The bald dark skinned Stewart leapt from the three-story building, brushing the ceiling of the warehouse dodging the steel framework holding the roof up, and remained silent. He never spoke to anyone and seemed to prefer it that way. No one could ever remember him speaking a word at anytime. He had been that way from birth, and the kind folks at Crey Industries accepted him for what he was and helped him develop his mutant abilities. Like the rest of the Paragon Protectors, he could think of no other better use of his powers than serving the Countess.

"May the souls of the great and holy dragons guide you my silent comrade, we shall enlist with you in battle before long." Occamís Razar said.

Stewart landed on the adjacent building and turned to face his companions. His eerily amber eyes caught the warehouse light just right and reflected the exact same color of his golden uniform. The bright pinpoint specks of light contrasting against his dark face gave him a brief illusion of a minor demon summoned by the Circle of Thorns. Stewart paused only long enough to nod thanks to Razar before disappearing down a side alley.

"Occam, you are so funny. I know you speak English, but youíre always so proper." Jane said stepping back from the building edge. She stood next to John were even a colorblind person could tell the two redheads were brother and sister.

"My intention is not to amuse. I have acquired the proficiency of your language to the utmost of my aptitude."

"Within a few months, you speak the language better than most Americans."

"I can not account for my peculiar proficiency. I do concede the English language is riddled with paradoxes, but it is effortless to learn and when properly vocalized my connotations are clear and concise."

The three remaining members chuckled.

"You need to watch more TV." Rick said. "Thatíll help."

"I have indeed previewed the television, but for the immediate future I find immense pleasure in reading human literature. Your race has quite an expansive and affluent history."

"Team Gold, commence your attack," the combat coordinator said over the teamís earpieces.

John paused checking his watch and the others glanced at him. They all knew before hand when they were to attack and were puzzled at the request.

"Uh, Control, my watch gives us five minutes before our assault." The leader spoke into his miniature headset attached to his ear.

"Team Gold," the voice was of Dr. Linder. "I am aware what time it is. Commence your attack!"

John shrugged and focused his thoughts to break the bonds of gravity. He floated up and hovered near the roof of warehouse and Jane joined him soon after. Occamís Razar flexed his powerful leg muscles and bounded to the back alleys of the buildings to the north. Rickís image melted from sight blending perfectly into the air-conditioned environment, but he was hard pressed to keep pace with the swift drake.

Razar dodged and darted from street to alley. He sensed Rick was not far behind and glancing behind him informed him his ally was invisible. He had memorized the city layout with his superior half-dragon mind and deftly negotiated the maze of buildings like he had grown up here all his life. He was so utterly flabbergasted how far the humans had come by themselves. They had faced the perils of a multiverse and pantheons without the aid of dragons or drakes. The fact they had not destroyed themselves, or became completely subjugated, was a testament to their perseverance and fortitude.

"Radio check." John buzzed in over Occamís earpiece.

"Loud and clear," Razar responded. "Your signal is five by five. How copy, over?"

"Same here Occ," Jane replied. "Rick weíre going to need in place sooner, like probably now."

"Sit-rep," John began not expecting a response from the mute comrade. "Three from Yellow are tying upÖ wow, eight Tanks. It looks like Powerís, Cryoís, Juggernautís, and hell, there are five more I didnít see. Letís say all of them. Our Intel was inaccurate. Two Yellow are fighting three Blue and a dozen security guards at the same time near the front of the target building."

"I just spotted the other Blue inside the doorway."

"Where are the Tanks in relation to the buildings entrance?" Rick asked losing Occam around the corner again.

"About twenty yards, looks like a simple skirmish line. A group of Tanks are pushing for a flank from the north, heads up you two."

Rick slid to a stop nearly running into the half-dragon.

"Waypoint achieved," Occam said into his microphone. "I offer a simple plan for assault. Capitalize on the chaos; sweep the door entrance clear, and then ingress the structure. We can defend the structure from the inside easier than the outside. Keep our attention and effort focused on our goal."

"Weíll be trapped inside, then." Jane offered.

"Not if Rick and Stewart remain outside to ensure chaos continues to reign. If we do secure the briefcase and the way remains clear then we exit. If not, our defenses are strong."

"All right," John said. "Sounds good, Rick and Stewart hang back; engage only if spotted."

Razar peered around the corner of the building looking south directly at the target structure. This simulated training environment was odd. Structures and objects looked real standing off at a distance, but when one approached, they grew more translucent. Windows did not reflect images, but sound reflected off the generated surfaces easily. The couple of other times he had been in this environment he even noticed how objects seemed to rebound forces unnaturally, both energy and physical. That real world inconsistency he planned to use to his advantage, somehow.

