“That all of them?” Grey asked as she peered out into the darkness.
“That’s all of them.” Erich responded as he peered at what remained of the second wave.
They’d done the exact same thing as the first wave and died just the same. Which didn’t make much sense to him. Everything they’d seen and heard about the Hangman suggested if not a tactical mastermind, then at least someone with a degree of strategic acumen.
Sending waves of gang members at them achieved nothing. It didn’t even put an appreciable dent in their ammo reserves, given that this was Hard-Light’s main base of operations, and thus stocked to the gills with weaponry, both mundane and exotic.
“Can the Brotherhood even afford to sustain these kinds of losses?” He asked.
Grey shrugged, “Perhaps before they had their little split. They could have just shipped in more guys from branches in other cities.”
But now that this city’s branch has deviated from the main organization, that might not necessarily be true anymore, Erich realized. It depends on the internal politics of the Brotherhood.
And he supposed, how many losses the New Brotherhood had taken in the course of their little coup.
He was about to turn around and ask the shackled Integrity about exactly that when Grey shouted, “Everyone brace!”
Brace for wha-
It was fortunate that the suit’s internal motors did much of the stabilizing for him, because he would have been sent flat on his face as the entire room shook as something heavy smashed into something upstairs.
Everyone else was not quite so lucky, as they were thrown from their feet. Not that Erich really cared about that, his focus was primarily on the way that dust fluttered down alarmingly from the ceiling.
His suit could withstand many things. A mansion falling on it wasn’t one of them.
“What the hell was that?” Erich shouted over the comms as the initial surprise faded, only to receive static in return. “What’s the hell's going on up there?”
Nothing. Just more static.
Frustrated, and more than a little alarmed, he turned to Grey as the woman clambered back up to her feet. “You getting anything?”
“Not anymore.” The woman said, in the process of her shaking her head when a bladed disk slammed into her neck.
Erich stared in numb incomprehension as Grey reached numbly up to the implement, from which blood was already streaming, before she silently collapsed to the ground.
Brain kicking back into gear as the woman’s body hit the ground, he was vaguely aware of alarmed shouts from the lackeys as he brought his blaster up in search of a target.
Nothing came up though. All he saw was the green tinted interior of the tunnel and the bodies that occupied it.
As he watched, something glinted in his display for but a second as it flew past him.
Their was a meaty thunk just to his right, and the distinctive sound of another body hitting the floor.
“Thermal.” He shouted, adrenaline spiking higher as another glint flew from the tunnel to strike another lackey.
"Acknowledged." The suit responded, bathing his sight in oranges and blues.
An orange blob hidden amongst the cooling corpses of the second wave, some blocky and cold instrument strapped over the figures crouching shoulder.
‘Got you, fucker!’ Erich thought triumphantly.
“Root Command Charlie-Epsilon-Zulu.” A voice shouted just as he prepared to fire.
Erich’s triumph vanished; to be replaced with dread as his limbs seized up utterly, the hum of the force blaster dissipating as the suit entered an emergency shutdown.
The three remaining lackeys were still in the process of turning back from their downed ally toward where the voice originated from, when three more palm sized deadly disks flew from the darkness to take them in the throats.
Each collapsed with a wet gurgle, one barely managing to turn on their torch, before leaving Erich as the only one still standing.
Utterly immobile in his suit.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” He swore as he desperately tried to wiggle out, knowing in his heart of hearts it was useless.
“Oh, the irony.” A computer modulated voice chuckled from the darkness. “Caught out by your own paranoia.”
Erich barely listened. He was still trying desperately to move limbs that wouldn’t budge.
“Give it up, Jason.” The voice continued as the speaker emerged into the light cast by the fallen torch.
The person’s form was utterly enshrouded in a gender concealing black bodysuit. “You designed that protocol to stop anyone from using that suit after the voice command was given. Your fallback in case anyone ever tried to use it against you, right?”
How!? He thought furiously.
How did they know his name!? How did they know about the root command!?
He had told no one about it.
Wait, if they know about that-
“Yes.” The voice interrupted his thoughts, “I know all about the shutdown system in Sarah’s new gauntlets too. Such an elegant, if gory solution to a possible threat. I really must give you credit for that. It really is quite inspired.”
If Erich thought he was worried before, that comment drove his fear to new heights.
“Such a shame. All that genius. All that talent. And you’re just as greedy and petty as even the worst bottom feeder.” The figure said, "Your sister would be so disappointed."
As if having lost interest in him, the figure started to leisurely walk forward, a device coming to life in one hand. Even as he was forced to crane to look from his immobile suit, Erich could clearly see the timer emblazoned on the side.
“Honestly,” The figure sighed, “I expected more from the brother of the Blur.”
