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Shepherd of Fire by JohnPCooper Shepherd of Fire :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0 Tactical John Puller BFE by JohnPCooper Tactical John Puller BFE :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 0 0 Archangel Dogfight 1 by JohnPCooper Archangel Dogfight 1 :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0 Sly's got a new shirt (colored) by JohnPCooper Sly's got a new shirt (colored) :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0 John Puller Knight BFE by JohnPCooper John Puller Knight BFE :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 0 0 Sly Cooper's got a New Shirt (BFE) by JohnPCooper Sly Cooper's got a New Shirt (BFE) :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 4 0 Fractured by JohnPCooper Fractured :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 5 0 Sierra Carmelita Tag Team Forest Fight by JohnPCooper Sierra Carmelita Tag Team Forest Fight :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0 Part 6 Concept art by JohnPCooper Part 6 Concept art :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 0 0 Valkyrie Eir Concept Art by JohnPCooper Valkyrie Eir Concept Art :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0 Sierra's Origins Page 4 by JohnPCooper Sierra's Origins Page 4 :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 0 0 John Puller's Origins Page 1 by JohnPCooper John Puller's Origins Page 1 :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 0 0 Sierras Origins Page 3 by JohnPCooper Sierras Origins Page 3 :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 0 0 Sierras Origins Page 2 by JohnPCooper Sierras Origins Page 2 :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0 Sierras Origins Page 1 by JohnPCooper Sierras Origins Page 1 :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0 Operation 13 Page 4 by JohnPCooper Operation 13 Page 4 :iconjohnpcooper:JohnPCooper 1 0

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Big Brother Is Watching by EmilieSushi Big Brother Is Watching :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 155 118 Rioichi Cooper - Digital by EmilieSushi Rioichi Cooper - Digital :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 278 129 Their ''Get Along'' Shirt by EmilieSushi Their ''Get Along'' Shirt :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 105 99 Good evening, Officer by EmilieSushi Good evening, Officer :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 198 295 What should have happened in India by EmilieSushi What should have happened in India :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 243 188 Rioichi Cooper - Traditional by EmilieSushi Rioichi Cooper - Traditional :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 190 74 Beat It by EmilieSushi
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Beat It :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 107 159
Shall We Dance? by catsprin Shall We Dance? :iconcatsprin:catsprin 173 12 Sly and Carmelita: Dancing with strangers by Sofie-Spangenberg Sly and Carmelita: Dancing with strangers :iconsofie-spangenberg:Sofie-Spangenberg 388 97 ''Oh Crap'' by Vixcoon ''Oh Crap'' :iconvixcoon:Vixcoon 236 64 Let's dance tango- Colors by EmilieSushi Let's dance tango- Colors :iconemiliesushi:EmilieSushi 340 157 Carmelita Fox - Evening Ware by andersoncathy Carmelita Fox - Evening Ware :iconandersoncathy:andersoncathy 245 22 Sly Cooper and Carmelita Fox by andersoncathy Sly Cooper and Carmelita Fox :iconandersoncathy:andersoncathy 331 18 Carmelita Fox: a best wish by TavoGDL Carmelita Fox: a best wish :icontavogdl:TavoGDL 411 48 Whats Mine Is Mine. by Virus-20 Whats Mine Is Mine. :iconvirus-20:Virus-20 330 116

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Epilogue

The War for Geneva ended in the June of 2010 when the entire city was burned to the ground and the surrounding countries destabilized. The most affected countries were France, Germany, Denmark and Greece, which soon began a political revolution. The Crusaders who survived the War for Geneva eventually moved to the middle east where they began hunting terrorist cells. Eventually, they formed their own private military organization centralized in South Africa. They currently compete with other private military forces such as Blackwater in the field. Part of their mission included seeking out and eliminating all remaining vampire bases around the world. Of the original 10 around the world, the FoV have destroyed 6 including the original Russian and Denmark hives. The Crusaders have successfully destroyed a hive in Afghanistan, Mali, Niger and Texas.

Bentley and Penelope went on to be renowned scientists and engineers, eventually pioneering space travel technology and relaunching Hawken Enterprises as an aerospace Company similar to NASA and SPACEX. They also moved away to Great Britain and got married shortly after the death of John Puller. As of 2018, they are two of the richest individuals on the planet and oversaw the reconstruction of Paris, therefore personally owning roughly 30% of the new city's real estate.

James Barkley, now long since retired, enjoys life in Hawaii. He sometimes visits the Cooper family at the Idaho base and has even been included as part of the extended Cooper family, deemed "grandpa James".

Sly and Carmelita live quietly at the Idaho base. All operational systems have been deactivated as of 2012 and the C-17 was never recovered or replaced. Therefore, as a last job, Sly bombed the Alaskan C-17 base, destroying all traces of the Warfighters existence outside of the former Idaho base. Unfortunately, the Armors and swords could not be destroyed, so instead they were buried beneath a 10 foot layer of concrete. Upon the completion of the reconstruction of Paris, Sly and Carmelita bought a vacation home identical to Carmelitas previous apartment. However, the extended Cooper family used the Idaho house as a meeting place.

John P Cooper was born on September 23, 2010 the healthy first son and first child out of 4 of Sly and Carmelita Cooper. Eventually, he started to feel the traditional 'thieving urge' at which point, John Puller himself showed himself as a ghost to tell the boy to ask his father of his story, and when he was ready, he told him the story of his own life. The story of how the world almost ended and how the apocalypse was so close to happening and what it had cost him. But most of all, why he did it.

Now go,

The future is waiting...


Part 15: House of the Rising Sun

Sly

I was told I had been picked up shortly after I had passed out, falling in my parachute from the the back of the burning Archangel, by Carmelita in a Sentinel. She quickly drove me to the nearest bombed out airport and got me onboard Ghost Rider in a touch and go landing. I can't believe John actually shot me. In the leg sure. But still, the fact that he shot me at all was enough to send my brain into a frenzy. Sure he had shot at us before in London but that was different. Before he was just meaning to scare us off, but now he had actually taken the shot. At least I was alive, that was the good news. Unfortunately there was even more bad news that was slightly more pressing.

In my fall I was unconscious, so I wasn't able to feel my right femur crack in half when I hit the ground. Despite all that had happened, all we had lost and all we had fought so desperately for, I was out of action indefinitely from a damn broken leg. It was at this point that I had to remind myself however that John was likely dead. We had killed the demon we had helped unleash onto the world, the mission was a success. But there was still the matter of the Fangs. They were deathly crippled, sure. But they were most certainly still alive. They had to be dealt with. But that's when Carmelita stopped me. In the time I had been unconscious she had finally decided to tell me that she was pregnant.

At the time I didn't know what to say. But then again, what was there to say? Suddenly I had gone from being a cripple with a death wish to being an expecting father, and the happiest man on earth in a matter of minutes. And in those moments, I made up my mind. My career, my life in crime, my mission to save the world, all of it melted away at the thought of finally having a family with Carmelita and our new child. I was done.

It was the summer of the same year and we had recently gone to the nearest hospital for an Ultrasound to check on the baby and hopefully see if we could identify the gender. I was shocked when the nurse told us it was a boy. It was strange to hear about something I never thought about until so recently. Suddenly it started to feel a lot less like a dream and alot more like a possible future reality. I started to imagine a life where my wife was also the mother to our son. Until now it all seemed like a far off fantasy, and now it was coming faster than I could have ever imagined. Maybe dreams really can come true.

