“The good news,” Jones began, “Is that we have a hard drive from one of the top recruiters of the Second Phase which contains information that we believe to be about new members as well as some chat logs. The bad news is that it’s all coded.”
Jones spoke at the front of the Debriefing Room, behind her, a screen displayed coded messages across a screen. She was running this particular meeting due to her recent investigation. At the circular table in the middle of the room sat Mansoor, Frakes, Bronson, Alam and Klausman. At each chair, holographic screens displayed pertinent information that each member could scroll through on their own.
“It’s not a typical computer encryption either,” Klausman pointed out, “Everything we found was in this code. We just need to find the cipher.”
“Did you take this to Seoyeon?,” Mansoor asked.
“We did,” Jones explained, “She’s tech savvy but code breaking is not quite her skill. Like Klausman said, we need a cipher. Once we get it, I’m sure Seoyeon could figure the rest out.”
Bronson looked at the holographic screen in front of him which contained screen shots of multiple message logs, “I noticed some of these conversations begin with R-8-7. Maybe that’s a clue to decoding these messages? Something to remind participants on how to decipher the code if they’re new recruits?”
“Well done, mate,” Jones told him, “Any other business?”
Frakes stood up, “I spoke with Italian authorities to see if Brassi had a criminal record. As expected, he did. From there, I was able to track him. He doesn’t seem to have had a residence in his name for over a year but he was renting a storage unit in Milan and I believe there might be something there of value. Director Pierce gave me the go-ahead to investigate but I’ll need someone to come with.”
“I’ll go,” Mansoor nodded.
“I guess it’s settled then,” Jones smiled, “Happy hunting.”
Mansoor and Frakes took the Cloudburst to a secluded lot with multiple storage containers and shipping crates. They hovered in low. “The Second Phase is trying to cover their tracks,” Frakes warned, “There’s a good chance they have an operative or two down there. See anything?” Mansoor used her enhanced vision to scan the area. “As a matter of fact, I do. You’re not gonna like -,” suddenly, she grabbed the controls from Frakes and jerked the Cloudburst to the side, “- Evade!”. It dipped in the air just before a launched grenade exploded off the surface. The hit shook the cabin but otherwise, the ship was unharmed as Frakes righted the ship once more.
“And who might that be?,” Frakes asked as she put the ship on auto-pilot. “It was Rampart,” Mansoor opened the side hatch, “Hopefully, we’ll finally shut him up.” Mansoor leapt out of the ship and began flying through the sky. Frakes, meanwhile, became slightly translucent as she phased into her corporeal form, dropping through the floor and out the bottom of the ship. While she couldn’t fly, her mass was altered while phasing, allowing her to essentially float through the air unharmed while dropping from a high altitude.
The cyborg known as Rampart stood 8ft tall with robotic limbs, a helmet with a visor, and a black military uniform. He was one of the first known test subjects for the Second Phase’s cybernetic experiments in the late 90s. While he wasn’t a member of the Second Phase, he was a Canadian-born mercenary who underwent exhaustive surgeries for the organization in exchange for a large payment. He had since continued mercenary work but was always willing to do jobs for his former benefactors. He slung a large grenade launcher over his shoulder as he waited for Mansoor and Frakes to descend from the air.
“Who are the Badges for today?,” a smile spread across his face as the two figures approached, “Looks like Intrepid and Phantama. Certainly easier on the eyes than some of the other agents.”
“We’re charmed,” Mansoor sneered, “Still doing the bidding of your masters?”
“Masters? Hardly. I never cared for that whole ‘abandon the flesh’, techno-evolution crap. I’ve worked for enough extremists to know they’re always self-righteous assholes that you can never reason with. I’m not gonna get sucked into all that.”
“But you’ll still gladly take their money?,” Frakes asked angrily.
“Well, yeah,” Rampart aimed his grenade launcher, “That’s a dumb question.”
He fired another grenade but Mansoor flew into the sky and Frakes phased so that the projectile passed through her, destroying a storage until several yards away. Rampart began to reload, “And by the way, are we pretending you guys don’t get a nice fat paycheck from Interpol every month?,” he took aim again, “I know you think there’s a difference, but there’s not.” Frakes raced forward, passing through Rampart as she leapt over a crate behind him. As she passed, she turned solid and grabbed his shoulder, pulling him down against the crate. Mansoor dropped from several feet in the air, landing against his chest with enough force to smash him through the crate, bounce off the ground, and hit the metal door of the storage unit behind him. “Not bad,” he said as he stood back up.
