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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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About Ryan Harker

  • Rank
    Nicely Seasoned


    Jeremy Renner
  • AGE
  • RACE
    Human (Altered)
  • JOB
    ARMA Cloak Operative
    New York
    Height: 5’10
    Weight: 195 lbs
    Build: Lean and Muscular
    Hair Color: Brown (short)
    Eye Color: Blue
    Attire: Harker’s attire while working usually consists of a long, black leather coat, a black leather under vest, a white or black shirt, black tactical pants and black boots. The ARMA operative’s clothes are well worn, giving them a rugged, less uniform appearance.
    Tattoos: Ryan has a series of mystic tattoos and symbols scrolled across his upper body. These enchanted markings were branded on him by powerful ARMA magus. Their purpose is to conceal him from detection spells and to protect him from sorcery that might affect his mind.
    Ryan has always seen himself as the good guy. Despite regularly committing acts of violence against others, he lives by a code. Always place the mission first, never accept defeat, never quit, never leave a fallen comrade, and above all… protect the innocent. Harker believes all life has an intrinsic value. When he ends a life, it is never without good reason.
    Ryan is an intelligent guy, but he lacks a formal education. As such, sarcasm is a staple of his personality. The operative has more than a decade of warfighting experience. As a Soldier he has killed and witnessed firsthand the atrocities of war. He has mourned the loss of his brothers and cried for the senseless death of the innocent. Over time, he has become jaded by his past. Harker’s mood though usually positive, can vary from day to day.

    Harker is confident and clever. When interacting with others he can certainly be perceived as arrogant, but he is always keenly aware of his own limitations. Perhaps the agent’s greatest weakness would be a damsel in distress. Ryan’s intuition is usually able to detect a wolf in sheep’s clothing. However, if a genuine innocent was used to bait him, he would still be inclined to save them; even if he knew full well it was a trap.

    There is a great deal of secrecy surrounding ARMA’s covert Cloak Division, most are now even aware of its existence. Over the past couple years, Ryan Harker has still managed to establish a reputation within the supernatural community as a kind of “boogie man.” Thus, when people ask for his name he will typically reply, “you can call me John.”
    After becoming an operative for ARMA’s covert Cloak Division, Harker gained nearly unlimited access to the organization’s armory. When he is working and often when he isn’t, Ryan is a walking armory of modern and arcane weaponry. Ryan has full access to ARMA’s reproducible armory. NOTE: He does NOT have access to the unique and dangerous artifacts ARMA safeguards.

    Harker typically favors a Sig Saur P226 TACOPS, 9mm pistol as the foundation of his loadout. Though he is not opposed to carrying any variety of weaponry, depending on the mission needs. Listed below is some of the equipment he usually carries:

    Enchanted Apparel (Special Issue): An aged, heavy weight cloak and matching garments. The apparel is unique, from a time before the modern world. Enchanted with numerous protective spells, the attire is flame resistant and impervious to small arms munitions. The clothing’s defensive capabilities are like ARMA Silver Thread, but to a greater extent. NOTE: While the enchantments prevent physical penetration of projectiles, the apparel only minimally absorbs the kinetic energy. Meaning bullets will still inflict harm and a .50 caliber rifle round could potentially kill Harker with its kinetic impact alone.

    Portable Wards: Standard issue ARMA wards, though as a Cloak operative Harker carries considerably more than a regular agent. While on mission Harker typically carries two dispelling wards, two repulsion wards, and one obscuring ward. These wards are carried in a tactical pouch specifically designed for that purpose. Portable wards are single use only and must be recharged or replaced after use.

    Enchanted Blades (Special Issue): A pair of 8-inch, fixed blade tactical knives. Crafted from silver and perfectly balanced, these blades have been enchanted so as to harm most supernatural beings, albeit with varying degrees of success. The blades will never dull, are extremely strong, and are resistant to most common forms of magic.

    Enchanted Munitions: Forged from silver these munitions have been enchanted so as to harm most supernatural beings, albeit with varying degrees of success. Ryan carries two magazines of silver enchanted rounds, and one magazine of wood enchanted rounds. This loadout changes frequently depending on the mission.

    Enchanted Handcuffs: A single set of handcuffs specifically designed to detain magus and other supernatural beings. The restraints are enchanted to disrupt the flow of mana within the subject wearing them, preventing them from being able to cast any spells or activate their magic based abilities. Exceptionally skilled magus will find it difficult, but certainly not impossible to break free. The handcuffs are extremely durable and can withstand the physical strength of all but the strongest supernatural creatures. Once activated the handcuffs will only retain their power for approximately 24 hours.

