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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.

April 27, 2019 - Family emergency finally calming down. Hope to get going again shortly. Thanks for understanding. ~ZEPH

Ryan Harker

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54 Setting the Bar High

About Ryan Harker

  • Rank
    Feet Wet


    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

    Chasing Ghosts

    There was no answer across the comms channel. Seconds passed and the fear something may have gone wrong began to creep into Harker’s mind. He usually tried to use plain English when speaking to non-military personnel over the radio, but as doubt added stress the Soldier instinctively leaned on his prior training. “I say again, move up to me and secure the target. How copy? Over.” “On my way. Exit is compromised but still passable. Car is still clear.” Rorye’s voice soothed the operative’s concern. “What do you mean it’s compromised?” Harker asked, the details of her answer would be important. Her definition of ‘compromised’ or ‘passable’ might be very different from his own. In order to accurately assess their situation, he would need further detail. “Might be useful,” he heard over his shoulder. Off hand was held open, but the operative’s gaze remained trained on the entrance. An earpiece was placed into his palm. Then his partner set to work. Fast paced footsteps echoed softly behind him, back and forth as Rorye searched the dwelling. Harker monitored the enemy’s radio traffic. They had two teams on the objective, a roving perimeter team, and an entry team. Unsurprisingly, neither element was responding. Reinforcements were on their way. “They have reinforcements enroute, ETA two mikes.” “We have to burn it all. We can’t let them take anything more than what they already have. This place is a tinderbox with all this. Won't take much to set it off." “Once you’ve secured the artifacts we need, set this place to blow.” Ryan directed over comms. Rifle was topped off with a fresh magazine. At the direction of the Order of the First Light, these criminals had managed to track down a paranoid occults-dealer like Remy. They captured him, tortured him, killed him, and then raided his coffers. Now, the same people had found Rorye. A process destined to repeat itself if action wasn’t taken. Ryan was a man of action. “I’m taking the fight to them,” he said rising from his crouch. “Stay alert just in case one of them gets past me. Let me know when your ready to light the fuse.” Cheek to his rifle’s buttstock, Harker strode briskly out of the bunker and into the small clearing outside. Encountering no resistance, he then turned left and trotted into the tree line. Sliding into the dirt near the base of a tree, the Soldier propped himself up into a prone fighting position. A hurried hand reached into one of the pockets in the lining of his coat. An 8-inch matte black cylinder was produced from the hidden pouch. Ryan threaded the silencer onto the end of his barrel. An extra quarter turn to ensure it was fastened tight. The additional length was a bit unwieldly in close quarter engagements, but perfect for maintaining concealment on an open battlefield. Harker surveyed the clearing that led to the hideout’s entrance. Two black SUV’s were parked not far from the main doorway; abandoned with their owners now deceased. Aside from the deserted utility vehicles, there wasn’t much else in the way of cover along the open expanse. Headlights could be seen in the distance. The enemy was close. The operative hunkered low into the dirt and took aim at the approaching convoy. “This is everything,” Rorye’s voice crackled in his ear. “Copy, let me know when you’re set,” Ryan answered quietly. Two more dark SUV’s broke away from the main road and drove into the clearing. The vehicles paralleled one another, rolling slowly into the field and parking behind the first set of trucks. An instant before the vehicles came to a complete stop, a cloud of gray smoke plumed suddenly in front of the bunker’s entrance. Harker raked the closest SUV with an automatic burst from his assault rifle. A muffled sputtering sound escaped the silenced barrel, but nothing else. Windows fractured and shattered, and holes were punched along the utility vehicle’s flank. Empty magazine was exchanged for a fresh cartridge and the Soldier was on the move. Disorganized shouts bellowed into the indifferent night as men extricated themselves from their vehicles. “Contact front! Contact front!” and “Fuck, I’m hit!” were distinguishable amongst the chaotic cries. Sable clad mercenaries stooped behind their vehicles, facing the bunker. Many of them were firing aimlessly into the veil of smoke concealing the shelter’s entrance. Within seconds of the initiating the ambush, Harker had maneuvered behind the enemy’s reinforcements. Creeping out of the shadows, he advanced on their position, rifle at the ready. Another magazine was emptied into the men’s backs, catching most of them unprepared. There was a second’s pause in operative’s rate of fire as another clip was loaded seamlessly into his weapon. His forward movement unhindered by the reload. “Contact rear!” One of the mercenaries managed to cry out before being felled by another burst from the agent’s rifle. The two remaining men turned and began spraying bullets in Ryan’s direction. The Soldier continued to press the attack, slipping and ducking sporadically as he relied upon his sixth sense to guide his path. When his rifle clacked empty, it was cast aside. Proximity between him and his foe was too close to reload. Pistols were pulled from their holsters without hesitation, and Ryan killed the next man with sheer weight of fire. One mercenary remained in the fight. He and Harker were on opposite sides of the second vehicle, exchanging fire through the SUV’s windows. They circled the vehicle clockwise, taking turns crouching and shooting for a few moments. As they moved, Harker’s boot caught on one of the many bodies that now littered the battlefield. He cursed aloud and fell almost comically before rolling smoothly back to his feet. Hearing him stumble, the last fighter attempted to seize the advantage by charging hastily around the vehicle. The mercenary was already firing when he rounded the SUV’s rear corner, but Ryan was waiting. A single, well placed shot took the last man’s life. Head snapped backward and he toppled lifelessly to the ground. The entire engagement had lasted only about sixty seconds. Ryan inhaled deep and then let loose a heavy sigh. Time resumed its normal pace as the operative’s adrenaline began to calm. Pistols were swiftly reloaded and holstered. Then he strode calmly back to his discarded rifle and recovered the weapon. Radio in Harker’s ear squawked. Someone was demanding a status update for the slain strike team. The agent recognized the voice, the boss from earlier that evening. He answered with a false Russian snarl, “Your men are dead. If you come after anymore of Remy’s property, or his contacts, I will kill you… I found you once already Mr. Hanes… I can find you again.” Ryan removed the enemy’s radio from his ear and tossed it carelessly. Hopefully, the man would be fearful enough to avoid going after Rorye. At the very least it would buy her some time. Ryan then spoke to Rorye, voice resuming its normal tone. “Outside is all clear. I’m walking through the front door now. How are we looking inside?”
  2. Ryan Harker

    Cold night in hell...

    “You alive?” “I’m fine,” Harker answered, though he wasn’t really. Body ached in painful protest as he climbed to his feet. The girl seemed to recoil away from him when he did. The Soldier took a moment to evaluate his condition. Bones were rattled but intact, laceration on the back of his head, vision and breathing were normalizing. Mechanically everything was working well enough, though he probably had a concussion. Ryan looked to the girl. She was frightened, but otherwise appeared to be unharmed. He had witnessed the vampire’s attempt on her life. Seen the aura of mana that scaled her flesh to withstand the assault. She was a magus, though not of the typical variety. Her manipulation of energy into physical form was instinctual, not a spell cast. This made her unique, unlike anything he had seen before. The mage-hunter searched the immediate area, enchanted goggles still allowed him to see through the lightless dark. Swiveling head stopped when he found his displaced weapon. He walked a few steps and scooped his pistol from the floor. A quick function check of the firearm was conducted, then he glanced back to the girl. When he spoke, irritation laced his words. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Harker ejected the magazine from his pistol and performed a tactical reload. Magazine of enchanted silver munitions was exchanged for one loaded with wooden bullets. They would be more effective against his current quarry, but the single clip of wooden rounds was all he had. If he could put just one of them into the vampire’s head, or heart, he would be able to slay it. Otherwise, his only chance of killing the creature was to burn it alive or decapitate it in hand to hand combat. Neither option had a realistic chance of success. The hunter would have to be disciplined with his shot placement. “Stay close and stay behind me,” Ryan told the girl. He wasn’t wasting any time. They had to kill the monster before it healed enough to resume the offensive. Now that it knew their abilities, Ryan doubted they would survive another confrontation with the vampire at full strength. “It has our scent,” He explained as they moved deeper into the warehouse. “If we run, it will hunt us down, and kill us both…” Weapon was at the ready as the agent paced quickly through the warehouse corridors. “I shattered its pelvis, but if we let it feed, it will heal, and it will kill us both. The only way we live through this is if we find it, and kill it, before it has a chance to feed… It won’t run, it needs us dead.” Their pursuit of the creature took them deeper into the building. Outside the storm raged on. Furious winds still howled against warehouse’s metal walls. The sheet-metal creaked and moaned but refused to yield to the violent gale. The noise made it difficult, if not impossible, to hear movement or footsteps within the pitch-black structure. They were nearly at the warehouse’s center when Ryan finally happened upon the monster he hunted. The vampire was mounted on one of the victims it had slain earlier that evening. It drank passionately from the corpse’s neck, never mind the heart no longer pumped life through its veins. The creatures head snapped to attention as the ARMA operative leveled his sights. Fangs bared angrily, blood dribbling down the vampire’s chin. A flash of movement. The creature bolted to escape the Harker’s aim, but he anticipated the trajectory and adjusted accordingly. The agent fired three rounds in rapid succession, striking the creature twice in the leg before it managed to slither out of sight. Harker chased after the vampire, but when he rounded its cover, it was gone. “Fuck!” Ryan cursed under his breath. He turned to glare back at Maya. The operative knew he had sprinted away from her, but he chose to vent his frustration nonetheless, “If you don’t want to die, you need to fucken keep up.”
  3. Ryan Harker

