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Too Close to the Sun
Part Two: Archimedes Project

by: David McFarland

    Ryan Tanter hung up his assault rifle on his wall. Designed for heroes, the thing was rather large and bulky, but strong. Multiple attachments, including a flamethrower, a high caliber barrel and chamber for sniping, and, of course, the always-needed grenade launcher. His own modifications made the main portion of it look much like a Heckler & Koch G-36C Assault Rifle, designed for the German military and rarely used by Americans.

    Turning his back on his weaponry, and the box below it that held a great deal of ammunition, he took off his camouflaged A-Grade Titanium Armor, with mixed ceramics and spider-silk lining. The armor, while having weight, was generally comfortable, though not something you thought about much when your adrenaline was pumping in the middle of a fight. Last, but not least, his wrist cuffs he had taken from Sky Raiders, which had originally belonged to the late Captain Indomitable. Irony was, Sky Burn was trying to save that hero when he had been killed... so much for indomitable. His reddened eye-monocle and black bandana, which he tied around his head like a sweat-band, resembling a ninja band of sorts, came last. All of these heroic, military style clothing articles he put into a closet within his clothing closest, which he locked with a key, even though it was relatively hidden.

    Ryan Tanter slid into a white t-shirt with navy blue, faded letters reading, “YOU’RE UNIQUE … JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.” Along with a pair of jeans. His well-toned biceps were hidden beneath the arms of the shirt, but that wasn’t a major problem, he didn’t need to show them off. Besides that, he had a thin layer of strong metal under his skin, which was surprisingly flexible but durable. A little reminder of his days on the planet of Zodia. He hadn’t liked that planet much, and so was glad that Earth had been his home of origin.

    Smelling himself, he realized he still smelled like salt and sea. That would have to change. Taking his engagement ring with him, he went to the bathroom, which thankfully his roommate hadn’t taken occupancy of. Zodians were so unpredictable, with their odd habits and intellectuality, but much like humans in other aspects.

    Undressing just as soon as he had dressed, Ryan stepped into the shower once again. He was sick of the water. Peregrine Island had much new Malta activity, to the point that some of their leaders were claiming it to be their island in a step of arrogance, even with the Rikti and Carnies still there.

    Climbing back out of the shower, one could smell the very faint scent of “Axe Body-wash,” their “Phoenix” version. While he was pretty much indifferent to scents of cologne, deodorant and the like, his fiancé preferred it when he smelt of “Axe” brand products and almost every cologne he had in his possession. Ryan looked through the medicine cabinet quickly – ironically, aspirin was the only medicine stored in it- and decided that since he and Kathy hadn’t planned a date for today, he would go sans-cologne.

    It was midday, since his patrol had started at the ungodly hour of 4 o’clock. That had been Chillbain’s idea, or more of a joke, really. Sky Burn wasn’t too fond of such things, as he was a night-owl, not a morning-bird. ‘Early bird gets the worm, he says,’ Ryan thought, ‘I’ve got super-speed, I don’t have to get up early to be early!’ Sitting down to a cold-cut sandwich that his roomie had made for him to make up for the early rise, the hero mulled over how to get his partner back, obviously forgetting who had made the not-so-bad sandwich that was easily satiating his hunger and fatigue.

    The “hero” finished off his meal quickly. Sitting on the back of the couch in their living room, which was directly adjacent to the kitchen, he rolled backwards towards the cushions, pivoting himself as he fell backwards to land perfectly on the soft cushions and his heads on the pillows. Instead he was awarded with a little “oof.”

    “What tha?” Ryan continued rolling off of the awkward object, which finished with his head getting smashed into the coffee table.    “Nathan? What the he-“ He stopped as his vision was filled with stars. “…woah…” While his left palm rested on the ground, propping him up, his right went to his forehead in instinct. Finally, he managed to clear his head and continue his sentence coherently. By this time, the groggy Nathan Greyte was awakening. “Nathan… what are you doing, its almost one p.m.!”

