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May, 2010... Fantasy became reality. Worlds overlay for the briefest moment. Outworlders became stranded on earth as more than half the human populace vanished. Our World, our universe, was transformed.

Fiction is now reality. Humans and those now bound to this world will either learn to coexist, or battle for supremecy.




Ryan Harker

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150 One of Our All Stars


About Ryan Harker

  • Rank
    Nicely Seasoned


    Jeremy Renner
  • AGE
  • RACE
    Human (Altered)
  • JOB
    ARMA Cloak Operative
    New York

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  • Role Play Sample
    (This is intended to be my first post in the "Clash of Titans" thread.)

    The Satyr Stadium was unlike anything else in New York. Harker had been in awe the first time he had visited the venue. The sheer size of the of the arena, the intricate spells woven into its structure, the security measures emplaced; it took a lot of clout to establish something of this magnitude in one of the most prominent cities in the world. Of course, the stadium was owned and operated as a “legitimate” business by the Bakkos criminal syndicate; which made its existence even more impressive. The Satyr Stadium represented a Bakkos foothold in the city, ground that Law Enforcement agencies would likely never take back.

    Harker strode calmly through the crowd on the pavilions second level. He was draped by a long, black leather coat. Its material swayed naturally with every casual step, but concealed beneath it was an arsenal of weapons designed to combat the supernatural. The ARMA operative’s attire was aged, giving his black undervest, pants, and tactical boots a rugged, less uniform appearance. Before the Resonance such an outfit might have drawn attention, but these days such an ensemble was not uncommon amongst magus, marauders, and the like.

    Ryan’s blue eyes surveyed the rotunda as he seated himself at a table near the bar. He had no interest in the fight. He was here for work, or that’s what he told himself at least. It had been some time since he had received any specific orders from ARMA leadership. Without a defined task, he was forced to find his own way to contribute to cause. This was a recon mission. The stadium was hosting a hi-profile event. Several of Bakkos’ key players were in attendance. ARMA intelligence also suggested the venue was a likely target for terrorist attack from multiple extremist groups. Harker was at the stadium to see how all the players interacted, and to see which groups might show to reconnoiter the event for their own purposes.

    Harker leaned back in his seat. A hand donned with a fingerless glove casually rubbed the brown scruff on his chin. He watched as two Bakkos gangsters descended from their VIP lounge to walk amongst the commoners beneath them. One was Matteo Carducci, Bakkos “baby boss” and owner of the Satyr Stadium. He was joined by Thomas Gallo, Bakkos fight champion and owner of another one of the syndicates “legitimate” business fronts. Both gangsters were dangerous men. ARMA was aware of their criminal activity. However, the organization the Bakkos established within the criminal underworld actually reduced crime in New York. So long as they continued to serve that purpose, and didn’t stray too far from the path, they would be safe from ARMA.

    Out of the corner of his eye Ryan saw a woman who appeared to be assessing the venues security. A ball cap hid her face, but the jacket and jeans she wore did little to hide her slender figure. She was an attractive woman. She tried to look inconspicuous, but she loitered near doors and entrances, seemingly to check if they were secure. She wasn’t Bakkos security. Her casual dress was far too relaxed for their “professional” standards. When Ryan finally caught a peek from under the brim of her hat, her face seemed familiar. After a moment he recognized her as an NYPD officer, maybe from the 10th precinct but he wasn’t certain. The Arma operative had seen her around more than once, back when he worked for the department.

    A man came through one of the pavilion doors quite suddenly, nearly knocking the poor girl down. Harker ginned lightly. Words were exchanged between the two and the man walked away. At first Harker thought nothing of it. There was nothing extraordinary about the man initially. However, as he pressed through the crowd he moved with a purpose. The man made a straight line for the bar, his eyes trained on the bartender standing behind it. Again, this by itself was nothing extraordinary. The man glided across a balcony full of cheering fans, without slowing down, and without so much as brushing into another person. To a trained observer like Harker, that was extraordinary.

    This appeared to catch the attention of the cop as well. Because after a moment she moved to join the man at the bar. Purple shirt, gray slacks, the man looked like he belonged in the VIP lounge. Ryan doubted the peace officer knew what the man was, or even the danger she might be in… but he did. The operative couldn’t identify the exact kind of creature that sat beside her, but he had hunted enough to know supernatural when he saw it.

    Harker glanced back at Carducci. The Bakkos baby was chatting up another girl at the bar. Based on their body language, he quickly determined the engagement was not work related. Sharp eyes did another sweep of the balcony. Finding nothing of note, Harker rose slowly to his feet and made his way to the bar as well.

    Ryan took the seat beside Raeden, opposite from Kai. As he gripped the barstool he became acutely aware of the woman’s gaze. She interested him, but he always got nervous when talking to beautiful women. He had seen the horrors of war, fought countless battles, faced unspeakable evils, and even now he was surrounded by a thousand threats that could kill him. Yet, in that moment, the little Asian woman sitting beside him, she was the scariest thing in the entire coliseum.

    “I’ll have what she’s having,” Ryan said as he sat down. He looked down at Raeden’s coffee and gave a lighthearted frown. “Working huh?” His ocean blue eyes met hers and he smiled. All the while he remained keenly aware of both were-creatures joining them at the bar.


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  1. Ryan Harker

    Broken Bones and Shattered Pride

    “I’ll stay as long as you want me here.” Ryan was glad to hear the words. Sometimes, he found himself in awe of just how amazing a woman Rorye was. This was one of those times. Despite having nearly been murdered earlier that morning, and despite his present condition, he couldn’t help feeling lucky. To have met a girl like her, in a world like this… “C’mon Soldier… time to get naked,” she teased, hands on her hips. “You’ll never have to ask me twice,” he replied slyly. Rorye helped the wounded agent out of his weighty, battle attire. Sharp pains and dull aches blended together into a disorienting agony. Several times Ryan was forced to hold his breath, jaw clenched and neck muscles taut in order to avoid shouting aloud. Apart from a few sharp inhales and a couple labored breaths, he remained stoic throughout the ordeal. Once his clothes were removed, Rorye paused a moment to examine the operative’s visible injuries. Widespread swelling and discoloration on his arm and back distinguished new abuse from the old. “This is Altheia’s work,” she said thoughtfully. “She’s the best.” “You know Altheia then?” Ryan asked, only slightly surprised. “Yeah, she’s patched me up more than once. She’s the best if you’re pinched for time. I’ll definitely have to go and see her again tomorrow...” The sentenced halted mid-thought. The Soldier catching himself before revealing information certain to cause his partner further concern. He hadn’t yet mentioned it, but in two days’ time he would be meeting with an enforcer of the Sheut Nation. This enforcer had an ominous reputation. The thought had occurred to him it may be easier for the Nation to tie up loose ends, than to admit culpability in an inter-agency debacle of this magnitude. He needed to be prepared. Harker intended to tell Rorye of the meeting… now just seemed a poor time. She walked him to the shower, though he didn’t require much assistance. Sitting up, laying down, putting on clothes, breathing; those were the tasks he struggled with presently. Whilst already on his feet, he was able to shuffle around well enough. At first, Ryan flinched when the heated water touched his skin. A moment to acclimate to the temperature. Before long the waters’ warmth began to seep into his weary muscles, soothing them to some extent. An exhausted sigh. From the corner of his eye he observed Rorye as she handled his weaponry. A feeling of pride as she cleared and made safe the firearm with practiced ease. “Clothing preferences?” She inquired whilst tidying his soiled equipment. “Anything comfortable,” he answered. Eyes were closed; forehead pressed to the tile beneath the showers facet. “Pain meds? In the bedroom nightstand correct?” “Yeah,” he answered thoughtlessly. “I’ll go grab them.” A pang of panic suddenly gripped the Soldier. “It’s okay, I’ll get’em in a minute.” Ryan lifted his head to glance around the bathroom. Rorye had already left. She would find more than an embarrassing amount of medication in the nightstand. Beneath the pill bottles scattered in the nightstand’s top drawer was a small, 4’ by 6’ inch, picture frame. Three faces filled the frame’s simple black border, with a blue sky and a grassy field in the backdrop. In the center was a woman in her early 20’s, shoulder length brown hair, olive skin, and emerald eyes; raw beauty made even her modest make-up an unnecessary effort. The woman embraced two young girls, one under each arm. Their faces pressed against hers on either side, all of them smiling. The three of them lay on their stomachs in the grass. Cheeks propped up on their hands and elbows, faces aimed toward the camera. The little girls were no older than three years of age, and quite obviously twins. They shared their mother’s tanned skin, their similar brown hair drawn back into matching pigtails. Uniquely captivating were the girl’s eyes. They were green not unlike their mother’s, but with stunning azure shade. As if drops of a brilliant blue had been added to the mixture. The result, a gorgeous cyan hue. Ryan gave an exhausted sigh and allowed his head to rest against the shower’s wall once more. He had just confessed his feelings for Rorye, and now she would bare witness to those he loved before her. It wasn’t as if he was hiding his past from her, but to share the history meant revisiting those moments in time. Reliving the emotions of love and loss. The sentiments consumed so much of his energy, like a void in his heart that could never be filled. Not too long ago, those same feelings had taken him to a very dark place. There was a moment of tranquil acceptance for the warrior, flowing over him as he bathed under the shower’s stream. Perhaps it was time he shared his past with Rorye… there was still so much she didn’t know.
  2. Ryan Harker

