"So Scanner, are you planning on taking on John alone, or would you appreciate some assistance in taking him down?"

Tyger, pushing the shopping cart carrying the lastcomponents of the Blue Steel Special (rather sullenly it should be added), looked overto Hemelshot.For abouta fraction of a second, he thought about saying something.Instead, he kept quiet until he could formulate a lessangry or smart-ass comment. "That cockbiter's going down, even ifI have to overload the capacitor and shove it down his throat myself... that bastard is going down... hard." Tyger's cold, almost monotone voicespoke volumes: eitherTyger was walking out of here, or the Entity was. Angelus, much less this Godforsaken sector, was not big enough for the two of them.

For her part, Jama walked stiffly, breathing only in shallow gasps, her coat fasted as tight as she could get it, to give support to her fractured (if not outright broken) ribs. Faintly, she whispered to herself, over and over, as if it was a personal mantra; "Oh, sea of clouds that fill the skies. Oh, spirits of the air that dwell about us. Oh, spirits of the wind, sky, and storms. Hear me, hear my voice. I, Jamadigni Renuka, call upon you for your aid and assistance in my time of need. Know my will, know my request. Answer me with your might as I call upon you. I call upon you to bring forth... the lightning." Disturbingly, it seemed the distant rumble of thunder accompanied each iteration of this incantation.

Scanner arched a single eyebrow and glanced sidelong at Hemelshot. "John?" She remarked, her lips quirking at the corner.

She paused to consider and tilted her head as if listening, her gaze focused upon the dark gate to the neighborhood looming up ahead. "He's probably too much for me to handle on my own." She admits. "I ought to be able to distract him, maybe." Her shoulders moved up and down in an eloquent shrug.

Hemelshot give a wry smile. "John, from my days in Vice. The guy who's about to get fucked."

The smile fades, as he continues. "If you can distract him that'll be useful, but one of the things I'm worried about is what he can do with magic—if you can shut him down or at least disrupt whatever he tries that'd be great. His physical presence and attacks are bad enough but we've had some experience with that sort of combat. Do you think you can do that? Or are you more comfortable going head-to-head with him while we open our bag our tricks?"

Scanner considered, her eyes narrowed in thought. "That's an excellent idea. My..." She hesitated. "...partner tells me that your friend 'John' can have great influence on space and time."

The woman gestured towards the western end (although directions in the Omega Sector, like many other taken-for-granted elements of reality, was chancy at best) of the Hallows. "I can go muck about with some of his power sources—I'm pretty sure my partner can help me find them. That should ensure that, when you two kick it off, it'll be a physical conflict." She smiles and gives a half-shrug. "More or less physical, at any rate."

She crouches. "I think I'll go get started on that right now."

Tyger listened to what was being exchanged, his feline ears swiveling here and there to pick up on a chance sound. When Scanner finished speaking and crouched, Tyger simply shrugged his shoulders and spoke nonchalantly."I don't know what you all are worried about. We'll get out of this one way or another. I've been in some tough scrapes before, sure as hell tougher than this at any rate, and I'm still alive and breathin'. I'm sure most of y'all have had your fair share of though scrapes from time to time too, and you're here now... no reason why we can't make it outta here in one piece either."

Jama gives Tyger a sour look, her pale skin, sweat-streaked face, and strained breathing providing her opinion of Tyger's claim this was just another 'tough scrape.'

He paused for a moment and withdrew a cigarette and lit it up. "Look. We've got this. When we get back, we got something to rub in the faces of everyone at HQ and one hell of a rep to boot." The Clade took a long drag from his cigarette and grinned. Was he that arrogant and overconfident?

"Aheh-hem If you're finished with the pep talk, Tyger?" Hemelshot grins as he speaks, softening his rebuke. "I've a few words on strategy. We haven't been working together as well as we should have been, so I'd like to suggest a few tactics that may come in useful. I know that no plan survives contact with the enemy, so I'm simply giving you broad missions.

Tyger drained his cigarette and flicked the spent butt away. "Hey, if Nate can do it, why can't I give it a shot?"

"Tyger, your primary mission is to provide covering fire and keep an eye on the battlefield. John may well have minions that will try and sneak up on us, and you've got the best eye of us all. I'm uncertain if our side arms will directly affect John, but they should work well enough on any Class 1's or 2's that appear. They're your primary targets." He indicates the laser that is all that remains of the Blue Steel Special. "I know you want to take on John directly, and if you have a good shot by all means take it, but I want you to be the team's eyes and ears.

Tyger nodded in agreement. "Yer Goddammed right I want a piece of that cock-biter's ass!" was the quick retort from the Clade as he lit up another cigarette. "But yeah, I'll keep my eyes and ears open for anyone trying to rain on our parade and frag 'em."

"Burton, I also want you to keep an eye on the battlefield, but with an eye on using it against John. Pointing out the light fixture at Kurotachi was brilliant, as was realizing that destroying the old 9th squad badges was the key to defeating them. That's the sort of thing I want you to look for—look, analyze and deduce any weaknesses John may be hiding, anything he's trying to protect, anywhere he doesn't want us to go. Tyger's keeping an eye on the tactical situation—I want you to think strategic.