    “Uhhh… mmmmhhmm… whatev- mah.” The other hero said in a slumber-induced stupor. The head of his friend fell back to the pillow, which was cold. That wasn’t odd. Most of the stuff around here was that way. Everywhere Chillbain went, cold followed. He was, after all, a manipulator of ice, and his body temperature was quite frequently below that of the freezing point of water.

    The trick of sticking his hand in warm water to make him wet himself wouldn’t work, and neither did the shaving cream or whipped cream on the hand, which he had tried before. Basically, revenge for the early rise was currently out of the question.  It could wait. Ryan had proven himself to many military men as more than a helicopter pilot of his former years, and one of those was being a sniper; he could be patient when the need arose.

    What to do now? He pretty much had the day off. Another patrol, this soon, was out of the question, and taking a nap right now would screw up his day, and with gas prices up right now, so was a drive. Honestly, Ryan didn’t even have, or need a car. Their perch in the middle of Steel Canyon was right in the center of all monorail and bus traffic, so getting to work like a civilian wouldn’t be that hard. That was, if he wanted to. Or if he wanted another job. Working off Commission for the Paragon security forces paid well enough, as long as you were a certified “Hero of the City,” a title which Ryan sometimes flaunted around his roommate who didn’t have that little badge of honor.

    It had its perks. All of the villains had at least heard of Ryan, and some had actually seen him on T.V. Some of them thought they could actually beat him, but that lessened after the footage of Sky Burn energy-thrusting a Hellion Blood-brother over one hundred and fourteen yards, a personal record.

    Ryan left the resting ice-wielder to his couch and exited their two-person apartment.  In his civilian clothes he’d have to be a little more discreet, even though he didn’t really care. It was a flourish of arrogance on his part, that he wasn’t the slightest big cautious about his identity, except doing shopping, going to ATMs, et cetera, in his civies. Once again, it didn’t matter. The only people close enough to him could protect themselves well enough.  

    As he walked down the stairway of the building – elevator music was annoying – he actually used his super-speed. People these days always used the elevator. America was getting lazy. He swore to himself, that the only reason why anyone was skinny at all was because of the same corrupt society that demanded good looks, and at the same time pressed fast food joints. And oxymoron, it was.

    Leaving the building, he mingled with the others on the crowded city streets. Heroes flew overhead, sped by amongst traffic – something many drivers had petitioned against – vaulted over buildings in a single bound, and appeared in one place, only to be whisked away to another in a flash of light.  It was chaotic, to say the least. Chaotic, yet safe. And Ryan thrived in it. He smiled to a hero whom he thought he recognized, but the name escaped him, and obviously the hero didn’t recognize him, as he flew overhead, because he gave back a smile and a wave that said, “Hello you lowly citizen. I pity you for your weakness, but I’ll pretend I’m happy to see you.” Ryan Tanter knew it all too well. Ashamedly, he had given it on a couple of his bad days.
    
    Not too far off, he noticed a few Outcasts romping around in the streets. No cries of help were yet going out, so no one paid attention. But Ryan did. He also noticed their noticing an unnoticing young lady, who was coming down the sidewalk at Ryan, but still several hundred yards off.

    A few of the Outcasts, one Lead Brick in their ranks, along with a pair of flame wielding ones, took up flanking positions on opposite sides of the sidewalk to stop her when she came to pass. Ryan quickened his pace. At this rate, he wouldn’t get there in time. The girl, a brunette, carried a bag of groceries in one arm, and a purse in the other. Typical. The ones that needed saving always seemed to carry groceries. That always made a mess, and he hoped she didn’t carry eggs with her.

    “Hey, lady, you got something in that bag for me?” the tallest and largest, the Lead Brick, said. Ryan fumed as his pace quickened ever more, as the thug couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off her curvaceous body.

