at the ground. It was cracked, and there were large shards of crushed glass on the ground. Drops of blood-

A scream cut through Naffur’s meandering thoughts and brought him back to the battlefield that was the bottom floor of the Manhattan Building. It seemed that the guards had mounted a concerted counterattack on the powerarmor wielding Dank because about a dozen people were peppering the armor with bolts of plasma.

But Naffur looked up, straight upward, almost as though he could pierce through the metal and wood and plastics of the building to see the penthouse ballroom. He had been so fucking caught up in his fear and panic in the elevator that he had completely forgotten that there was one person here who really needed his help. He pretended to be a small hero just from breaking and elevator, but Mareen-

Mareen-

His feet were moving before he could even formulate the thought. He crossed his arms and dashed across the broken lobby of the bank towards the stairs, which were across the room from the elevators. Bolts of plasma whizzed past as the ricocheted off a now sorry looking Dank. But no matter how close they came to hitting him, Naffur didn’t slow.

Mareen-

Feeling like it was just the best way to open things now, Naffur ignored the door handle and simply used Intrepid Hammer to break down the door. He felt powerful, and that power was going to be necessary. Dank wasn’t alone here. Above were at least four more individuals who might be just as unstoppable in power armor.

Naffur tried to clench his fist, but abruptly realized there was no point; his fist seemed locked into a clench. He couldn’t get it to budge even if he tried.

Not that he gave it much attention as he took the stairs two at a time and began rushing upwards towards the Penthouse. But it was something that a part of his brain filed away as something that might someday be important.

The Manhattan Building was 25 floors high, and it left even Naffur, who felt he had a fair amount of PP and Stats, winded and staggering. Although he knew that there was no chance that this version of Naffur would be anywhere close to a match for these terrorists, when Naffur reached the penthouse, he raised his locked fist and staggered towards the door.

As was the case often today, the door opened before he got there and a figure dashed out to slam into him. Once again, Naffur recognized him just as they smashed into each other: it was the leader of the terrorists.

When they hit each other, the leader was looking back over his shoulder so he was the one knocked farther backward by the impact. Naffur’s numb eyes had barely enough focus to take in the fact that the leader wasn’t wearing his power armor anymore, and that was enough for Naffur’s instincts.

“Intrepid Hammer!”

Congratulations! Your Skill Intrepid Hammer is now Level 11!

Congratulations! Your Skill Feign Injury is now Level 12!

Congratulations! Your Skill Cheap Shot is now Level 43!

Congratulations! Your Skill Feign Injury is now Level 37!

As his fist smashed into the leader’s jaw and the man’s head snapped sideways with an audible click, Naffur reflected tiredly that he was gaining quite a lot of PP today. Perhaps he could even finish a Path after it all.

For a second after the collision, the man swayed. Then the terrorist leader collapsed bonelessly in front of Naffur, and he realized that his blow had knocked the man out. Naffur himself swayed, barely able to keep himself standing as the rush of relief relaxed him. He looked from the man to the closing doors. Naffur’s headache continued to throb.

Mareen-

But the source of the danger was right here-

Complicating matters was the fact that there was no noise coming from the penthouse ballroom. Shouldn’t there be… some sort of battle going on…?

Eventually, Naffur compromised and began tiredly dragging the leader back towards the door to the ballroom. Better to keep an eye on him in the meantime. He seemed pretty weak if all it took to finish him was a strong punch to the jaw. Naffur felt somewhat peeved he had been so afraid of him earlier.

But he supposed the real danger was always the plasma rifles…

When Naffur entered the room, he froze. There was still a hole in the floor to the level below where the group had emerged from earlier, but now there were piles of torn and twisted power armor around it. A figure stood at the edge of the hole, looking casually down. There were other people in the ballroom gathered at the far end in a nervous ball, but Naffur’s eyes were drawn to that figure.

“...who is that?” The voice came from someone amongst the group on the far wall. To his relief, Naffur noticed Mareen was there.

The figure straightened, turning away from the hole and looking towards Naffur.

Eyes so emerald that when Naffur breathed sharply in he swore he could smell fresh cut summer grass. Short black hair and a sharp nose. And a frown that was piercing enough to give the recipient the feeling of a knife through the ribs with even a casual gaze.

The Ghosthound stood there, considering Naffur. Naffur’s left hand, pulling on the terrorist’s shirt, involuntarily released. The man thumped to the ground. That emerald gaze continued to linger, slowly unstitching Naffur and peering at his insides. Trembling, Naffur tried to say something but his voice failed him.

And what he had wanted to say was dumb. At that moment, he wanted to ask the Ghosthound… he wanted to ask what he saw. When the Ghosthound looked at Naffur and pulled him apart by the stitching to examine his insides... what had he found?

Who am I?

“That,” The Ghosthound said, and as he spoke his mouth spread into a brilliant grin. “...well, we will call them Agent One. And by my name, Randidly Ghosthound, let it be known that they are Ordained as the first member of my Order Ducis. Where they stand, they have the full weight of the Order behind them.”

The Ghosthound stepped then, and a single step made distance irrelevant. Instantly the Ghosthound was in front of Naffur, and his hands reached up and touched the side of Naffur’s mask, almost fondly. The touch was light and gentle, and it made Naffur’s trembling worse.

“Welcome to the fold. Make sure to have some fun, alright?” The Ghosthound whispered, and his eyes were two emerald lighthouses, warning Naffur away. But he felt himself falling forward helplessly towards them as his consciousness slowly left him.

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puddles4263

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