Silence blankets the small neighborhood; the streets empty on the lackluster fringe world near the borders of Alliance space. The late afternoon sun provides just enough darkness for half of the eight-man team to make their move, with Unbreakable, Lifetime, Lancer and Nexus holding their respective positions outside as backup. Not a sound is heard as the quartet slides open the metallic door of the small house on the corner of the quiet block. One by one they converge into the dark abode, shades closed and lights out. The smell of death lingers in the air. With weapons drawn, four forms methodically fan out and sweep the room. Paragon, a young-looking man with a mane of white hair, takes point.
Directly to his right moves a powerful giant, Tempest, in silver armor. The massive frame is surprisingly quiet, not a sound made. To his left is Phoenix, a young woman with deep brown hair, orange highlights caught in the flicker of sunlight peeking in through the window. Following up the rear is Banshee, a felinesque woman covered in mixed black-and-white fur, her yellow eyes glowing in the darkness.
The brown-haired woman throws up her hand. The team halts, eyes quickly scanning the room. She crouches down, her head slowly shaking.
Mutilated corpses of a mother, father and their small child lay broken and in pieces, their blood and gore covering the floor and furniture. Unfazed by the scene, the young woman slowly stands with a glance to her leader, the white-haired man nods. They press forward. With a thought through the mobi communicators tucked in their collars, the words Room clear! flash across the microdisplays etched into their eyes. Moving forward, they approach a broad staircase. The silver giant takes point, the group moving as one up the steps.
Fanning out slightly at the top, a female broadcasts into their ears, Nexus guiding their every step.
“Second room on your left, heat signature confirmed.”
Locking on to their target, the team tightens formation. They fall back behind the armored giant. Raising his massive shield equal in height to the giant himself, Tempest proceeds with caution toward the closed door. Without warning, the room explodes as flames burst at them. The giant slams down his shield, an energy barrier created to protect them from the intense heat.
A crazed laugh echoes throughout the house as the flames die down, the silver giant peering through the smoke at the source.
“So glad you could join us!” A spindly man in ragged clothing stares back at Tempest. “Although I guess…it isn’t so much us as it is just me now.” He presents a twisted smile.
Tempest charges, his massive armor covering the distance in the blink of an eye.
“Manners!” the spindly man yells. He throws himself backward, a quick motion from his hands causing an invisible force to pull down the ceiling, roof and all its contents into the giant’s path. Turning, the maniac leaps out the shattered bedroom window, not a second thought given to the two-story drop below.
Scrambling to pursue their target, their primary route blocked off by the impressive display of Cihphistic power, the team explodes into motion.
“I’ve got him,” comes another broadcast over their mobis.
“Lancer, fall back,” their white-haired leader counters. “I repeat, fall back.”
“Paragon, I’ve got this.”
“Fall back! That’s an order!”
Picking up the pace, the foursome race down the steps, flying out the front door and around the side of the house. The area trembles at the terrible mass of swirling Enesmic energy, clear signs of powerful Cihphistic weaving at work. The air echoes with the sounds of metal twisting and the crunch of bones and an inhuman-sounding yell of pain-filled horror. The sudden terrifying silence shattered by a laugh of sickening satisfaction.
“Oh, no…” comes a whisper of surprised shock in their ears. The hearts of every team member skip a beat.
The seasoned warriors approach the backyard. Two more members—Unbreakable and Nexus—join them en route, every mind trying to process what just happened. Sounds of heavy rifle fire resound throughout the area, as shot after shot rings out, the gunfire frantic. A powerful wave of dread assails everyone.
Nexus shouts over her mobi, “What’s going on?” while racing to see for herself.
Then stops in her tracks.
The nanoplexi—a highly durable, composite metal—of Lancer’s shining power armor glints in the afternoon sun, now a tangled mass of technology and gore. Mangled flesh greets them as they round the corner, Paragon and the others charging ahead as Nexus struggles to breathe, the sight too much. Emotions well up inside her. She stares at the clump of nanoplexi, now a bloody tomb. The contents of her stomach rise in her throat and seek freedom on the ground.
Crazed eyes stare at her, the emaciated monster drawing power from her despair in that ultimate moment of weakness. He imagines slowly ripping her apart, magnifying her torment to encompass both the mental and the physical. Yes, he decides. He will kill her too.
A glint out of the corner of his eye is the only warning of an incoming attack. Paragon comes in with his blade, a look of fury etched across the face of the silver-eyed angel of death. The murderer dodges the fatal blow, Paragon’s attack just missing his throat as they dance.
The spindly man remains out of Paragon’s reach, as his Cihphistic powers enhance his movements. Spinning, Paragon draws first blood as he reverses momentum and defies physics, his impossible attacks fueled by his own Cihphistic weaving. First blood is followed by second and then third. As Paragon gains ground, the crazed killer no longer smiles, struggling to hold back the living weapon.
In an act of desperation, the monster triggers the detonation of a powerful explosive in the small defiled home. The force from the blast catches Paragon off guard, giving the killer his chance to flee. With a clench of his fist, the spindly man warps the air around him, his eyes lingering on Nexus with an unquenched hunger before disappearing completely from view. Paragon curses. He glances back to the rest of his team, Tempest frantically tearing through the clump of nanoplexi that used to be a person. Shaking his head, Paragon looks over at Nexus, unmoving on the ground. All strength ripped from her. She stares through half-closed eyes at Tempest digging for a corpse, her eyes closing as the giant collapses to his knees in defeat when he finds one. Lancer.