Parry and Riposte III

L nursed a bloody scratch on his upper arm. He had been careless in the face of de’Crux’s damnable kameiras in a rearguard action as the last DENT listening post within thirty miles of the Sakakibara estate was overrun. DENT operatives were trained in subterfuge, in operating as a secret police force and intelligence wing to bolster local military and police units–not as frontline combatants. They had been a poor match for kameiras throughout de’Crux’s stay in Myyhera, the body count climbing increasingly high as they were hunted down with prejudice at Naomi’s behest.

He leaned against the stone wall of a tunnel, adjusting the bandages on his upper arm as they were slowly unraveling. He fumbled at them with frustrated grunts, the dim light of the underground chamber contributing little to any hope of success. He was growing tired of running from the kameiras, though his hands were essentially tied. As long as Lord Reginald was on honeymoon, the military could not move against the Lady Steward of the Sakakibara Family, even as loyalists cowered before her in their own mansions with private security staff. It was a messy state of affairs, especially in that it was an arena that L was unfamiliar: Open warfare.

Another DENT agent emerged from the darkness, offering her dexterity to L’s bandages. He glanced over to her–he knew her as Alianne, a severe-looking women whose hair was tied into a tight bun behind her head. She fluently spoke the major languages of New Eden and had conversational expertise in a number of lesser dialogues. Her record was essentially spotless. Perhaps, if one didn’t consider the debacle in Sharhelund, where she had resigned her commission directly to Lord Reginald himself. Fortunately, L had seen her skills for what they were worth, offering her an administrative position in DENT.

There were few of her caliber left in the organization.

“They’ve cleared the last of the decoy houses in the city,” She mumbled as she reset L’s bandages, “This fortress will be next.”

L nodded, glancing at the make-shift lighting strung along the ceiling of the tunnel they occupied. Watch Point Fortress was constructed millenia before at the mouth of the renamed Imperial Bay. The remnants of a stone fortress sat on an island in the middle of the harbor, upon which the reconquering Amarr had placed a strategic installation. Now in disuse by the military, it had become a DENT stronghold, its furthest from the Sakakibara estate and, at least in L’s mind, the hardest one for the kameiras to find.

He shook his head as he spat a curse, “How many do we have here?”

Alianne finished the bandaging, “Three dozen. We’ll have twice that if the teams left in the Holding reach here without getting intercepted.”

L thrust his fist against the ancient stone wall, cursing again. Protocols and safeguards were being neutralized faster than he could process. Seventy-two men at the most remained out of the entire DENT network, not including informants and other assets useless in combat.

He mutters beneath his breath, “We’ll have to make a stand, here.”

Alianna nearly gasped, her demeanor flickering, “It’ll be a massacre.”

“We have the tunnels…”

“Which we have barely mapped out.”

“The passageways are narrow…”

“They’ll be mass graves.”

L turned to look at Alianna. This was the first time he had seen her so fearful. Her breathing seemed shallow, as if she expected L would strike her for contesting his thoughts. If he was honest with himself, the thought had flashed through his mind briefly. But he understood why she was afraid. This was the first time DENT had ever faced utter destruction.

He took a deep breath, straightening himself and allowing his long, dark coat fluttering around his shins, “What do you propose?”

Alianne shook her head, “Surrender.”

L spat back, “I’m not going to grovel before that whores’ spawn.”

Alianne sighed, “We’re outgunned and with Naomi’s cabal backing them, we’re outnumbered. We need a mobilization to regain control of the Holding.”

“… And Lord Reginald in doing God knows what in Messoya,” L finished, biting his lip angrily.

He wished that he didn’t show so much emotion before his subordinates, but the times were desperate. Multiple supply depots had been destroyed, checkpoints overrun, listening posts and guard stations gone dark.

He looked back towards Alianne, “How much time until they arrive?”

“Our projections put them at T minus two hours before the assault on the installation begins,” Alianne responded parsimoniously.

L nodded, suddenly becoming pensive. He refused to back down, but he knew that morale was dangerously low.

“All right,” L said, making it sound like he was relenting, “I’ll make the broadcast from the control room.”

Alianne breathed a sigh of relief, “Thank you, sir.”

Their journey to the control room was largely quiet. The pair passed by nervous DENT operatives, most of whom were untrained to fight against professional soldiers, let alone multi-billion ISK super-soldiers. He couldn’t bear to look at them, the wounded survivors from perimeter stations and checkpoints–the shattered remains of a once-proud network.

The control room was tense. After a few silent salutes, the operatives managing the communications frequencies looked over to L, wondering what message he had for them out of the impossible choice: Surrender or suicide?

He walked over to a microphone, but just as he was about to give justifications for why they should throw their lives away, his neocom blinked.

He glanced down at the curt message:

“Broadcasting On All Military and Police Channels. Code Green Authorized, Authentication: Ultra. Initiate Archangel Protocol. – R” 

He spun around, thrusting the neocom into Alianne’s hands, “Verify the algorithm.”

After a few tense moments, she finally breathed a response, “Legitimate.”

L grabbed the microphone, the sudden motion causing feedback to echo through the last DENT stronghold, “The coup ends today.”

 

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