The next morning, I carefully went downstairs early to make breakfast. Being that I wouldn't be able to walk correctly for a number of years now, I had to watch my step. Pancakes were always her favorite, so I started making some along with some eggs and bacon. But suddenly, looking out the window in front of the kitchen, I saw an old pickup truck drive up from the far side of the airfield and up to the hillside with the big oak tree. I squinted to see someone getting out of the car with a cane and limp over to the grave stones and sit down. I broke away from the counter and went over to the mantle where there sat my old binocucom. I grabbed it and looked out the sliding glass door across the field and lo and behold, there he was. The black and white Siberian tiger was slumped against Sierras grave with his cane laid in the grass next to him.

I was tempted to go upstairs to grab a sniper rifle to shoot him from across the airfield, but two things stopped me. First off, I was still a bad shot. And second, I might wake up Carmelita, something I really didn't enjoy doing. So I did the first thing that came to mind. I opened the picture frame gun safe closest to the front door and took out a suppressed M1911 and gently racked it to make sure it was loaded. Then I quietly slipped into a pair of shoes and carefully slipped out the front door. I climbed into one of the two Sentinels in front of the house and, careful not to rev the engine too loud, turned around and started off toward the oak tree to meet John.

Driving up slowly and putting the car in park a few dozen meters away from him, I didn't really know what to expect. Was this a trap? Or was he here to ask me for a favor. In either case, it all ended now. I had finally found a life I couldn't even dream about leaving behind, and I wasn't about to have him take that away from me. I disembarked the Sentinel and shuffled carefully towards, with my gun raised in one hand ready to shoot him in the head at the first sign of trouble, and in the other leaning heavily on my wooden cane at my side, still needing it to walk after my injury from a few months before. But for some reason, he didn't seem to notice me. In fact, he hadn't even turned his head since I had arrived. He just kept on staring off into the distance behind me. It was only when I was only a few meters away when he finally raised his gaze to meet mine. I stopped in my tracks.

"Hey Sly," he said weakly, "long time, no see."

It was only then when I noticed the knife handle protruding from his side. What the hell happened to him? I was tempted to lower my gun and examine the wound, but knowing John, he probably could have treated a simple knife wound himself. And again, he wouldn't be here unless he had a reason. I stayed my ground, but dropped my gun to my hip and leaned more on my cane.

"What do you want?" I asked flatly.

"From you? Just to talk," he responded solemnly, "My time here's almost up."

"What do you mean?"

"The jobs done Sly," he took out a bottle of whiskey and a few glasses from behind him, "It's over. You can live in peace now."

It occured to me then why he had come home. Thinking from his point of view for a moment, everyone he had ever known and loved had died. He was alone now and he's the last of his kind. I was the only real friend he had left. But even more than that, he had come to die. This thought was further solidified when he filled the glasses and offered me one of them. I finally lowered my gun all the way and walked over to sit down next to him on Sierras gravestone.

He handed me my glass and I took it, taking a little sip as I looked out over the airfield at the victorian style house where my whole world still slept soundly as the brilliant arcs of sunlight tinted the whole valley with a warm shade of orange.

"She's a nice girl Sly," John said from behind me, "I'm happy for you."

I turned back around to see that he had already begun pouring himself a second glass.

"Thanks," I had finally started to relax, but not just because of the drink, "I never got the chance to tell you this before but… I'm really sorry about what happened to Sierra."

"Yeah…," he looked down at his glass while he swirled it, "me too."

There was a short moment of silence before he spoke again.

"I was going to be a dad you know," I did a bit of a double take at his gentle smile before looking up to finish the thought. "She never told me until the last minute. In case you haven't figured out by now, that's why I drove you away. Made myself the bad guy."

"Why?"

"Because I knew the day I buried her here that my days were numbered, but you… you still had a chance." He said as he raised his glass, to which I toasted, "to a better tomorrow." and we drank. I admired the sunrise as I tasted the air mix with the alcohol in my mouth to make a crisp airbourne mixture. And for one reason or another, I softened up, even started to feel bad for John. He came back just to talk for a few more minutes in the place he called home.

"You know, we can probably still save you. I can have Bentley come down here and prep you for surgery," I said as he poured himself another glass.

He scoffed, "No, I'm too far gone. And the knife is a poisoned tri-blade bayonet. But even if I lived, what would I do? I can't go anywhere. I'm a terrorist to a world that will never know what really happened."

"John, we'll think of something. Bentley can scrub the interpol database of any trace of you. You can start a new life."

"Maybe he can, but that's not the point," he took a big swig of whiskey and put it down to grip the handle of the knife, "I just want to see Sierra again."

And with a suppressed grunt and visual signs of effort, he pulled the knife out of his abdomen. Blood immediately started to flow from the wound as he threw the knife aside. John started to breathe more heavily as he gripped his side. I strained myself to not try to help him, knowing that this was what he wanted.

"You know," he chuckled under his breath, "this really sucks."

Not knowing what I could do, I just laughed at the very thought of John poking fun at his own death. The situation so outrageously strange that I really never would have thought of it on my own.

"Yeah? Well maybe you shouldn't have pulled fucking a knife out of your stomach," I jabbed.

In response he laughed out loud for a moment, letting his head fall back against the gravestone, his smile slowly fading as he gazed off into the distance, as though seeing something that I could not.

"Sly," he said absently, "promise me you won't make the same mistakes I did."

"I promise," I said sincerely, starting to feel tears swell in my eyes as his condition got worse by the second.

"Thank you Sly. It's been a pleasure…," he stopped himself short and for the first time, I saw him cry, not tears of sadness or fear, but tears of joy. I could barely make out his last words over his sobbing, "I'm coming home." His head rocked back to lightly touch the gravestone and turned away. The glass fell gently out of his other hand and spilled into the grass.

And just like that, on May 16, 2010, John Puller passed away on his wife's grave, finally at peace.

8 years later

Far off in the distance a new steel target was screwed firmly into a wooden post about 200 meters away from me. A moment later, a single shot rang out across the valley and responsive 'ding' echoed in reply. It was a good shot, but not from me, because after all these years of practice, I still suck at shooting long distance. The shot instead came from the bolt action Luger .22 rifle I recently bought for my my 7 year old son. I had taken him out today for his first time shooting. I walked him through all the steps and parameters of taking a shot, and lucky for me, he was a fast learner and caught on quickly. And eventually, I just let him take shots on his own. He was doing just fine hitting the target about once out of every 5 shots.

"He definitely doesn't get his marksmanship skills from his father," John said jokingly from next to me.

"Yeah," I replied, "you know, I'm sure Bentley and Penelope wouldn't mind having you around every now and then too."

"Maybe, but let's be honest, Bentley hated my guts."

I scoffed, "slightly."

We stood and watched for a while as my son let off a few more shots downrange in silence. A father and his fallen friend

"So, John P Cooper huh?" John asked, "a bit cheesy don't you think?"

"Yeah, well, we needed someone to remind us of the 'Annoying Uncle John'."

He chuckled in response, "screw it, I'll take it."

We had another moment of silence while my son reloaded his rifle and fired his next shot.

"You really did good here you know," John said, nodding towards the house, where Carmelita tended to our second and third child in a back porch swing. Our first daughter and second son. "You've really made it."

"Yeah but it could be better." I looked down at my feet.

"Yeah?" he replied, facing back towards me with his chin up and hands in his pockets, "how so?"

I could only think of so many ways of saying it but before I could, my son looked back over his shoulder from the ground from his shooting position.

"Dad, who're you talking to?" he asked, sounding slightly annoyed .

"Nothing. Just remember to account for changes in wind direction." I replied, waiting for him to turn back to the range before walking away from him and toward the base of the oak tree where there now lie 3 gravestones, third belonging to John Puller.