    “Pig!” She yelled at him, voicing Ryan’s very thoughts down to the infliction, volume, and the very tone itself, as well as the convicting quality. Trying to push past, she still didn’t notice Ryan Tanter, who was nearly running at this point.

    “Ooh, we gotst ourselves a feisty one, don’t we?” One of the Torches reached in the bag and pulled out a large glass bottle of Tabasco Brand Hot Sauce. “Ooh, and she likes hot stuff! Good news for me…” He reached out to grab her arm, and probably a little past that.

    He was met by a sharp, quick slap that left a burning sensation in his skin. “For your information, that is for my boyfriend, and he wouldn’t appreciating taking that. He’s very sentimental about that Tabasco.”

    The Torcher slapped back, leaving an equally red mark on her arm, then grabbing it, pulling her to him as his partners ravaged through her purse. “Does it look like I care?! Just for that, I’m going to be the first one to-“
    
    This time, a fist cut him off. However, it was misplaced, coming from behind him. The energy-latent fist crashed down on the bottle of hot sauce, blasting glass and red-pepper juices combined with only salt and vinegar, everywhere. The mere three ingredients of the incredibly spicy sauce splashed into the Torch’s eyes, burning them as they filled his vision. A sharp crack on the back sent him to the ground instantly.

    A kick to the face ended the crime spree of the Lead Brick, sprawling him on his back. As he regained his footing and shook a piece of glass from between the fingers of his right, his left struck out to the last of the three Outcasts, likewise throwing him to the ground. The Torch who had made the crude remark to the girl, the only one of the trio still conscious, was met by a sneaker to the groin. “That’s for sexually harassing her.” Ryan said as he retracted his foot. “Morons these days…” he trailed off, then kicked him in the solar plexus, and the combined pain rendered him unconscious as well.

    “I’m sorry, ma’am, are you hurt?” Ryan asked, walking over to the woman, in her early twenties, who was gathering her things, sans-Tabasco, of course.

    “For your information,” a classic, completely unoriginal line, “I could have handled that myself.” And another equally unoriginal one.

    “That’s not the usual ‘thank you’ I always get.” Ryan said, leaning over, kissing the twenty-three year old on the lips, putting his hand on her shoulder.

    Instead of slapping him, she kissed back. “Sorry about your hot sauce.”

    “My fault, Kathy.” He spoke to his fiancé in loving tones. “Besides, I’ve got at least three more bottles at home.” Putting his hand to his mouth, he licked off some of the spicy, orange-red liquid that still remained on his right fore-finger.

    “The way you go through the stuff, it won’t last you until Friday.” Kathy gave him a one-arm hug, then returned her belongings to her purse and slung it over her shoulder, leaving the unconscious thugs to be picked up by the Paragon PD.

***

    “This an outrage!” The ambassador slammed his fist down in the large conference room, semi-circular. “The Rogue Isles will not stand for this! We demand reparations at once, or we will be forced to take drastic measures!”

    “Just what, exactly, do the Rogue Isles stand for? Anything at all?” The British ambassador made a small remark, which created a chuckle among his peers, and his countries allied ambassadors.

    They were seated near the front of the conference room, at who’s head stood an imposing figure, the leader of the council in session with a blue flag on the wall behind him, which was embroidered with white stenciling of a globe and two olive branches circling that.

    “Silence! The Rogue Islands did not join the United Nations to be ridiculed! We wanted respect in this world!” The ambassador of the Rogue Islands said.

    “Gentlemen! Be calm!” The leader of the council remarked. At that, the Rogue Isles ambassador took his seat again, still glowering at the American and British ambassadors.

    The angry man spoke up again. “How can I be calm? The countries these men belong to have committed an act of war by attacking Arachnos Military installations! They killed out men! My Lord has deemed this unacceptable and requests that the UN intervene on our behalf as a sanctioned nation!”
    