    Begin to Be

    “Find a little serenity, Harker. You got problems with my decisions? Come see me later. But right now, remember that I am your superior.” Harker’s jaw clenched at the word “superior.” It was true the ARMA Captain outranked him within their shared organization, but she wasn’t his superior. She wasn’t even in his chain of command. Greene was a Knight Division Captain. Respect and courtesy were expected to be shown for rank regardless of Division, but she had no sway over the Cloak Division’s operatives. If Harker had opened an official case, he could have disregarded Greene’s orders entirely. Alas, he had not. In the absence of case jurisdiction to a specific Division, ARMA standard operating procedure dictated the ranking agent in the field had command. Despite the ARMA Captain having no authority over Harker, it could easily be articulated they were now jointly involved in a field operation, and thus she was assuming command. “Should have just made the fucking case official,” Harker lectured in his own thoughts. “You good? Or are we going to have more problems?” “Something’s wrong…” Ryan answered without looking at her. Both the magus seemed to que of the mage-hunter’s intuition, paying greater attention to their surroundings. Cassandra would know from past experience, any time Harker said “something’s wrong,” really bad things tended to follow. She seemed relaxed as she leaned against the pew, not unlike Harker, he could tell she was poised to strike. The feeling of impending danger loomed all around him, without specific aim or direction. It felt as though they were being stalked. A predator on the cusp of deciding whether or not to strike. Suddenly, the threat manifested. It was behind him. Time expanded for the mage-hunter alone. Seconds became minutes, minutes became hours. One hand moved toward his pistol, the other pushing Cassandra from the enemy’s line of fire. Rhome’s movement caught Harker by surprise. The rogue assassin pushed off with his back foot, propelling himself toward the operative. Handgun cleared the holster swiftly, muzzle swiveling to align itself with Rhome’s heart. Even as the fire magus closed the distance between them, Harker still sensed the danger was behind him. Slack was already taken from the trigger. The agent would kill Rhome before he crossed the center aisle. Still the danger was behind him. Ryan looked into Del Santo’s eyes just as his pistol’s barrel paralleled the man’s heart. The magus’ eyes were focused on something beyond the agent, something over his shoulder, something behind him. “Damn it all,” he cursed privately in his mind. Then he pivoted sharply, turning his back to the man who had been his enemy just moments ago. Coat flared outward as Harker spun to face the enemy to his rear. A ghostly figure stared back at him; its intentions obvious. Weapon punched out and the agent fired a controlled pair into the faceless shade’s center mass. Bullet’s sundered the smoky figure, leaving cyclones in their wake before impacting the stone wall beyond. Physically the munitions had no effect on the intangible phantom, but their enchantments afflicted pain enough to cause the being to cry out in anguish. Almost simultaneously, Rhome’s weaponized pew impacted the shadow, dispersing what remained of its incorporeal form. Harker glanced to each of the magus beside him. “What the fuck was that?” he asked bluntly. Instincts told him the attack had been a feint to test their capabilities. The main offensive would come soon. “Watch where you stand and what you're standing on. Watch where they’re going to force you to go, watch your back. Don’t get close and don’t get isolated. Do not let them push you from this room. Force them out or kill them. Do not engage the phasing mage. If you can call for back-up, I’d do it now.” “You got a phone?” Ryan cast an inquisitive look to Cassandra, a hint of amusement in his tone. It was evident he had come to the church without any intention of calling for ARMA assistance. Smoke swirled in the center aisle between the unlikely trio and chapel’s main entryway. The shadows congealed into a woman’s form, like a demon summoned from another realm. Del Santo placed himself between the ARMA agents and the conjured woman. A barrier of mana infused flames circling around him, “You forgot I’m not just a mage.” When Rhome had glanced back Cassandra, Harker had seen his face as well. The man hadn’t been wearing the face of someone about to win a triumphant battle. He bore the face a man prepared to die fighting his foe. Harker had seen the same face from others many times in his life. Rhome doubted whether they would survive this encounter. The flame magus’s shield failed, and he lashed out at the shadow woman. At the same time, another priest came running into the room from one of the cathedral’s several side passages. Ryan recognized the man; it was the old Vicar from before. The priest trotted toward Del Santo at a moderate pace, “Stop this at once! This is a house of…” The Vicar was silenced by a pair of bullets tearing through his heart. Gunshots cracked through the air, resounding throughout the church’s halls. Harker’s killing of the man had been sudden, and too swift to prevent. The priest’s torso recoiled from the impact, but momentum carried his body forward so that he collapsed in a lifeless heap at Rhome’s feet. The quiet that followed was tense, as if everyone in the room was collectively holding their breath. Pistol lingered in the air, still aimed where the priest had stood. Ryan’s stare shifted from the felled priest to Rhome. Circumstances had forced him to place trust in the rogue magus just a moment ago… he hoped Del Santo would be able to return the favor now.
  4. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    “You kill who you have to, however you need to. Destroy whatever is necessary. There is one box that needs to be retrieved. One. After that, burn it all down. I care about that one box, and I care about you. If push comes to shove, burn the box too and get the fuck out. Remy was an old school asshole. These guys push too deep and the whole bunker will implode.” “Alright, I’ll bite,” Ryan said somewhat seriously, “what’s in the box?” The question remained until it was addressed. A mental note was made of the “I care about you” comment, but he would revisit the topic another time. Rorye resumed her brief. “It’s located in the lowest level, looks like a file room. The last file cabinet on the right is a safe. Green and scuffed, you can see the blue paint underneath. Bottom drawer. If it’s been opened, mission is over. Burn it down.” Harker sensed the severity in her tone. On the inside, he smiled. Earlier he had been concerned about overburdening Rorye with the hasty operation. He had forced her well outside of her comfort zone. Yet, despite her reservations, she continued to rise to the occasion when the mission demanded it. She lacked training, but she had the makings of a good agent. Rorye released his arm; her grip had been firm. The two of them exited the vehicle at the same time. Harker walked around to the trunk, while his partner assessed the unsettling darkness. Opening the rear compartment, the agent asked, “So is there anything special about this safe? Is it going to explode if I use a laser cutter on the lock?” The operative equipped himself accordingly based on the woman’s answer. Another pistol was holstered on his left thigh, mirroring the right. Magazine pouches were synched to the front of his enchanted vest. He debated briefly on whether to take his modified AR-15 rifle, or his Benelli M4 tactical shotgun. The Benelli was excellent for close quarter breaching, but the rifle’s reload speed and ammo capacity made it far better suited for extended firefights. In the end, he chose the ever-dependable AR-15. Bolt slammed home with a satisfying “clack” as a round was chambered. Harker slid the rifle sling over his shoulder but kept the weapon in hand. He skimmed the contents of his tactical safe, looking for anything that might keep Rorye safer in his absence. The reinforcements from the club would likely come from the front of the bunker. He didn’t anticipate anyone attempting to use Remy’s concealed emergency entrance. Having his rear covered was important, but he had given Rorye the task mainly to keep her out of the fight. He knew she could handle herself, but having provided the information was the extent of her obligation. This work was his responsibility. Ryan made his selection from the trunk and closed it. He walked to stand beside his guide. A hand was extended toward her, Sig Sauer P226 grasped with the barrel pointing down. “Take this,” he said. “I know you don’t know how to shoot, but it will make me feel better.” A warm gaze found her amber eyes, “There is already one in the chamber, so just point and pull.” The agent knew she preferred knives, but conventional wisdom still dictated bringing a knife to a gun fight was a bad idea. Harker followed his partner down the water channel and to the flood gate. Despite the gear weighing him down, his stride was both graceful and quiet. Once the entrance to the aqueduct was open, Rorye stepped aside and chimed, “Gentlemen first.” “Always,” Ryan smirked. “Now I’m going back to watch your six. I can walk you through the rest over the com.” Harker nodded and stepped toward the entryway. Then she caught him unprepared. A