In accordance to his will, John left us everything he owned. All his money, all his remaining assets, everything. All he asked in return was two things. First to be laid to rest beside his wife under their favorite oak tree, and second to have the following quote written on his tombstone:

"All The Heavens and all the Hell,

all the demons and all the angels stir within you,

For you are the author of your own destiny.

If there must be violence, let it have been in our day,

So our children may live in peace."

I started to tear up, looking down at his grave. The one who, if I really thought about it, I owed my new life to. My old friend…

"We miss you John," I looked back across the airfield at the house, the same view I had 7 years ago, only a little warmer, "We all do."

Sly 5: A Thief's Heart
The End
~John P Cooper

Part 14: Operation War Machine

The following is a timeline of the events that transpired during the build up and highest point of the War of Geneva

January 24:

-Operation War Machine begins

-John Puller contacts various homeless veteran communities and encampments across the US via encrypted radio frequencies.

-Massive crowds of homeless veterans begin to amass around major air force bases

-The Cooper Gang read Sierras message and see her message about Johns weakness and how to use his resolve against him

January 25:

-John temporarily locks the Cooper gang inside the Bunker's main main garage in a proxy attack and lands in Idaho to withdrawal most military assets and special equipment

-John Puller disconnects Hector from Archangel

-John assists in the capture of Camp Pendleton in California with little resistance from active armed forces

-Similar events happen at roughly the same time across the country

-US military powerless to engage the masses or threaten to devastate the morale of the US military

-A total of 50 B-52 cargo aircraft and Archangel take flight from all over the country carrying over 40,000 retired veterans with their own individual gear and weapons, plus various other weapons including 2 MOABs, a cumulative 100 50-pound bombs, 4 M3A3 Bradley IFV's, 3 M777 artillery guns and 6 of the 8 Sentinels

-US veteran homelessness drops by roughly 50%

-The Cooper Gang gather all remaining assets and takes off in Ghost Rider, tracking the fleet of B-52's heading East

-rouge unit designated as the Crusaders

January 26:

-The War for Geniva begins

-Archangel assumes its aerial defence protocol and protects the B-52's from air to air fighters as bombing runs are carried out on major thoroughfares in the city, prioritizing the river that runs through the city as well as streets and buildings immediately surrounding the Headquarters

-most roads were destroyed in bombing runs, making them untraversable to normal city vehicles

-MOAB dropped on Geneva's commercial shipyard

-B-52's Land in Geneva Airport to unload personnel and cargo.
-Ghost Rider arrives, having tipped off the German and British air force

-German armed forces detected approaching from the east

-Crusader artillery strikes commence briefly on incoming German mechanized infantry before M777's are destroyed by British cruise missile from offshore battleship in the Ligurian Sea

-German armored division continues advance

-Sly attempts to board Archangel and is unsuccessful, landing near Geneva Airport undetected

-Sly Steals night vision equipment and begins sabotaging equipment

-Ghost Rider fires on Crusaders in an attempt to allow Geneva civilians to escape the onslaught

-German KSK Special Forces Arrive in Geneva, British SAS en route

January 27:

-KSK attempt rescue operation of FoV officials

-unsuccessfully infiltrated the city and killed by Crusaders at the Botanical Garden near the lake coastline, Sly saves one operative

-Sly nearly killed by operative an hour later for conflicting intentions, Sly is forced to kill the operative

-MOAB is dropped on a German Leopard 2 Tank column

-German infantry arrive in Geneva

-Sly sneaks onboard Archangel when it is landed for refueling and reloading in Geneva Airport

-as jet is taking off, SAS unit infiltrate Archangel and kill its crew when it's airbourne

-Archangel's aerial defense countermeasures are compromised

-B-52's begin taking damage and getting shot down by German fighter aircraft over Geneva, largely destroying what remains of the city. Remaining Crusaders resort to using guerrilla warfare

-John and Sly fight back against SAS unit

-Sly and John successfully fend off against the SAS unit but Archangel is critically damaged and quickly losing altitude

-John shoots Sly in the leg, attaches him to a parachute and kicks him off the back of Archangel.

-Sly passes out in his descent and Archangel crashes at full speed into a hillside to the south east, roughly four miles from Geneva, destroying part of the province of Veyrier and Monnetier

-John survives by equipping Knight Armor and jumping off immediately before impact

-Carmelita picks up Sly in a Sentinel and brings him to Ghostrider at the Geneva airport

-Cooper Gang retreats in Ghost Rider

-intensive urban combat ensues in Geneva

May 14:

-After a long battle costing the lives of most of the Crusaders, the FoV leaders are evacuated through armored transport but are intercepted by John Puller who disables the armored transport with a Carl Gustav rocket launcher in the city of Nyon

May 15:

John Puller kills all FoV leaders in a fortified hotel in Nyon but is mortally wounded by a high level guard by a poisoned tri-blade knife

Sly and Carmelita discover their child's gender at local hospital in Idaho, its a boy

May 16:

John Puller returns home...


Part 13: We have no Tomorrow...

Ch. 35

Bentley

We had to cut half of our engine power to keep the damaged engine from igniting the fuselage but keep up the airspeed just enough to keep us from falling out of the sky. It was a stressful several hours on the route back to Idaho and required both mine and Penelopes skills together to manage. It was hard to believe John could turn on us like that. After all we've been through. Sure, he was angry, I get that. But did it really rationalize him trying to kill us? And sure the third shot fired on the boardwalk could be debated, after all maybe he saw someone in the building and shot them out to defend us. But I still couldn't fathom why he would try and shoot us out of the sky from another gunship. He could have killed us all in a single shot to the fuselage. But what was even more puzzling is why he didn't. I debated with Penelope as we zig-zagged around the command center. She brought up the idea that maybe he was putting on an act for someone, making it appear as though we were enemies. But I disagreed.

"If he was just acting then why did he shoot out an engine?" I replied over my shoulder. I was trying to focus on the problem at hand while debating at the same time and it was rather stressful, "he almost knocked us out of the sky over the Atlantic Ocean. He could have killed us! And besides, there's no one for him to act for."

"That's a valid argument," she replied, she was facing the opposite wall trying to manage the fuel consumption through 3 seperate monitors, "but all I'm saying is if he really wanted us dead, we would have never left the boardwalk. He had the perfect opportunity from a safe location and he didn't take it. And besides, he did save us."

"So you're saying he wants to save us but at the same time he wants to kill us but still doesn't want to kill us?"

"As confusing and convoluted as it sounds, yes. That is my leading theory."

"Eh, well I don't have a better idea so let's go with that."

I put in a few final commands into the computer and turned to check on Penelope. 2 of her screens were covered in the schematics for the AC-130, but the other had lines of code scrolling down it.

"What's this?" I asked pointing to the code.

"That's Hector," she replied without looking up from the screen, "After we were attacked by John, I got the idea to start looking through Hectors basic code. There's some interesting things in here."

"Wait, but Hetcor is flying the plane. Isn't that a bit risky when he could drop us out of the sky?"

"It's ok I'm not changing anything," she said, waving for me to calm down, "I'm just taking a peek. Besides, we need every tool we can get if we want to stand a chance against John since he clearly has the better firepower."

"Ok, well what did you find then?" I pushed a button on my legs control panel to drop my stance to a sitting position. Still wasn't used to that...

"A number of things actually," she stopped the scrolling and opened a few more monitors to display different lines of code. "There's a destination chart, mission list, protocol database, member manifest, and of all things, a copy of everyones will."

"Well that's not weird at all," I said sarcastically. Penelope wasn't amused though and kept going.

"But the strangest thing was that beyond the initial firewall I needed to crack to get into Hectors code, there's another one that I can't even see through," she scrolled through a long series of code on one of the screens, "It looks like something you would do."