"I canít see Stew from here, letís give him thirty seconds. Go on my command." John ordered from the ceiling.

Occam glanced at the wall in the alleyway and realized he had never touched the force fields creating the mirage. Standing on the structures proved they seemed solid enough. His other simulations had been small and more oriented to open spaces to rehabilitate his abilities. This was his first full-scale mission. He reached out with his numbed robotic left arm. The Crey limbs were supposed to offer a degree of sensations mimicking real limbs, but he experienced none of it. They said it might take a couple of months to adjust to his physiology, but the same dull sleepy feeling. The spark he felt caused his arm to react and pull it back quickly.

"Whatís a matter did it shock you?" Rick asked his voice but a floating phantom on the air-conditioned wind current.

"No," Occam answered. "I felt a shock and then my hand felt real."

"CoolÖ"

"Crap," Jane exclaimed revealing the urgency in her voice, "weíve been spotted. A small group of mixed Tanks and security troops from the south, by you somewhere Stew."

Occam and Rick heard gunfire and bullets ricocheting of the ceiling.

"They are on us," John shouted dodging the rubber practice ammunition the powered armor and security troops used. "Team Gold attack!"

With the order to attack given, Occamís Razar snapped immediately from his reverie with his missing appendage. His left hand lingered on the energy shield for a moment longer before he sprinted silently down the northern approach.

"Occ, Tanks to your right!" Rick blurted.

The half-human had seen them, but not too late. The three powered armored security troops skidded to a halt. They were attempting, quite successfully, to flank the Blue and Yellow team from the north until Razar came upon them.

He released his next generation prototype claws from their robotic sheathe. They glistened in the halogen lit room and appeared to glow of their own inner light. In his time, Occam had rarely attacked humans. Only those that were truly lost to the ways of good did he ever harm. That was a time when it was rare for the young race to even present themselves as such a threat. He was still reluctant to use them, but his trainers helped him learn the weak points of the armor. Places were he could disable the powered humans and not hurt them; it was only practice after all.

A red armored Juggernaut was the only Tank to meet the half-breed head on; it paused only to acquire its target. Its companions, a Protector and Voltaic series armor, held their positions only for the moment. The blue colored Protector with yellow power backpack, gloves and boots broke from the opposite alley and flanked left firing its 20mm chain gun. The white Voltaic, with green trimmed wrist bracers, dodged to the right in a wide semicircle in a larger flank and arcs of electricity danced along its surface beginning the energy build up it would use for the assault.

Occam watched the rubber safety bullets scream directly towards him. He felt the air pressure change; each individual round burnt its propellant and hurled itself in his direction. The odor of gunpowder assailed his nose and time itself seemed to slow. Razar had been able to see bullets when they exited the firearms. It was due to his dragon blood and advanced physiology. It also allowed him the opportunity to move out of the way. These rubber safety bullets were not intentionally lethal, but they hurt and could still kill. The half-human liked how humans had mastered the art of practicing lethal tactics without intentionally hurting the participants allowing mistakes to happen. Trainees could learn from their fatal mistakes or errors in judgment without hurting anyone seriously. Razar took the training seriously, he had new limbs to get used to and he wanted the humans to endure the best of what he had to teach.

The Juggernaut launched a salvo of missiles at the half-breed and continued to charge forward. Occam had already calculated the angle of trajectory of the incoming rounds and dived head on directly at the red armored security guard. His body twisted and spiraled in between the spaces the hail of projectiles did not fill. The rockets caused him to flatten out and drop almost immediately to avoid them. He rolled into a ball expecting the Juggernaut to unleash a force field he would be hard pressed to maneuver through.

The Juggernaut continued its charge cocking its right arm back to strike Occam. The half-breed sprang up leaping over the assailant dodging the telegraphed punch. It spun around when Razar turned in mid air and landed within striking distance facing it. A small hop to gain momentum and the power armor came down with both fists in an attempt to drive Occam into the floor.

Razar took a small step back and to his left causing the red armor to miss him. Occam ducked and spun around sending his claws into the back of the Juggernaut severing the vital power connections in a snapping and showering of sparks.

Rick summoned forth his spines, which burst, strategically from his specially designed gold uniform. His invisibility dropped revealing his position when he threw wave after wave of quills at the Protector armor impaling the hardened shell at several points. The chain gun jammed and ceased firing. The Gold Team member closed the distance before firing a focused barrage of needle like shards into the power systems of the armor. The Protector slumped to the floor and toppled over, the pilot unable to maintain the weight balance.