    Walk It Off

    Ryan leered expectantly at Rorye as she began to remove her shirt. Despite the lingering pain in his loins, he very much enjoyed the curves hidden beneath her less form fitting garments. Once the shirt was removed however, his attention was taken by an unanticipated trait. Dark blue veins stained her skin from beneath the surface. The deep sapphire pattern stretched across her arms and upper torso in an intricate web, as if she were succumbing to a supernatural cancer. An unholy disease encroaching upon her flesh, tainting his otherwise beautiful lover. “I have it under control,” she stated firmly, touching her glove to Harker’s extended hand. “I know,” he answered curtly. Both fighters readied themselves for another round. Rorye’s brow furrowed, without warning, she lowered her guard. Hands fell to her hips as she walked away from her partner. “I might not for long,” she said. “I don’t know where the edge is…” Her words were quiet, almost fearful, as if admitting her doubt would cement its existence. “I know. That’s why we’re here,” Ryan replied in a soothing tone. “Not only do I expect to challenge your self-control, but I am prepared for you to lose it.” True enough, the agent had an ace up his sleeve should the need arise. He hoped it was an unnecessary precaution. “Besides, I probably have a better chance than most of bringing you back if you do lose control.” A sly grin in her direction. “Now, I have seen your technique change and I know we’re playing a more dangerous game. I’m not going to pull anymore punches. And don’t worry. If push comes to shove… I’ll knock you on your little ass.” When she rushed him, he was ready. A woman half possessed, Rorye surged forward with preternatural swiftness, assailing the agent with unabated aggression. Her strikes were fast, powerful, and relentless. Each attack seeking to pierce his stalwart defense, but to no avail. So quick were Rorye’s strikes, that initially it took all Ryan’s effort to simply avoid being overwhelmed. Fists, feet, elbows and knees. All were blocked, dodged or parried with an uncanny fluidity. The hunter watched the woman with intense scrutiny. His gaze capturing each minuscule movement, in a way only he could perceive them. To him, even the speedster’s attacks seemed slow. Telegraphed. Predictable. Measure was taken of the offensive against him, and he soon found a rhythm in the seemingly ceaseless onslaught. Before long, her eyelids draped shut instinctively. A normally imperceptible blindness, lasting merely an instant, but the opportunity was seized. Jab thrust forward in a sharp riposte, hitting Rorye straight in the mouth while simultaneously parrying her punch. Her head recoiled violently from the blow. She staggered, but an instant later she resumed her advance. Another flurry of strikes, yet none found their mark. Harker slipped a cross, parried a jab, then countered again with another riposte. The woman’s head snapped backward once more. An awkward stutter in her footwork as she struggled to find solid ground. Her next combination thwarted by the unexpected blow. She recovered quickly, as she had before. This time however, the operative noticed the blood flowing freely from her nose. Still she pressed on, seemingly undeterred by the injury. Ryan frowned. She wasn’t learning from her mistakes. She wasn’t wary of his counter strikes. If anything, her attacks were becoming more reckless as their bout continued. Her self-control was waning. Clearly, stiff jabs wouldn’t be enough to communicate his point. He would need to be more adamant in ensuring there was consequence for her failing to maintain control. This meant he would need to make her thoughtless siege a more painful prospect. Of course, afflicting greater pain would likely result in one of two outcomes. Either the pain would spark a sentiment of self-preservation, disengage the demon’s hold, and inspire a greater sense of control. Or, the pain would drive her deeper into the spirit’s possession, and the fleeting control she had maintained thus far would be lost. Admittedly, the latter seemed the more likely conclusion. “That’s why we’re here right?” Ryan thought to himself. “I can’t be afraid to hurt her, and I can’t be afraid of the thing inside her… Whatever happens we’ll handle it.” Resolved in his decision, the hunter prepared himself for their next exchange. Already he had managed to draw blood. From this point forward however, he would lay into her with all his might. His tactics would be patient and methodical. His strikes would be fierce enough to ravage a man twice his size, let alone a woman of Rorye’s stature. He was about to beat this poor girl senseless. Hopefully, the demon would provide some measure of protection… or he would feel awful once the fighting was done. “Is that all you’ve got?” Ryan chuckled aloud. The taunt blatantly offensive. “How disappointing.”
  3. Ryan Harker

    Broken Bones and Shattered Pride

    There was an awkward pause amongst the trio once the elevator doors had finally opened, though it only lasted a moment. Despite the intensity of their last discussion, Rorye assumed her “saleswoman” persona with little visible effort. She gave Ryan a look of “I’ll handle this and then we’ll talk,” then she casually corralled Mrs. Hanson and her feline down the hall. Ryan excused himself politely and shirked back to his own apartment. The agent stood just inside the doorway of his flat, listening as Rorye charmed Mrs. Hanson back into her residence. Before long, the ladies finished their conversation. At the sound of Mrs. Hanson’s door closing, Harker strode deeper into his living room. He seated himself at the kitchen table, facing the front door, which he had left open as an invitation to his guest. “Motorcycles, huh?” his Valkyrie asked from the hallway. “It was the best I could come up with in the moment… Cora.” Ryan waved her forward, “come in.” “Please tell me the walls are not thin enough for her to have heard us,” she said closing the door behind her. “Never mind, I don’t want to know.” “You know, now that you mention it… she might have,” the agent rubbed his chin thoughtfully with his unhindered hand. “I thought she was acting weird after the first night you stayed over…” his voice trailed off for a moment. “The wink and the fist bump were so out of character…” face held mock contemplation for only another second before a grin cracked his façade. “You called, do you need anything?” she seemed eager to change the subject. Nose and cheeks were visibly pink, she was absolutely blushing. “Just you,” Ryan murmured softly. Smirk fading from his features. “Would you settle for an ‘I’m sorry’ gift? I... was a bit harsh, I'm sorry. It’s not flowers and a teddy bear… it’s more shiny and pointy and pisses off vampires.” Rorye tried to conceal her embarrassment by looking away and brushing at the cat fur on her coat. “Eh, I am probably the one who should apologize,” the Soldier said sullenly. “I was being an ass. I’m not mad at you… I’m just pissed off about everything else. I’m not sure you understand what this all means. The threat is still out there, and I am all out of leads.” His head tilted as if to shrug, “Sure, the group hunting you is dead, but their higher organization still exists. Their search for magus blood brought them to you once, and there is nothing to stop them from seeking you out again. You’re safe for now, but I can’t guarantee how long it will last.” Harker stared distantly at the wall in the kitchen, as if looking for something beyond its surface, “I will come up with a plan, but right now I’ve got nothing.” Eyes fell to the floor, his fingers tapping lightly on the table near his glass of bourbon. “and for the record, I feel the same way about you too…” It was a roundabout way of saying “I love you too,” but for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to say the exact words. Even the indirect statement seemed to pull at his heart. Ryan hadn’t said those words to anyone in many years. It was ludicrous to express them to someone he had known so briefly. Deep down however, he knew it was the truth. “I never wanted you to see me like this…” the wounded warrior continued, still avoiding Rorye’s gaze. “But, now that you’re here I suppose you should know it’s not exactly uncommon for me to end up in the infirmary from time to time.” Ryan’s frustration, anger, and rage had finally dissipated. All that remained now was acute exhaustion, and a hidden, childlike desire to connect with someone. For someone to tell him his efforts hadn’t been in vain, that his best had been enough, and that everything would be okay. This desire was one the Soldier never allowed himself to feel, and one he hadn’t felt in many years. A rare moment of vulnerability, one spurred by his disparaging failure of present and drawn out of him by the compassion of his indomitable Valkyrie. “Please stay,” his voice was barely louder than a whisper. “I could use some help out of these clothes,” hand motioned toward attire, still spattered with vampire gore. “and I would rest easier knowing you were here with me… safe.”
  4. Ryan Harker

    Cold night in hell...