Fear momentarily took a back seat as Erich snarled, yelling in impotent rage as he cursed and struggled, desperately trying to shift the immobile suit as the explosive device clamped onto him with a metallic clang.
The featureless face plate of the figure peaked in front of the suit’s grill, “So, I think I’ll do her a favor by-”
The sound of a gunshot had never sounded so sweet, as the figure dodged to the side with surprising agility for someone that had just been shot in the gut.
"Gagh!?" They shouted with very human sounding pain, even through the distortion of their mask.
“Fuck you, Hangman. You Jew loving mother fucker!” The distorted and high-pitched voice of Integrity rang out.
It was barely audible it was spoken so fast, but Erich had spoken to his sister many times when she chose to accelerate herself, and even as his heart leapt into his throat, he was able to parse through the hyper-fast curse.
Peering round as far as he could, Erich could see that somehow the Neo-Nazi had shattered the collar holding him in place, and had crawled over to pick up a discarded gun.
A gun he was blazing away at the now named Hangman with, as the black suited figure ducked and weaved.
“Steal my gang!? Steal my men!? Break my fucking spine!?” The former gang leader cursed with hyper speed as he continued to shoot.
Erich watched on, expecting any moment for a disk to fly out from the fleeing Hangman’s form and finish off the escaped skinhead, but it didn’t happen. Instead he watched incredulously at the figure fled into the tunnel, clutching at their gut as blood dripped to the floor behind them.
“Come back here you piece of shit!” Integrity swore with super-speed as he continued to fire down the tunnel until his gun clicked empty.
Erich waited with bated breath for the figure to do exactly that, but as the minutes passed, interspersed with the noise of gunfire overhead and the sound of Integrity’s labored breathing, the Hangman did not return.
“Cowardly fuck.” Integrity hissed, his voice returning to a more normal speed.
Erich didn't disagree, but he figured he had bigger concerns.
“Little help?” Erich asked, not entirely sure whether it was wise to make the man aware of his presence, but also quite desperate to get out of his claustrophobic prison.
“I’ve got it,” A familiar voice rasped with an unhealthy sounding wet gurgle.
Erich sighed in relief, all but sprawling out of the suit as it opened up. Turning around, he saw that Grey was not as dead as he had thought, and that she had crawled over to pull on the suit’s emergency release lever.
An impressive feat for a woman who was rapidly turning grey from blood loss.
Erich hurried over to pull out the disk, only for the woman to flinch back.
“Leave it.” She croaked, “Pull it and I’ll bleed out in seconds.”
Erich looked at her blankly, mind running a mile a minute - then he pushed her weak hand aside and yanked.
“I know.” He said tonelessly as the woman’s eyes widened with surprise, moments before she collapsed into the growing pool of blood.
"I'm so sorry." He hissed.
Feeling numb, and running more on autopilot than conscious thought, Erich reached over to pull the rifle from the dying woman’s body.
“I would like to say that this is mind control.” Integrity chuckled from his spot behind them, “but I’ve seen enough witnesses being silenced over the years to know when someone doing it to me.”
The man pinned Erich with a thin smile as the engineer aimed his gun at him.
“Isn’t that right, Jason?”
“As you said,” Erich grunted, before unloading a dozen shots into the prone Neo-Nazi’s form.
The man collapsed with a wet thud, steam oozing from his corpse.
Still running on autopilot, Erich walked over to pull a clip from one of the lackey’s corpses, making sure they were all dead as he did. As he worked, he kept a wary eye on the tunnel mouth.
Magazine in hand, he placed it into the open hand of Integrity’s corpse, ejecting the spent clip from the man’s gun.
Job done, and hands still shaking, Erich looked at his suit. From overhead he could still hear the sounds of battle going on, but it was gradually petering off. Now that the Hangman was gone, whatever jammer they had brought had gone with them, and Erich could hear muted chatter from the earpieces of the corpses around him.
Hurrying over, he moved to clamber back in… only to stop.
The explosive the Hangman had put in place was still there. It was a small miracle the assassin hadn’t set it off as they fled out of sheer spite. It was what he would have done.
Must have been rattled, Erich thought.
Not particularly surprising given what he assumed the figure’s power-set to be. Being taken by surprise was probably as shocking as being shot itself. He sincerely doubted it happened to them often.
Still, rattled or not, the explosive probably had some kind of anti-tampering mechanism on it. Fingerprint scanner or something.
It was what he would do.
With time and resources he could probably get it off without blowing himself to hell in the process.
...Unfortunately, he didn’t have that.
The suit’s undamaged.
That was suspicious. He had no ready made explanation for why and he was far from sure he could make some convincing battle damage before someone upstairs came to see what was happening.
Hell, they could be on there way to ‘reinforce’ them while he was standing there.
He was still deliberating over what to do when the roof started to collapse above him, admitting a veritable inferno of flaming debris from the floor above.