Frakes and Mansoor rushed forward, opening fire with their guns. While they knew Rampart was bulletproof, they also knew it would distract him long enough to get close and disarm him. He raised a hand over his face as bullets bounced off his body and Frakes, once in range, phased a hand into his grenade launcher while Mansoor continued to lay suppressive fire. Frakes solidified her fingers slightly, grasping the grenade clip, then phased again, which made the clip phase in turn; once she had her target, she simply pulled it out of the gun without damage. Seeing Frakes clutching an ammo clip, Rampart knew his weapon was empty so he angrily tossed it aside and slammed his fist into the pavement. The shockwave threw Frakes into the air, forcing her to drop the grenade clip. Mansoor flew forward, slamming her knee into Rampart’s face to no avail; he snatched her by the leg and threw her several feet into the air. Frakes got off the ground and phased just in time for another punch that passed through her entire upper-body. She phased her hand into Rampart’s knee, solidifying slightly to take out a leg. Rampart screamed in pain and fell to one knee. Next, she phased her fist into a nerve cluster on his neck to render him unconscious but found metal coils instead. “Sorry, sweetness,” he began climbing back to his feet, “That part was replaced a while back.” Mansoor flew to their location in a blur, staying low to the ground as she grabbed Rampart’s ankle and swooped up, sending him flipping end-over-end. He hit the pavement on the other side of the storage unit and Mansoor landed next to Frakes.
“He’s too powerful for the two of us,” Frakes told her.
“I’m aware,” Mansoor rolled her eyes, “You remember the number of the storage unit we need to find?”
“I’m on it,” Frakes quickly phased through a wall and disappeared.
“I’ll hold him off as long as possible,” Mansoor called out.
Rampart propelled himself into the air with a super strong leap and landed on a nearby roof. “Keep delaying the inevitable, ladies,” he shouted, “I’m enjoying it.” He dropped down, cracking the pavement underneath him, and began looking for his prey.
Frakes found her way to the storage unit and phased inside. There, she found high-tech weapons along the walls. On a table, were repair kits for cybernetic parts as well as medication and ointments for infections and other ailments that cybernetic implants can cause. She rummaged through the next table and found fake passports and other documents needed for spycraft. There was nothing of significant value until Frakes found an object that wouldn’t seem odd if it wasn’t for the fact that this was a unit belonging to a member of the Second Phase.
Outside, Mansoor found a crowbar and flew to Rampart, zipping around a corner to strike him across the face. As Rampart reeled, she swooped up then dropped down, bringing the bar on top of his head. She hovered in the air and tried a third swing but Rampart caught it and shoved her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her. “Your partner take off?,” he asked as he bent the crow bar in half, “That sucks.” He turned and walked back to where his grenade clip was dropped. “I hate to cut our date short, ladies,” he picked it up off the ground, “But I got a job to do.” A few moments later, he made his way to Brassi’s storage unit, “Here we go.” He punched a hole through the metal door and removed a grenade from the clip. Once the grenade was in his hand, he removed the pin manually and tossed it inside, then he shrugged and dropped the rest of the grenades in before calmly walking away. “People keep talk’n about me ba-bayyyy,” he sang to himself as an explosion erupted behind him, “Say I’m doing you wroooong.” From a safe distance, Mansoor and Frakes watched a pillar of black smoke rise.
“I hope you got something valuable before it was destroyed,” Mansoor stated plainly.
“I did,” she handed Mansoor a book: The Holy Bible.
“A Bible? The Second Phase tend to reject religion. That is a bit odd.”
“Turn to the Book of Revelations.”
A knowing smile crossed Mansoor’s face, “I think we missed the New Testament in Hebrew School.”
“Duly noted. It’s the last book of the Bible. Look up chapter 8, verse 7. You’ll notice it’s circled in red ink.”
Mansoor began to read, “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up,” she looked at Frakes, “But what does it mean?”
“It’s something Bronson said back at HQ. He noticed R-8-7 in some of the chats. Revelations 8:7. I think they’re using this as a cipher for their messages.”
“Very clever… And it might mean more than a cipher.”
“I think this may be their goal.”
In an underground bunker, several engineers toiled on a large, metallic structure. On the sign of the structure, the words Angel -1 were printed. The head scientist wore a lab coat and had blank, cybernetic eyes with slight scarring around the skin. He was known as Doc Serenity. A holographic screen opened before him, displaying the High Command. “Ah, hello,” he greeted them, “I understand you wanted Operation: First Angel to be fast-tracked. Our new recruits are acclimating well and we’re working as quickly as -“
Binary code flashed across their blank metallic faces as his eyes lit up.
“Ah, there has been another battle with the IMD,” Doc Serenity responded.
More binary code was transferred.
“It’s possible they can crack the cipher. Brassi was careless. The IMD might be able to locate and detain his recruits but the other recruiters have been successful. We have more than enough man power to succeed.”
The High Command sent another message.
“Of course,” Doc Serenity answered back, “Abandon the flesh, enter the second phase.”