    As Harker crossed the threshold to enter the warehouse, he sensed something to in the shadows to his right. Pistol was aimed at the girl in an instant, then a sigh of relief before he lowered his weapon. “Oh, it’s you…” “How did she slip her cuffs?” the agent thought privately. “Ashley,” or whatever her true name was, stood frozen in place. Her stare seemed to gaze beyond the hunter, a pleading expression in her glowing eyes. “Please move. Look, I had no idea what was happening here, okay? I was supposed to come pick something up. That was it. I don’t even know what. This...thing. The bodies, the monsters, I don’t know anything about that.” Ryan remained silent a moment, contemplating the girl’s involvement in the situation and the other involved factions. ARMA, the Sheut, the Order, and whoever else might have a hand in this plot. “Look, you can put a bullet in me if you want, but if you don’t I’m getting out of here.” Ashley probably intended to sound defiant, but her resolve was clearly half-hearted. Metallic “click” from the hammer of the hunter’s Sig Sauer halted the girl before she had really even begun to move. “Don’t tempt me,” he growled. “You’re not in a position to dictate anything to me girl,” Ryan continued in a most irritable tone. “ARMA reinforcements are already enroute. If you’re still here when they arrive, chances are you’ll be arrested for whatever outstanding warrants you have. Additionally, you’ll be charged with any crimes your deemed to be involved with here.” The agent paused for a moment, “I’ll go out on a limb and say you’re an unregistered meta, which means you’ll have an enhancement added to the sentence of each crime you’ve committed… You will be in Alcatraz for the rest of your life.” Harker didn’t particularly enjoy being so callous, but they hadn’t the luxury of time. He needed to get his point across quickly, “Of course, that won’t be very long. Because the people who sent that monster, will have you killed before you ever have a chance to testify in open court. Just the mention of you in an ARMA investigative report would pretty much ensure your death.” Cold, hard, blue eyes fixed themselves onto the girl’s glowing hues. “So, you have two options. Answer my questions honestly and I’ll let you leave this place. None of those bad things will happen to you, and you can go on living your life. Or, you can refuse to answer my question, I’ll keep you here, and I promise you all of those things will come to pass.” “I suppose you could try and run.” The hunter glanced away from the girl for a moment, the idea was not one he relished. “But, then I would hurt you. And even if by some miracle you got away. I would just have my people scoop you up. You wouldn’t even make it a mile down the road. Not in this blizzard.” Ryan knew the “choice” he had offered Ashley wasn’t a choice at all. She would comply, or her circumstances would go from desperate, to dire. “Now, I need to know… specifically… Who sent you? What did they send you to retrieve? And how can I find you if I need more information?” “The clock’s ticking,” the operative added darkly. “Oh, and if you lie to me… I’ll know.” Muzzle of his pistol was waved lightly, before settling to aim at the girl’s leg. “And I’ll put a bullet in your fucking knee cap.” Fear was a powerful tool. Harker hoped it would help motivate the girl to make a good decision. Because whether he liked it or not… he wasn’t bluffing.
  5. Ryan Harker

    Walk It Off

    For the ARMA operative, time passed at a crawl. Stadium so silent within the confines of his mind, that he could hear all the minute audiations in the massive space. Beating of his heart, exhale of his breath… her breathing, even the touch of her toes as they glided across the mats surface. The focus his abilities allowed, would be incomprehensible to anyone lacking such gifts. Change in her stance was noticed, as were all the other seemingly imperceptible movements in her form. Pivots of her feet, tension changing in her knees as weight was shifted, tilt of her shoulders as they chambered her strikes, glance of her eyes as they acquired their targets. In concert, these miniscule motions telegraphed Rorye’s maneuvers before they had even been executed. Skilled fighters trained to limit the visibility of these foretelling acts, so they would go unseen by their opponents. However, it is impossible to eliminate these tells altogether. Physics and human physiology have requirements that simply can’t be denied. Great fighters instead learn to conceal or disguise their strikes, so they can be delivered before their opponent has an opportunity to react. Unfortunately for Rorye, Harker’s eyes perceived even the feintest of telegraphs. His reaction to her every move, instant and seemingly perfect for the occasion. When presented with a threat, every sentient being goes through the same mental process. Perceive, decide, react. For the average human, it takes more than .25 seconds to perceive the threat. Another .25 seconds to decide on a course of action to address the threat, and then finally .25 - .5 seconds to execute the reaction. Professional warriors train to make the “decide” step in this process instinctive and immediate, but the other steps cannot be negated. Even speedsters are forced to go through this mental process when confronting danger. Ryan’s abilities made this process instantaneous. Which meant in some ways, he was faster than even those blessed with supernatural agility. When the fight resumed, Rorye led her first combination with kick-boxing styled roundhouse to his front leg. The kick was fast. Too fast. Ryan hadn’t the time to evade or block the attack, which left him with limited options. Lead foot was raised slightly, knee turned toward the incoming strike. A dull “clack” could be heard as bone collided against bone. Rorye’s shin crashing forcefully against Ryan’s knee. Given the speed of the kick, her leg should have snapped, but it did not. Ryan had witnessed her leaping from the multi-story fire escape just the day before. She had landed with poise, unphased by a fall that should have shattered her lower extremities. Deduction advised him, Rorye’s bones were sturdy enough to withstand his Muay-Thai counter. Still, it had to hurt. His knee hadn’t escaped injury either, it would certainly be aching in the morrow. Whether the block had inflicted pain or not, Rorye pressed on with her assault. Right cross snapped forward, glancing lightly off Ryan’s head as he narrowly weaved beneath her strike. A stiff jab from his lead hand slipped under her punch. Fist connected solidly with her jaw, nullifying the next attack in her combination and staggering her backward. The Soldier felt a pang of regret. He hadn’t meant to hit her that hard. She had increased the intensity of their match, and incidentally walked into his counter. Still, it was the first time he had struck her with a closed hand. Rorye recovered quickly. Stance was steady, her gaze unflinching. An energy burning ominously at the edges of her eyes. It seemed her power was beginning to uncoil itself. Yet, she seemed to hesitate before initiating the next exchange. Her trainer seized the opportunity. Harker dashed forward with another brisk jab. Though, he was immediately reminded why he had been on the defensive thus far. His hand was deflected with ease. Countered by a chop to the nerve cluster at the inside of his elbow. Another punch followed before he could retract his arm, landing inside the cavity of his armpit. Already he had thrown a hook with his opposite hand, but Rorye weaved nimbly to avoid the attack. Two punches battered Ryan’s abdomen in rapid succession. He recognized her form. She was working his body just as she had worked the heavy bag earlier. A chill down the agent’s spine told him to lean backward, so he did without question. Rorye’s hook zipped past his face. Sixth sense alerted the agent to evade again, dip in his opponent’s shoulder explained the reason. Head slid awkwardly to the side and the leather of Rorye’s glove brushed his cheek. Uppercut had been avoided. While her arm was extended, Harker caught the limb in his grasp and pinned it tight to his body. Jerking motion breaking her balance, before he contorted her arm into a vicious twist. Ryan could have taken her to the ground, or even broken the arm, but he refrained from executing the technique at full speed. Accidently hitting her too hard was one thing, accidently breaking her arm was something else entirely. Instead, he held Rorye’s arm in a lock, forcing her body to writhe in a way she couldn’t muster any further offensive against him. A break in her battle rhythm. A chance for him to recover from the blows he’d taken to the body. A second’s respite, but only just. Rorye winced as she attempted to resist the joint manipulation. Darkness in her eyes at the realization the lock was secure. Then, she was a blur of motion. Acrobatic flip allowed her to escape the hold. Ryan knew she had talent, but he had never encountered anyone with enough dexterity to perform such a maneuver. Aside from himself, of course. Her arm unwound and she managed to grasp his in the process. Yanking him off balance as she used his planted stance to stabilize her landing. Another icy tingle at the base of his neck. Pain was coming and there was nothing the Soldier could do to prevent it. Positioning was compromised and he found himself overextended against a faster opponent. When her feet returned to the mat, Harker had been pulled too far forward to defend himself. Rorye’s rear leg flashed forward with a powerful kick. Top of her foot smashing hard against his groin. A loud “slap” seemed to echo through the gym. Ryan managed to push her away before the pain emerged. Two steps backward, hands returning to their proper posture… then he faltered. A knee dropped to the mat and he raised an open palm to signal “stop.” Agony burned at the pit of his stomach, the urge to vomit fluttering somewhere in his chest. “Hold up,” he wheezed through gritted teeth. “You caught me pretty solid on that one.” Head lowered slightly, but he was careful to keep watch of Rorye from the corner of his eyes. At this point, he wasn’t certain she would relent in her assault. The darker energy within her was beginning to manifest. Her strikes had been precise, unrestrained, and ruthless. The operative had intended to draw out this savage essence, but he hadn’t expected it to reveal itself this quickly… this easily. Perhaps, she was allowing it to take hold because she trusted Ryan could handle its strength. Or perhaps, she simply lacked the ability to control it. Whichever the case, one thing was certain. Rorye had stepped up her game, and if they were going to find the extent of her power, he would have to do the same. “Alright, I’m good.” Ryan declared after a few deep breaths. In truth, he hadn’t really recovered yet. Further delay might jeopardize the progress they had already made. So, he would ‘Walk It Off.’ The fighter gave each leg a shake, shrugged his shoulders and settled into fighting stance. Gloved hand was extended toward his sparring partner. Smiling through his mouthguard as he teased, “It’s a good thing you kick like a girl.”
  6. Ryan Harker