    Wrist Mounted Ward (Special Issue): A unique and experimental item within ARMA’s inventory. The wrist mounted ward resembles a bulky metal watch, but it’s face has no dial or hands. The ward holds a single charge, capable of projecting a magic shield to the front of the bearer. The shield deflects incoming physical and magical attacks from the front but allows projectiles to pass through from the rear. The ward can be activated instantly by flexing the wrist and the user willing the spell to commence. The shield only lasts for approximately 3 seconds, though it can dissipate much faster depending on the damage taken. The ward can recharge itself once a month by channeling the full moon’s energy.
    Sixth Sense:
    Ryan can sense danger to himself or those around him, a moment before it occurs. Frequently, he will react instinctively to protect himself or to avoid the danger all together. This “sixth sense” does not allow him to see into the future but does offer a strong inclination of what he needs to do in order to evade the threat.

    Enhanced Reflexes:
    The average human takes more than .25 seconds to perceive a threat or an action, another .25 seconds to decide on a course of action to address the threat, and then finally .25 - .5 seconds to execute the action. This delay can be shortened with training, or if a decision has been made prior to the threat being posed. The opposite is also true. This reaction time can be increased to nearly 2 seconds by stress, intoxicants, or sleep deprivation.
    Ryan’s ability to perceive, decide, and react is instantaneous. In moments of heightened stress, he frequently sees the world as standing still. While this may not seem like an extraordinary ability, it allows him to constantly stay almost a second ahead of his adversaries in combat. Imagine having an extra second to react to every punch, every kick, even every step in a fight. The ability is by its very nature, supernatural.
    NOTE: Ryan doesn’t have super speed. Although he is extremely fast by human standards, he is still limited by the physiological bounds of a mere human.

    Dexterity and Aptitude for Weaponry:
    Ryan’s balance and coordination push the bounds of humanly possible. Parkour, acrobatics, tightropes, and rock climbing are all well within his repertoire. Furthermore, this dexterity extends into an innate ability to use most primitive weapons and firearms with skillful mastery.

    Tattoo Wards:
    Ryan’s tattoos were seared across his flesh by some of the most powerful magus within ARMA. The symbols weave intricately across his chest and back; the black ink almost embossing from his skin. Some of the wards protect him from mind control, illusions and possession. Others serve to conceal his mana and life force from nearly any means of detection. Those who can sense mana will not feel or see anything when looking at Harker. NOTE: Spells that detect motion or other physical movement will be effective against Ryan, but locator spells and mana sensory spells will not.
    Martial Arts Training: Ryan has an extensive background in Hapkido, Kick-Boxing, Ju-Jitsu, and street fighting.

    *Army Trainings Completed*
    (In order of Completion)
    - Basic Combat Training
    - Advanced Infantry Training
    - Airborne Training
    - Air Assault Training
    - Ranger Special Operations Training

    Vanguard H-RAT Course

    New York Police Academy

    *ARMA Trainings Completed*
    (In order of Completion)
    - ARMA Operative Training
    - ARMA Arcane Science School
    - ARMA Advanced Combatives Course
    - ARMA Cloak Operative Training
    1988-2005 – Ryan Harker was born and raised in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Having grown up in a poor city with a dysfunctional family; Ryan was a troubled youth. Even as a boy, Ryan hated his station in life and knew he was destined for more. Ryan rebelled at every opportunity he could. Fortunately, his father enrolled him into martial arts at an early age. The discipline he learned there would prove just enough to keep him alive and out of prison. At 17 years old, Ryan forged his parents’ signatures and enlisted into United States Army.

    2005-2010 – The Army gave Ryan a sense of purpose. Something he had been deeply lacking up until this point in his life. Harker embraced the military culture and gave himself to it completely. His recruitment contract had given him a chance to become Ranger, and he seized it. After basic training and infantry school, Harker went on to complete selection, airborne and ranger school. Succeeding where countless others had failed, Ryan joined the ranks of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion Harker deployed to Iraq twice before the Resonance event.

    2010 – Shortly after Harker returned from his second deployment, the First Resonance event took place. The Nevus was revealed… and world plummeted into chaos. The 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to combat the virus outbreaks taking place in the United States and abroad. The Regiment sustained significant casualties during the initial conflict. With the world’s governments in disarray and the Order of the First Light grabbing for power, what remained of the Regiment was eventually absorbed into the Vanguard of Humanity.