    “Might I remind you, ambassador, you have no proof of American nor British, nor Cuban, Venezuelan, French, Iranian, nor Venetian incurrence upon your islands, apart from the fact that two sites of nearly completed forts were destroyed?” The council leader spoke calmly as ever, as if a father to all of these unruly children. It came off in a lecturing tone as well. “Need I also remind you that the Rogue Islands barely made it into the United Nations, and we would just as soon expel you?”

***

    Sky Burn exited the movie theatre, with Kathy in arm, walking towards a small alley. “I need to be getting home.” She said. They were still in civilian clothes and dusk had long set in while they were inside the cinema. “I’ll see you tomorrow, sweetie.” Kathy said, stroking the engagement ring on her finger, glancing down at his, smiling greatly. Before he could respond, she had already jumped off from the ground, as they were in a secluded alleyway and lept from building to building, hundreds of feet above him.

    Long minutes later: “I thought she’d never leave.” A voice said, appearing from the shadows.

    “Who-“ Ryan turned toward the figure. He wasn’t in a fighting stance yet. The man wasn’t appearing hostile, so they wasn’t needed.
    
    “We need your help, Mr. Tanter.” Dressed in black suit and black sunglasses, his head cropped short, like some CIA or Secret Service agent from James Bond movie. No sidearm was visible on him, but that wasn’t too hard to hide.

    “Why?”

    He reached in a pocket, which Ryan jerked his hand at, but realized it was only a paper, not a weapon. The man, still yet unidentified, handed over the document. “The United States National Security Agency has reason to believe that Arachnos is working with Malta on high-tech weaponry developments. With that field, we suspect Crey as well, but that is just a presumption.” Agent Smith, as Ryan mentally named him from appearance due to lack of the man’s actual name, handed over the document. Ryan scanned it with a glance. “Archimedes? What?”
    
    “Indeed. The NSA has assembled a team of soldiers to assault this coupling of groups. Should they finish whatever they are working on, it may be not just a threat to National Security, but it could develop into a full pandemic.”

    “That still does not answer what Archimedes is.” Ryan glanced over the paper more.

    “’Just it. We don’t know either. Which is why we want you. Superspeed, flight, combat skills, minimal invisibility, tactical mind, and you work the way we do. You were the perfect candidate for the job.” He held out another paper.  “Armed Reconnaissance and Hazard reMoval. Better known as ARHM. You’ll be working with them. We’ve got supers in with them, but not many.  This is the sixth incarnation of the group, originally founded under the British as the British Intelligence Special Forces during World War One. Since then, they have been continuously disbanded and reformed, usually under knew names, to act in new wars and conflicts with a new name each time. Not until now did we ever use supers. And by the way, you never heard any of this. I’m sure you know the drill.”
    
    It was too much like Hollywood for Sky Burn to believe. To randomized in local. He must have swept the place long ago for bugs, and had several men walking around to make sure no one overheard.

    “Sure. I’m in.” Sounded good. “The standard save-the-day kinda thing, or do I get paid extra?” Ryan asked. A little extra pocket money would have been nice, but it wasn’t a necessity; he didn’t need incentive to do the right thing and mitigate crime.

    An eyebrow rose to this question. “I thought you were one of them noble super heroes. No need for cash.” Ryan assumed he had to say that on behalf of the group.

    “Honor doesn’t often put bread on the table.” Ryan said blatantly. It was hard to say, but truth be told, honor and wisdom really didn’t get as far as it used to.  The media had long made sure of that, making it seem like the world was evil and all honor was false. In some cases, it was true, however…
    
    “Oh, yes, but of course. Sorry, but I can’t do anything about that. Though, I’m sure your monthly paycheck from the Paragon City Security Department, Hero Division, will get a little boost.”  Winking right now, as one might normally do with a little under-the-table help, would be highly unprofessional. Besides, this whole arrangement was under-the-table already. ‘Agent Smith’ didn’t look anxious at all, even with the length of the talk. “Anyway, we can’t exactly tell you what your overall goals are. That is for us to know and you to figure out on your own.” Ryan noticed he hadn’t said ‘find out,’ rather ‘figure out.’ “Though, that shouldn’t be too hard at all. You’re a smart one, I’m told. Don’t let me down.”

