An undisclosed location somewhere in the vicinity of Paragon City
A pair of eyes darted between dozens of computer screens, each one recording through the helmet of a soldier. Occasionally, one would cut out into static, punctuated by a short but blood-curdling scream. The observer winced and hit the button for the next video feed. As the experiment proceeded, the tap of the button became rhythmic, each report of it’s press like a hammer into the observer’s skull.
Previous tests had gone by smoothly, without incident. But then, those tests had been conducted on weaker parties. Freakshow, Tsoo, lone Arachnos cells. Even some individual villains and small groups of meta-criminals. A few of the Gene Troopers were lost in these engagements. This, however, was something else. This wasn’t a tough engagement or a desperate break-out, but a massacre. The observer cursed under their breath, tugging at their collar. They had underestimated this group. They had assumed that, once they felt the pressure they would simply break ranks and scatter, becoming easy prey for the organised Gene Troopers. Instead, they fell into formation, taking down targets with ruthless precision and overwhelming force.
“Test subjects approaching Engagement Zone Oracle.” A mono-tone voice reported through a speaker. Flicking between video feeds, the observer saw the group of villains methodically fighting their way to the extraction point. To do so, however, they would have to walk a veritable killing field. With Gene Troopers pinning them in, they would surely crumble under the assault. Sure enough, the villains into the trap.
The observer pressed a button on the console and pulled the microphone closer “Teams Moscow, York, Lisbon & Seoul, initiate battle-plan Close Noose.” A series of affirmatives reported through to them. The observer shifted in their chair, flicking through the video feeds with bated breath.
At first, the manoeuvre was executed as planned. Penned in from all sides, the villains began to falter under the assault. Gene Trooper teams assumed their attack positions, launching volley after volley of psychic blasts into the cornered villains. Eventually, one of them was downed, and then another. The observer allowed themselves a sigh of relief and pressed the microphone button “Execute Phase 4.” At the command, the Gene Troopers advanced into close range. Video feeds continued to cut out as the villains reaped a toll into their ambushers. Far too much for the observer to feel confident.
Just as another order was crossing their lips, they witnessed disaster. A number of the villains broke free from the kill zone, throwing the Gene Troopers into disarray. In the chaos, two of the downed villains recovered, wasting no time in seizing the opportunity. One side of the kill box crumbled in a matter of moments, a chorus of death shrieks signalling a turn in the battle.
“Team Lisbon is Code Black.” The monotone report came through the speaker.
“Teams Moscow, York, Seo-“
“Team Seoul is Code Black.”
“Team York! Fall back a-“
“Team York is Code Black.”
“Moscow! Team Moscow, initiate retreat and regroup at Point Cartographer!”
The speaker was silent, except for static. The videos showed a grim picture, with cameras pointed absently at the ceiling.
Sweat dripped from the observer’s brow. Speechless for a moment, a murmur of activity behind them reminded them of their job.
“Field Command, prepare for Targets at Point Cartographer.”
“6-02-4.” The almost robotic voice responded.
A few silent seconds passed before the scout reports came in and went silent almost as quickly.
When the villains engaged the command group, the observer's hopes that were briefly raised were cut drastically short. A whole squad of elite Gene Troopers wiped out in less than a minute.
The control room was deathly quiet, aside from the soft crackle of static and restrained cough. An unmitigated disaster.
Suddenly, a message came through the intercom “Administrator, the Executive wants a word..”
The churning feeling in their stomach turned into frozen bile. This was it, the end of their project, the end of their career, and depending on her mood, possible even the end of his life.
He trudged through the office halls. Wherever he walked, staff stared at him with absent expressions. They all knew the weight of the defeat they had just suffered. He entered a small office room to the side. A spartan dressed room, there was only a chair and a single holographic projector in the centre of the room. He took his seat, adjusting his collar and prepared himself as best he could.
When the hologram came in, he couldn’t bring himself to meet the gaze of the Executive. An incredibly powerful business mogul, their hologram suitably towered over them. Their expression was hidden by shadow, and the glare of their square glasses.
“Doctor Venkman. It would be an understatement to say I am merely ‘disappointed’.”
The doctor bowed their head, trying their best to curl up without actually entering the fetal position.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. This failure rests on my shoulders, the project-“
“Is a failure. Dealing with street gangs or lone metas is not worth the investment, not when we have our own security forces which *can* deal with groups of metas. From my point of view, your project has reached it’s end, Doctor Venkman.”
He choked back tears, struggling for words. Would it help him to plead? To beg? All he could muster was a meagre “Please ..”
“Yes, your project in it’s current incarnation has no future.” She looked down at the doctor dismissively. “I expect the next incarnation to produce better results.”
A gasp of relief escaped Doctor Venkman’s lungs involuntarily. He composed himself enough to stammer out words of thanks. “Yes, thank you ma’am. We will deliver, I promise.”
The Executive scoffed. “I don’t build my enterprises on promises, Venkman. I build on hard results. And if you fail to deliver, well, let’s just say there won’t be a third incarnation.” With that, the hologram winked out of existence.
Doctor Venkman’s cold, stuttered breath rattled from his chest. A minute or two passed before there was a knock at the door. Gathering himself, he stood up and opened the door. His second stood there, concern written plainly on her face. “Doctor? Is everything .. are we still ..?”
He straightened his tie and cleared his throat “Still in business? Yes. We have a lot of work to do.” He left the conference room, purpose putting a spring in his step. “Send a message to the PI Lab; fire up BIO for the next phase of the project.”