She was right. Whenever I set up a firewall on any piece of equipment, from the Thiefnet laptop to the binocucom radio signal, I always use a very particular method of encryption that is nearly impossible to crack unless you give a very specific input given in a very specific time frame. So if you take too long to put it in, the entire system would shut down before it could be cracked, causing you to start over again. But just looked so familiar…

On a hunch, I nudged past Penelope and typed in a single passkey. Seven letters, not even sure if it would work. My name, Bentley. It couldn't be a coincidence that this resembled my work so much, this had to mean something. I pressed enter and just that screen went dark. Penelope waited in silence as all the other screens kept running and the wind kept roaring outside the windows. There was a deathly silence, waiting for something to happen. Anything.

But then code started to write itself.

'Facial recognition' was all it said and a camera that was built into the control panel above the monitor turned on for a moment and turned off a second later. On the screen, a digital reconstruction of my face was shown for a few seconds before disappearing again. A moment later, a single line came onto the screen accompanied by audio from Hector.

"Hello Bentley. I've waited for this a long time for this."

And below it was a single file, named 'Sins of our Fathers'. I opened it in anticipation to reveal two video files. One for me, and one for Sly.

"Penelope…" I turned to her, lost for words. I was hoping she would say something. Advice, a friendly 'don't do it', but no. Nothing. She was just as lost for words as was I.

Oscar

I was able to take a cab from JFK Airport to Manhattan but the whole way, I was constantly keeping an eye on my surroundings. Whenever we stopped, I identified anyone so much as holding a closed umbrella or awkwardly walking around in a trench coat. The heavy night time rain didn't help in that endeavor and I hugged my briefcase close to my chest. As we crawled through the traffic crossing the Brooklyn Bridge I noticed that a black Mercades Benz SUV tailing my cab. They followed me all the way through Manhattan Island up through the dark streets. It felt like I was being driven to my final resting place as the giant signs of Times Square slowly rolled by the windows on our way to my destination. I knew who they were. The Scorpions had found me. I really didn't think they would be as good as they were, but here they are now, stalking me like a wolf with their prey.

"We're here," prompted the driver as we arrived at the doorstep of the Park Hyatt New York Hotel. I handed him a wad of cash and stepped out.

I took a deep breath and ascended up the glamorous staircase toward the main gold plated doors. Before the bellboy opened the door for me I could see the Mercades coming to a halt where I had at the bottom of the staircase and several men with black trench coats and fedoras stepped out. I hurried to the front desk and checked in with a reservation I had set on the plane ride over here all the while checking my surroundings. The Scorpions still hadn't come through the doors. I still had some time.

I was handed a key for a suite and I hurried off for the elevators, positive the Scorpions weren't far behind. Once the doors closed and I started to rise, I cracked open my briefcase and peeked inside. All there was is my laptop. I booted it up so that when I got to my room I didn't have to wait for it to start. My time was running out and every second was valuable. When the elevator stopped I sped through the halls to my room at the end of one of the corridors. I closed the door behind me and quickly unpacked my laptop and plugged it into the wall so it could hack into the towers network and connect to the Idaho base. John didn't know I was here. Neither did Sierra. With any hope, no one would ever know I was here. But just in case, I had to make one final message. A message to a son who would never know who I was, and I pray wouldn't have to. I spun the laptop around and opened it, relieved that the computers AI had already established a secure connection to the bunker. I took a slow deep breath and wiped my forehead for the sweat that had accumulated over the past few hours. This was it. I thought about what I would say on the ride over here and I had so much I wanted to say. There was so much I wanted to explain with so little time. I flipped up the monitor and started the video recording process. I also plugged in a dead man's switch. Should I die during the recording process, the feed would cut and the video file would be sent to Hector where it would be buried deep in his code. The light came on next to the camera at the top of the laptop. This was it.

"Son…," I thought of something to say. Anything, "If you're seeing this then I'm dead," come on you can do better than that. I thought harder but at some point when I was looking out the rain soaked window, I stopped thinking and I started to speak from the heart instead, "I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you in person. But I assure you, I was always there for you. Watching over you like a guardian angel. Bentley… You wouldn't remember because you were too young, but you were taken from us because of something I did. But none of that matters anymore. If you're watching this then something has happened. You've probably guessed by now that I made Hector. One of my best inventions," I was starting to brag. Get with it damn it, "but the important thing is why. Why you've gone to such an extent to dig through the code of Hector to find a secure hidden database and use your own name to unlock a carbon copy of your firewall. For one, I'm glad you picked up on the trail of breadcrumbs. It's a fine piece of art you've put together here. But back to the point," I knew I was running out of time. I couldn't prove it but I could feel their presence nearing me. Like a grim reaper. I had to stay on task, "there's only one thing that could drive you this deep into the code. Something happened and now you're at odds with John and Sierra. The first thing you have to understand is they are two of the most dangerous individuals on the planet. Especially John. Back in the Warfighter days, he was the guy we sent in to either extract information or kill targets, and he was the best at it. If you want to stay alive, don't stay in one place for too long or they will find you and they will kill you."

I thought really hard on what other advice I could give him. I knew that of all the possibilities, this was really the only cause for him to find this message. John and Sierra were my friends. No, more than that, they were my family. But this was my son. It's the least I could do, "but in the first chance you get, go to these coordinates," I jotted down a set of coordinates for the Idaho base and held it up for the camera, and quickly tore it into little pieces, put it into a nearby trash bin and soaked it in alcohol from a complimentary bottle of red wine to destroy it, "once there you need to find a scrapbook. Sierra is the only one who ever took pictures from our missions. She was never supposed to but now she has a record of everything we've ever done. Everything from the Warfighters to Hawken Enterprises. But there's more. I told Sierra to hide something that could give you a clue in taking out John a while ago. It's not much to go off of but if you want any sort of edge, that's the best place to start," I heard several footsteps outside the door. They found me and now there was nowhere else to run. It was funny how I had originally set out to lead the Scorpions away to protect John and Sierra, but in my goodbye message I was instructing someone in how to kill them. But I had to see the obvious. There was no other scenario in which Bentley would ever come across this message. "I think my time is up. I wish I could have seen you grow up in person, like how it should have been. I regret a number of things in my life. I regret not putting my family before my work, I regret not standing up when I should have, and I regret not seeing the consequences of my actions until it's too late. It's too late for me," the team bashed through the door and started to sweep through the room behind me but I stayed at my computer. I knew what was coming, "You still have time to make it right."

I never heard the bullet crack through the screen. I dropped the switch and the feed cut at April 3rd, 2007 at the stroke of midnight. It was automatically sent to Hector and, without John or Sierra knowing, took the file and buried it in my hidden database that I renamed ''Sins of our Fathers' along with the video message Connor had made just before he died. I didn't know what The future was out of my hands now. It's up to them now.

Bentley

I was frozen in front of the screen after it went from static to just black. The wind roared outside and the computers made their miscellaneous beeps. The other monitors kept on scrolling through lines of code but Penelope and I stayed where we were, motionless. Neither of us dared make a sound in case my father still had more to say. After a minute of staring at the screen, I stood up, finally breaking the silence with the wiring of the motors in my legs.

"We need to find that scrapbook," I said with conviction.

I walked out of the cockpit to find the others so they could see the message as well. But of all things, I felt different from how I've ever felt before. It was more with confidence. After seeing my father's face for the first time in memory and hearing his voice, I suddenly felt a new kind of power. A sense of purpose for something bigger than myself. He said so much that reflected my own thoughts. For so long I've put the job first. There was always a heist or a project, but in all that time I subconsciously neglected Penelope. When we're done with this, I won't make the same mistakes. I'll make my father proud.