hand was placed gently to his cheek. His blue eyes met hers, searching, though he knew not what they sought. The couple seemed to share a moment, until an unceremonious pat landed on the agent’s cheek. “Don’t die,” she whispered before marching off into the night. Ryan shook his head to stifle a laugh. He was uncertain if she had said the words in jest, or seriousness. Knowing Rorye, it was probably both. As the operative moved into the large water channel his voice quipped over their shared radio channel, “You know, if this whole occults-dealer thing doesn’t work out, you should definitely become a motivational speaker.” Harker proceeded through the tunnels and drains leading to Remy’s hideout. His end of the radio remained mostly silent, except for whispered acknowledgements as Rorye guided him through the deadly maze. Eventually, he reached a wooden door. The dark oak reminded him of the bookcases he’d seen in ARMA’s vast library. Rorye instructed him on how to gain entry through the doorway. Harker readied his rifle and took a slow, calming breath. Upon activation, the door slid open to reveal a clean, but cluttered museum of artifacts. Heads swiveled in Ryan’s direction, his entrance catching the attention of everyone in the room. Men clad in black suits were dispersed unevenly throughout the space. Each was armed with a varying handgun, though none had brought them to bear. All of them were frozen in mid movement, their search of the bunker interrupted without warning. Ryan counted five in total. Time stood still. The operative had all the time he needed to accurately place each shot. Rifle swept swiftly from one side of the room to the other, without any apparent pause. The report of the first four rounds could be heard throughout the aqueducts outside. Though it almost sounded like an automatic burst, a discerning ear could tell each shot had been fired individually. A half-second later another burst echoed throughout the tunnels as another five rounds were fired. For a time, there was only silence. Four men lay dead inside the bunker. A small hole bore through the front of their skulls, brains blown out the back in splash of bone and brain matter. The fifth thug had managed to duck behind a wooden desk across the room, though it proved poor cover. The second volley fired from Harker’s rifle had splintered through the frail timber and riddled the man’s back with bullets and wood chips. The gangster’s body lay slumped against the desk that had failed him, just as lifeless as his deceased colleagues. Ryan moved methodically through the rest of Remy’s abandoned sanctuary. Each room cleared thoroughly for potential threats. After a short time, he found himself back in underground shelter’s main room. He had been listening to the radio in his ear to ensure Rorye was safe, but refused to say anything himself until the bunker was secure. “All clear,” Harker said finally. The agent moved to the lair’s main entrance and braced himself in sturdy firing position. “Move up to me and secure whatever artifacts we need.” Rorye had told him what to look for. However, now that he was inside the brimming bunker, locating the items seemed a cumbersome and time-consuming task. Admittedly, she possessed a greater knowledge of arcane artifacts than he did. Their chances of success would be greater with her joining him inside. If the mission went sideways, she could always use her speed to secure the artifact while he covered their withdrawal. “Try to hurry, their reinforcements should be here any minute.” Ryan set his sights to cover the hideout’s entrance. If the emergency tunnel was a secret kept, their enemy would have to come through him to get inside.
  5. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    “I know you’re not a client. If you were I wouldn’t be talking to you. This isn’t a bargain for information, it’s getting things I need to know in order to give you the information you need so you don’t walk into a clusterfuck and die. You’re walking into my world, any information you withhold could be your ass. My colleagues don’t defend ourselves, we defend our hold. We all have fallout plans.” Ryan was glad for the clarity. Each knew where the other stood. As he had hoped, the dealer had just been using familiar language. This reaffirmed some of the decisions he had already made regarding their arrival at Remy’s hideout. “I’ll admit you probably know more about artifacts with bad mojo, but this isn’t my first rodeo.” A sideways grin, “You worry too much.” “They force entry, they are going to lose and keep losing until they get smart.” “I think they already did,” Ryan offered. “They took casualties from some boobytraps when they first arrived. The team there now is supposed to include some kind of supernatural safe cracker.” Rorye didn’t seem surprised at all by the information, instead she just nodded and continued, “There are, were, three of us major dealers. One hub in Alexandria, Remy, and I. If something happened to any of us, we had a deal to clear out the other’s hold. Except I don’t drive, so… that’s where you come in. Plus you can shoot a gun, which I can’t well, so that’s helpful too.” “Yep,” The agent agreed. Sarcasm dripping from his words, sideways grin showing itself once more, “That’s why they pay me the big bucks. Because I can drive AND shoot.” Harker wasn’t offended, just poking fun at her over-simplification of his abilities. “...If you ever pull me onto a dance floor again it will never be ARMA.” Ryan chuckled joyfully, “It wouldn’t be the first time I disappointed ARMA.” Playful eyes glanced to hers, “I guess they will just have to do without.” Harker followed her directions, pulling off the highway and proceeding down a dirt road. Once they were close enough the bunker, the agent stopped and backed his car into a walking trail less traveled. He was careful to ensure the vehicle was out of view of the road, but faced toward it should they need to make a hasty withdrawal. The ARMA operative reached into the glove box and removed a set of earpiece radios. He handed one of them to Rorye. “Take this,” He said as placed the radio in the palm of her hand. “I am going to need you move up to the tree line and watch the road. Stay out of sight, but use this to let me know if anyone is coming.” Ryan knew she would argue about being left behind, so he tried to address her protest before she could voice it. “It’s very important you let me know if anyone is coming up behind me. Also, make sure to listen carefully. If the place is as well defended as you say, I will probably need you to talk me through some of the traps. Once the place is clear,” the mage-hunter meant once he had killed everyone, “I will call you in to defuse and secure whatever artifacts are inside.” Sensing her objection, Harker raised a calming hand. “I am only concerned with items that pose great danger to the public, or are items of evidentiary value to my case. The rest is yours.” The arrangement was more than favorable for the occults dealer. Ryan again popped open the driver side door. Leaving before Rorye had the chance to argue had proved an effective tactic thus far, but he hadn’t escaped the cabin just yet. Sly smirk as the man’s eyes met hers, “You deal with the Arcane stuff; I do the shooting. That’s why you brought me, remember?”
  6. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    “For the record, mini-skirts are bullshit,” Rorye said through chattering teeth. Poor girl was freezing. Ryan wondered briefly how long she had been waiting for him in the cold. Taking the hint, the agent tapped a couple buttons on the console to activate the heat and electric seat warmers. It would take a second for the engine to warm up. “Of course we’re walking into a fight. ARMA is always in a fight.” An unfair, but accurate statement. Harker couldn’t remember the last time he had been at peace. A Soldier transitioning from one faction to the next, one war to another, each cause as important as the last. Somedays, war felt easier than the alternative. “Probably the same thing that happened to your chest,” Rorye said without looking at him. Observant, but something was wrong. She was acting distant, refusing to make eye contact. Her demeanor toward him differed drastically from when they had last spoken in the club. A pang of guilt stirred in Ryan’s gut, a dissatisfied sigh as the realization swept over him. Of course. Rorye was a strong woman, a fighter even, but she wasn’t an operative. He had asked a lot of her this evening already. Now, she discovered one of her colleagues had been killed, and they were about to march headlong into another battle. She wasn’t trained for this, and this wasn’t her responsibility. Ryan was ARMA. This was his mission, his duty, his responsibility to protect people like Rorye. No wonder she unsettled. “I’m changing, it’s freezing. I’m not wearing a seatbelt so don’t kill me ARMA.” She had succeeded in removing her boots. The struggle almost amusing to watch. Olive skin and long legs finally revealed in their entirety. Despite the seriousness of their situation, Ryan allowed his eyes to wander as she swam into the backseat. From the bottom of her skirt, down to the tips of her toes, there was much to behold. “You can call me John,” Harker said softly. “When we are in public I mean,” eyes glanced up at his rearview, searching for hers in the darkness. “Ryan is fine when we’re alone.” “I