    “Thanks… what is your name again?” Ryan questioned.

    “I never told you, and don’t count on it happening anytime soon.” The man starred through his shades. That bothered Ryan, who couldn’t see what the man’s eyes were looking at, whether it was something behind him, checking Ryan for a weapon, or staring straight into his eyes. Maybe that was supposed to make him feel more powerful… must have been, because the suited man was a half-foot shorter than the hero. “If you will excuse me, your orders will be delivered to you tomorrow morning.”  

***  

    Ryan returned home, still thinking over the “proposal” the man had made. “Man, did that guy have it wrong.” Grabbing a carton of milk from the fridge, hoping it wasn’t too old. “I’m not exactly as noble as he thinks.” Drinking straight from the carton, he took a few gulps before realizing it was perfectly fine.

    “Sky… what the h-“ Nathan appeared from his room, catching Ryan surprised, whom, accidentally sprayed milk from his mouth, all over the ice-hero, whom was in a t-shirt and shorts. Once the milk touched the man, it instantly froze. “Oh, come on!” Chillbain looked down at the frozen, pasteurized mess all over himself.

    “Looks good on you.” The joke came amid a hysterical laugh.  “You needed a new look anyway.”  That was hardly true.  Nathan – Chillbain – had at least four different costumes composed of white and light blue fabrics, wrappings, boots, etc. Likewise, Ryan – Sky Burn – had many uniforms, but many of them looked quite similar to the last just a new paint job, a few extra gadgets, a helmet or lack of one, et cetera, all of military genre.

    “Bullcrap!” Chillbain spouted, flicking off frozen milk from his cold shirt. “I never need a new look! My look is always good. You don’t beat my style, and you can’t make it better. You are lucky it solidified before it could moisten my clothes. In one swift motion, he swatted the milk carton with a backhand, causing most of the remaining milk to slosh all over Ryan’s shirt. “That will teach you to drink straight from my milk carton. I was just planning on getting a glass.”

    “Hey!” The gun-slinging hero looked down upon his newly wet shirt. “This is my best shirt!” Ryan yelled. It was no use, the damage was done.

    “Shows how good of a fashion sense you have.”

    “Kathy liked it.”

***

    Ryan awoke after a good night’s fasting; the alarm was annoying. Rising from his bed, he cleared the cobwebs and walked into the shower in the adjacent room.  Eyes still only capable of half-opening, he let the warm water loosen his muscles and stretched.  He reached downwards to pick up a used washcloth to wash himself briefly, and upon rising, he started feeling dizzy. Vertigo. Within seconds his vision was closing in, the edges appearing in plaid, slowly moving towards the center. Ryan could feel himself start to loose his balance, and steadied himself by putting a hand on the wall. Odd… the wall usually didn’t feel like… paper? Once his vision cleared again, he squinted. A sticky note?

    The note came off with a little suction-like sound as the sticky substance pulled away from the tile. “Talos Island. 100 yds NE Ferry-PI. ASAP. Bring your pajamas.” He whispered aloud, his squinting eyesight barely making the hand-written text out. “Flush it.” Was on the bottom of the note. At first, he didn’t get it. Then he jumped out of the shower, memorizing the wording.

    Nathan/Chillbain walked out of his room just as he heard Ryan’s toilet flush, followed directly by the shower turning off. ‘Odd’ he thought, ‘Ryan just started his shower a couple of minutes ago. It usually takes him at least ten.’ Moments later, the superspeeder and flyer was already out of his room door, in full hero-costume, still putting on his eye monocle.  Nathan spun on his heel as his roommate sped through to the kitchen, a red-orange streak of energy following close behind. “Can’t talk, gotta go!” Ryan said as fast as a teenage girl on her phone, and caught out of the corner of his eye that Nathan was going to speak up. As he grabbed a Pop-Tart, he cut him off before he could say anything, “Breakthrough on the Trolls.” And he was gone, leaving a whirlwind of dust, paper, and loose objects in his wake.
    “But we weren’t even after the Trolls…” Nathan Grey realized he wasn’t talking to anyone but himself. “Man that guy is rude sometimes… and why am I still talking to myself?”

