Myself, Morningstar, The Butler, Requiem, Mother Vex, and a few others lingered behind. Attempting to keep an opening for the others to escape.
We were out-gunned.
And were to be burnt alive if we stayed much longer.
The turn of events were weighing heavily on Requiem. Each life lost was another shred of blame that he placed upon his own shoulders. He said not a word of it as he stepped over the corpses - as we all did to get from here to there - but I could see it. So could Mother Vex. There was no point in mentioning it to him. I knew him well enough to know that he would hear none of it. This had been his Church, after all. His Position. A Holy Sanctuary in The Name of Our Father...
It was his to Hold.
And he lost it.
We all lost it.
The halls were thick with smoke. Once again, I had my lower mask pulled up. Moving quick. I... shouted over the racket to gain Requiem's attention. I told him that everyone was on their way out. That it was time to go. All of us.
Two more shots left his gun. Whether they found their mark, I don't know.
Then he turned... and it felt like the world went on pause before my eyes.
A sickening splatter across my friend's face. Eyes wide staring out, unseeing.
Just one breath... is all it takes.
Better? Or Worse?
And then a man who I've known for a year and a quarter crumpled to the floor.
Dead eyes staring out.
White collar stained by his own blood.
Rest In Peace, Philip.
My stare shot down The Line.
Out in the branches of a tree across the way... I could just make out a faint glow.
A Sniper who was about to meet the same damn end.
Only not quite as quick.
I took off down the hall. Jumping across Requiem's body as I took to the shadows. In what felt like seconds, my boots hit grass instead of stone. Cold night air filled my lungs... and I let out a whistle as I disappeared from the battlefield into the surrounding bush. Moving fast, but quiet. Target set...
I heard when Kali and Loki found their target.
The mess of wings beating, the gritted-teeth grunts and swears of their prey trying to beat them off as talon and beak sunk into skin and flesh...
And then the sweet sound of a body falling through the branches.
I saw him then. A shadow that just managed to catch hold of the last branch for a bare second. Slowing his descent just enough before his grip slipped and he fell the rest of the way to the hard ground. A THUD that I wanted to make permanent. The gasp of stolen breath and the clatter of his rifle hitting the ground beside him sounding next. A low groan leaking out from the jolt of the fall...
My ravens went after him. Set to shred him. Set to rip into him. Turning scratches into gashes. Longer. Deeper. Spraying the crimson over black wings...
Their path altered... and a mere second later, their wings folded back at their sides as they came to rest upon my shoulders again. The blades of my gauntlet drawing across each other...
I wanted to play with this one.
"Well, what have we here...? A baby bird fallen from its nest..."
The soldier coughed for breath as he pried himself up. A crop of short, sandy blonde hair on top of a tanned and weathered face. All wrapped up in a bright yellow raincoat. Fatigues and army boots peeking out from beneath. He flexed his hands. More coughing as he reached for the rifle still hanging from the strap on his shoulder...
"I'd stay... where I was if I were you, neighbour."
Well. That made 'who' easy enough.
My first answer was only a warm chuckle. Then I reminded him that, as 'neighbors', it's only good manners to greet the New Family on the Block. Especially after all the blood-splattered attention they keep bringing onto themselves. I apologized for failure to bring a gift basket, but that they had caught me a little by surprise.
Then... well, I let a bit of the anger I felt in my veins twist into my words...
"It's a shame... you already marred our first meeting. You chose... a very poor target, darling..."
"These things happen. Wouldn't want them to happen to you, would you?"
"If one is willing to take a life... they should also be prepared to GIVE IT!"
A flourish of feathers came between us as Kali and Loki went up to the branches... and I struck low and to the left. Moving quick. Over and across. Slashing out with my gauntlet as he dove backwards. Cursing. Rifle spraying bullets wildly before suddenly stopping with a pronounced 'click.'
He was empty.
And he missed.
That's when I knew...
He had taken Requiem.
And I was going to make certain... to take this Cousin of ours as an offering in return.
My blades caught his flak jacket as he fumbled back. Still groggy from the fall, but still rather quick on his feet. Much like myself...
The empty rifle hung at his side from its strap... secured to his shoulder, but deemed useless since it needed to be reloaded... but I myself came to a much different conclusion. I grabbed it and jerked it forward - his own strap dragging him in towards me and my waiting blades.