got beat up trying not to kill anyone,” she answered from behind him. Another pang of guilt in the agent’s chest. She recounted her interaction with the bouncer whilst nursing her wounds in the backseat. Ryan gritted his teeth in frustration. Glad she hadn’t murdered anyone and that she was safe, but frustrated he had placed her in such a position. Eventually, Rorye rejoined him in the front seat. She was silent for a time, voice low when she spoke, “Exact directions for what you found out in the basement.” A deal? An exchange of information? She was a black-market dealer and an informant. The offer made sense. Still, Ryan couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Just another one of her contacts. “What did you find out? How screwed are we?” Her eyes looked to him for answers. “We,” she said. If they were partners, then why leverage her information? Out of habit maybe? She confused him. Harker had planned on stopping to reequip at some point anyway. They were on a safe stretch of route 78. This was as good a time as any. He pulled the car over to the shoulder of the road, parked, and cut the engine. “I’m not one of your clients.” Ryan’s voice was calm. “I am trying to save lives, yours included.” Aqua blue eyes found hers in the cabin’s darkness. “We can bargain on merchandise, artifacts, or any other material object. I will even let you rip me off from time to time…” he smirked lightly, but there was a sincerity to his words. “But never try to bargain with me for information, not when lives are at stake. Trust, remember?” Driver door was popped open, “I have to stage my gear, but take a look at this and tell me what you think.” Harker handed the occults expert the coin he taken from Hanes’ briefcase back at the nightclub. He stepped outside and closed the door behind him. The operative stood at the trunk of his car for longer than was required. He exchanged the silver-thread suit jacket for his typical enchanted attire. Donned the arsenal he had discarded earlier and staged the rest of his equipment in preparation for his assault on Remy’s hideout. This was all second nature to him. His mind focused instead on considering what information he should share with Rorye. Ryan had mentioned trust, but he wasn’t sure that meant he could tell her everything. Even ARMA couldn’t be trusted with all the information he had collected, not yet at least. Sharing the information with a seller of secrets, was an objectively bad idea. Despite this, Ryan felt he could trust Rorye’s moral character. Perhaps he had been fooled by her charm. In the end, he decided he would tell her everything he could without compromising his mission or her safety. Harker grabbed a small metal tin from trunk safe, before securing the hidden vault and closing the compartment. When he got back in the car, he started the engine and looked to Rorye. “So, what do you make of the coin?” he asked as they merged back onto the highway. Once she had answered his inquiry about the talisman, he delved into the intel he had obtained at the club. “Two of the guys from your shop were in the basement downstairs. The businessman and the kid. The muscle I assume, is at Remy’s as we speak,” he paused for a moment as he considered his words. “These guys are working for a crime lord, who has put out a high reward for the acquisition of magus blood and other select artifacts.” Ryan shook his head, “Remy must have been foolish enough to do business with these guys. When they discovered his connections, they captured him and tortured him for information. Which led them to your shop.” A glance was spared in Rorye’s direction, “I told them I was an associate of Remy’s. A hired gun who is supposed to locate him should he fail to check-in every 24 hours.” “They forced Remy to take them to his place, but when he refused to help them get inside… they killed him.” Blue hues flashed at her once more, “Evidently, Remy’s place is pretty well fortified. The muscle is leading a special breach team there now to force entry.” The ARMA operative leaned back casually in his seat, “So there you have it.” He had withheld specifics about the crime lord, and the Orders involvement, but he hoped it would be enough to sate her curiosity. She might suspect he knew more than he let on, but he had tried to paint a fairly complete picture.
  7. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    By the time Harker had finished interrogating the business man, he had put a bullet in the man’s right knee cap and pistol whipped him into unconsciousness. The man hadn’t possessed much information, but the pieces he provided had colossal implications. The businessman, identified as ‘Thomas Hanes’, worked for the crime lord that owned the “Avenue” nightclub. Nothing illegal was produced at the club, instead it served as a neutral ground for meetings and the exchange of goods. According to Hanes, his employer was using his influence to discretely acquire assets on behalf of a high-ranking member within the Order of the First Light. Hanes offered some information on the crime lord and stated they used warehouses near the ports for more important dealings, but couldn’t provide any specifics about the Orders involvement. The fact the Order was involved at all, was enough to confirm Harker’s suspicions. Hanes’ briefcase had contained a series of identical metal coins. The coins appeared ancient, imprinted with familiar markings, though Ryan couldn’t place where he had seen them before. A single piece of silver was plucked from the others and placed in the agents coat pocket. A sample for analysis at ARMA’s labs later on. A digital copy of Hanes’ cellphone was taken for duplication. Cloning the phone would allow Harker to continue gathering intelligence until the businessman replaced the phone for another. Computer hard drives were fried by a magical surge from another of the agent’s covert trinkets. The cameras in the nightclub might be functional, but there would be no recordings available for anyone to review. A hasty sweep of the basement was conducted, but Harker found nothing of significance. All of this had been done quickly. As a Cloak operative, Harker was used to working within a timeframe. Gunfight, interrogation, search of the basement, and sabotaging the computers had all been accomplished in about 12 minutes. This was about two minutes longer than the agent had originally intended, but given Rorye’s success in diverting attention he had the time. Harker scanned the camera’s display to ensure there were no guards in the hallway. Security seemed to be oriented to the front of the business, no doubt trying to throw people out of the establishment. Once his route was clear, the agent emerged from the basement and slipped out the backdoor. Ryan was fairly certain his exit had gone unnoticed. Nevertheless, he was cautious. The operative stayed in alleys away from the street, walking two blocks away from his vehicle before eventually circling back. When he approached the car, he did so from the opposite direction of the club. When he didn’t immediately see Rorye by his sable Challenger, Harker checked his watch. The agent had spent longer avoiding being followed than he had actually spent in the club’s basement. Still, by his watch he had five minutes to spare. As he drew closer to his vehicle, he noticed the feminine figure lurking in the shadows. “Good girl,” he thought to himself. Then waved Rorye toward him with a quick gesture, “Get in.” Once both of them were in the car, Ryan gave Rorye a quick look over. She had clearly been roughed up a bit, but otherwise appeared to be okay. He would get to that in a minute. Mission first. He turned the car around and drove away from the nightclub. “Remy’s dead,” Ryan stated unsympathetically. “Those guys from your shop are sending muscle to his place now to clear it out and then burn it down.” The agent was thoughtlessly rubbing his tender pectoral, when he felt the bullet still embedded in the fabric of his silver-thread jacket. The inside of the vehicle cabin was dimly lit, she probably hadn’t noticed it yet. Casually, he placed the mushroomed piece of led in the compartment on the driver side door. “Give me directions and I can start toward his place now,” Ryan continued. “We’ll stop once were closer and rearm,” he wasn’t asking. The agent spoke as if explaining the next phase of an operation during a mission brief. “Chances are we might be walking into a fight. And once the boss wakes up, I am sure he will be sending reinforcements. So, time is not on our side.” The ARMA operative wanted to call this into headquarters. A tactical team would be the perfect asset to deploy and rapidly secure the apartment. Unfortunately, requesting assistance would mean informing ARMA of the investigation. Based on the conditions of their alliance, the Order would also be alerted. Which meant the Order would know ARMA was close to discovering their involvement in the “unseen threat.” They would purge any and all loose ends. Harker’s leads would be eliminated, as would any chance of him obtaining the proof he needed to destroy the deceptive faction. For now, they would have to go it alone. Blue eyes glanced back to Rorye’s face as he drove. Having addressed the mission essential information, he now addressed his concern for her. “Are you okay?” Voice was softer as he made the inquiry. “What happened to your face?”
  8. Ryan Harker