***

    “Good. We were afraid you would actually come in your pajamas.” One of the twelve men said. They all stood in civilian clothes of varying type next to a warehouse. Vehicles nearby varied just as well, parked off the street. Two of them looked like businessmen; Ryan guessed they had come in the Porsche, as they had evidently come in seven different vehicles. One of them was a black H2. “We always assumed supers weren’t that smart.” The man cracked.

    “I know the lingo.” It was more of a guess, really. That, and additional logic. Sky Burn had guessed they didn’t actually want him to come in boxers and a shirt. His camouflage armor really set things off with the group. Thirteen men dressed sporadically.  Such a thing was sure to attract attention. Then again, this was Paragon City. If they all dressed in suits, a hero might go after them thinking them to be Family. All dressed in punk clothes; Freakshow, or Freak wannabes. T-shirts and shorts or pants; drug dealers, a new gang, or worse. Then again, knowing what these guys did for a living, the hero would sorely loose, and none of these men had super powers. He wondered were their pieces were. “What now?” Ryan noticed one of the men looked at him strangely. “Hmm?”
    
    “Nothing. Your voice just reminded me of somebody.” He shook his head. “Anyway, here we are.” He motioned to all of the men. “You will get to know us later. Now for your briefing, at least what we can tell you here.  You know that freighter out there in Talos Harbor that never moves, but stays out at sea all the time?”

    “Yeah.”
        
    “We own it.” The man smirked. Ryan thought he recognized him from somewhere, too. But his face didn’t ring a bell. Such a thing was odd, as he usually remembered the face of most people he met. “Inside we’ve got all of our gear. We liked the fact that the cargo ports are made to open up. Makes for an easy transition for equipment, and its remote. Anyway, we go out there from here, via a couple of small boats. We leave our cars here. Let’s go.”

“Oh, yeah, about that. I was just wondering, who’s car is that?” Ryan questioned of the Hummer. None of them seemed to fit the profile of your average Hummer –2   owner. He knew that any average Joe might have one, but they all seemed to fit the profile of one of the other vehicles, for example two of them wore a delivery uniforms, and sure enough, one of those seven was a delivery truck for UPS.

“That? Yours.” One of the others tossed him a set of keys, with “H2” printed on the finger-grip. “You’re on of us now.” He started off towards the docks, following behind the man who had done most of the talking early, the one Ryan Tanter thought he recognized.

Ryan’s face said ‘Awesome!’ as the keys connected with his fingers, but his lips whispered, “If you only knew.” A mutter from under his breath, in tow behind the officially initiated twelve.  It wasn’t long before they reached the three small boats, several dozen yards apart. All were obviously pleasure craft, two a small speed boats, and the other a speed boat more designed for fishing, with swiveling chair on the back.

They entered into the boats, not caring whom saw, and started them within five minutes of each other.  The first to leave the area was set to go on a longer course around Circe island. The fishing boat made a direct path to the north of Talos Island at a slower pace. The boat Ryan was in also took with it the seemingly leader of the group, whom had done most of the talking earlier, as well as two of the others in the back. This speed boat took them on a faster pace trip down south Talos Island, under several bridges, then towards the freighter they apparently owned.
    
    “By the way, I’m Christopher Kierson. First Sergeant.” He held out his hand, his other on the wheel. This was the one Ryan recognized the voice of. Shaking his hand, something else seemed familiar. The man’s build also complied with the memory of his voice somehow. On his arm was the tattoo of a globe, eagle, and anchor. That wasn’t familiar.