    2011-2014 – Harker’s training and experience made him an instant candidate for the Vanguard’s High-Risk Assault Team (H-RAT). For several years Harker actively hunted and killed the supernatural. The infected, lycanthropes, vampires, magi… Ryan had learned how to kill virtually any non-human creature that posed a threat to humanity. H-RAT went so far as to engage in open warfare with a society of inhuman criminals attempting to resist the Vanguard. The sewers and subways beneath the City of New York ran red with blood. Eventually, the Vanguard eventually declared a victory over the criminal syndicate. The organization known simply as “The Underground” was broken, but its remnants were far too elusive to eradicate completely.

    Ryan began to question the Vanguard’s ideals after a time. Their mission seemed to have deteriorated from protecting human kind to the prejudicial eradication of all things inhuman. This became all to clear on January 7th, 2014. A peaceful group known as the “Grace Foundation” was holding a rally to support the collaboration of altered-humans and humans for a better future. The rally would be the target of a terrorist bombing. Dozens of innocents were killed. The bodies of humans and the supernatural alike littered the street. The rally had been peaceful. There had been women and children in the crowd. It was later determined by unofficial means that the Vanguard for Humanity had been responsible for the attack. Harker had joined the Vanguard to save the World, to slay evil and protect the innocent… so he turned his back on the organization.

    2015-2016 – Ryan graduated from the NYPD Police Academy in early 2015. He wanted to fight evil, he wanted to protect the innocent, and not just the human ones. It didn’t take him long to realize just how woefully incapable the NYPD was at combatting the serious dangers to the public. Renegade Magi and the Order of Light did as they pleased. The NYPD lacked the firepower and resources of the Vanguard, and they didn’t have the Order’s proficiency in the realm of magic. The Police Departments inadequacy frustrated and demoralized Harker to no end.

    2016-2018 – When ARMA broke away from the Order, they offered to train even unaltered humans in the arcane science of magic. Harker knew with all his talent, training, and experience, if he was just be given the right tools… he could kill anything. Ryan left the NYPD and was welcomed into ARMA. He possessed no magical aptitude, nor did he comprehend even the fundamentals of magic. Despite this fact, ARMA trained him. Ryan learned the nuances of magic. Lacking any ability to cast spells of his own, he was trained to use the enchantments and talismans forged by others. Coupled with his previous military and martial arts training, Ryan developed a deadly and effective style of close quarter combat.

    2018-2020 – The war between ARMA and the Order had been going for nearly two years when the Second Resonance event occurred. By that time, Harker had used all manner of wards, hexes, amulets, spells, and enchanted equipment to slay well over a dozen Order magus. Ryan had gained an immense amount of experience and proven his worth on the field of battle. When his own abilities emerged on account of the Second Resonance, it brought him to the forefront of the ARMA’s attention. Very few amongst faction’s ranks possessed his talent for killing magus, human or otherwise.

    ARMA approached Harker and offered him a position as an operative within their newly formed Cloak Division. He was told operatives would have considerable autonomy, nearly unlimited access to magical resources, and would report only to the Division Captain. Ryan leapt at the opportunity.

    Present – Despite the intense secrecy revolving ARMA’s Cloak Division, Harker has still managed to develop a reputation amongst the supernatural community as a kind of “boogie man.” Before the disappearance of ARMA’s leadership, Harker was used as a specialized asset. Rather than being posted on the front line in their war against the Order, he was tasked with eliminating specific targets that threatened ARMA. Powerful adversaries, potent First Order magus, and double agents were his specialty. Harker was and continues to be a very effective weapon for ARMA.

    With the leaders of ARMA missing in action, many of its agents have been left to their own devices. This is especially true for the Cloak Division operatives like Ryan, who report directly to ARMA leadership. Though lacking direction, Harker is not without purpose. He fights on with ARMA’s mission in mind; still an ever-vigilant protector of innocent, and still waging war against the supernatural threats to mankind.