    Begin to Be

    ((Just FYI its actually early morning at the moment, but I don't think changes much plot wise.)) Ryan could see it in the man’s eyes. The intent to kill, but also recognition. In their interaction thus far, Del Santo had arrogantly believed the mage hunter posed no threat. The operative’s willingness to bring the confrontation to a lethal conclusion seemed to force the magus to reconsider his assessment. A familiar chill danced playfully along the back of the agent’s neck and the slack was pulled from his Sig’s trigger. “Stand down, Harker.” Harker remained focused on Rhome; his weapon still trained on the rogue magus. As if snapped out of a trance, the violence seemed to leave the priest’s vision. Rage was replaced by shame. The magus’ stature shifted from fierce predator, to that not unlike a scolded child. Harker’s resolve however, was unphased by the interruption. Cassandra’s stealthy entrance had not gone unnoticed. “Welcome, Captain Greene.” The agent responded, though he didn’t bother looking in her direction. “There won’t be any arrests here today. Father del Santo is considered a rehabilitated rogue magus with a protected status which means that he isn’t to be bothered unless he either contacts us or is in danger.” “Don’t give me that bullshit…” Ryan spat out of the corner of his mouth, but she spoke over him, obviously anticipating his dispute. “If there is any suspicion that he has broke the terms of his deal with us then Knight Division needs to be contacted and a proper investigation conducted.” The Captain’s words carried authority. Cassandra was too close to this case. Having worked with her in the past, Ryan knew she was a good person. Always well intentioned, but her history at ARMA had a blemish where Del Santo was concerned. Her emotions for him clouded her judgment. She had managed to negotiate a deal with ARMA to exonerate the magus, but there were many within the organization that questioned the decision and her motive. Del Santo turning his back on the agency only confirmed suspicions. If ARMA knew the facts about the case Ryan was building; Rhome would likely be considered beyond redemption. Harker didn’t have an “official” case open regarding his investigation of the unseen threat, the Order, or Del Santo. Cloak operatives in general, but perhaps Harker more than most, preferred to keep their findings quiet until a solid case was established. Greene probably knew him well enough to wager no public investigation existed presently. A fact the ARMA Captain now leveraged in conjunction with her rank to control the situation. This was not the time for Harker to stand his ground. By now, the foreboding chill on the back of Harker’s neck had faded. Slowly, he lowered his gun. “We keep losing people. Some of them are dead. Others missing. . . I need you. . .” Both men turned their heads in her direction, both displaying their own sentiments of disbelief. Cassandra was looking only at Rhome, as if there was no one else in the room. “You have got to be kidding me,” Ryan thought to himself. “both working together instead of against each other. Everyone does right now.“ The priest turned his gaze to the floor, “I can’t help you. I’m sorry.” As if defeated in battle, the magus drug his feet as he walked to the pews and took a seat. “Jesus Christ,” Harker cursed shamelessly as he holstered his weapon. Cassandra’s appearance had transformed the rogue assassin into a beaten child. If Rhome wasn’t such a deadly foe, it would almost be pathetic. Ryan crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against one of the pews near the center aisle. Gaze still focused on the fire magus, but he spared an occasional glance in the Captain’s direction. The operative was obviously annoyed, but he listened quietly as Del Santo mentioned his sentiments for Greene’s lost brother. When he stated his conditions for helping ARMA, the two men locked eyes. “Just understand what you may learn about me in the process, I will not apologize for." “Believe me,” Harker chimed in, “some of us know more than you might think.” His inclination to kill the self-loathing priest had yet to dissipate. “Just know this Del Santo,” back straightened slightly as he continued, “If you hurt another innocent, or another member of ARMA…” Eyes narrowed on the man to whom he spoke, “and I’ll be the one to kill you.” Aqua blue hues flicked to Cassandra for a moment, “That’s a promise to you both.” The conversation amongst the three continued. After a time, the hair on the back of Ryan’s neck stood up once more. As if a cool breeze had blown across his shoulders. Chin lifted a little as he surveyed the cathedral. No signs of any approaching danger. Eyes looked to Cass, then to the priest. It wasn’t either of them, at least it didn’t feel that way. Perhaps Rhome had stifled an urge to lash out at him? To the others Ryan might have seemed to distracted during their discourse, as he pondered what his sixth sense was trying to tell him.
  9. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    Harker made his way toward the far-left corner of the room. Eyes occasionally picking Rorye out of the crowd, checking on her. She had already made her way to the bar. All doubt had been left behind; the poised Valkyrie now seated herself by the club’s head of security. A few moments later, there was the sound of glass breaking followed by commotion near the bar. Ryan moved to the restrooms near the club’s back exit. The bouncer near the backroom had seen the commotion and passed the agent on his way to the bar. Ryan pushed open the men’s bathroom door, but didn’t cross its threshold. Instead he glanced down the hall to ensure the coast was clear, then he moved to locked door across the corridor. There was an electronic keypad on the door, but the lock also accepted a standard key. Enchanted ‘bump key’ was inserted into the keyhole, a light tap, and the operative was through the door. A long staircase made of grated steel led down into the basement below the “Avenue” nightclub. The door closed quietly behind Harker and he started down the steps. He had crept about halfway down the staircase, when he heard a gruff voice below. “Ay, new guy, watch the cameras. There is some shit going down at the bar, imma go check it out.” “I don’t work for you,” answered a young voice. The young man’s words emboldened with prideful attitude, “I work for him.” “Man! Just watch the fucken cameras!” Retorted the gruff voice. Harker heard movement at the bottom of the stairs. A muscular black man, wearing the club’s security uniform grabbed the guardrail and started jogging up the steps. When he noticed the agent, their eyes met for just a second. “Who the fuck…” Spartan kick struck the man in the chest, launching him from the staircase. The bouncer landed flat on his back at the base of the stairs, head bouncing off the cold pavement with a dull “crack.” Harker leapt from the stairs, straddling the guard when his boots connected with the ground. The operative grabbed the man by the shirt and gave him a solid punch to the jaw for good measure. Having disposed of the guard, he quickly turned his attention to the rest of the room. The basement was cool and dimly lit, with concrete walls and a polished floor. A workstation with computer monitors displayed the various camera angles from throughout the club. Past the workstation, three rows of metal workbenches were staged horizontally across the rooms center. The workbenches were divided down the middle by a large walkway. Path leading to a large executive desk at the far end of the room. The desk was vacant, but two men stood at the steel workbenches nearby. “Who the hell are you?” Ryan recognized the voice, though it was more nervous than before. It belonged to the businessman from the “Book of Kells.” The man was probably in his late 30’s or early 40’s. An expensive suit with a classic fit, professional tie, the man was well dressed. His graying hair neatly trimmed. “I am an associate of Remy’s,” Ryan answered as he strode toward the two men. A Russian growl now accented his words. It was one of the few accents he could convincingly fake, though he had no Russian heritage. The younger man stepped forward to block the agent’s path. Fair skin, spiked blonde hair, clean shaven face, the boy was only a couple years past twenty. No tie, tailored suit fit his slender frame handsomely. The confidence of an immortal marked his gait. The boy stopped in the center of the room, feet squared, hands folded smugly at his waist. This must be the “pup” Rorye had been referring to earlier. The older man closed a briefcase on the table in front of him and secured its clasps. “Kill him,” the man commanded nonchalantly. The room fell silent, well insulated from the roaring party above. Ryan’s eyes met the pup’s, neither moved. “Tell you what,” the kid said with a sly grin. “I’ll let you draw first.” The boy was obviously showboating. Hands were still cupped in front of him. The young man was either extremely stupid, or a speedster and just somewhat stupid. There were two things in the world Harker hated hunting; vampires and speedsters. Their super speed countered his own abilities well enough, and ARMA had nothing in its arsenal to slow them down. However, if said adversary was unaware of the operative’s abilities, they could certainly give him a competitive edge. Regardless, if he lived through it, this would be a painful experience. “No one needs to die today,” Ryan offered, though he knew his attempt to negotiate would be in vain. “Stop screwing around and just…” The old man’s voice faded into a distant silence. Tingling chill rolled down Harker’s spine, his sixth sense alerting him of the coming danger. Time slowed to a near halt. Stare still focused on the young man standing in front of him. The agent moved first, though his motions felt slow. Left hand lifted his shirt, right hand drawing his concealed pistol from his waistband. The pup was a fraction of a second behind, but his maneuvers were accelerated. Already he had swiped aside his suit jackets lapel, reaching behind him to draw his own gun. Arm swung around; Springfield 1911 gripped in hand. Precious milliseconds wasted by improper form, though it didn’t seem to matter. The young man took aim and fired. Ryan had yet to finish punching out his own weapon when the .45 caliber slug struck him the chest, just above the heart. He had been anticipating the impact. Recoil ripped his left shoulder back, but also jutted his right hand forward. Sights aligned on their target; slack had already been squeezed from the trigger. Ryan returned fire once. Bullet traveled fast enough to hit its mark, impacting the boy squarely in the solar plexus. The young man’s eyes were wide, fraught with disbelief. He managed to squeeze off another panicked shot, but his wrist had yet to recover from the .45’s kick and the projectile whizzed harmlessly over Harker’s shoulder. Harker returned fire a second time. Recoil from his 9mm was more manageable, and the second round struck the pup just above the first. Ryan staggered backward as time resumed its normal pace. The boy collapsed to the ground; handgun discarded as he clutched futilely at his chest. Gargled gasps escaped the boy as he began to choke on his own blood. Chest forced a strained heave, then his body lay still. The businessman stood frozen, dismayed by the scene before him. Gun battle had started and ended in less than two seconds. Evidently, no one had ever bested his speedster in a dual. Fearful eyes looked to Harker, then darted to the felled boy’s gun a few steps away. “Reach for it and you’ll be dead before you hit the ground.” Ryan snarled through gritted teeth. Pain in his chest was intense. He had almost forgotten to maintain the deceptive accent. The elder gentlemen hesitated for a moment, then stepped away from his fallen subordinate. “What do you want?” Words were spoken calmly, the man seemed to have accepted his current situation. Harker glanced back at the computer monitors. Scanning the cameras to ensure the gunfire hadn’t been heard. The nightclubs security team was still engaged in handling the diversion at the bar. No indications in the crowd either. It appeared the firefight had gone unnoticed, drowned out by the relentless techno music above. The agent still had a little time. Ryan winced as he struggled to catch his breath, but managed keep his pistol pointed at the businessman. “Have a seat, you and I are going to have a little chat.”
  10. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    “Other than kicking your ass?” “Focus,” Ryan whispered to Rorye. The woman shivered lightly, but the room was more than warm enough. Harker already had a plan to infiltrate the venue’s secured areas. He wanted to assess Rorye’s ability to operate in the field. Could she think on her feet; adapt, improvise and overcome? He listened to her observations regarding the cameras. She was looking beyond the basics he had already provided. A good start. “I know how to get you back there without being noticed, but you better have a way to deal with the camera. They’re gonna see you coming. I wouldn’t be able to go with you.” She had arrived to another correct conclusion. To conduct this operation cleanly they would need to separate. She would need to cause a diversion so that he could go undetected. Rorye pulled away from him slightly. Concern marred her features as she looked into his eyes, then it vanished. Had the worry been genuine? “I don’t want you going by yourself,” a lighthearted smile had replaced the apprehension, but it felt forced. Ryan was learning to read through her professional façade. Either that, or she was manipulating him masterfully. The agent wondered what she might have to gain from feigning an appreciation for his wellbeing. He could think of only a few reasons, and they all seemed unlikely. “I can handle myself,” Ryan reminded her gently. Rorye leaned in against him, resting her chin on his shoulder. Dark brown locks brushed against his face and the woman’s scent managed to overcome the smoke lingering in the air. It was more alluring than she realized. “Just… for the record, tell me you’re not going to blame me if something happens to you.” Ryan knew there was a complicated undertow beneath Rorye’s guilt sodden words. As if they weren’t spoken to him alone. Her arms seemed to tighten around him ever so slightly. A deep sigh escaped her lips. This evening had been the first time the two had really ever met. A mission presented itself and now they were two actors playing their parts on a live stage... but for a moment, if just a moment, something felt real between them. “I won’t,” Ryan assured her. A pause before he added, “I will be fine, just focus on the task at hand.” “Also for the record I think we should go back at the car and rethink this. If you did want to move forward…” Seconds passed as she devised her plan. “If you want to go back to the car, that’s fine.” Harker’s words were fair, there was no judgment in his voice. “I will meet you outside in 30 minutes.” Rorye ignored his invitation for her to withdraw from the mission. Instead, she went on to explain her plan for diverting the guard’s attention. The ARMA operative listened without interruption. It wasn’t a bad plan, it might even work, but it could be refined further. “Not a bad plan, but let’s make it simpler.” Blue eyes met her auburn hues. Ryan grinned, “You don’t need my help to distract anyone in this place.” It was an honest compliment. “Go to the bar without me. Bat your eyes at the pit boss, get his attention but don’t engage. Make sure your sitting somewhere the guard at the hallway can see you. Allow some poor sap to hit on you, then freak out and accuse him of doing something terrible. He grabbed your ass, tried to slip a roofie in your drink, something like that. When the bouncers rush to your defense, just keep playing it up to distract as long as you can.” “When its done, I will meet you back at the car.” Ryan slowly pulled her arms away from his neck. He held her hands against his chest and leaned in close, “If I don’t meet you at the car within 30 minutes, take a cab. I will just meet you at your shop tomorrow.” A confident smirk, then he was gone. Disappearing into the sea of people on the crowded dance floor.
  11. Ryan Harker