    Walk It Off

    “Showing off, is that part of the lessons?” “Fear and intimidation are valuable tools in any conflict,” he answered in feigned wisdom. “Distract the opponent, got it.” “Sun Tzu once said, ‘The greatest victories are those which require no battle.” The Soldier said profoundly. A smirk cracked across his features. He hadn’t a college degree, but he had read a book or two about his trade. --- Harker readied himself for the woman’s advance. Confused when she abruptly called for a ‘time-out’ and then approached him. Her embrace was welcome, if not unexpected. Lips touched gently to his cheek, “Thank you for this.” “Yeah, no problem,” he said sheepishly. “So… I just hit you? Like, you’re the kid from sixth grade that tried to kick the crap out of me? I hurt him. I don’t want to hurt you.” Rorye asked as she returned to her side of the ring. Doubt accompanied her query. “Let’s see if you can even hit me,” the agent quipped. “Then we’ll worry about whether or not you can hurt me.” --- For the initial exchanges, Ryan stayed on the defensive. Punches were slipped, dodged and parried with relative ease. His abilities made him slippery and unpredictable. Movements were made to effectively evade attacks and didn’t always align with orthodox martial arts form. A technique unique to his skillset. Speedsters were a weakness for him in sudden engagements involving immediate lethality. Guns, knives, and the like, when combined with enhanced speed, meant when the foe inevitably landed a strike, the result could be fatal. Thus, his aversion to Rorye’s blades. However, in prolonged engagements, Ryan’s abilities shined against even a skilled speedster. Mistakes weren’t a death sentence, and he could capitalize on weaknesses speedsters didn’t even know they possessed. As when she had been striking the heavy bag, Rorye’s quickness was developing momentum. An interesting prospect. Did this mean she couldn’t utilize her full speed without gradual escalation? Did the power require fuel before it could reach its full potential? A theory her trainer would have test. Soon Rorye’s onslaught threatened to overwhelm Ryan’s masterful defense. Concern for his wellbeing seemed to have subsided in part, as she succumbed to the urge to actually hit him. Eventually, she would land a blow, but he would decide the when, where, and how. Until this point Harker had evaded all her attacks. So, it probably came as a surprise when he held his ground and absorbed a shot to the body. Already her next punch was in motion, which was precisely why she fell. Lead foot had been swept while in a state of transition between strikes. Having crowded her with his body, the agent was able to knock her down with a firm, but effortless shove. “You good?” he chuckled. Of course, she was… he hadn’t even hit her yet. Ryan waited for her to get back to her feet. Smug grin on his face as he held out his glove once more. After her fist had bumped his, he retreated a few paces and resumed a fighting stance. He would play with her a little longer. Observe how quickly she angered. Then the lesson would begin.
  7. Ryan Harker

    Broken Bones and Shattered Pride

    Ryan stood brooding in the kitchen of his Manhattan apartment. Gaze lingered on the front door. The room had fallen silent, he could hear the tinnitus ringing in his ears once more. Constant, high-pitched whine was interrupted only by the beating of his heart. His home felt empty now. Which was odd, because it had never felt that way before. She shouldn’t have come. Her intentions had been pure, but the ill-opportune meeting had caused only grief for them both. After reeling from defeat, he had needed time to refocus his mind. Furthermore, seeing her lover in such a wounded condition probably hadn’t benefited her psyche either. An image he had tried to spare her. Regardless of what should or should not have happened, she had come to his apartment and the conflict had occurred. Now, what could be done to better the situation? Harker hadn’t moved. Contemplation had absorbed him. A side of his mind desired nothing more than to chase after her… to set things right. Another part of his mind advised him against the pursuit. It reminded him he was a Soldier with a damaged soul, and that if he wasn’t in the right frame of mind, he could do more harm than good to those he loved. Yet another piece of his mind was consumed by a single, important, notion. She had professed her love for him. A sentiment he had answered by hawking venom in her face. Good, bad, or indifferent, the last section of his mind managed to triumph over the others. Door swung open and Ryan jogged out into the hallway. He grimaced at the discomfort but continued trotting until he reached the floors elevator lobby. Metal doors had just closed. Fingers pressed the call button urgently, but the doors remained sealed. “God damn it,” he cursed aloud. Able hand reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his cell phone. “Everything alright dear?” Quivering tone was one the agent recognized. Mrs. Hanson was his neighbor in the apartment next door. The kind old woman owned a single cat, but otherwise lived alone. With little else to occupy her, she had taken it upon herself to gather gossip on the building’s other tenants. Ryan only spoke to her in passing, except when she sometimes brought him a homemade dessert. An excuse she used to interact with him; one indulged on the rare occasion he was home. “Hi Mrs. Hanson. Yeah, everything’s fine,” he sighed. Rorye’s number was dialed and he held the phone to his ear. “Oh my god! What happened to your arm?” Mrs. Hanson exclaimed as approached him. “Err… Motorcycle accident.” “Oh, my goodness, are you okay?” She seemed genuinely concerned. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a scratch.” He responded politely, though he was worried Rorye may have already left the building. Elevator button was pushed again for good measure. “I didn’t even know you owned a motorcycle?” “Yeah, not anymore.” His patience was wearing thin. This elevator was taking forever and Rorye’s phone wasn’t ringing through. “Good, you’re better off without it.” Ryan hit the call button for the tenth time, “Come. On.” “In a hurry?” “Yeah, you could say that,” he answered unenthusiastically. Pleasant as she may be, he was about to strangle the woman. “Chasing after that girl that stormed out of here crying?” She asked, arms folding over her chest. She eyed him disapprovingly. The agent gave a defeated groan, “Yeah.” “Whatever you did John, you better make it right,” Mrs. Hanson scolded him. “She seemed like such a nice girl. Poor thing.” “She is, and I will.” He capitulated. Ignoring the fact Mrs. Hanson had taken Rorye’s side after only glance. Ryan had been her neighbor for almost two years. Contact was dialed once more in Harker’s phone. Rumble beyond the elevator door informed him it was near his floor. Finally. Call on his mobile was ringing through. At the same moment, he could hear a song playing on the other side of the metal doors. There was a pitched “ding” and the elevator doors opened. Whomever was inside the compartment, would find a battered man and an elderly woman staring at them. No doubt, the pair would make an unexpected sight.
  8. Ryan Harker