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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

    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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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?”
  8. Ryan Harker

    Licking Wounds

  9. 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.”
  10. 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.
  11. 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.)
  12. 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.”
  13. Ryan Harker

    Taking Inventory

    Ryan had never seen this side of Rorye before. Eyes befell her with genuine worry as she walked past him. This wasn’t the clever woman he’d met at the shop, nor was she the cautious protector he’d taken into Remy’s hideout. She wasn’t the woman he’d taken back to his apartment… the woman he’d laid with in his bed. This woman yearned for blood, and for the first time, she reminded the hunter of the creatures he killed. Fear he felt wasn’t of her, but of what he might have to do in the future. A parting glance was cast toward Chris, then Harker headed back inside after Rorye. Door leading into the apartment slammed shut, not in his face, but it might as well have been. He pushed through the door and locked it behind him. Water could be heard running in the bathroom. The agent made his way to the source of the sound. Concerned gaze came to rest on Rorye when he found her at the sink. Ryan leaned against the frame inside the doorway; arms folded over his chest. He didn’t want to think of her as some “thing” that needed to be hunted, but clearly the demon she harbored wasn’t completely tamed. She had hinted to the spirit’s power in the past, but now it seemed beyond her control. The phantom’s rage brimmed inside her, like a dam on the verge of collapse. “Rorye, I know you’re angry,” he said calmly. “But I need to know, what’s going on with you?” Ryan was silent for a moment, then he spoke again. Tone wasn’t accusatory, but rather, compassionate. “Is this you, or is this her?”
  14. Ryan Harker