    Begin to Be

    “If you’ve said your peace, I have work to do.” The rows of candles at the cathedral’s altar were suddenly lit aflame. Like a wave of twinkling lights washing across the staggered shelves, they brought new life to the room. An impressive display of magic talent. Harker had seen better. “If you have any more questions, ARMA can officially come speak to me.” In hindsight, Harker wondered if he had ever really expected Del Santo to cooperate. Perhaps he had been diluting himself in believing he had come to recover Rhome as a force of good in the world. Maybe he had known all along the path this encounter was destined to take. Had this all been an empty gesture to convince himself and ARMA he had given Del Santo a fair chance? He supposed that truth mattered little at this point. A crossroad had been met, but the facts remained the same. Del Santo was a wanted fugitive and a murderer. There were few scenarios in which killing the magus would be deemed unjustified. “I have offered my assistance only to avoid killing you.” Ryan said bluntly, his voice dispassionate. “The war coming is bigger than either of us, and it’s bigger than your feud with the Order.” Harker stared Rhome in the eyes. “You could do so much good, but the truth is, you’re a loose cannon. Already you’ve hurt two ARMA agents in pursuit of a narrow-minded vendetta. You refuse to align with ARMA, and you refuse to abide by the law…” Ryan paused a moment before he continued, “There is too much at stake for you to be allowed to continue unchecked.” Pistol was raised to aim at the fire magus, “You’re coming with me. In cuffs, or in a body bag.” The mage hunter already knew Del Santo wouldn’t be taken alive, but he gave him the option regardless. He readied to end the man’s life, “The choice is yours.”
  12. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    When Rorye stepped out of the car, Ryan looked her over. The woman’s outfit was entirely different from what she had been wearing just moments ago. Hair down, a little makeup and a field crafted mini-skirt had achieved the desired effect. Sexy, seductive, and a little dangerous. Ryan grinned. She might have some talent for field work. Maybe her usefulness would extend beyond being a prop to distract from his own reconnaissance. Time would tell. “I apologize in advance for what I have to do to get us in, I’m a sales woman.” Rorye said as the “couple” made their way to the club. Ryan cocked a puzzled eyebrow when she smudged the lipstick below his ear. The agent had intended to approach the doorman directly, slide a pair of Benjamins to the bouncer and be done with it. When Rorye guided him to the line however, he rolled with it. They could afford to try her way first. Perhaps they would attract less attention if they meandered in with the rest of the flock. Harker could feel the stares from the men standing in line as they walked past them. Their eyes not on him, but on his companion. Perfect. Already she proving an effective distraction. Harker glared back at the coveting stares, his scowl conveying a message of “keep looking and I’m going to knock your fucking teeth in.” Just as any self-respecting club douche would. Most the men’s heads gave a satisfying turn away from her direction. Ryan was careful not to direct any of the bravado at the bouncer. Security at these establishments were usually more accommodating if you submitted to their authority. Thus, the doorman was allowed an uninterrupted view of Rorye. When her hands slid around his waist, the notion was a little unexpected. Her chin came to rest on Ryan’s shoulder as she embraced him. The intimacy was nice… very nice, but also a little disheartening. It had been some time since the ARMA operative had felt such a closeness, without the accompanying expectation of a casual hook up. The lifestyle of a covert agent hadn’t been conducive to a meaningful relationship. Funny how the companionship in the moment, even false as it was, shed light on the loneliness that had gone unseen for so long. Ryan brushed off the momentary feeling and he refocused on the mission before them. His hands slid casually over hers as they neared his buckle, ensuring they didn’t travel any further south. She was playing a part and he wasn’t about to let her get into his head. Then she nestled her chin in the nape of his neck, pressed her head against his and whispered into his ear, “Nice gun, wondered where you were going to put your toys.” “Well, fuck.” Ryan thought to himself, as he resisted the goosebumps that prickled the back of his neck. A half-second pause to strengthen his resolve. “There’s more where that came from,” Harker replied coolly, before they walked to the bouncer at the door. Rorye stepped forward and whispered into the doorman’s ear. The man blushed excitedly and then looked to Ryan for confirmation. Chin lifted slightly and he gave the bouncer a permissive grin. When the velvet rope lowered, Rorye led the agent into the club by the hand. Definitely not how he had planned their entrance, but he couldn’t argue with the results. Upon entering the establishment, Ryan’s senses were immediately assaulted. Fast paced techno music buffeted his ears; pounding base reverberating through the ground beneath him. A melody of colored lights strobed sporadically from the vaulted ceiling, reflecting off random mirrored surfaces to compound the chaos. The scent of cigar smoke, sex, and alcohol was pungent in the air. Harker was already conducting a tactical assessment of the venue. The club itself was narrow in width, but relatively deep length wise. A hostess and coat check were to the left as they entered, with another bouncer standing casually off to the right. Booths with fancy leather seats and bottle service lined the walls on either side of the club. Occupying the room’s center was a long wooden dance floor, filled by a sea of partaking patrons. Across the dance floor was a crowded bar, complete with top shelf liquor and draft beverages. Above the bar was what appeared to be a VIP lounge. Dimly lit and near the ceiling, the lounge overlooked the dance floor below. Harker could see silhouetted figures on the balcony above, but the lighting made it impossible to discern anything more. To the right of the bar was a staircase that lead to the lounge above. To the left was a short hallway with an “EXIT” sign posted clearly overhead. Harker waited a moment to give Rorye the option to check her coat, before taking her by the hand and guiding her to the dance floor. When the music transitioned to the Latin pop genre, floor space became a little more available and Ryan was able to find them a spot without too much difficulty. The Soldier had taken dance classes for over a year while he was stationed in States before the Resonance. At the time he might not have been winning any dance competitions, but he had gotten pretty damn good. Ryan took Rorye’s right hand in his left and placed the other on her lower back. He pulled her close, pressing her pelvis firmly against his own. Their bodies intertwined naturally as they began to move to the beat of the music. Ryan started with some simple Reggaeton, turning slowly so that each could survey the club. After a moment, his eyes met hers, a feint smile spreading across his lips. “I see only two exits,” Ryan said so that only she could hear. “The way we came in, and the door straight back to the left.” The agent allowed a little space between them, as he progressed the dance into something that resembled an informal Merengue. He manipulated her form confidently, adding some salsa spins and turns for flavor, but nothing too fancy. Harker didn’t want to attract attention, but he also wanted test where security’s awareness was focused. A sharp spin brought Rorye into his arms. Her back to his chest, hands melting away from hers as they slid slowly to her waist. Left hand gripped her hip, locking her in step with him as they swayed with the music. Right hand glided upward along her abdomen, leaning her body back against him. Nose brushed the back of her ear, breath flowing over her neck as he spoke. “I count four guards. One outside at the entrance, one inside by the door, one by the steps leading up to the lounge, and one near the backdoor.” The DJ transformed the music once more, this time into something slower and more mainstream. Ryan turned Rorye slowly to face him, guiding her arms up around his neck, before his hands found their way back down to her hips. When he looked at her, he was reminded again of her beauty. Also noticing for the first time that evening the woman’s graceful height. The two of them stood nearly eye to eye as they danced. “The two near the back of the club are packing heat, and their ‘pit boss’ is relaxing by the bar.” Ryan continued, “I am pretty sure there is a door by the restrooms that leads downstairs. If we can get the guard away from the back door, I can get us down there.” He pressed his forehead gently against hers, “Any ideas?”
  13. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    “I can get in, question is will I get in with you.” Ryan couldn’t help but chuckle at the retort. Meanwhile, Rorye began rummaging through her pockets. “This is not my first club rodeo. Bouncers like girls, not guys covered with guns. They like the alpha wolves outside.” She was right about that. The agent was going to have to significantly downgrade his equipment if he was going to make it into the nightclub. When clad in his complete kit, his stature could be… intimidating. A reduced arsenal would mean reduced capability. Reduced capability meant an increased risk. This would definitely need to be a reconnaissance mission. “Trust me, I can get in,” Ryan said with a smug grin. “I just have to grab some things out of the trunk.” The mage hunter opened his car door and started to get out, but was stopped by the defeated sigh of his new partner. “This is a crap shoot. If they’re out front, they may leave while we’re trying to get in. Or, they could be here all night and we could learn more inside. Or, they could be snitching on me against intel they already know and be heading back to Kells to kick my ass.” “If the car leaves, I’ll know, and I should still be able to track it.” Harker said assuredly, closing the cabin door. “If these guys aren’t VIP’s, then they are likely reporting back to their boss on the information you gave them.” The protector in him showed itself once more, “And if they are, I would rather know who we are dealing with before they come after you.” “This’ll take a minute if we go in, so what's the plan? One way or the other... I have to find out if Remy is alive. He has an artifact hoard and contacts that cannot be swallowed up by these guys. But... I need someone to take me there. Bike is not safe into the wild, and I don't drive. I'll even let ARMA keep some. Maybe." “Ok, ok.” Ryan conceded. Palm facing down, he motioned with his hand as he spoke, as if to say ‘take it down a notch.’ “Here’s the plan, we go in the club and recon. We see what we can see, and we get out.” Ocean blue eyes gazed into hers, his tone serious. “If we do this, we do it professionally. No fighting, no emotional outbursts, no killing.” Harker paused for a moment to let his words sink in before he continued. “When we get in there, just follow my lead. First, we will survey the area. Before we make any moves, we need to know how many men they have inside, and we need to know where all the exits are located. If we get a chance to get behind some locked doors, then we are just a couple trying to find a spot to be alone. If we need to get out quick, you pretend to be sick and we move to the nearest exit.” The agent spoke as though they had already completed a mission brief and conducted rehearsals of the operation. He had clearly done this before. “If we get separated, we get out and rendezvous back here. If things go sideways, use your speed to get out and I will meet you at the shop… I can handle myself.” Ryan reached for door handle and eyed Rorye “Questions?” After waiting for a response, he added, “Once we are done here, we can go check on Remy’s place. Chances are they already hit the place if they broke him. Best bet is to follow these guys and try to find Remy before they kill him. If this lead is a dead end, you already know where his place is, we can follow up there afterward.” Harker opened the car door and exited the vehicle. “Be right back,” he said before closing the door behind him. The agent walked around to the Challenger’s trunk. A careful glance in either direction before he opened the compartment. Inside was a black metal floorboard. The floorboard an obvious addition to the compartment, as it consumed more than half of the available trunk space. Harker placed his fingertips on the bottom left corner of the matte black plate. A second later, the metal floorboard opened to reveal the hidden arsenal within. Two rifles, a shotgun, multiple pistols, body armor, magazines, and an assortment of magic talismans were all neatly packed into designated partitions inside the floor safe. Ryan removed his enchanted jacket and undervest, and tucked them away into an unoccupied space deep inside the trunk. He unfastened the buttons at the top of his collared black shirt, then rolled the sleeves up to just below the elbow. A tactical knife was slid into the inside of his left boot. A compact 9mm pistol was concealed in a discrete holster to the front of his waist. The operative slid on a black suit jacket made of ARMA’s signature silver thread. It fit him perfectly. The material didn’t offer nearly the protection of other his enchanted garments, but it was also much discrete. Harker stuffed an extra magazine in one of the coat’s inner pockets. Finally, he checked to ensure his espionage trinkets were all in their proper place before closing the trunk all together. Ryan walked to the passenger door of the muscle car and opened it for Rorye. “Ready?” He asked with a grin. “Oh, almost forgot.” Before she had a chance to step out of the car, Ryan leaned inside. Reaching across her body, he opened the center console and began rummaging through it contents. His face came close to hers. A second passed before he realized just how close they were, head swiveled and his eyes met hers, “Got it.” Harker withdrew from the cabin with a gold chain in his hand. He pulled the necklace over his head, and allowed the cross it bared to flaunt openly outside of his shirt. “What do you think? Douchey necklace complete the look?” “Alright,” Ryan extended a hand to the Rorye. It was mission start. That meant getting into character, chivalry and all. “Ready for this?”
  14. Ryan Harker