    Walk It Off

    Ryan parked his car in the hidden lot behind the gym, and together the couple made their way inside. Rorye had described the place as her father’s “old boxing gym,” but it wasn’t really a gym at all. The aged two-story structure was the size of a small stadium. Bricked walls, marble floors, and fancy lighting common in the 1940’s, made the place a historical monument. Ryan had trained in gyms, studios, and even fitness centers, but this place was far grander than anywhere he had trained before. This wasn’t an “old boxing gym,” it was a historic boxing arena. Note was taken of the emergency fire escape. “Good to know,” he muttered in reply. Gaze continued to explore the vastness of the arena as he followed his guide through the boxing mecca. “I lived up there until after high school, we can crash there if we or you ever need to. I keep it up. Other than my banker, nobody knows this place is here. Could be a rally point if things ever go south,” she said gesturing toward the offices overlooking the ground floor. “Are you sure no one knows of this place?” The agent couldn’t help his skepticism. A location such as this would be difficult to keep secret. She nodded assuredly, “I can get you keys made.” “Alright then,” Harker agreed. “If the shop is compromised, we’ll meet here. If this place is compromised, then we’ll meet at my apartment. If my apartment is compromised… then ARMA H-Q is probably the safest bet.” The operative had another apartment on the other side of town, but it would be irresponsible for him to tell her of its existence. If she became compromised or captured, he would need a place to conduct operations from. ARMA headquarters wouldn’t be suitable for covert deployment. The installation had far too much visibility. Furthermore, he acknowledged the possibility ARMA wouldn’t always be considered an ally. To some such a notion might sound paranoid, but at this point, nothing was outside the realm of possible. Ryan set his black gym bag on the bench near his chosen locker. Enchanted armor was peeled away a layer at a time and placed neatly inside the storage space. The hunter’s weaponry was removed as well, though not without mild hesitation. Once most of his clothing had been discarded, he became acutely aware of stadium’s frigid air. Black duffle was unzipped, and more appropriate attire became accessible. Black Adidas sweatpants were pulled quickly over his Under Armor athletic shorts, a white stripe running down the length of each leg. Black tank-top was covered just as swiftly by a matching hooded sweatshirt. His feet were left bare, as was typical of most martial artists. “At the very least, I need to be useful, not just defend myself. I know taking me out to Remy’s was a huge risk… I don’t want to be a risk.” Rorye said, as she finished tying the laces of her tennis shoes. Harker’s thoughts drifted back to the evening she mentioned. He had killed a lot of people that night. A speedster and nearly twenty, heavily armed mercenaries had been slain by his hand. Taking her had been as risk, but she had held her own. She followed orders, remained calm under pressure, and spilled a share of the blood herself. Still, it would take more than a single training session to make her mission ready. Rorye arranged her blades on the bench nearest to her, “I want to be able to hold my own, without any help. Tape, gauze, practice gloves are in that locker over there. Don’t know how you want to start. I'm at your mercy and expertise coach. Don't pull your punches.” Ryan eyed the sheathed knives on the bench. She was prepared to take this sparing match to the absolute limit of her abilities. He knew the Karambits were her weapon of choice, but he hadn’t expected her to bring them to the gym. A hand-to-hand engagement with a speedster armed with knives was a dangerous proposition, training or otherwise. Training blades would be preferred, unfortunately he hadn’t brought any with him. They weren’t exactly something he carried around in his daily workout bag. “Well first, we won’t need those today,” he gestured toward the blades. “On the off chance you get lucky and actually land a shot, I don’t need anymore stitches.” He chuckled, “I’ll bring some training knives next time.” “We won’t be needing those ratty old boxing gloves either,” he told her. The fighter reached into his duffle and drew a pair of MMA training gloves. Padding on them was significantly thinner than standard boxing gloves, and the fingers were open to allow for grappling. Gloves were tossed toward her lightly, “Those should fit you. Oh, and make sure you have a mouthguard. Don’t want you losing any of those pretty teeth when I knock you on your ass.” Harker flashed a playful grin before shoving his own mouthpiece into his sweatshirt pocket. Gloves were synched down on his wrists and then flexed until they fit comfortably. He shrugged his shoulders a couple times and gave his neck a quick swivel side to side. “Ready? Let’s warm up, then we’ll see whatchu got.” “Can we get some music going in this place?” he asked. He doubted an ancient place like this had a USB connector, but surely it had some kind of sound system. It was an arena after all. “I prefer to work out to music.” Another sarcastic smile, “Ya know, some ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or something.” The ARMA operative led Rorye through several laps around the indoor stadium. They ran until they were both sweating despite the cold. A hundred pushups and a hundred sit ups were followed by light stretching. Then it was time for some work on the heavy bag. Ryan assessed how strenuous the warmup had been for his new pupil. Weightlifting and cardio had become a part of his daily life. Albeit, in light of his recent op-tempo, he hadn’t been as disciplined in his training regimen. The agent had memberships at several different gyms throughout the city. Even with his abilities, weapons, and ARMA tech, maintaining his physical condition was essential to his performance in the field. For Rorye, super-speed would have limited use if she lacked the necessary endurance. Ryan held the heavy bag and instructed Rorye to deliver several basic combinations. Next, he told her to strike the bag repeatedly. “As hard and as fast as you can until I tell you to stop,” he had said. With a little effort, the operative willed his abilities to activate absent any immediate threat. Time within the boxing arena slowed. Rorye’s punches continued at a pace faster than the heavy bag could recoil. For her trainer however, the strikes seemed to flow slowly through the air. Harker analyzed her form. Position of her wrist when hitting the weighted bag. Tilt of her chin, movement of her shoulders, even the alignment of her hips as she swung. Pivot of her feet, and her footwork as she telegraphed the next strike to come. From a boxing standpoint, her form was pretty decent. Clearly, she’d had some formal training in the past. “Alright, that’s enough,” Ryan said once he was satisfied with his assessment. “Let’s get started.” The mage hunter walked to the ring and slid under the bottom rope, rolling effortlessly out onto the mat. “Make sure you take off your socks and shoes before you come up here.” Sensing her doubt at his request he added, “trust me, you’ll see why.” Mouthguard was placed in his mouth, then Harker pulled his hoodie over his head and tossed it aside. Balled fists came to his waist and he flexed his muscles in mock intimidation. He was joking, but also aware the ring’s lighting added definition to his physique. Modesty was an overrated virtue. Once Rorye had joined him in the ring, he extended a gloved hand in her direction. Touching gloves before the start of a match was a traditional sign of respect. Then he stepped away from her and assumed a fighting stance. Fingers of his lead hand waved her forward, “Alright girl, show me what you got.”
  9. Ryan Harker

    Taking Inventory

    “Go back to sleep, that’s an order.” “Yes, ma’am,” was the Soldier’s lighthearted reply. He held her close. Eyes drifted shut once more. For a moment he did nothing. He merely lay there, enjoying the simple comfort of her company. “There was something we had to do wasn’t there…” she asked lazily. “Nothing that can’t wait a little while longer,” he answered with equal enthusiasm. Black Sabboth’s “Iron Man” instrumental interrupted the tranquil ambiance. Rorye giggled, “They all have their own ringtone. You have one too.” “Oh really? What’s mine then?” Ryan asked, head swiveling to look at her. Eyes squinted in mock suspicion. Knowing her, his ringtone was either badass, or ironically comical. She left the bed to answer the call, taking his warmth with her. Comforters were pulled around him tighter to compensate. A moment later she returned from the bathroom and crawled back into bed. Her head came to rest on his stomach, almond hues peering up at him. Rorye had an innocent beauty that he absolutely adored. Even when she wasn’t trying to look pretty, she did, and when she did try, God help him. To Ryan, she was ‘gorgeous,’ and so he told her often. The attraction between them, physical and otherwise, felt so electric, he sometimes wondered if there was a supernatural element amidst their connection. Regardless, the feelings he held for her were genuine, and so he tried not to overthink them. Rorye placed the phone on speaker so he could listen. The conversation appeared to be routine and uneventful. Nothing on her expression indicated anything to the contrary. --- “Can’t all be double-o-seven business all the time,” she said, after filling him in on some of Russel’s history at the shop. Harker’s instinct was skeptical. Questions immediately jumped to mind that demanded answer. How long had this “Russel” been around? What replicas was he interested in specifically? Why did he consistently return to the shop, knowing full well Rorye wouldn’t have the product he was searching for? What was his motive? The ARMA agent dismissed his concern for the time being. Rorye said the guy was harmless, and that was probably the case. She had been in the occults black-market business for some time. Judging character was an essential skill in her line of work, and he trusted her judgement. Still, he might follow up later… just to be sure. Ryan felt a stir in his loins the moment she mounted him. Fingertips glided along his abdomen as she leaned in close. She paused with her lips just out of reach, which only added to the temptation. Sultry smile when she spoke, “ready to get your ass kicked?” “If its anything like last night…” there was mischievous glint in his eyes as answered. She’d had her way with him the evening prior, though he certainly wasn’t complaining. Quite the opposite in fact. Rough hands fell gently upon her hips, “then sure, I’ll go another round with the champ.” Swift as a cat, Rorye sprang from the bed. A playful glance back in his direction as she danced nimbly across the room. She seemed so excited, so… happy. The childlike enthusiasm was infectious. Despite being left enticed and slightly disappointed, Ryan couldn’t help but smile. It felt so good to see her genuinely happy. It was something he wished he could give her more often. “She’ll be the death of me,” Ryan muttered under his breath as he crawled out of bed. Soft smirk still held in his features. Clearly, it was time to start their day. A little food, a little coffee, and he would be ready for anything. A trip to her father’s gym sounded like a fun date. Before they left however, he fully intended to steal another few moments of her affection. “Don’t think I’ll go easy on you,” he quipped as he strode after her. Clothes were left on the floor, to include his boxers. Getting dressed could wait just a little longer.
  10. Ryan Harker

