shichahn: (white acropolis)
[personal profile] shichahn
I has a title now!

This chapter rated, uh... R. For violence and disturbing imagery.

"Early to bed, early to rise" was one of those old human adages that held no meaning for Shadow. He slept when it was necessary to do so, and for some reason he didn't think that "early to rise" had meant 0030 hours. Technically that was early morning, wasn't it? He supposed it didn't really matter.

Slipping a small blunted claw into the knot of the bandage, Shadow pulled it apart and unwrapped his arm. The bleeding had stopped, and in flexing his wrist, it seemed the damaged tendon had more or less repaired itself, although he still felt like his forearm was a little weak. It hopefully wouldn't prove problematic - he couldn't afford to wait any longer. He could sleep more after he was finished with today's job.

He had just enough extra time to head to the nearest bathroom, which had a medical supply kit stowed beneath the sink, packed in next to a box containing an array of antibiotics and immunosuppressants. The shred of a memory of a time when the old colony was bustling with inhabitants flickered through his mind, but it was gone as soon as it had come. He pulled out the first aid kit and cleaned what remained of his wound, then re-wrapped it with a fresh bandage and shoved the kit back into its compartment.

As Shadow stalked back toward the command room, he retrieved his old 9mm Beretta pistol and a couple of clips. He'd never particularly liked the thing, but that was probably why it had survived longer than the rest of the armaments he'd been given for various missions - he avoided using it whenever possible. It wasn't a terrible weapon, but it wasn't as powerful as a Chaos Spear and it had a tendency to jam on him when it was most needed. The main advantage was that it was fast, and that it didn't drain his Chaos Energy reserves, which he would need to save for emergency teleportation should he get into a dangerous situation. Shadow was tough, sure, and could survive almost anything, but nerve gas wasn't something he wanted to take his chances with.

Breckenridge was loaded with bunkers full of the nerve agent known as GB - the infamous sarin gas - and some smaller quantities of VX, which was even deadlier. He would get rid of as much as possible using the incinerator that was on-site. The incinerator had been installed almost twenty years ago under an international treaty which stated that all chemical warfare agents were to be destroyed. The UF had been quick to agree to the treaty but slow to implement it, and while much of the original nerve agents and all of the blister agents had been burned up, enough nerve gas remained at the site for it to rank as the greatest deposit of chemical weaponry in the nation.

Shadow reviewed the map of the facility once more, then disappeared from the colony's bridge.


It was easy to imagine what the place had looked like before it had been bought by the government. The southeastern prairie grasses that surrounded the complex would have once stretched, unblemished but for a few trees, all the way to the horizon - an endless sea of slim green blades. But Breckenridge had been built around the same time as the ARK, in an era of fear and animosity and weapons proliferation. Of course, the only real difference between that time and this one was a slight shift in the public attitude toward war, and the fact that the weapons, once stockpiled, were now being put to use.

The land was now marred by barbed wire fences and a series of roads which cris-crossed the grasses, built to service the most noticeable aspect of the plot of land. Neat parallel lines of bunkers stretched alongside the roads, small grassy knolls with broad metal double doors pasted surrealistically onto their sides. The site was almost invisible from the air, designed so as to frustrate a bombing attempt, but from the ground it was too eerie to miss.

From the tree which served as his camouflage, Shadow surveyed the Breckenridge complex through a pair of military binoculars. The main complex lay in the center of the plot, served by a paved access road and a small airstrip which didn't look to have been used much recently. An open hangar door gave him a peek into what appeared to be a parking garage and loading dock area, which was connected to a warehouse of some sort. A smaller building, lit up and patrolled by several soldiers, was likely the command center. Just beyond that lay the incinerator, conspicuous with its chimneys and the flame decal which served both as an identifier and a warning label.

Quickly, Shadow worked up a plan of sorts. There was no way he would be able to get very far without detection, even if most of the grounds were unpatrolled. But humans were simple creatures, prone to fearing the darkness and the unexpected. The hedgehog hung his binoculars on a branch, took out the Beretta, then vanished in a flash of blue.

He reappeared on the far side of one of the bunkers near the edge of the plot, hopefully remaining unseen, and bashed the door in with a solid kick from a metal-heeled sole. A glance toward the command building indicated that, for the moment, nobody had noticed him yet, so he crept inside.

The interior of the bunker was only just barely big enough to hold its cargo - one large metal capsule, painted white, with a multitude of warning labels on it, a serial number, and the code GB in large bold letters. A tank full of liquid sarin. Shadow quickly scanned the bunker once more. Concrete walls and floor, likely lined with another material to prevent leaking into the water table should something damage the canister. The doors were the only weak point, but there wasn't much to be done about that. The liquid nearest the door would be the stuff that went up in flames first.

Shadow quickly retreated to the foot of the bunker directly behind him, gathering Chaos energy around his hands and deciding which bunker he would head to next. Then, focusing on what was visible of the canister through the broken double doors, he flung two golden bolts at it, one right after the other.