    “Ryan Tanter. Ex-Major, U.S. Army, One-oh-first Airborne. Helo pilot.” Ryan retracted his hand. He hadn’t gotten a tattoo for his unit, but he remembered the patch of a Screaming Eagle well enough.

    Kierson scoffed a little. “Looks like they bumped you down to an El-Tee. Our files never mentioned you being ex-Army. When you said Army, I was a little worried. But the Airborne ain’t so bad… I guess.”

    Ryan shook his head, “Look, leatherneck,” he said – two things screamed ‘Marine’ about this guy, the tattoo on his arm being the obvious crest of the United States Marine Corps, along with a feeling of superiority over the same country’s Army, which border-lined the cockiness of a fighter pilot. “If they thought I wasn’t good enough – regardless of being ex-Army, they wouldn’t have put me here alongside a few ex-jarheads and bell-bottoms.”

    “What do you mean ex-jarheads?” He piped back, looking towards Ryan with a raised eyebrow, then turning to a friend in back of the boat. Chris Kierson received a smile back, and both eyebrows raise; the look melded with the term “devious.” Their other comrade also in the back, shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

    In unison Chris and the man in the rear seat yelled, “Once a Marine, always a Marine!” They laughed a little, not noticing the other rolling his eyes. This one didn’t look like Army either. Rather, he had a tattoo of a seal on his arm, identifying him as a squid, Navy. SEAL, no doubt. Ryan had expected a few people from the Sea, Air, Land division of the Navy to be in this outfit, and he had speculated correctly. He must have been one of the ones to have gone from Navy to SEAL, though it wasn’t at all uncommon to find someone from the Marines in a SEAL team.

    “Don’t mind them,” said the ex-SEAL. “They’re at little too prideful. You get used to them once you learn not to listen to things. Master Chief Petty Officer Hail Briggs, at your service.” Hail wasn’t sure whether or not to say, “sir” to Ryan, but decided not do as his hero-uniform wasn’t obviously United States Military issued. Or maybe it was. Regardless, there was no insignia, but the cape was a rather nice touch, and the entire thing must have been camouflaged by a professional, not just meaning the cape.

    Ryan looked at all of the three. Hardcore bunch, they must have been. Or at least easily carried with a crowd of buddies, either of those two could be proven with the ink imbedded in their skin for life. Turning back again, the freighter loomed ahead, enhancing in size by the second. Chris looped the boat around, and slowed. A vertical, straight crack appeared in the bow of the ship. More horizontal slits stemmed from that, and it became obvious what the front of the ship was – A bay. The doors opened, and a small current started circulating. There was already water inside. As the small watercraft slipped into the guts of the ship, it became easier to see inside. Ryan’s eyes adjusted in less than a couple of seconds.

    Kierson motioned to one of two angular looking craft inside the ship. Both had a double-M style hull, and looked stealthy as they sat in the internal bay, their hulls touching the water with a draft of only a few feet, despite their size. “That’s an M-“
    
    “M-80 Stiletto. I’m familiar.” Ryan cut him off. He didn’t like being lectured or instructed much. “Cool place you have here.” His last few words were almost drowned out as the speedboat gently collided with one of the mini-docking ports inside the cargo freighter. They all jumped out, and a single rope was used to hold it in place, as there wasn’t nearly enough water movement to move it much. Moments later, the last boat entered; the fishing boat. The other speedboat was already docked alongside where they had just parked their vessel. After the third and final entered safely, the doors started closing in, filtering out all un-artificial light. The artificial stuff was brought in from the ceiling via the ships main power source. Probably a nuclear generator, Tanter assumed.

    “Alright, Cape. Lets go check out the rest of the ship. We’ve got an hour to kill before we start getting ready for our next mission.” And it wouldn’t even begin then, Kierson didn’t tell him, as he probably didn’t have to. They’d run simulators for it, how to deal with worst-case scenarios. Most of their strikes would wait until nightfall.

   
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