Occam turned in time to catch the powered blast of the Voltaic armor head-on. The half-breed gritted his teeth bouncing over the Protector and off the wall of the nearest structure. The pain was mild compared to the full blast he knew the armor was capable of producing.

Rick extended a quilled blade from the top of his form arm and charged. Occam sprang to his feet shaking off the temporary numbness his body felt from the blast and leapt toward his attacker claws bared.

The Tank stepped back firing into Rick allowing Occam to vault over him and drive both claw into the sides of the power suit. He ripped the sides to shreds revealing parts of the security memberís jumpsuit. Sparks exploded showering the inside and shocking the pilot, causing the half-breed to pause.

"Are you okay?" Occam said easing the crippled Tank to the floor.

The man could only moan in response.

Rick had been thrown back ten feet and got to his feet; he had been dazed, but stumbled past the fallen and injured Voltaic toward their objective.

"Letís go Occam the medics will tend to him."

"I regret causing you injury and any suffering," Occam said pausing. He glanced around, but saw no medics.

"Occam, letís go!" Rick stopped momentarily his vision doubling for a moment.

"Emergency medical technicians required at my position, immediately!"

Rick bent over clutching his head trying to will the numbing feeling away from being electrocuted away.

"Do you require medical assistance?" Razar asked jogging up to his companion and placing a large robotic hand on his shoulder

"No, give me a second. Besides you need to grab that briefcase."

The half-breed turned his horned head and gazed at the front of the building. John and Jane were dive-bombing the combatants. John fired blast after blast of energy waves and Jane took swings at those she had dipped towards with her own metallic claws similar to his own. She lacked the robotic arms he had, but she was aptly proficient with their use. They both were dodging a flurry of gunfire from a new batch of Tanks from the south and those pausing to fire back from the front. In short time, all three teams were outnumbered three to one by almost Crey power armor alone. All the normal security troops could do was post up on a position and offer covering fire. Pandemonium became the rule.

Occamís Razar ran for the chaos realizing nothing could prevent him from entering the building directly. He retracted his razor claws and swiftly covered the distance. Even though the jaunt to the entrance was short by human standards, Razar pondered the oddity of his new associates. He had not met the other two teams; he knew neither their names nor faces. They wore the typical Paragon Protector helmets colored coded in their teams shade, but his team did not wear the defensive head covers. He did not know if it was because he could not wear the helmet the way it was designed, so no one on the team wore them, or some other reason. He was thankful to have such benefactors like Crey Industries to cover the monetary costs associated with the human world required to bring the drake some level of normalcy.

On the other hand, Dr. Praetor, the person who found him at the Arctic Circle severed contact with him. The good doctor was so excited that he found a living piece of pre-history he spent the first few months practically living by the drakeís bedside. They discussed much about his memories of the past. Then one day Crey informed him Dr. Praetor did not care to speak with him anymore. He had never heard from him again. Humans had evolved into an odd race, at times they seemed to care for their fellow man and other times they became indifferent. He would have to meditate on that nature in the future. Since his rebirth, his ability to sense motives and eldritch auras had not been like it used to be.

"John, I will ingress momentarily."

"Ten Four Occ, we got your six."

Occam chucked. He has found many humans using slang and other word forms to convey meaning. If someone new came in to the picture not having the same speech pattern, a person would be confused.

The drake approached the outskirts of the chaotic melee and leapt into the air performing a somersault and a back flip. In a display of timing witnessed in the veteran teams of Special Forces, John, and Jane swooped low before the doorway in a coordinated attack. John flung energy blast after energy blast clearing the entryway. Jane landed and dove through the rectangle doorway followed instantly by Occam. John ceased flying allowing his momentum from falling to carry him across the threshold.

All three Paragon Protectors immediately were plastered to the wall by a Protectorís force field. The three struggled to position their bodies to gain an advantage to fight the field. Force fields initially caught their subject unaware, but ultimately brute force would allow one to move throughout the field. Movement and attacks would only be slightly dampened and concessions would have to be made in targeting, but the situation was not dire.

One Blue and one Yellow team member had joined forces fighting the six powered armored security troops. Besides the Protector, there were three Juggernauts, an Eliminator, and a Cryo unit. The two opposing team members looked battered and appeared to be losing the battle. Blue fired an azure energy bolt knocking two of the other five backwards bounding off the force shield walls. Blueís shoulders slumped indicating he was at the end of his endurance.