We landed a few hours later in Idaho. Well, it was more like we skidded to a halt on the runway. Upon landing, the landing gear failed and we slid across the runway and nearly crashed into the hillside below the house. I was personally surprised that the gunships ammo didn't explode, but miraculously the entire plane stayed in one piece. Immediately we all went to work. Penelope and I got a number of Sentinels and dragged the plane back to the hangar to try and repair the damage. I still hadn't told her of my change in heart after seeing that video. I just didn't know how to bring it across. Sly and Carmelita took another Sentinel and sped up the hill to the house to find the scrapbook.

Carmelita

We didn't really have anything to go off of so we just started in their old bedroom. We hadn't moved their things yet so nothing had really changed since we had left for Denmark. Before everything fell apart. We sifted through their things in hopes of finding the scrapbook but instead we came across a strikingly odd number of guns. In fact, the entire box spring of the king sized bed was one huge gun safe, as was an entire wall in the bathroom. After Sly cracked the safes, we found at least 30 different guns of varying types from short and long barreled AR-15's of various types, shotguns, pistols, body armor, Night Vision Goggles, Aug's, two GM6 Lynx's, and even a few guns that had enlarged barrels big enough to fit a soda can into, ironically with 'his' and 'her' 'can-cannon' engraved into the side. Not sure what they would have used those for but sure. Why not I guess…

Unfortunately, we never found anything resembling a scrapbook. After a few hours, Sly plopped onto the end of the bed and fell front first with his arms spread eagle. I couldn't blame him. I myself flopped stomach first lengthwise over the bed. I propped up my chin on the back of my hand and looked out across the room to the closed door of a balcony. The white transparent drapes were partially drawn and cast uneven shadows across the entire room while letting out a stream of orange light to flood the room in the evening glow of the setting sun outside. It had been a very long day to say the least. After almost dying on several different occasions, I was exhausted. I was honestly on the verge of forgetting what we were looking for. And to think that only 2 days ago we were married! I wasn't sure if this was the most unique honeymoon or the worst. Maybe both. Was this how normal marriages are supposed to be?

I scoffed at the idea of comparing myself to anything remotely normal. I was a former cop married to a retired master thief, with an infamous hacker and crack mechanic for friends, all trying to stop the world from caving in on itself while trying not to die at the hands of an international agency and a psychopath tiger after his cyborg wife died. I couldn't imagine a way this could possibly be conceived as normal. But then again, anything is possible in America I suppose. We stayed there for a while, letting the orange rays soak into the walls and slowly crawl up to the ceiling. Of all things the atmosphere made me think of pancakes. 'And now I'm craving pancakes. Great'

I turned my head to look at Sly. He was turned over now, clearly either asleep or almost asleep. I nudged him and he groaned in protest.

"Come on," I beckoned, prying myself off the surprisingly soft bed, "dinner time. I'm starving."

"In a minute," he mumbled, hardly moving.

I kicked him gently and he started to groan and shift around in an extended effort to get up. I led him downstairs sleepy eyed and started to sift through the cabinets and cupboards in the kitchen for supplies and eventually found enough to start cooking. Sly had woken up enough by then to try to help.

"Pancakes?" He noticed what I had the ingredients for as he stumbled into the kitchen, "But it's like 8."

I shushed him playfully, "Pancakes are life. Life is all the time. Pancakes all the time." I struck a pose holding the box of batter with a big over exaggerated smile as though I were advertising it and Sly cracked a smile.

"Jeez you are so weird," he chuckled as he came over to give me a kiss.

"Says the guy who just figured out what pants were" I jabbed back before submitting to his embrace.

I stayed there for a while, enjoying his warmth. This never gets old. After all this time, it finally feels like we've found a way we can be together. Now all I can think about is what life could be like after this whole fiasco is over, given that none of us gets killed. The thought sent shivers up my spine and I thought back 2 years ago when John asked us to write our own wills. It was an eerie feeling then and sometimes I still think about it. But then I remembered, there were will we should have read, Murray was gone and so was Sierra. It had been over a month and we still haven't opened their wills. We'll do that tonight. But now, pancakes.

Later that night after dinner, the four of us gathered in the living room to read the wills. Sly opened the dusty filing cabinet in the corner of the room and took out two files. One for Sierra and one for Murray. He sat down next to me on one of the sofas and weighed the files in his hands. Bentley and Penelope were sitting in an adjacent sofa across from a coffee table.

"I think it's only right that we open Murray's first. He's been with us from the start and we wouldn't be the family we were… or are now... without him," without waiting a moment more, he gingerly opened the file and pulled out a single piece of paper. He stared at it for a minute, as though trying to force the words out of his mouth.

"Wow there's… alot," he noted. I leaned on his shoulder to see entire paragraphs written. He started reading it off, "I never really thought about death until now. It's not something I've really cared about. Never really seemed like it was too close but now that I sit down and really think about it, it's been knocking on our door ever since we left the orphanage. I suppose with that said it's good to have a plan," he stopped for a moment, "as for me, all I ask is that you take care of my van. You can use it but just take care of it," he paused again, this time bringing his hand up to his chin. I could see him start to tear up as he silently read the rest to himself.

"Do you want me to read it for you?" I asked softly.

"No," he replied, "No I got this," he wiped his tears and continued, "I've watched you all for a long time. I've watched you all start your own lives and meet someone special. But you never really followed through on these connections. They're special you know… You're all special. If One day I die and you need to read this, just know that in all that time, you've made our family that much bigger. You need to put aside your differences and what we are now and look forward to what could be. Bentley, you have a strong will but Penelope still has a heart and I know that you still believe that. You belong together. Sly...," he trailed off again before starting back up, again wiping away a few tears. He leaned back and pulled me close. I followed the words on the page as he read aloud, "I've never seen any two people more in love with each other or more meant for eachother. I can see in you two what I know most people dream of what you have. I know I did," I looked up at Sly and he looked down at me. I started to tear up too and he kissed me on the forehead. He finished the page, "I can only hope that you can go on one day and live lives together. Settle down and just be people, like how it should be, with or without me."

Ch.36

Sly

I wasn't sure what to say. I never knew Murray had thought this out so well and so thoroughly. It was almost as thought he knew he wasn't going to make it. It just didn't sound like his normal self. It didn't have his cocky pride and bravado of 'The Murray'. This was a legitimate goodbye statement. Surely he couldn't have known he would go out like he did but still, I just wasn't prepared for what was said. I put the piece of paper back into the file folder and put it on the table in front of me where it slid midway across until it stopped in the middle. Bentley picked it up and read it silently with Penelope while I picked up and opened Sierras file. To my surprise it was almost empty. All that there was was a flashdrive. I picked it out of a plastic bag tucked into a pocket built into the file wall and weighed it in my hand.

"Bentley, can the bunker play something on a flashdrive?" I asked from across the table. I kept examining the flashdrive. 'No Tomorrow' was engraved into one side of the metallic device.

I could see Bentley look up from Murrays will from the corner of my eye.

"Yes, of course," He closed the file and stood up as I handed him the flashdrive, "Want to do this now?"

I nodded.

We all gathered ourselves and walked out to the bunker. The big door still had a huge charred spot on it from when the Fangs attacked and tried to blow it open. It barely showed any signs of damage as it slowly creeped open as though nothing had happened. Upon walking inside Bentley immediately went over to a console and plugged it in. The giant screen at the end of the bunker hall turned on and a loading bar appeared on it as we all stood in front of the couches. The page filled rather quickly with lines and lines of code and a password prompt appeared in its place. Did Sierra really anticipate her will being stolen enough to put a password lock on it? It must be important then to feel like you needed to protect something even after death.