    Cold night in hell...

    The target would likely be located near the center of the warehouse. Aside from the warding on the building’s perimeter, there was nothing extraordinary about the facility’s security. A squad sized element of 10-15 men would be guarding the target inside the warehouse. They were equipped with small arms and likely possessed some military or paramilitary tactical training. Harker moved into the building and closed the door quietly behind him. Weapon at the ready, he scanned the area for immediate threats. Finding none, he pushed further into the warehouse. Slow was smooth, smooth was fast, as the agent began methodically clearing his way through the empty aisles of shelving. The ARMA operative wasn’t far from his point of entry into the warehouse, when he saw the first body. Then a second, and then a third. Someone had beaten him to the punch. Ryan cursed silently in his mind. The agent moved to the nearest body and checked for a pulse. There was none, but the corpse was still warm. No blood, no gun shot wounds. The man’s neck had been snapped. Suddenly, there was movement down the aisle in front of him. Harker was already on high alert. Sights came up on target, and he nearly put two rounds center mass before he identified what he was aiming at. A young girl in dark clothing was sprinting toward him at full stride. Terror streaked the girls features. She wasn’t running to him; she was running from something else. The girl looked as though she might run straight into the covert agent. Harker’s weapon was still trained on her when she finally noticed him. Abruptly, she came to a halt. Feet planted and then slid out from underneath her as she failed to stop her own momentum. She fell on her ass and then stared up at him. Eyes fearful. The panicked girl then skittered backwards, until her back found a wall. There she sat, in a state of shock. Ryan looked to the girl and placed a finger to his lips, “shhh,” he whispered softly. What was she running from? A feint tingling sensation brushed across the back of Ryan’s neck, a chill stemming from the base of his skull. His sixth sense. Danger was close. The girl? No, it was something else. As if to answer the agent’s questions, a figure emerged from the shadows. A man walked toward them now; from the same direction the girl had come. Slicked dark hair, pale skin, and a muscled frame stood about six feet tall. The mysterious man wore a skin tight black shirt, charcoal black pants, boots, and body armor. Harker couldn’t see any weapons on the stranger’s person, but his instincts told him the man was deadly regardless. Only a creature of the supernatural could have killed all these people without the assistance of modern firearms. Ryan aimed his Sig Sauer at the man with his gun hand, while his left hand reached into the pouch on his hip. Gripping the dispelling ward in his fist, he kept his hand hidden in the satchel. If the man’s abilities were magic based, the agent could dispel them with the ward and execute him before he recovered. “Are you a hunter?” The man asked coolly as he continued to walk toward them. Harker responded only with the metallic ‘click’ of his Sig’s hammer cocking back. The man froze, “My night just keeps getting better.” “Run,” Ryan said to the girl out of the corner of his mouth. An icy chill ran down the length of his spine. Danger. Eyes remained fixed on the creature in front of him, “Run now!” The creature leapt forward, closing the 15-yard gap between them in an instant. Harker had already activated the portable ward in his pocket. A supernatural EMP blasted out in the area around him, disrupting the flow of mana and neutralizing any functioning spells. Unfortunately, this had no effect on the monster that barreled toward him. For Harker, time slowed. His mind continued to work at normal speed, but the world around him was in suspended animation. All except the man charging toward him. The man continued driving forward in a slow-motion trot, much faster than any mortal creature should be able to move. Not a magus, the ward had no effect. Too fast for a werewolf in human form. That left only two possibilities. A speedster, or a vampire, and vampires were ‘supposedly’ extinct. The girl remained in place, motionless. That was to be expected. Even if she was moving it would look as though she was sitting still. The creature was definitely coming after Ryan, but it would kill her as soon as the operative was disposed of. He wouldn’t let that happen. Though he wondered what she was doing at the warehouse in the first place. Initially, Ryan had been aiming at the man’s head. However, its head weaved much too quickly as it sprinted toward him. The agent didn’t have time to anticipate his movement and line up the shot, which is what he would have done against anyone without super speed. The man wore body armor as well, which meant that even ARMA’s enchanted rounds likely wouldn’t penetrate with enough force to fell the creature. Instead, the agent lowered his sights to the man’s pelvis, below the bullet-proof vest. His own arm moved at a painstakingly slow pace as the monster rushed forward. Finger squeezed the trigger and fired a single round. The shell casing hung in the air as it was ejected from the pistol. A blue flame flowered from the barrel. Ryan’s eyes followed the azure glow as the enchanted bullet was propelled into the man’s lower abdomen. Surprise flashed across the stranger’s face. The round struck his hip, bone fractured, and his leg buckled beneath his own weight. Lowering his shoulder, the man thrust himself onward with his last sturdy step. Harker tried to brace himself for the impact to come. When the creature collided with Ryan, he felt as though he had been struck by a car. The man collapsed to the ground where Ryan had been standing and the agent was launched across the room. His body slammed hard against the warehouse’s sheet-metal wall, leaving a deep impression when he slumped to the floor. The agent’s pistol had been sent sprawling elsewhere, its location eluded him for the moment. Bursts of light had flooded the darkness around him. He shook his head and blinked his eyes as he struggled to refocus his rattled brain. A sharp sting tore at the back of his head. He felt the warmth of his own blood as it soaked the back of his ski-mask. His hand moved to the wound instinctively to assess the damage. An anguished growl brought Ryan back to the present. It wasn’t his, the bellow belonged to the creature he had shot. Definitely a vampire, he thought to himself when realized how far the creature had knocked him. The vampire lay on the ground where Ryan had been standing a moment ago. It climbed to all fours, already beginning to recover from the crippling wound. Now, the vampire was only a few steps away from the girl. Its head swiveled, eyes locking onto the young woman. Fresh blood would no doubt expedite the healing of his wound. “Fuck…” Harker groaned as he willed himself to move. He had to get back into the fight before the vampire fed on her, otherwise they were both dead.
  15. Ryan Harker

