"Alright, if we're doing this, are we still doing it head on?" said Stella. "Blasting through the dome and drilling down the labs in one massive frontal."
"Yeah, that ain't changin'," said Clint. "But what does have to change is we gotta split up sooner than we thought. Fifth sword is dangerous as all hell still and trained to a razor's edge. And we got sensitive quarry here that I ain't takin' a risk gettin' hurt." He nodded over to Falco and Alan.
"I can hel-," began Falco.
"Nah. You respect me, doncha, kid? Then you gotta listen to me. You don't gotta take all the fights that are thrown your way," said Clint. He was stern, but not overly so as to be reprimanding. "Fifth sword's got some serious firepower - he can supercharge alcohol with energy, ignite it, and then breathe it out as vapor-flames that can easily torch dozens of fellas, melting em' down to the bone, and if that wasn't enough, poisonin' them.
That's his main offense, actually, last time we fought, and it just makes it a shitshow to take him with numbers. It's how I got DB's brother killed."
"It wasn't your fault," said Diamondback. "Samuel knew the risks."
"Yeah, but he still trusted in me, the Unbreakable, to protect him. And I failed him." Clint shook his head. "This time, ain't nobody be dyin' on my watch. Not a single damn one of you. I'm takin the fifth on my own. No questions asked."
"Totally fine by me," said Tox. "I haaaate the sound of getting torched."
"I don't care about the fifth," said Ace. "I just need to get to the scientists. The head, if he's still there."
"Lab staff's still the same," said Alexis. "Highly specialized and trained team of former top researchers that aren't easily replaceable. Though, Ace, I get your grudge from being a labrat, but we have to make sure it fits into broader plans here."
"It does," said Clint. "DB, tell em' about the plan B we had."
Diamondback nodded. "Since Thanatos wanted us to make as much noise as possible, I re-adjusted the original plan I had for this raid. For a frontal attack, having as many people as possible to break through to the bottom vault as quickly as possible was the best solution.
Originally, though it was more of a traditional heist. Less gusto and guns and more sneaking.
This is why I hired Kris. He's an exceptional techno to have on any heist because of his ability."
"Black Cloud's the name of my power," said Kris. "As you might be able to guess, I can create a black cloud around me. Said cloud is impossible to penetrate with any optical or sensory system."
"Are we using that to sneak in?" Stella raised a brow. "Because even if we aren't gonna be seen directly, a moving black cloud's still suspicious as all hell."
"True," said Kris. "But that's not the purpose of my power. It prevents technology from registering anything within the cloud at all. If we pass by cameras or even trip sensors, they'll register nothing.
This applies to bots and drones as well.
As long as nobody sees us with their own two fleshy eyes, we're for all intents and purposes completely invisible."
"Gotcha," said Stella. "But shit, if we're gonna be busting that dome down, they're gonna know about us no matter what."
"That's IF we're going for a frontal," said Diamondback. "There is a secondary way into the labs. It just takes more time."
"There's a terminal in the domewall that I can jack into. Once I take it over, I should be able to access basic system infrastructure like the doors and elevator system," said Kris. "The issue is, this takes time. At the very least, ten minutes."
"That's a hell of a lot of time during a heist," said Tox. "Cloud might cover us, but it isn't going to cover your attempt to hack into the system. They'll register it."
"The good thing is, the cloud hides my infiltration," said Kris. "The bad thing? If I'm using my cloud to cover myself in cyberspace, it doesn't work in realspace."
"This sneaky Plan B wouldn't have worked then," noted Stella. "Ain't no way in hell that you don't get picked up by a camera or drone or sensor or anything in the ten whole minutes you're standing out there in the open, cracking into their system."
"It's why it's a plan B," said Diamondback. "But if we merge plan A and B together, it works."
"I'll go in and make a big ruckus," said Clint. "Show myself to em'. They'll know me and panic. Overreact and send as many people out. Even the fifth sword, most likely."
Hell, I'll call the guy out. Like most the swords, he's got a real taste for fighting and a sense of honor to boot. More likely than not, he'll take my bait."
He gave a knowing look to Falco as the kid already had wide eyes in anticipation of joining Clint on the action. "But it's me and ONLY me. Any more of you, and the labs will get suspicious that this ain't just me out to get revenge. They'll know more parties are involved. Get more wind that it's a distraction."
"Which leaves us to sneak in," said Stella. She sighed, disappointed. "But it means I won't be able to use my new and improved Bunker Buster. I really wanted to have a good time and blow some shit up…"
"Sis, you scare me with your idea of what a good time is," said Tox. "But I can roll with this plan. Better, really. Less risk."
"Yeah. Elevators will take us to the researchers, too. It's all I want out of this," said Ace.
"Just make sure to stay on track with the team," said Alexis.
"No issues with me," said Alan. "The fewer cyberware repairs I have to do, the better."
"Guess I can do this…" said Falco.
Nobody proposed a dissenting opinion.
"Good." Clint put his fist towards Stella, smiling at her. "Alright. Gimme a charge. I'll store it, remember it. And, hopefully, put out an explosion that'll meet your expectations. Be like as if you were there yourself!"
"Hah! I have high expectations, y'know?" Stella grinned and bumped her fist with Clint's. Her small fist looked comically tiny compared to Clint's enormous brick of a hand, but she still punched at him with confident energy.
When their knuckles touched, crackling sparks flew between their fists.
Clint closed his eyes, nodding. He whistled softly. "This is some explosive stuff. Shame I can't remember the stuff my body picks up permanently. Would've loved to keep somethin' like this.
Either way, though, it's time to raise some hell."
Meteor Labs, 20th floor - ??? Research Room
The twentieth floor of Meteor Labs, nestled just above the vault system, was dimly lit. Smooth, polished, sterile metal tiling filled out the floor, ceilings, and walls, and cleaning drones whirred about, keeping the surfaces as decontaminated as possible.
Scientists covered from head to toe in white and grey hazmat suits moved about silently, their voices muted under their helmets. This was by design. The lab was designed to have as little stimulus as possible, whether that be through light or sound.
Otherwise it might react.
The room had a circular orientation that revolved around its center where, in a depressed chamber, the object of study stood.
Nestled in a chamber of fortified glass was a black ring with a diameter of approximately three meters. The ring itself was fairly thin, made of flickering darkness that swayed errantly. Every little movement of the darkness distorted space around it, warping it like paper on the verge of tearing apart.
At the center of the ring was a rotating blue sphere, though it barely passed as one. It was more accurate to call it an amorphous blob, like a ball of azure goo that rippled and fluxed seemingly at random.
Scientists peered down at the ring from their workstations above, though never for too long. They mostly watched diagrams and graphical presentations of it from screens that constantly analyzed the object.
On eye-pads, they wrote down notes furiously.
A near silent buzz indicated that an elevator had reached the level. The scientists dropped what they were doing in surprise. Coming down to the twentieth floor required high levels of authorization.
It did not happen on a whim.
The elevator doors opened up, and out come a giant of a man that most definitely was not a scientist. He was dressed in baggy, purple pants decorated with floral cherry blossom patterning with wooden sandals for shoes. His sculpted upper body was completely bare, confidently showcasing bodybuilder level musculature.
He had a huge metal gourd, easily as big as a large man, strapped to his back.
The man's rugged face was thoroughly scarred, with one particularly notable scar running over his left eye, rendering it pale and blind. His messy black hair fell down to his shoulders in an unkempt wave that made him look positively homeless. Despite all this, he maintained a wide, happy grin.
"Dammit, all of you look the same in this getup!" said the man, known as Shuten-Doji, the Fifth Sword. "Where's Emi! Papa's back for a surprise visit!"