    Broken Bones and Shattered Pride

    The apartment was warm. Temperature inside maintained by the thermostat despite the agent’s prolonged absence. ARMA could afford the expense. Rorye removed her layers and hung them on the coat rack. She was quiet. She seemed tentative in almost all that she did. As if deliberating on every act before she carried it out. Without a word, she walked to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee. Meanwhile, Ryan had forgone removing his coat. Instead he headed straight for the liquor cabinet. Glass and a bottle of his favorite, affordable, bourbon was withdrawn from the cupboard. Both items were placed on the countertop below. Despite the sling impeding its movement, his right hand held the bottle in place whilst he unscrewed the cap. A couple fingers worth was poured into the whiskey glass. Bottle was set aside before he picked up the glass and hurled its contents down his gullet. Glass was slammed roughly on the counter. The Soldier wiped his mouth, pausing a moment to allow a liquored breath to ease through his lips. Another drink was poured and taken in hand. Finally, he turned to face Rorye. Ryan hated the way she looked at him. Her eyes pained with fear and sympathy. She seemed to notice his discontent, and almost subconsciously began to avoid his stare. Somehow, the elusion felt worse. He was a warrior. An unstoppable, unkillable, consequence to any foolish enough to cross his path. There was nothing he couldn’t do. There was no task too great, and no force on Earth he couldn’t defeat. At least, that was the reputation he had established for himself. Those within his community had come revere him as “the mage hunter,” or simply “the hunter.” An ARMA boogeyman for even the deadliest of the organization’s supernatural foes. The man, the myth, the legend. Harker didn’t want her to see him any differently. He had made promises. Rorye was depending on him. He wanted her to feel safe with him, to trust him, and not to worry about him. He wanted her to believe the legend. For in a world plagued by monsters, demons, and magus, what could a mere mortal hope to accomplish? Presently however, battered and broken as he was, Harker appeared anything but extraordinary. Just a man, nothing more. Rorye pulled a chair out for him at the kitchen table and motioned for him to sit. When he stood his ground, she refrained from arguing. An awkward moment passed before she left the kitchen and walked into the bathroom. Ryan seized the opportunity to slip into the bedroom without her being immediately aware. Glass of bourbon was set atop the nightstand by the bed. Top drawer was pulled open to reveal a gun, a picture frame, and several half empty prescription bottles. The agent plucked the bottles from the drawer one at a time, removing a couple capsules from each before throwing the them back into the drawer. Rattle from the discarded containers could probably be heard in next room. He didn’t care. Gathered pills were tossed into his mouth and then washed down with another gulp of bourbon. A moment later Harker returned to the kitchen. Rorye was waiting by the table with a pair of damp towels. “When you’re set-up and comfortable, I’ll go,” she said softly. “I’m fine,” he insisted. The statement was only partly true. Reluctantly, he strode to the table and seated himself in the chair she had set for him. Drink was placed on the table’s surface. “You didn’t need to come.” “I know I didn’t need to come,” she replied calmly. She attempted to swab his face with the towel, but he held up a hand to stop her. “I said, I’m fine,” the agent asserted, this time more firmly than before. She was trying to take care of him, and in return he was being an asshole. Rorye set the towel aside. Her eyes found his for a time, until he flinched uncomfortably from her gaze. “You need to understand I’ll always come,” she said. Despite his resistance to her affection, she leaned in closer. Delicate lips touched gently to his forehead, then she whispered “…and even if you have to limp home. Just come home.” Ryan stared distantly at his glass, refusing to acknowledge the woman before him. Emotions divided his mind, pitting the sides against one another. Unsure of how to resolve the conflict, he chose to remain silent. Rorye walked about the apartment for a couple minutes before returning to the kitchen. She tried talking to him, but her words weren’t being heard. Harker glared intently at the drink in his hand. Mending of his wounds, the pills, the alcohol, all were helping to subside the disorienting pain. The fog in his brain was beginning to lift enough for him to think. The more he reflected on his circumstances, the angrier he became. The way she was looking at him, the way she spoke to him, the indignity it afflicted… fuel to a growing fire. “I don’t know what happened last night and I don’t expect you to tell me. But don’t be afraid to ask me to be here, even if it’s just to sit on the couch and read a book. What are we all fighting for if not for the opportunity to be safe and with those we love?” “You want to know what happened last night?” Ryan’s voice was low. Whiskey glass was pushed aside, and his gaze drifted in her direction. Slowly he ascended to his feet; a tempered rage burning behind his radiant eyes. “I did exactly what I told you I would do,” he said stepping nearer to her. “I took the fight to them. I tore their organization apart. I followed a trail of bodies that led me directly to the O-F-L.” His volume was increasing, tone becoming more vehement with every spoken word. “Until eventually they realized, the men they’d hired to protect them couldn’t. Until they realized, the men they’d hired to kill me couldn’t! So those fuckers gave up on you, and they gave up on their hold of these streets!” By now he was practically yelling in Rorye’s face. Of course, it wasn’t her fault. None of it was. Once more, he didn’t care. He needed to be strong, he needed to be angry. He couldn’t stand her sad eyes lingering on him any longer, gazing at him as if he were a wounded puppy. Better she be furious with him, hate him even, than to look at him that way for even another second. “And do you know what they did?” The rhetorical question came with a lull in his shouting. “They set a trap, and they murdered all of their own people to do it. Anyone I had any intel on, they killed. They contracted a pro. The kind of assassin you can’t buy with just money! You must have influence and connections to even find a guy like this! He was trained, well equipped, and he was ready for me. He knew exactly what I was going to do, and I walked right into his fucking trap!” Ryan turned away from her, putting distance between himself and Rorye. Breathing was heavy. Fists were clenched. Rage boiling on the edge of violence. He wanted to punch something, hurt something, but he did neither. Anger wasn’t toward her, the Order, or even the creature that tried to kill him… he was angry at himself. Harker pivoted sharply, pointing a finger at Rorye as he boasted, “But I killed that son of a bitch! Because that’s who I am! I won’t beaten by some shady fucking Order offshoot, and I certainly won’t be killed by some two-bit vamp!” Arm lowered slowly to his side, and an odd silence fell over the room. A short time passed, and Ryan’s demeanor began to calm. A puzzled expression marred his countenance. He was beginning to digest the words Rorye had attempted to convey before his rant. Indirectly, she had proclaimed something important. Blue eyes softened, as did his voice, “Wait, did you just say you love me?”
  11. Ryan Harker