He pulled a sidearm.
I gritted my teeth as I grabbed his wrist in my gauntlet. His own clothing protecting from my blades as we twisted and struggled against each other. The gun going off twice. One skimming just across my side before I forced the barrel of his rifle across his neck. Slamming him back against the trunk of a tree. Crushing his windpipe. Using the strap itself and my free hand to hold the pin while my gauntlet tried to keep his handgun away from vital organs...
"There's a poetic value in this, don't you think? Care to tell me your name, sweetpea? Your real one? I promise I'll remember it. It'll be all that will remain of you in just a few minutes..."
He twisted in my hold and the butt of the handgun hit my stomach. A distraction that he used to his fullest advantage... as the barrel of the rifle snapped back across my jaw. My blades taking a wild slash as I stumbled back. An attack that raked across his left shoulder... as payment for his handgun setting its target. Leveled. And fired. One bullet missed. Another sunk into my shoulder before I could find cover. A hiss on my breath as the familiar sensation of burning hot lead settled in my arm.
The bastard is good. I'd give him that.
But... I was pleased despite the pain.
Requiem wasn't Ended by a No Name. That in itself was worth quite a bit...
And I told my company so from where I hide in the shadows.
"Just bad luck, between you and Shirley."
"Is that so...? Just pure bad luck? The wrong turn of a flipped coin~?" I couldn't help the laugh I gave. "Is that how you justify yourself, darling? How you sleep at night knowing you are just as bad as those you take aim at? Us 'evil' Proxies..."
"Murder's murder, neighbour. Doesn't matter which side is doing it." A twig snapped. He was looking for me now.
I felt the blood trickle down my spine... and paid no mind to it. Moving spots. A shadow amongst shadows. "'Murder's murder.' Quite true. But then... there is Murder and then there is Murder, correct? And, I must say... I pity you, love. It takes a cold heart to be what you are. To not even give a chance to those in your sights... hehe, yes, indeed. How amusing... the lengths one will go to kill their nightmares... even if it means becoming one themselves. I wonder... who was your first target, darling? Did they haul out some little Proxy girl? Test your will to do the job...?"
"Kid, not more than seventeen. Over in the sandbox. I remember every last one of them. Can you say the same?" I heard the rifle reload. "Now are you going to try to stab me again Freddy-boy, or are we going to play twenty questions?"
"...A man. Middle-aged. I had once tried to help his daughter. He was my First... techniquely speaking, anyway. I remember the ones who wanted to be remembered, sweetheart. Bending your knee doesn't affect your memory unless you want it to." Another shift to another shadow. "...And here I thought we were being so 'neighborly'! Have we hit a sore spot, perhaps? If you prefer, we could flip a coin for a new one, my dear sweet Cousin..." I grinned from my spot. "You still haven't told me who you are. Surely you abandoned your birth name, like a good soldier would. Hiding who you are from who you were... but there's no need to be shy about that. You picked one, didn't you?"
"I'm sure you could have guessed if you put your mind to it. Granted, you're no Shirley."
"Trust me, love, I know who you are. You give yourself away nearly as much as I do. However... there is something to be said... about people like you claiming their own title. When you say it... there's no running from it, is there?"
"Go get it from Shirley, you won't have the satisfaction from me."
Another laugh. Genuine. "Ah, I see. So we still hide, do we? If only to a point. How cute. Yet I'm far from surprised..."
I blew another whistle out. Different from the first two.
A fake call.
And when Trips ducked, eyes shooting up to an attack that wasn't coming... I stepped out with my own gun in hand. Getting out only two shots...
...Before near ten rattled against the truck that I ducked behind. Splitting into the wood with near deafening cracks...
I stood no chance to regain my position...
"...Give Moriarty a message for me, darling..."
Like Requiem lost his hold on the Church, so did I lose my Target.
I couldn't avenge him. But at the very least... we have a little something to work with.
"...This isn't the story of David and Goliath..."
Something is protecting these people... and I want to know what.
I've sent the blood on my gauntlet to a friend for analysis. A good place to start.
Let's see what turns up, shall we?
"...It's going to take more than just a few polished rocks to destroy what has Stood for Centuries. He may win a battle or two...
But Father always wins the War."