    Taking Inventory

    Rorye moved with supernatural speed, kicking out her colleague’s chair and sending him to the floor. Harker’s reaction synched with hers, and he was on his feet with nearly the same quickness. Weapon remained trained on Chris as the agent moved around the table opposite Rorye. The tomb raider was still stuck in his chair, back to the floor, wind apparently knocked from his lungs. Foolishly, he reached for his waistband. Ryan had been a half-second away from putting a bullet in his head, when Rorye saved the man’s life by pinning his hand beneath her boot. Chris yelped as she ground his wrist and slid the weapon away from his grasp. An old, poorly maintained .44 Magnum revolver. The abrupt transition from “good cop, bad cop” to “bad cop, worse cop” had been unexpected. He had never seen Rorye so angry; not even the time he’d made her dance. Now, it was his turn to watch her work. --- *npc* "I'm not a dealer... I don't have the kind of firepower to take them on, that's why I brought the stuff to you! C'mon Rorye…" The words lingered for a moment in the ARMA agent’s mind. Chris had sold Rorye out. He had led this “unknown threat” straight to her doorstep, and then lacked the loyalty to even forewarn her of the coming danger. A coward. Infuriating Ryan more than anything, was the thought of what might have happened if he hadn’t walked into the “Book of Kells” that evening. Chris said he didn’t have the “firepower to take them on,” but if Ryan hadn’t been there, Rorye wouldn’t have had the “firepower” either. “Piece of shit,” the covert agent muttered under his breath. Rorye radiated with a barely restrained rage. The emotion was understandable. Chris had gotten Remy killed, and nearly got her killed. There was also a good chance he was on the take. She had good reason to murder the man right there in her kitchen. Officially still a Law Enforcement Officer, Harker really hoped he wasn’t about to witness a legally “unjustified” homicide. "You could have warned us! He's dead because of you!” Her hands were shaking, muzzle of the revolver only inches from her colleague’s face. “Rorye,” came Ryan’s apprehensive warning. He hadn’t spoken loudly, but his tone was firm. Tense seconds passed while Chris pleaded for her to spare his life. A sense of relief sweeping over the room when Rorye finally pulled the relic trader to his feet. She threw him out unceremoniously, and then walked back to the kitchen table. Chairs were rearranged, old magnum set aside, then she paused. Hands braced against the tables surface, her breathing slow and deliberate. Ryan could see the mana burning at the edges of her eyes, as the possessed woman struggled to maintain control. He wanted to reach out to her, calm her, be there for her… instead he remained quiet. She needed time to process the ramifications of the information she had just learned. Harker could appreciate the need to assess and reflect. Still, she had been hurt, and the one responsible had been allowed to walk free. "Should have fucking killed him," Rorye swore through clenched teeth. “He deserves to die,” Ryan agreed with a thoughtful nod, before setting his own weapon down on the counter. His gaze was gentle, sage like, “but for your sake, I’m glad you didn’t kill him.” The shop keeper walked to the closet and returned seconds later with Chris’ ragged pack. She tossed the ruck onto table without concern for its contents, "Take it all to ARMA. I don't give a shit what else is in there." The agent nodded again, “sure, no problem.” Without another word, Rorye turned her back and paced into the next room. Ryan’s eyes flicked from her, to the door, and back again. The warrior was only vaguely aware of his emotions. He wanted to ease Rorye’s pain but knew there was nothing he could do toward that end. As a man of action, he longed to do something, anything to benefit the situation. The mage hunter stood idly in the center of the room. Seconds passed in silent contemplation. “Fuck it,” he thought to himself. If he couldn’t make Rorye feel better, he could sure as hell make the guy who hurt her feel worse. Backdoor to the apartment opened briefly, then slammed shut behind him. Harker shuffled hastily down the shop’s rear fire escape, catching Chris just before he had reached the bottom. The burly man turned to face him; eyes wide with surprise. The Soldier said nothing. He didn’t pause, nor did he slow his descent of the stairs. Grasping the handrails on either side of the stairwell, he swung himself forward and struck the traitor hard in the chest with the bottom of his boot. Chris was launched off the remaining steps and sent crashing into the icy pavement below. His body landed with a meaty thud. *npc* “Ah, what the fuck!” the man moaned as he scrambled to his feet. Ryan strode purposely down the steps and then directly toward the much larger man. *npc* “I’ve had enough of your tough guy shi…” The marauder was silenced by a solid, right cross. Ryan’s knuckles impacted the nerve cluster just below the man’s nose, causing his head to snap back abruptly. *npc* “Fuck!” Chris back peddled, bringing his hands to his face. To his credit, he recovered quick. Fists balled tightly as he assumed a modified boxing stance. The man was unbothered by the blood flowing freely from his nose. Clearly, he was an experienced brawler. Harker hadn’t slowed his advance. Chin lowered, eyes narrowed, and he continued to walk straight for Chris. *npc* “Fuck you!” Chris barked, before stepping forward with powerful haymaker. Hair was already on end from the winter air, but another chill tingled at the base of Ryan’s skull. Time slowed. He slipped effortlessly under the brigand’s punch, countering with a body shot from his left hand. The relic hunter caved inward slightly from the force of the blow. His head dropped low, and Ryan came over the top with a hook from his right. Fist connected with the man’s jaw, and he could feel the bones give with a satisfying “crack.” The agent’s movements were fluid, effortless even. As if he were demonstrating a choreographed scene, one he had practiced a thousand times. Each strike created an opening for the next, as his opponent’s body recoiled naturally from the attacks. When Chris swung again, Harker chopped down on his arm with both hands. This effectively blocked the punch, while simultaneously striking at both the wrist and the elbow. Stepping forward, he swam through the man’s guard and drove an elbow into the betrayer’s face. Chris’ head dipped again from the hit and he took a step backward to regain his balance. Before he could recover, an uppercut found his chin from somewhere below. Eyes shut, yet lights flashed across his vision; and his head was rocked back once more. Ryan folded his fingers into a bladed half-fist, before jabbing at Chris’ exposed throat. The punch was a blur, hitting the vulnerable area with the swiftness of a poised snake. Immediately, Chris began to choke and sputter. The man staggered backward, and his hands came instinctively to his neck. Each of the ARMA operatives attacks thus far, had been accompanied a quiet hiss as he exhaled sharply to strengthen the blow. The next strike however, he made an audible “Hash!” as he twisted his body to land a powerful roundhouse at the man’s forward knee. The leg buckled and Chris dropped to the ground. Harker stood over him, debating on how badly he intended to hurt the relic hunter… and daring him to fight back further. If Rorye had noticed the confrontation by now, she would probably still be too far away to interrupt. The entire fight had lasted only a few seconds to this point. If she was saying anything, he couldn’t hear her. A side effect he sometimes experienced when his abilities distorted time within his mind. Setting aside the fact his hearing had already been hindered by last night’s altercation. Ryan sensed the danger before it had manifested. Chris was drawing a large Bowie knife from his boot. The mountain of a man surged upward toward the mage hunter, blade in hand. Ryan caught the brigand’s arm with both hands, using the advantage of his position to overcome his foe’s innate strength advantage. Swift kick to the knee kept Chris from making it to his feet. Another punch to the face quelling the ferocity of the assault. Harker pulled the captured arm straight and levered it into an armbar. Chris was forced onto his stomach, face scrapping the pavement roughly. The agent lowered a knee to the ground and braced the man’s wrist atop his raised knee. He did this while maintaining the joint lock. Chris grunted loudly at the sudden discomfort. The operative’s combative techniques had been executed with uncanny speed and inhuman precision. Yet, for him, time passed at a crawl. Each movement seemed to take minutes to complete. Amidst the fight he had ample time to consider each tactic employed and calculate the damage of each strike inflicted. What happened next was not an impulsive act, but a deliberate decision. Palm of Ryan’s free hand was thrust into the back of the man’s hyper-extended elbow. Tendon strained, bone crunched, and the joint inverted its natural bend. There was a sound not unlike tearing a drumstick from a turkey, only louder. Chris gave an anguished howl and his knife clattered harmlessly to the ground. Harker released the man’s mangled limb and straightened slowly. Casually, he fixed his t-shirt. “I told you there would be consequences,” he said so that only Chris could hear. Then the agent turned and made his way back to the apartment.
  15. Ryan Harker