    Licking Wounds

  12. Ryan Harker

    Broken Bones and Shattered Pride

    Once the scene at the warehouse had been transferred over to the Knight Division for processing, Harker had been transported back to ARMA headquarters for enhanced medical care. There he had been tended to by several medical staff, but his primary doctor had been Altheia Martin. At the agent’s request, Dr. Martin had used advanced magic to augment the modern treatment of his injuries. The result had been mended bones and healed lacerations, but strained ligaments and torn muscles remained debilitated. By the end of his session, both Ryan and the good doctor were completely exhausted. Some hours later, the agent managed to drive himself back to his apartment building. Sable Challenger was parked in its private garage and the door lowered automatically behind it. Rumble of the muscle car’s engine filled the small space. Turn of the key killed the machine’s aspirated growl. The vehicle’s interior and exterior lights dimmed, and the garage became totally dark. Harker sat in quietly inside the cabin of his car. A heavy sigh escaped the man. The prospect of exiting his vehicle, let alone walking to his apartment, seemed a daunting task. Perhaps, it would be easier to simply sleep in the car? No. At some point he would have to make the journey. Might as well get it done and get a bit of decent sleep in an actual bed. Another deep breath as Ryan steeled himself for the trek ahead. Driver door popped open. Slowly, he turned himself and placed his boots firmly on the concrete floor. Then, while making a sound similar to a wounded mule, he gradually climbed out of the vehicle. Right arm was bound in a sling, so the extrication was done with only his left hand to assist. Anguished wince subsided after a few more labored breaths. Car was locked and the agent made his way into the apartment building. The dark clad operative limped casually through the building’s lobby. Behind the front desk, stood a young man in a cheap suit. Golden name plate pinned neatly over his left coat pocket. “SHAWN” engraved neatly in the badges metallic surface. “Another rough day at the office, John?” Asked the young man, his gaze holding only mild surprise at the agent’s condition. “You could say that,” Harker answered without any indication he would elaborate on the subject. He walked directly to the elevator, having spared little more than a glance in lobbyist’ direction. “Take it easy, Shawn,” he said before the elevator doors closed. “You too, sir,” Shawn replied. “Get some rest.” When the elevator doors opened again, Ryan nearly ran into Rorye. She was looking down at her phone when he stepped onto his floor. Almond eyes darted up at him in time to avoid the collision. Initially, the agent was disoriented by the unexpected encounter. A second passed before his dismay dissipated. “Rorye,” he said abruptly, obviously startled. Rorye’s cheeks were flush from the cold, lips purple despite her lipstick. Still, she looked beautiful. It was obvious she had put effort into her appearance. Not that she needed to, but the extra time was evident, nonetheless. Curls in her hair were pulled back into fraying braid, but Ryan suspected they had been flowing naturally over her shoulders some hours earlier. Lightly applied makeup elevated her already perfect features, her eyes specifically drew his attention. After taking in her beauty, Harker was suddenly overwhelmed by the weight of the evening’s events. Eyes fell to the floor, too ashamed to hold her gaze any longer. Her presence there meant he would be forced to divulge his failure. She would demand an explanation. He had hoped for a little time to regroup before confronting her. A chance to develop a plan, before telling her how he had managed to fuck everything up. “I told you everything was fine. You didn’t need to come,” Ryan said as he walked past her. Breaths were shorter as he forced himself to stand up straight. Limp in his step was barely visible now, at least for the moment. “Come inside and get warmed up, you look absolutely freezing.”
  13. Ryan Harker

    Taking Inventory

    Ryan listened attentively as Rorye explained the history of her home, and of her family. “… My Dad was a boxer.” “That explains where all your fight came from,” he teased. “We’ll go tonight,” she said with a smile, “and I’ll knock you on your ass.” “Oh yeah?” came his playful retort as he leaned in closer. A kiss touched her lips, then he whispered, “We’ll just have to see about that.” --- Invitation to join her in the shower was welcome. Despite a long night, their deep conversation, and having just beaten a man bloody, Ryan had found himself incredibly aroused the moment her boots had hit the floor. “I know you’ve done this already, but you need to warm up or else you’ll knot up. My shower head is a bit more… fancy than yours.” Sultry look in her eyes cinched her hold over him. The mage hunter gave Rorye an “Oh Really?” expression, followed by a mischievous grin. The showerheads were the same in both apartment bathrooms. Sensing his doubt, she added “…and it comes with a set of hands to work out the bruises.” “Oh… Well, in that case, I suppose I could use another shower,” Ryan conceded. As if he hadn’t been fully convinced the moment she’d started undressing. She stripped him of his shirt, catching him with a kiss while he was ensnared in the fabric. His eyes closed to savor her touch. There was a seductive nibble at his lower lip, and then her shirt joined his on the floor. Fingertips traced along his weary muscles, and Ryan caught the wicked glimmer in her eyes. He was barely standing, but he knew, she intended to drain the last of his remaining stamina. He was at her mercy… and he hoped she would show him none. --- ***FLASH*** “One minute!” “One minute!” Sergeant Harker echoed his Platoon Sergeant over his squad’s comms. He held up a single finger for his men to see. The incessant whine of the Blackhawk’s rotor blades made it almost impossible for them to hear one another speak. Thus, the Sergeant was answered by an assortment of silent nods and thumbs up. They were ready. Sun was just beginning to set on the horizon, it would be nightfall soon. The “Rift Event” had taken several key leaders from within Bravo Company, also known as “Bad Company.” Ryan’s platoon had been no exception, and as a result he had been promoted to squad leader. As the most senior NCO remaining in the squad, it made sense to place him in charge. There had been no complaint from the guys either. They had been on countless missions together and they trusted him. Still, Ryan couldn’t shake the nervousness he felt. This was his first combat mission as the actual squad leader, and it was everyone’s first mission since the world had gone to shit. Sergeant Sepulveda, Harker’s Alpha team leader, patted a young Specialist on top of the helmet. Several other nearby Soldiers did the same, grins on their faces. Harker chuckled to himself. Specialist Michael Monroe, aka “Eminem,” was a short little fuck out of Iowa. The kid was barely tall enough to be a Ranger, but he was hard as nails and would do anything for the team. Somewhere along the way, it had become good luck to tap on Eminem’s helmet before a mission. Ryan hoped the luck would hold. “Dat-dat-dat-dat-dat-dat-dat!” Familiar rattle of the door-gunner’s 240 machinegun could be heard over the Blackhawk’s engine, but it didn’t sound loud. However, it did signal to everyone aboard they would be disembarking onto a “hot” landing zone. Another burst of machine gun fire, then several more. Now other helicopters in the formation were adding their firepower to the fight. It was game time. ***FLASH*** At a small city in New Mexico, a local Community Hospital was surrounded by a horde of infected “zombies.” The cities survivors had barricaded themselves in the hospital and were requesting extraction. New Mexico’s National Guard had already dedicated its forces to major cities throughout the state and were unable to assist its smaller outlying cities. The citizens occupying these cities had been instructed to remain in place until “Green Zones” could be established. Essentially, they had been told to fend for themselves. Having just redeployed from Iraq, “Bad Company” of the 1st Ranger Battalion was a capable and available asset for emergency deployment within the United States. Temporarily reassigned, they were conducting operations out of Fort Carson, Colorado, and each platoon had been given an Area of Responsibility (AOR) for civilian rescue missions. “White” platoon’s AOR included the majority of New Mexico. Ryan’s squad, 3rd squad, was the last to be dropped on the hospital’s rooftop. 1st and 2nd squads had already established a perimeter of security atop the multi-story structure. Woman, children, and the elderly were loaded onto the helicopters and evacuated from the area. “White” platoon would secure the building and wait for the Blackhawks to return for extraction. Once the helicopters had vacated the area, the platoon leader, First Lieutenant Alvarez approached Harker. “First squad’s on security, second squad’s securing the rest of the civilians on the second floor. I need you guys to clear the first floor and make sure the building is secure.” “Roger, sir.” Ryan answered with a nod of his Kevlar. Turning away from the LT, the squad leader then barked at his men, “Third Squad, on me!” --- A touch to his hand jolted Ryan from his sleep. The Soldier sat up swiftly, arms braced at either side. Muscles were taught. Breathing was strained, as if he had been holding his breath. Heart pounded loudly in his chest, and for a moment it was all he could hear. Eyes darted around the room. A second passed before he recognized the world around him. He was back at Rorye’s apartment, laying in her bed. He wasn’t there. Grip on his pistol loosened, and he placed it on the nightstand nearby. A slow glance to his lover in sheets beside him. “Bad dream,” he said dismissively. “Hope I didn’t wake you.” The phrase “bad dream” didn’t do the nightmare justice. More like a reoccurring visualization of events better left forgotten. While in the trance he always knew the outcome of the story unfolding. Sometimes, he would be deeply engrossed in the sensations and emotions of the moment. Able to feel the recoil of his rifle, hear the screams, taste the smoke. Other times, he was merely a silent onlooker. Trapped with the guilt he’d felt after the fact, but powerless to change the narratives tragic conclusion. Forced to witness the same horrific scenes again and again. Every anecdotal reenactment always ending the same way. Ryan was just glad to have woken before the dream had progressed to its darkest hours. He leaned over to Rorye and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. A soft smile as he said, “How’d you sleep?” Arm slid under her neck, and the Soldier nestled back into the pillows next to her. His embrace pulled her close, allowing her cheek to rest naturally upon his chest. Somehow, caring for her helped to calm his own demons. He was glad to have her company.
  14. Ryan Harker