His aim was perfect, even with his bad arm. The first Chaos Spear struck the tank with a shower of sparks, punching a small hole in the metal, and the second hit immediately after, shooting through the liquid before it could spill out and setting it all aflame. Shadow was almost surprised it had worked out so perfectly. A piercing alarm went off in the direction of the control center, which was to be expected, and Shadow shot forward through the night to destroy the next tank.

As he finished with the second bunker, he happened to glance back. A thick, dark smoke was creeping out through the doorway, and Shadow narrowed his eyes before moving on, annoyed with himself. How could he have overlooked the fact that the bunkers would be too small to contain the smoke from the burned-off nerve agent? Undoubtedly it was nowhere near as dangerous as the liquid in the tanks, but he didn't want to contact it, nonetheless. His original idea, eliminating clusters of bunkers at random throughout the entire site, would have to be thrown out as he would have to approach the smoke from a previous tank at some point in time. Now, he would have to work in a regular pattern, moving constantly upwind. The predictability would give the GUN soldiers a much greater advantage than they would have had, but he would much rather face them than the sarin. Shadow just hoped the wind didn't change direction.

Shadow made his way through the site, bunker by bunker. The northwest corner of the compound was mostly devoid of tanks, presumably because they had been destroyed in accordance with the international treaty. He had finished off most of the western half of the depot before the GUN soldiers caught up to him, and it was immediately obvious why they had been so slow to arrive: they were clothed in heavier protective gear than was part of the standard uniform, and each was wearing a gas mask. But clearly they had been hasty, wanting to reach him before it was too late, and had neglected to don the full rubber jumpsuits that would offer real protection. Or perhaps they had forgotten that sarin and VX could be absorbed through the skin just as easily as they could be inhaled.

The soldiers, several humans and a pair of canines, spread out and opened fire on him, but Shadow was too fast for them to follow and most of their shots seemed like blind guesses at his location. A double shot from the Beretta took out one of the humans from the side, and his lifeless body collapsed onto the soldier standing next to him. Knocked off-balance, the man managed not to fall, but he was an easy target and sank to the ground when another pair of bullets drove through his skull.

"883, requesting ba-" The gruff voice of the bulldog was cut off in a strangled cry as the hedgehog-turned-buzzsaw sliced through his midsection. Shadow vaulted off his falling upper half and dealt with another two soldiers in a similar fashion, then whipped around in midair and shot the last human in the group, blowing off his jaw and a chunk of the gas mask before he fired off a second, more successful shot which dropped him to the ground in mid-scream. The dark hedgehog landed, facing what remained of the unit - a young coyote, standing motionless, in horror at what had happened to his fellows.

He looked over at the dark hedgehog, eyes terrified, and dropped his gun, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.

"P-please d-"

There was an awful crack as the coyote's neck snapped. Shadow tossed the body aside and hurried onward.

By now, soldiers were pouring out of the command center and warehouse, suited up in various states of protective gear. Bullets whizzed past him, always just a bit behind. Shadow continued past the men, ignoring their shouts, and shot into the hangar, where he found a semi with the cargo door open. Without so much as slowing down, he got a good look at its interior, then continued out through the door at the opposite side of the hangar and looped around toward the eastern side of the depot, with an increasingly larger company of soldiers following in his wake. An engine roared behind him, then another, but even in a vehicle they had no hope of catching up.

Any GB canisters found were immediately destroyed, but soon enough, Shadow found the stash of VX nerve agent. He approached the first tank, then ducked sharply out of the way as a bullet whistled by. With a growl, the hedgehog whipped around and looked out past the bunker door at the GUN soldier who, aided by a motorcycle, had found Shadow before the others.

"Freeze!" the human commanded.

Shadow lifted the canister, meanwhile keeping his eyes on the soldier. "Do you know what would happen if you shot this tank of VX on accident, instead of me?"

"Agent Shadow, this is Lieutenant Kurtis Malcolm. I request that you surrender yourself; otherwise you will be taken under arrest by force."

Ah yes, Kurt Malcolm. Shadow remembered having worked with him on a couple assignments that required a second operative. The gas mask had rendered his face unrecognizable. Kurt was one of those idiots who enjoyed playing the part of the fearless hero, but he pulled it off convincingly on enough occasions as to allow him to take part in some of the more interesting missions. Shadow had always hated babysitting him.

"Tell your men to be more careful, Lieutenant Malcolm," Shadow warned. And before he could receive another response from the human, he and the canister both vanished.

Shadow set the VX tank carefully in the bed of the semi truck and closed the cargo door, then went back for the rest, dashing from bunker to bunker. The constant use of Chaos Control was starting to wear him down, however. The past several years had given him time to learn finer control of his abilities, including a slowly increasing capacity for a more efficient use of ambient Chaos energy, allowing him to do more and for longer without an Emerald on hand. But even still there were limits, and after cleaning out each and every remaining container of liquid VX and placing them in the truck, he was very near to running on empty. It was times like this he was glad for his binding rings - without them, he would risk pushing himself to exhaustion, or worse, so much faster.

The sounds of soldiers running around inside the hangar, shouting and acknowledging commands, was a sign that he had done well so far. They were disorganized, trying not to panic, and for the time being, had no idea where he'd gone, which was a nice bonus.