    Chasing Ghosts

    Ryan and Rorye sat in silence for a time. Ryan’s eyes stayed focused on the road in front of him. He didn’t bother to explain how he had placed a tracking charm on the vehicle they were pursuing. Nor did he explain how the talisman in his coat pocket was linked to the charm, or how it allowed him to see the otherwise invisible trail of magical residue the charm left in its wake. The agent’s lack of communication an indicator of his frustration toward the woman beside him. Rorye shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Ryan presumed she was either equally frustrated or sensed his irritation and felt awkward for it. For the moment, he didn’t care. When Rorye finally spoke, it nearly surprised the agent. Her words were soft, almost a whisper. The sentences laced together with a faint, but unmistakable sorrow. “I don’t have conversations with ARMA in Kells. It’s an echo chamber, a thousand conversations that linger to be picked up by any magical item that can scoop them up, absorb their emotions and energy. People that know how, can listen in,” Harker’s gaze remained fixed on the world outside the vehicle’s cabin. “Last time someone from ARMA came to see me and we had a serious conversation, they never came back. I wasn’t enough of a pain in the ass to insist he take me with him.” The girl fell silent again. A chink in her armor revealed. Ryan spared a glance in her direction. Thinking back to when the first Resonance had sundered the earth, and how he had felt. When he finally understood he had lost his family, the pain had gripped his heart so tightly he couldn’t breathe. Even now, years later, when he thought about it… the agony was there. “ARMA operatives are amongst the most highly trained in the world,” he said. Speaking for the first time since they had left the Book of Kells. “On top of that, Alistar was a first-class mage. He didn’t need your protection… and you being there wouldn’t have changed anything.” Harker spoke definitively. His tone almost offended by the inference ARMA needed her protection at all. In truth, he wasn’t insulted. He could appreciate Rorye’s feelings on the subject. Survivors guilt was a bitch. Ryan listened quietly as the woman recalled the history of the Order-ARMA armistice. She was surprisingly well informed. The Cloak operative already knew the information she provided, but he waited for her to finish nonetheless. He was curious as to the extent of her knowledge. “After that everything went quiet. Trade chatter, artifact chatter, it all slowed down. Over a year now, no weird requests or happenings until my contact Remy vanished a few weeks back. These guys tonight…” Rorye shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she spoke; anxiously twiddling with the ring on her finger. A shake of her head before she turned to look at Ryan. He met her gaze for a moment, then his eyes shifted back to the road. “…knew when to show up, when I’d be free because Remy hasn’t been here and that I can get magus blood in large quantities. His disappearance is not an accident. It’s no secret to people that want things that I can get them anything, but magus blood… that’s only something Remy would know and he wouldn’t give me up unless he was forced to.” She seemed genuinely upset at her own conclusion. Arms crossed over her chest, she leaned back in her seat and sighed. Ryan could feel her stare. He peeked out of the corner of his eye, but otherwise remained focused on the road. They were in Manhattan now, south of Harlem, not far from Hell’s Kitchen. Ryan wondered where the tracking talisman was leading them. He hadn’t physically seen any of the men from the shop, but they sounded serious enough. A slumlord hideout in Hell’s Kitchen wasn’t far from the realm of possibility, if not a little cliché. Though from the middle of Manhattan, they could have been headed anywhere. “Is this Remy guy a friend of yours?” Harker asked, car rolling to a stop at yet another traffic light. He scanned the intersection and checked his mirrors for any potential threats. He found none. Not paranoid, just a casual habit. The agent looked to the woman beside him, one hand on the wheel, the other resting on the center console. “They’re coming back in two days. I told them I’d check my sources, which was bullshit. They’re going to try and strong-arm me into getting them what they want for free, or force me to give up my contacts. Either way they were here to assess if Remy's intel was solid and figure out if they could threaten me. I wanted to follow them back to wherever they’re holed up because I had some idea in my head that any magus they have could still be alive.” She meant, Alistar might be alive. As if ARMA hadn’t already tried to locate their missing leader by all available means. If he was alive, they would have found him. Though if they were on the right trail, perhaps they could recover the magus’ remains. Have a proper funeral to pay respects and put the man to rest. Alistar deserved that much. “It’s ridiculous, I know.” “Yeah, I suppose it is,” Ryan’s reply was candid and a little distant. “If we’re lucky though, we might be able to find your friend Remy alive.” The sable Challenger slowed as Harker pulled up to the curb and parked. “We’re here,” he said, shifting the vehicle into “park.” They were stopped to the front of an unimpressive apartment building. The streetlight overhead was out, leaving the duo to bask in the night’s gloom. Noticing Rorye’s expression, Ryan pointed a finger from the hand that still gripped the steering wheel. A block and a half south of them, on the left-hand side of the road, a black SUV was parked to the front of a nightclub. “See the black Cadillac, SUV up there? That’s their ride.” The outside of the night club wasn’t extravagant. A plain gray, warehouse styled front faced the street. A restaurant and a café pressed seamlessly against the club on either side, giving it a narrow appearance. A single door was centered to the front of the building, above it hung a bright sign that lettered a single word. “Avenue.” There was large man, dressed in black, posted by the front door. A velvet red rope separated the doorman from a line people waiting to enter the club. Every time the door opened music would resonate down the street in either direction. “The Monday after the New Year weekend, and these guys are still going.” Ryan shook his head in disbelief. “See how their SUV is the only car parked out front? I am willing to bet they either own the place, or they are VIPs.” The agent gave an exasperated exhale and leaned back in his seat. “Chances are, the club is front, and their actual business takes place in the basement beneath it.” Ryan looked to the supernatural woman beside him, “Well, we can either stake out the car to the front, or… we can go inside and scope the place out.” Ryan nudged Rorye’s arm with his elbow playfully, “but if we’re going inside, your going to have to change up your outfit.” A sly grin spread slowly upon the operative’s face, “I don’t think the ‘biker chick’ look is going to get us through the door.”


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