"The password is hardwired into the flashdrive so I can't hack it," Bentley said from behind the bar counter off to the side. He peeked over the side and put an arm on the countertop, "I think we definitely need that Scrapbook now."

Carmelita

So we searched again and again we found nothing throughout the entire house. But then I remembered something. Bentley's father pointed at Sierras scrapbook as an incredibly important item and the fact that it's hers means that she would probably have it nearby at all times. But that was the problem. Of all people besides John, I spent the most time with her. I got to know her the most out of everyone here and if there was anything I learned is that she hated her past. In fact she rarely even spoke of it. So why have a scrapbook? Or maybe it wasn't just a scrapbook to her…

I called everyone together in the living room after about an hour of searching.

"Did you find something?" Bentley immediately asked upon coming into sight from the staircase.

"No, but what if that's the point?" I started when we had all gathered, "We've looked all throughout the house and we didn't find anything. But what if it's not in the house?"

"But where else would it be?" asked Sly.

"I think I know," I answered, "I knew Sierra fairly close. We talked a lot and I got to know her and the one thing I learned about her is she would rather leave the past behind to live her life as it is now. So why would she have a book containing all the memories of a past life she only wanted to forget in the house she wanted to start a new one in?" I let it sink in, "what we need to ask ourselves is where are the things she wants to forget?"

Again, there was a silence as the words sunk in. I pondered them myself, but in all honesty, even I didn't know where else to look. The bunker could take forever to look through as we didn't even know how deep into the ground it went. So where else could it be? Could it be buried beneath the house somewhere? Or maybe it's hidden out in the woods in a concealed location that they never showed us. The thought of searching the entire property came to mind and the idea of searching for months on end surfaced. We didn't have that much time to lose on a wild goose chase. There had to be another way.

Finally Bentley broke the silence, "Well, if she wanted to forget something, she wouldn't go there. She would put everything that reminded her of her past life in a place she would never need to go to again. The only place that I can think of that she would really never have a reason to go is the hangar. The only time anyone ever goes in there is when we need to prepare for a mission. If there's no mission, then there's no reason to go there. And if there's no reason to go there, it makes for a good place to forget about things," he looked around at us, "so are we going to stand around and talk about it some more or are you all convinced enough to get off your asses and take a walk?"

So we took a walk through the cool midnight air to the hangar. We opened a door on the side of the big main door and filed in. Still, the AC-130 was in shambles. I honestly couldn't say whether it was totalled or just in need of a simple fix but a fair assumption would say that it was unsafe to fly. Everywhere else had machine parts scattered around. In preparation for our missions, I had personally never actually been in here. Mostly because I never had to. But the first thing I noticed besides the gunship was the big concrete structure built into the back of the hangar. It had a big steel door that creaked when Sly carefully opened it. Inside was as dark as could be at first but when I flicked on a nearby wall switch, fluorescent ceiling light fixtures flooded the room with a brilliant white light. Before us was a very strange arsenal with unusually large weapons that were too big for a normal person to hold. There were display cases that lined the walls and inside each of them were Knight armors. I counted 9 cases with suits of varying sizes and types. A few had what looked like a jet engine strapped to its back and exhaust vents coming out of the extremities. Some were actually smaller than the others. Only two came close to resembling the suits John and I wore in Denmark. But there were others missing. In fact, of the 9, there were only 5 suits present. We all took a moment to admire them but I went around and looked at the names above the cases on plaques of those who's suits were missing. Slowly walking by I read the names in my mind; 'John, no surprise there. Sierra, again, not too surprised, Steven Algof? I bet it was the one Sly used to save me in. It's a nice look. Ivan Burkov…' Something caught my eye as I stopped in front of the empty armor case. Behind the clear glass, a message was jaggedly etched into the steel backing and a knife was stuck firmly below it. Of all things to say, the inscription read, 'Never needed it.' Why would someone say they didn't need something like the Knight Armor? Maybe they we're just stubborn. Or maybe, judging by how the knife was stuck through the steel and concrete that made up the walls, maybe he was just that strong…

I had to take my mind off of it before I delved too deep into the subject. We were looking for the scrapbook afterall, not the meaning behind an aggressive carving. Keeping a steady pace walking along the wall, my eyes wandered to a floor-to-ceiling cabinet with steel grate doors at the end of the room. It sat alone on its own wall. Through the metal grate, I could clearly see 6 swords hanging on the wall behind it. Walking closer to them, I could see that they were also labeled with names. Now I was starting to think that they were the old Warfighters John told us about. He never told us who they were or what their names were, but he did say was that once there were more.

I scanned each and every single one and each one was identical. The same 5 foot sword with the same bandguard and the same strange symbol etched into the blade near the handguard. It didn't do anything but for one reason or another, just looking at it sent chills up my spine. I couldn't explain how it felt, but all I knew was it was unnatural. Then my gaze fell to the floor and at the base of the case just below the last sword was a thick book with a polaroid picture on the front. I kneeled at the base of the cabinet and upon closer inspection the picture was of her in full army gear while holding an M4, smiling as she stood on a grassy hill that sloped down to a field that eventually touched the ocean. This was it. I had to be it.

I stood back up and found the handle to open the grate. Upon turning it, the symbol etched into the swords started to faintly emitt a ghostly red hue, not as intense as the glow of Johns but still equally unsettling. I reeled backward in surprise, letting one of the doors swing open and clang against the metal frome as it opened to its full extent. I stayed for a moment, mesmerized by the glow. I wasn't sure whether I was intrigued by the red mark or terrified in how I felt like they would somehow come to life and attack me. Either way, it was unsettling as hell. I carefully bent down and snatched the book up from the floor of the cabinet and closed the door again to the cabinet. The glow of the swords intensified once again but faded once more as I backed away. Soon, they were as dormant and lifeless as they were before.

"Are you ok?" asked Sly.

I whipped around to see him with a very concerned look on his face. But this wasn't a cute, playful kind of concern. He looked almost scared in the way he examined me for whatever reason.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about it," I said, holding up the book and waving it, "I found the book. Let's get out of here." Just then I saw Bentley and Penelope behind Sly examining two of the armors. "What're they looking at?"

Sly traced my vision and I followed him over to Bentley.

"Did you find something?" He asked.

"I found two somethings," he pointed to the overhead nameplates above two of the suits and what they said shocked me. One of them I saw coming to some extent as it was labeled Oscar. But the other I wasn't expecting at all. It was labeled Connor Cooper. Sly's dad was a Warfighter?

Sly

I just stared at the armor through the glass case. I can't believe he never told me anything about this. On one hand it was awsome. My dad was even more of a badass that I had originally thought. He was both a master thief and a Warfighter. But on another I felt betrayed. How could he have kept something like this from me? Did he not want me to know? And most importantly, why? I wish I could go back to that dream to ask him more questions. But just then I wondered, was it the Warfighters fault that he died? Was it his fault that Clockwerk found us all that time ago and killed him and my mom? Or was it the Warfighters? Did the Warfighters have a part in the deaths of my parents? My mind was flooding with thoughts and possibilities but I couldn't make sense of any of them. So I did the next best thing.

"Let's get out of here," I said as I pushed past everyone. I left the concrete structure and walked ahead to the Bunker.

It wasn't too long of a walk but I still felt the need to be alone. Upon turning the corner to enter the bunker I let myself fall against the wall and slide down to the concrete floor. I put my elbows on my knees and my hands on my head. All this time I had been trying to keep a level head. Trying to keep my cool. But now I could feel it all breaking down. Was this how John felt? Is this how he feels now? I let my head drop between my knees and I closed my eyes for a few precious seconds in an effort to try and regulate my breathing.