A Juggernaut fired a missile salvo between the two stunning them both with its blast radius. The remaining Tanks rushed forward to secure the fallen team members. The Protector kept his attention focused upon the new intruders.

Occam spied the briefcase in the far corner of the large room. The simulated three-story building was just a shell. The technology that created the illusion was not advanced enough to generate the interiors at the same time. There was plenty of room to outmaneuver the Tanks.

Razar grunted willing his muscles to respond. The pressure of the field interacting with the shield-generated building created a sensation within his robotic arms. They once again felt real. Occam growled forcing his powerful half-dragon legs to anchor against the wall. In a massive leap, he sailed to the Protector and extended his arm transferring his momentum into the power suit sending it backwards tumbling over a Juggernaut and Cryo suit, which had been knocked back by the Blue team member.

John and Jane also were able to gain some freedom of movement and sprinted to the far right corner.

"There," Jane said pointing, "the briefcase hasnít even been touched, yet."

"Go!" John yelled summoning his mutant powers and launching an energy blast in a wide arc at the Tanks busy subduing the opposing team members. The entire group took the hit and flew back against the backmost wall being tangled in a mesh of arms and legs.

Razar grabbed the Protector by the faceplate and in one quick jerking motion slammed the helmet against the floor. The suddenly accelerating force knocked the pilot unconscious. Occam then picked the suit up and threw it at the entrance ensuring anyone attempting to enter would be slowed by the still active force field.

The Cryo Tank recovered enough to make it to one knee and fired a freezing blast of subzero liquid at the ancient warrior. Occam sprang into the air and ran up the nearest wall flinging himself up, over, and behind the Tank. Again, he released his claws and sent them to sever critical power connections embedded within the armor. With the main coolant severed, the freezing liquid shot out sending the power armor forward propelled like a rocket. Liquid splashed Occam, but his form fitting itchy suit protected him from harm.

Jane hovered in place for a split second before sailing to the main goal and reason for the training simulation. She snatched up the briefcase and landed alongside John.

"Target secure," she said into her communication headset.

Razar turned and faced the duo and they in turn looked at him. All they needed to do was escape. Occam glanced at the doorway and the Protector armor that lay within it. The field it created was interfering with the holographic force shields causing the front wall to shimmer in and out of existence. They could see outside and those outside could see inside.

The Juggernaut lying near the half-dragon recovered from Johnís energy blast and lunged for him. The red armored figure gained a few inches in height because of his power suit, but the eight-foot framed half-dragon still towered over the modern knight. His first mistake was getting up. His second mistake was grabbing the Occamís tail.

Razar had been watching the Juggernaut with his peripheral vision was a bit surprised by how it attacked. He moved faster than even he thought possible, grabbing the Tank, and slamming him into the force shield wall. The sudden g-force acceleration and deceleration caused the pilot to black out.

Jane floated toward the entryway watching what she could outside through the flickering wall. John trailed her and sent several energy bolts at the remaining two Juggernauts and one Eliminator. They stood their ground with his bolts merely reflecting off their armor. Johnís loss of endurance was beginning to show in the low power attacks he used.

Occam sensed the pressure change from several multiple minor explosions and the resulting expanding air. He turned witnessing the events with his super reflexes accelerating his personal time. The Eliminator had gone full bore with his chain gun. Occam sprinted into a race with the first of the emerging rounds.

He broke into the lead, but the super sonic projectiles were rapidly closing the distance. Halfway to his comrades he realized he would not be in a position to get them safely out of the way. Jane still had her back to the Tanks inside viewing the events outside and did not see the half-dragon coming. He grabbed her arm and literally tossed her into John causing the duo to collapse and slide along the ground. Occam caught the first three rounds in the chest before bringing his armored robotic arms up in front of him to block the next six. He watched each round burst from the barrel of the Eliminator in one continuous stream and not the burst, fire, burst technique security personnel were taught to execute. He forced his computerized metallic arms to attempt to block the individual rounds and only half the safety shells struck his body.

He continued with his hopeless attempt at parrying the stream of bullets for what seemed like an hour before the Eliminators weapon overheated. Razar collapsed to one knee and gritted his teeth baring his small fangs. A small red eldritch glow began emanating from his determined livid eyes. He was hurt and glared with furrowed brows angrily at the Tanks. The two Juggernauts actually paused in fear at the half-breeds gaze and the Eliminator panicked increasing his effort in switching out his overheated barrel. The coolant system had failed and he needed it now.


CONTINUE >
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