Once it became quieter, the hedgehog hopped out the back of the truck, sliding the door back down behind him, and swung around to the driver's seat, hurriedly adjusting the pedals, seat, and wheel to accommodate his stature. Such adjustable vehicles were a relatively recent acquisition by the military, on account of their hiring a wider variety of species in the past few years. Neither Shadow nor Rouge had ever intended to open the door, so to speak, for hiring more nonhumans by the military, but their respective strengths must have convinced them it was a good idea, somehow. Regardless, the adjustable proportions of the necessary items in the cabin of the truck made driving the truck quickly out of the hangar far easier than it would have been otherwise - necessary, because almost immediately on his tail were eight men in two armored jeeps.

The truck rocked and swerved as a missile from a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher wielded by one of the men hit the ground near the front tires while Shadow, swearing under his breath, fought to regain control of the vehicle. What the hell were they doing, trying to get themselves all killed? Taking the Beretta in his left hand, Shadow twisted in his seat, leaning partway out the window while keeping his foot on the gas, and fired at the tires of the closest car. Instantly, a volley of bullets rang back at him, and he ducked his head inside and loaded a fresh clip into the pistol, before leaning out once more and taking aim. The first jeep swung violently to the left wth a sharp screech and the startled shouts of its passengers as one of its tires finally popped.

Shadow jerked himself back inside as a spray of bullets from a man in the second jeep destroyed his driver's side mirror. The incinerator building was just up ahead; all he needed to do was hold off this unit long enough to get there and unload the VX inside. He turned once more to fire the Beretta at the oncoming vehicle.

As luck would have it, it jammed.

The extra second of time granted to the GUN soldiers allowed them to fire their rocket, which slammed into the side of the truck on Shadow's side, not far from the cabin. The hedgehog was thrown forward against the steering wheel as the semi slid sideways into the wall of the building that housed the incinerator. The noise was horrific, as metal crashed into concrete and the tanks of VX were thrown up against the walls of the cargo hold.

That sound was enough to snap Shadow out of his momentary daze. The Beretta was gone, lost in the chaos, but he didn't give it much thought.

"Shit shit shit shit-"

He pulled himself out of the truck's cabin, bruised and sore but otherwise uninjured, and saw for himself why the men stationed at the incinerator building were staring past him, rather than attacking. There was something wrong with the men in the two armored jeeps. They were clutching at their throats and chests, gasping for breath, and drooling hideously. Several appeared to have tears streaming down their eyes. A glance at the hangar floor revealed a spray of liquid that had been ejected from the bed of the truck. It was now steadily dripping out of the back corner of the truck, forming a small stream which traveled along the slightly uneven ground, away from Shadow and the incineration building.

An awful retching sound drew Shadow's attention back to the inhabitants of the jeep, which were in various stages of distress. Those who were worst afflicted had likely been contacted directly by the VX, and seemed to have lost all control over themselves, vomiting and twitching with frightening spasms, their faces contorted in pain as bodily fluids of every kind imaginable drained out of the vehicles and mixed with the VX on the ground.

What a truly terrible weapon.

Never before had Shadow seen anything like this, and he had been witness to many deaths, and the cause of many more. But the weapons he used, and the methods with which he employed them, ensured a swift, efficient death. Not always a clean one - the drying blood on his fur from the slaughter of that first unit of soldiers could attest to that - but nothing like this torture, horrifying beyond words.

The hedgehog spun around at the sound of yet another car engine, approaching from behind, and raced toward it, snatching the gunman's rocket launcher right out of his hands. With only one thing on his mind, he ground to a stop on the concrete floor of the hangar and faced the truck, firing both missiles into the damaged cargo bed. He couldn't destroy the VX cleanly with the incinerator, the humans had guaranteed that. Individuals of their species had created the nerve agent, and through the stupidity of their species, several more individuals had condemned not only themselves but all of those who would not be able to escape this place quickly enough. With those two shots, Shadow knew he would end up killing all of those who stood there in that same awful way that the other eight had died. But as he maintained every time he invaded one of these supply depots, the loss of their lives was nothing compared to the use that GUN intended to put these weapons to in Aran. If he couldn't get rid of the nerve agent properly, then he could at least ensure it would never be usable in the war.


The rocket launcher clattered to the ground. Shadow had gone before the missiles ever hit their target, using the last of the Chaos Energy he could muster up. The crew of the third jeep got out slowly, not quite sure what had just happened. And as the gunman went to retrieve his gun, his eyes began to water.


Aboard the ARK once more, Shadow flopped down heavily onto his old bed. The destruction of the Breckenridge chemical weapons depot had taken a lot out of him, and he needed to restore all of the energy that he'd had to drain. One more day of hiding here would hurt nothing; GUN was going to be in too much of a mess for a while to find out where he was.

Besides, the possibility that he had contracted a low dose of the nerve agent was still a possibility, and he would have to quarantine himself for a while to see if any of the symptoms occurred. The ARK was the safest place to do so, as he was the only living thing here. Once he was sure he was free of the poison, then he would see about taking the next step in his self-assigned mission. Until then, he had some sleep to catch up on.
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May 2014

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