While I was on the ground, I felt a soft hand on my shoulder.

"Sly?" I heard Carmelitas voice and I took my hands off my head and peeked my head back up to see her kneeling in front of me, "Oh god, are you ok?"

I noticed then that I was crying. What the hell was I doing? I didn't even know anymore. Feeling as though all the strength had been sapped from my body, I leaned forward and pulled her in close. For just a moment I felt a little better and for today at least, I had had enough.

Bentley

By the time we had arrived back at the bunker, both Sly and Carmelita were gone. I could see the upstairs lights had recently come on so I assumed they had gone up for bed. That left me and Penelope to read over the book. Fair enough, they wouldn't have been able to do much anyways. So without any delay, she and I went into the back room and got to work.

The minutes turned into hours as we sifted through the book, not because of the size, granted it was rather thick, but it was more impressive in the meaningfulness of the pictures. I counted at least two hundred pages and on each one was a handful of photos that pertained to their own separate mission. Turning page after page, I could make out different environments, from hilly plains to dense forests. From elegant city high-rises to what I made out to be a battleship in the middle of the ocean. And she was never alone in any of the pictures. She always shared the frame with at least one other person, whom I could easily assume to be other Warfighters. There was John in most of them whereas a certain Racoon was nowhere to be found. I then started to think that maybe the three never knew each other. Given what had happened to Connor, I wouldn't be surprised. And on the inside of the back cover there was a landscape photo with all of the Warfighters in casual clothes with the exception of Connor who was again nowhere to be seen. Sierra had her arms around John while they stood in the middle of the picture. Looking at them all reminded me us our gang before Murray died. They seemed like a family.

After glancing over all the photos the first time, we had come across nothing of use. No cleverly hidden numbers, no words hidden in the background of the photos, not even the call sign of a plane or helicopter. So we read it over again, and again, and again. We scanned each and every image into Hectors computer and even digitally altered the contrast levels of the photos. Still nothing of use. At 5 in the morning we finally gave up. It was a lot less about needing rest and more about just being frustrated. After all this time and all the puzzles i've solved, I was being felled by a simple hidden code. I was out of patience and out of mental energy. In all honesty, I just wanted to look at something else. Of all things, maybe a good movie. I've recently heard of a new movie that came out about dreams and delving into one's mind. While movies weren't really my thing, I was intrigued by this one. I stood up and turned to Penelope.

"I think I'm about done for tonight," I said, making her jump slightly as though in a daze, "Wanna come with me to watch a movie?"

"No it's ok, you go," she responded, placing her arms on the desk and turning back to the book, "I just want to get some progress on this code."

"If you say so," I replied reluctantly, "just don't stay up too late."

Just then I saw her head fall hitting the table. A moment later I could make out a light snore.

"Told ya so," I quietly teased as I tried to lay her back in her chair. But after seeing how laughably uncomfortable she looked, I thought about it again and made a decision. I leaned over and pulled her arm around my neck to stabilize and picked her up in my arms. Rather romantic really, like when we had first met and she saved my in Blood Bath Bay. It felt warm and fuzzy. Whatever it is, I liked it.

I carried her into the house and to her room where I laid her down in her bed, caringly pulling the covers over her. But then something unexpected happened. As I pulled away, her arm fell against my leg. And I felt it! I hadn't felt anything below the pelvis in years, since I had been paralyzed when we took down Neyla. I didn't understand how or why I could feel it, but her touch on my skin was electrifying. But still, I just couldn't understand how it was possible. So I did the next best thing. Nothing. I walked out of her room and softly closed the door behind me. Walking back to my room I contemplated to myself what I had just felt. Was it really possible that I could have full sensation in my legs again? Maybe I could even use them again. For the first time, I felt hope for myself. And maybe, I could truly be my own man. I continued to think as I slowly walked to my room, listening to the near silent whir of the motors that powered the legs. Secretly wondering if there could be a day where I might not need them anymore.

Bentley

Ch. 37

I woke up the next morning to a sliver of sunlight shining through my window, same as usual. I slid to the edge of my bed, disconnected my legs from the wall-charger and put them on and proceeded to get myself ready for the day. I tried to ignore the sudden return of sensation in my legs. Maybe it was just my brain playing tricks on me. Or maybe, just maybe, my legs actually were starting to repair themselves. Could it be that the motions of walking was stimulating the nerve cells in my lower body? Or maybe it was just that my body had spent enough time recovering and now they were ready to start being used again. Either way, it wouldn't help me now.

I left my room and walked down the halls as I normally did, listening to the near silent wir of the motors in my synthetic legs. I just couldn't help thinking about how sick I was of relying on technology to move. My wheelchair, even these advanced robotic legs couldn't match the pleasure of being able to walk unassisted on my own two feet. So to try and take my mind off of it, I drew my attention to the pictures on the wall as I walked by. The pictures in the hallway leading to the kitchen was different from those in the living room. Here there was only one person in each frame. There were seven pictures, each with a small plaque showing their name and lifespan. Looking at them, I was saddened by how no one of them had lived to age 60. Connor Cooper was the first at the closest end of the hall to the kitchen and my father was at the opposite, closest to my room. I doubled back and stopped in front of my dads picture for a moment. I wonder if he knew that I would end up here, inevitably following in his tracks. Maybe one day I'll see him again, and I could ask him all the questions I was never able to ask. Only if it could be in this life.

I walked back down the hall, holding back a few tears, when I recognized another face just after Connor. In the living room there was a picture that hung over the sofa of a black labrador wearing Vietnam era combat gear riding in a helicopter flying towards a dense jungle coast. The same black labrador stood smiling by a Sentinel with his hands in his pockets. He was tall and very muscular, wearing jeans and a OD green t-shirt that were only able to cover up some of the numerous scars that arced deeply over his arms, neck and face. But even while his body told a story of pain and suffering, he still looked as content as could be. I was mesmerized by the contradicting sub narratives that were subtly written into the seemingly simple picture. I looked down at the plaque and saw something odd that I had not yet noticed. There read;

Steven Algof

1955-2006

But what intrigued me was two small notches made in the frame below it under the last number of each year, making 5 and 6.

Just then the wheels in my brain started to turn. I looked at all the other picture frames and found two random numbers marked on each one. I thought back to the scrapbook. How there were 8 people standing side by side including John and Sierra but excluding Connor. I raced back to my room and grabbed a piece of paper and pencil to write them all down. After looking over them all I got a total of 12 numbers and labeled them with their corresponding names. I raced out of the house and into the bunker to look at the book. My heart was pounding and I hoped that in the sudden early morning adrenaline rush I wouldn't forget the faces of the Warfighters. I reached the computer in the room in the back of the bunker and hastily opened the scrapbook to the inside of the back cover. Without even sitting down, I hurriedly matched the names to the corresponding position in which the Warfighters stood in the picture. Eventually, I was able to reshuffle the pairs of numbers into a new single 12-digit code. From there I went outside to where the flashdrive was still plugged into the console of the TV and took it into the back, plugged it in and inputted the code. Without hesitation, I ran the new code I found and waited while the computer processed it. The screen started to fill with endless streams of code pouring over the TV. I waited in suspense for what could have only been a few seconds but felt like an hour after my adrenaline rush from before. Just as the silence was starting to set in and I could start to hear the blood pumping in my ears, I heard Penelope enter the room.

"Bentley? What are you doing? " she asked curiously. I jumped at her sudden appearance. She was wearing a pair of jeans under a bathrobe she had apparently just put on.