"Renuka, you're both one of John's objectives and one of our best defenses. I'd like you to maintain a primarily support role—protect the rest of us, take on the massed minion hordes with area-effect attacks and snipe at John when you can. Take time to monitor the area for magical stuff the rest of us can't see, and let us know if something is about to appear. As with Burton, keep an eye out for things in the environment we can use to our advantage." He pauses, building himself up to his next statement, then tapping his vest. "This vest is 25 kilos of C-8. When the time's right, I want you to hit it with a lightning bolt. No matter what." He addresses his next remark to the entire team. "The code word is 'bolt' so if you hear me scream that out, hit the dirt and cover your head. There'll be a boom soon.

Jama takes a raspy breath before responding. "Sergeant, I'm not sure I can do all of that at once. In order to protect everyone they need to stay relatively close. Around a dozen yards or so. And the scissors spells I used before takes a lot of my power. I don't think I can cast that and have my lightning spells ready at the same time."

"Ah. Hm..." Hemelshot rubs his chin for a moment, as the thought of Renuka being unable to do it all hadn't really occurred to him. "I would very much like to be able to reliably detonate this vest at a distance, and I think when it goes off we're all going to need some protection. Would you keep those two up, please?

"Yes, sir."

He pauses, frowning. "Now that I think about it, it may be a good idea to start off with this vest before closing in to finish him off." He looks down at the vest, as though evaluating the destructive potential within. "You keep telling me this battle isn't all physical, and that's all that this will damage—including us. Instead of relying on it to kill John, let's use it to weaken him, get rid of his minions, and set off a few of his traps before waltzing into his parlor." He looks up again, this time at Tyger.

"Tyger, how far away from this thing should we be when it goes off? Karuk, how fast can you get it there, and Renuka, can you hit it at that range? The three of you get together and come up with a plan to throw, bold and dive for cover. I've been thinking of using this as a one-on-one anti-John attack, but perhaps we should use it to, shall we say, level the playing field?"

"I... I can try."

"You'll succeed. I have confidence you can do just about anything to which you put your mind."

"Carpenter, you've got the easy job—gettum. I'll provide both a distraction and a secondary target for him, but you're our heavy hitter and your primary objective is John. You've already got one good shot in on him, so go do it again. One think I'd like you to practice with Karouk is having him move you into striking range while you're preparing an attack. You'll be able to wind up outside his range, then not waste it having to move into position. If we've got a few moments, take him aside and see if it's possible.

"Will do, Sergeant."

At the end of Hemelshot's speech, Nathan will signal to him to stand away from the group, then ask quietly. "Richard, considering I'll be the one most likely to be within arm's reach of our target, wouldn't it be more logical for me to be wearing the vest?"

Hemelshot gives a grin. "You've got that pig-sticker of yours to attract attention—I've nothing but a popgun to annoy him with. Who do you think he's going to go after first? Besides," the grin becomes mirthless as he continues, "I'm in charge. Your volunteering has been noted and overruled, and if it comes to that you've got more kids to go home to.

He seems about to return to the rest of the team, then turns back to Carpenter. He indicates a set of electronics on his vest. "This is the remote, that's is the hands-on trigger and over here is the plug that you can insert into your combat harness vital monitoring system—that'll make it a deadman switch." His eyes meet Carpenter's. "I really hope it doesn't come to that, but..." His voice fades and he pauses, then shakes himself and claps Carpenter on the shoulder. "Let's to get the sorry bastard, shall we?"

Carpenter places his hand on Hemelshot's shoulder in a gesture done by brothers-in-arms for time immemorial.

"God is with us, always. We will see our families again."

"Karouk, you fucked up. Without letting us know what you were doing you opened your mind to entity possession and nearly got us all killed. You do something like that again and I'll put another bullet into you, more permanent like. We're a team, which means you let us know when you do shit like that. Got it?"


"Good. In this next fight I want you to work with Renuka—take pot shots at John if you can, but focus on taking out secondary minions. I don't know if you have the direct power to significantly damage John, so work on distracting him with your TK. Throw part of a building at him, trip him, throw a minion into the path of his attack, tie his shoelaces together—whatever works. On the code word 'thunder' I want you to grab my vest and put it at John's feet. Hitting him directly would be nice, but having it near him should work well enough. Other than that, like the others, take shots at John when you can.

"Finally, I'll be providing secondary close-combat support. I'll try to keep an eye on the battlefield and seeing what actions might be useful, but my focus is going to be on not dying. I'll be dropping smoke and flash-bangs, putting secondary minions in John's way and otherwise making a damn nuisance of myself." A wry grin appears as he finishes, "and I'm sure you know how good at that I happen to be."

"We're about to go into perhaps the most dangerous fight we've ever been in, and before we go I'd like to say a few words." Hemelshot straightens up and looks his teammates in the eye, one by one. "Graham. Jama. Nathan. Yiska. Tyger. In the past we have fought our way though improbable odds, and we have done Angelus City proud with our actions. It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve with all of you. Thank you for the opportunity, and the pleasure, of leading a team as fine as this one. Our performance to date has been exemplary, and I expect nothing less than perfection in the future. As Carpenter said—we're walking into the Valley of Death and we fear no evil, 'cause we are the baddest fuckers in the land." the XSWAT badge is held up. "We are 9th Squad and we will be kicking John's ass from here to Sunday!

Replacing his badge and drawing his hand-cannon, he checks it's loaded and closes the chamber with a satisfying *click*. He looks up at his teammates. "My friends, let's go get us a class-3 for the trophy room."

Tyger gave a satisfied grin, and ran his hand over the VL-1, the last remaining component to his Blue Steel Special MKII. "We won't let you down Sarge."