They had modified the access codes, of course, since his departure. The Council would not allow such an obvious security hole to go unaddressed. Still, he had been a Lieutenant in their ranks and as such he was well versed in how the codes were modified. As he crawled through the duct he recalled his time in the Council.
When he was taken into their ranks as an orphan he had finally felt wanted. His ability to excel at their tasks earned him respect and quick advancement. He never questioned. He took his orders and completed them. In return, they taught him how to fight, how to survive. Everything seemed perfect. That is, until he was placed in charge of the Chiron project. It was then that everything changed.
He had married sometime during his non-ranking years. The Council disapproved of marriage but for non-ranking agents it wasn’t prohibited. The birth of the twins also caused a stir but his achievements helped sway leniency. The Chiron project promotion caused a uneasy spotlight to be cast on his family. To the Council, they became a liability.
He stopped as he reached the grated vent opening. He was sweating hard. The advanced armor he wore was well ventilated. The suit’s epidermal sensors monitored things like that and adjusted to compensate. This was the Chiron project’s crowning achievement. The sweat, however, wasn’t environmentally induced. He ground his teeth struggling to hold back the anguished memories. The sweat once again drenched the armor’s inner padding. A Council patrol passed the vent. The sight of their uniforms caused the painful memories to thrust forward again, raw and vivid. He recalled the smell of burnt flesh as he approached his smoldering home. A lump welled up in his throat now as it had done then. Arrogant Council soldiers stood outside the gutted remains of his house admiring their work. They laughed when they saw him. They laughed. They won’t be laughing anymore.
He dropped down noiselessly from the shaft behind the patrol. The armor’s inertia buffers absorbing the sound. He flowed through the patrol dispatching each one with a fluid choreography of attacks. He mused at how impressed the scientists would have been who injected him with the Cor Leonis Mantis serum. He had volunteered for the praying mantis gene splice. One unexpected result was his relentless drive to fight no matter how big the opponent. The praying mantis has been known to take on animals 5x its size. Only two Nebulas remained of the patrol. They composed themselves remembering their training. They would have done well in the Council but not now. These two will die well in battle.
Bullets from the first agent rattled his armor but the reinforced carapace held. He drove his fist into the soldier’s neck and heard the spine snap. One left. He spun and caught the soldier’s foot inches from his helmet. A fighting style much like his own but this soldier was likely training to become a Leonis Assault, not a Penumbra as he had. He displaced the energy of the soldier’s crane kick driven towards his abdomen and heard the digital beeps as his armor augmented his limbs. In the back of his mind, the memory of his lost family drove tears into his eyes. He kicked and heard crack of the Leonis’ ribs. More beeps and adrenaline pulsed through his veins. The Leonis’ palm struck his helmet but it provided him time to grab the Council member’s wrist. Mechanically, he traced the finishing moves in his mind as his body followed. Broken, the Leonis fell limp.
“Well done. Very well done, hero.” said the Penumbra Elite as he approached with a band of reinforcements. “I’m not a real fan of bugs though.”
He activated the speaker in his helmet as he spoke. “I’m a mantis. Praying Mantis.” He jerked slightly as the armor filled his body once more with adrenaline. Then he struck.
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