    Broken Bones and Shattered Pride

    *** Continued from “A Night in Hell” *** February 13, 2022 0200 Hours Waterfront Warehouse, NYC Despite his injuries, the dark, the wind, and the cold, Ryan had managed to shoot his communications jammer on his first attempt. It had been placed on the fire escape across the street, hidden from view. The small, black box jumped when the round tore through it. The sound of gunfire muffled by the silencer at the end of his weapon’s barrel. After checking his phone to ensure service had been restored, the agent trudged through the snow and made his way back into the warehouse. A shaking hand dialed the contact in his phone. Shivering couldn’t be helped, by now the cold had seeped down to the bone. First call was made to the head of the Cloak Division. The Division leader had been disappointed at the mission’s outcome, but nonetheless, was understanding of the agent’s situation. Authorization was approved to request immediate support from the Knight Division. Harker was given a verification code to confirm the requests approval. The next call was made to none other than Cassandra Greene, the Knight Divisions most trusted Captain. Harker’s “request” for support wasn’t really a request. A Cloak operative in the field, on an authorized mission, could pretty much demand emergency assistance from the other ARMA Divisions. If the support was available, it would be provided. That said, these requests were not made lightly, and poor judgment on the part of the operative could easily result in the end of his career. Given the nature of their previous encounters, Harker wasn’t surprised by Captain Greene’s displeased response to his request for assistance. By the end of their conversation she had called him a “shit magnet” more than once; probably not an unfair assessment. Regardless of her personal frustrations, Cassandra assured him the cavalry was enroute. A tactical team, crime scene investigators, emergency medical personnel, and a host of other Knight agents would be at his location shortly. Ryan paused before making the last call. Her contact had been pulled up on his phone, thumb hovered over the dial button. She was expecting a call from him. Had the mission gone according to plan, he would be bringing the recovered artifact to her place for analysis presently. Unfortunately, this mission had been FUBAR from the beginning. Rorye hadn’t been given any information regarding the operation at the warehouse. Ryan mentioned he would be acquiring an enchanted item this evening; a relic pertaining to their investigation of the “threat.” She was probably still awake, waiting for him to return so they could examine the artifact together. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen now. She would worry if he didn’t call. Still, for several reasons, the Soldier hesitated. Most prominent amongst them being the shame he felt. Arrogantly, he had promised he would keep her safe. Vowed he would find those responsible for Remy’s death. Boasted he would follow the organization to its highest levels and see it destroyed. Told her not to worry and assured her, he could handle himself. Yet, his current circumstance invalidated all those claims. He had failed. Button was pressed and the phone rang. When he heard her voice on the other end, he said casually, “Hey gorgeous.” Ryan could feel a lump growing in his throat, tightening his vocal cords. “What the fuck?” he chastised himself. He had managed to maintain his composure throughout both of his previous conversations. Now, he could feel his bearing slipping. Was it the intense pain in his shattered arm? The stabbing sensation he felt in his ribcage with every breath? Or was it the disparaging chill threatening to freeze his exposed extremities? The ceaseless ache throughout his body, as his muscles spasmed involuntarily against his injuries in an attempt keep him warm? Perhaps, it was merely the shame of letting her down? Or knowing he was going to lie to her about it now? More than likely, it was a combination of all the above. Ryan coughed lightly to clear his throat. “Pull your shit together,” he coached himself mentally. “Hey, so I kinda fucked up some of the paperwork for my last mission.” A deep breath, mouth away from the phone so it wouldn’t be heard. Frustrated tears burned at the edges of his eyes. Adrenaline had all but subsided. The pain of his condition was wearing down his mental fortitude. Given everything, he was probably on the verge of shock. Voice in his head came again, “You’re a warrior God damn it, get your fucken mind right.” Another light cough, then he continued. “No big deal, but I gotta head over to H-Q and sort it out.” The agent stood alone in the dark, away from Maya. “Probably not going to make it back to the shop tonight. My place is closer to H-Q, so I might just stop in there for some sleep.” “There you go,” the voice said. “Calm breaths. You got this.” “Everything is fine,” surprisingly, Ryan had managed to keep an even tone. “I just wanted to give you a call so you wouldn’t worry.” (OOC: Ryan isn't in good shape, but his injuries really just consist of a broken arm, a couple cracked ribs, a head injury, assorted bumps and bruises. Nothing life threatening. But if you have ever had all these injuries at once, once your adrenaline wears off, it can be a lot to handle.)
  15. Ryan Harker

    Taking Inventory

    “It’s complicated,” she answered finally. Rorye pulled up her sweater to reveal the intricate webbing that sprawled across her entire back. No wonder she had taken such interest in his tattoos, she had probably been researching her own for years before they met. In a world of the inexplicable, Ryan could appreciate the desire to understand. He stepped closer to inspect the markings. She gave him a bashful look over her shoulder, “It happens every time. They’re everywhere.” The hunter’s eyes widened slightly in recognition. He had seen similar disfigurement in the past. They happened to magus when they wielded magic from an external or unnatural source, and the strain became too much for their bodies to handle. A phenomenon he had come to refer to as “mana poisoning.” Harker had slain a warlock in Europe, and a witch in the States with the same disfigurement. Rorye’s case appeared to be mild, as the markings were localized to a specific area. However, he had never seen “mana poisoning” in a non-magus before. An intriguing concept. If she was in fact experiencing mana poisoning, then the blemishes might be an indication the power was taking a toll on her body. “Afterward, do you ever feel tired?” Ryan asked as his fingers traced the tattoos. “Does it feel like your invincible in the moment, but later it takes time for you to recover?” --- Once they had finished talking about the markings on her skin, Rorye pulled her sweater back down and turned to face him. “I lost everything ten years ago, everything.” Her hands massaged her head anxiously, as she explained why she used the unnatural gift the Resonance had bestowed upon her. Ryan listened quietly, but she needn’t have explained. He knew all too well the feeling of losing everything. The desperate rage of being powerless to prevent it… and the numbness that came afterward. When his abilities manifested after the second rift event, he had finally been given the tools to balance the scales; and he embraced them just as Rorye had embraced hers. --- She gave a heavy sigh, “…when you’ve lost… the way I lost them... you find a way to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sometimes at great personal sacrifice.” Thoughts trailed back to the picture frame in the drawer of his nightstand beside the bed. The faces in photograph… gone forever. He would give anything to have them back. “I don’t know everything you’ve been through, but I think I know how you feel.” The Soldier said quietly. Closing the gap between them, he took her hands in his. “You’re not the only one whose lost everything.” Ryan wanted to tell her about his past. Share with her, so she would know someone else could comprehend the pain she felt. The words floated at the edge of his lips, yet he couldn’t manage to say them aloud. After a moment of trying, he relinquished the idea. “You’re not alone Rorye,” he whispered, touching his forehead gently to hers. “I’m here, and I am not going anywhere.” The warrior leaned away from her slightly so that he could look her in the eyes. Gradually they had returned to their normal auburn hue. Angel of vengeance had dissipated, and the woman within had been allowed to resurface. Rorye, his Rorye, had finally reemerged. “You need to eat, and you need to sleep,” she said, abruptly changing the subject. Looking up at him with a light smile she added, “and you’re also on my side of the apartment. So unless there’s something else you need, go eat, and go sleep before you fall down. I'll answer any questions you want to know, after I know you've recharged." Ryan didn’t answer immediately. Scowl on his features hinted toward deeper thought. “We need to test your abilities,” he said after a moment. “We need to push them… hard.” He nodded his head, as if to agree with his own plan. “I am fast enough to keep up. We need to know if this power will hurt you if overused, and you also need to practice controlling it in the heat of the moment.” “I should have time tonight,” eyes glanced off to the distance as he pondered. “Yeah, we just need to find an isolated spot, so we’re not interrupted. Just in case you lose control.”


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