    Taking Inventory

    *npc* “If my girl trusts you, then I'll hear you out. What do you want to know?” Ryan’s eyes never left the man, “From what I understand, now that Remy is out of the picture, Rorye is the primary contact for selling expensive and exotic occults goods.” Chris nodded in silent agreement with the statement, so Ryan continued. “If someone wanted to sell something in the region, but didn’t want to come to Rorye, where would they go?” *npc* “We were actually just talkin about that. Best bet is probably the ‘crossroads’ down south.” “Who runs the crossroads?” Harker asked, leaning back in his chair slightly. The man cast a glance toward Rorye, *npc* “She can probably tell you better than I can. You want to fill him in?” The agent’s hands fell to his lap as he leaned back in his chair. Fingers sliding casually closer to the weapon at the small of his back, before sparing a look in Rorye’s direction. Both men waited for her reply. Once the shop owner had said her peace, Harker returned his attention to the man sitting across from him. “Do you recognize any of these men?” The operative asked, holding out his phone so Chris could see the images on the screen. *npc* “Na, never seen any of those guys before.” “What about these men?” Ryan asked, after opening a different folder in his phone. *npc* “Nope, never seen them before either.” The relic hunter gave Rorye a puzzled look, “Why is he showing me pictures of a bunch of dead guys?” “Focus,” Harker said firmly, demanding the man’s attention. “What about this man?” A picture of Thomas Hanes, the businessman who had approached Rorye’s shop in search of magus blood was shown. *npc* “No.” “This man?” Image displayed was of the “Avenue” nightclub owner, Daniel Aguiar. *npc* “No.” “What about this man?” Ryan asked again. Frustration flicked at the edge of his words. The man’s lack of useful information was beginning to wear his patience. This time a picture had been shown of Steven Ramirez, Arch Magus of the Order of the First Light’s New York Division. Chris seemed to sense the agent’s growing disappointment. *npc* “No. Look, I only do face to face interactions with people I trust. Like Rorye, big players, known quantities ya know? I don’t get into the street level stuff; I have guys for that. I don’t know any of these people.” “Fine,” Harker growled. Phone was shoved back into his pant pocket. “Have you heard anything about requests for magus blood? Or anything similar?” *npc* “Magus blood ain’t really my thing, I deal mostly with artifacts and such,” Chris replied. Seeing the expression on Ryan’s face, the man quickly added, “I’ve heard rumors about some new guys on the market though. Serious players with deep pockets.” The mage hunter cocked an intrigued eyebrow, “go on.” *npc* “I don’t know much about these guys. They are pretty secretive. They hire a lot of local mobsters for deals, and hi-end mercenaries for muscle. Nobody knows who runs them, but they have been looking for relics that can supposedly be activated by magus blood.” “You know anything specific about what they’re asking for?” Ryan pressed him further. Finally, he was on the verge of obtaining useful information. Chris leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms once more. *npc* “I didn’t want anything to do with that shit… but the money was good. I heard a guy in Europe found it though. The contract came off the market, but I hear the drop point is a port somewhere in New York.” “Where in New York?” The Cloak operative inquired, attempting squeeze the last drops of intelligence from the man. *npc* “Hell, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine,” came Chris’ matter-of-fact reply. Pistol was drawn smoothly from behind Harker’s back. The Sig Sauer model P226, chambered in 9mm with a matte black finish, was an intimidating weapon to have aimed in your direction. The agent placed the handgun on the table in front of him, but held his grasp on the pistol’s grip. Thumb cocked the weapon’s hammer back. When Harker spoke next, his tone conveyed a deathly seriousness. “Think harder.” *npc* “Shit man, calm down! That’s all I know!” Chris eyes darted from the gun to Rorye, “Common Rorye, tell him.” Ryan kept his eyes fixed on the relic hunter, but out of the corner of his mouth asked, “What do you think, you believe him?”


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