I was about to explain to her my method in finding the code when the monitor went dark. I turned back to see that all the code that was originally there was now gone. Now there was only one line at the top. It read 'access granted' and beneath it was a single thumbnail video link with Sierra facing the camera with her fingers laced on the desk in front of her. Not seeing why not I played the video.

The video immediately filled the TV screen and played. Penelope and I stepped out from behind the counter to stand in front of the couch. The screen filled my field of view as Sierra silently read the papers in front of her on the screen. A minute or two had passed when she finally changed her posture. She let out a reluctant sigh and brushed a hair from her face and her eyes settled on the camera.

"The date is… May 29th, 2003. So you figured out my little puzzle. Not bad," she began in her familiarly calm voice, "I can only assume that you are either someone I personally knew and trusted or someone who knew me too well. In either case, I might as well give you what you came for."

She glanced down at her papers for a moment before proceeding. "I can only hope John isn't watching this. He's been through alot and he has his demons… but then again, we all did. But still, he has a good heart. Not many could see it but I can. I think I'm finally getting through to him," she paused for a moment, staring at the screen, "We all had our roles in the team. Mine was a marksman, EOD and an urban close quarters specialist. John's role was stealth infiltration, data collection and target elimination. When it came down to it, he was both our interrogator and our assassin," she took another pause, "he never took pride in his job, in fact he hated it... but that never changed the fact that he was the best at what he did. So then there comes the question, how do you kill John Puller?"

I rushed back behind the counter to get something to write with and prepared to take notes on what she was about to say and paused the video. I turned looked over the counter at Penelope, looking just as shocked as I felt.

"We need to get everyone down here," she said, "now would be nice."

John

A day earlier...

The plane ride to Alaska gave me plenty of time to come up with my next move. The silence of my solitude was broken only by the constant rushing of air outside the hull. Although one of Archangels engines was still damaged from a few days before, everything seemed to still operate without any major problems. Archangel was designed to take hits much worse than those it took above Switzerland after being retrofitted with a fuselage similar to that of the US's A-10 attack jet, so the C-17 wasn't even losing fuel because of the missing engine. But that wasn't what I was thinking about. I was trying to think of what I would need to do what I needed to do. I had one of the most advanced arsenals in the world on board this aircraft and in Alaska, there was even more. But what I needed was manpower. If Sierra were here it wouldn't be a problem, after all, we had faced similar odds before. But the fact is, she's dead, and no one could replace not only our compatibility and chemistry, but also our combined combat effectiveness. So if I couldn't have my partner, then I had a simple alternative…

I arrived in Alaska at around 3:00 AM on an abandoned airfield just south of Kotzebue Sound in the middle of the forest. The landing was rough, given that no-one had been up here in decades to upkeep the runway, but was otherwise unhindered by any major obstructions. Hector taxied to the end of the runway and into a hangar just big enough for Archangel. Upon entering the hangar though, I could see from the cockpit the seemingly lifeless structure light up with a brilliant white light and the machines and robot manufacturing arms attached to the ceiling and walls started to come to life and pass over the cockpit as Archangel passed through. When the C-17 finally stopped I heard the hangar door loudly rattle as it closed. I walked through the plane, out of the already dropped cargo bay and stepped onto the cold concrete floor. I personally had never been here, but Oscar used to tell me stories of this place. It was were Archangel was modified after it was bought from the US Air Force shortly after the Warfighters was first formed in 1991. It was impressive that a place like this could exist so long ago, back when floppy disks were still a thing...

I briefly stood at under the tail of the cargo jet and marveled at all of the robot arms extending from the ceiling and scanning every square inch of Archangel, moving methodically and precisely over the surface of the aircraft. It was mesmerizing seeing the hangar go from being another abandoned shack in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness to a complex automated facility starting to perform its various functions. But not seeing what I could do, I left the machines to do their job. Afterall, there was another reason I was here.

I went back inside to get a winter jacket and a gun. Since this was bear country, I would be an idiot to go out without any way to protect myself. After that, I left through a large metal door that was just beyond the reach of the right wing of the aircraft and closed it behind me. I was instantly thankful for my decision to get a jacket because even for being at night, it was frigid in the northern air, despite it being Springtime in the northern hemisphere. Although the cold felt nice on my face, perhaps the nicest thing I had felt since I got my scar.

I waded through the melting snow banks through the rusty steel buildings that made up the encampment with my rifle over my shoulder. Some of the lights had come on after the hangar had accepted Archangel for the first time in forever and there were now just enough patches of light to guide me to the building in the middle of the camp. I didn't really know what the layout of the camp was, as it was also under a similar GPS shroud to that of the Idaho base. But I could see the silhouette of a building ahead slightly larger than the others, which mostly looked like shacks. As I got closer, I pulled a flashlight out of my jeans pocket from under my jacket and shone it at the building ahead. It had a few windows and a glass door installed in a wooden structure that stood about three feet above everything else in the camp. But while it looked nicer, than the creepy steel shacks that dotted the terrain, it also looked older with clearly visible signs of erosion and decay.

I got to the door and tried the handle but it was locked. I scanned my surroundings and held as still as I could as to not make any noise myself in an effort to look for anyone who may be close by, and unslung my rifle. I wasn't going to shoot the glass of course. Not only would that be a waste of ammo, but it would also make it abundantly clear to everyone and everything in a four mile radius that there was someone here. So instead I shoved the end of the barrel through the glass door next to the handle, shattering it. I reslung my rifle and reached an arm through the new opening in the broken glass to turn the handle from the inside. I pulled the door open and quietly closed it back behind me after slipping inside. The inside looked to be in significantly better condition than the outside although very dusty. It was lined with desks and filing cabinets that appeared to be mostly cleared out. But looking around the room, my eyes came across a cork newsboard with a map of the mainland US and tacks pinned in a number of states. Among the states were California, New York, Texas and Florida. A number of photos attached to the pins with string lined the outside of the map and below it all was a folder sitting on an otherwise empty desk under a knife. I walked up and picked it up. It was labeled "War Machine Protocol". I took out a small camera, opened the file and started comparing the information to the map, all while taking pictures of everything I saw.

"If I can't have my partner," I said solemnly to myself as I snapped a picture of the map, "then an army will have to do."


Ch.33

John

Upon lifting off from the airfield I immediately crashed on my bed. I had already put in a new set of coordinates for Archangel to fly but I had to think of an actual plan of attack now. The chairperson for Denmark was my first target, but that was only because he was in charge of the territory where Sierra died. Everyone else was on the list as well but only as an afterthought. And with him dead the others are likely going to be much harder to deal with. So that meant that I would need to hit them more indirectly. So I had to put myself in their shoes and think like them. Besides their leadership, what is the most important part of an organization like the FoV? Their morale. So from there I looked again at the files that Hector had decoded thus far. In those files there were recruitment maps that showed where they were receiving the most new personel. Those charts were nearly worthless to me as all they showed was that they received new recruits from all over the world. But what interested me was that they seemed to have a very high density around Europe. It would make sense due to the FoV being based in Europe but the larger areas of population for the higher up FoV personnel seemed to be based in Great Britain. They essentially ran the entire country from MI6 to Parliament. Unfortunately No One was there because they were still holed up in Geneva. It was time to change that.

"Hector, cancel current destination nad set a course for Geneva. Circle the area at a 10 mile radius. Wake me up when we get there," I told the computer before falling asleep. I was exhausted after having not slept in over two days. I was functioning completely on caffeine and after I stopped drinking it, I could feel the energy drain more and more as the minutes rolled on. I think I had earned a few hours of sleep.

Or maybe not. As soon as we entered Swiss airspace, Hector woke me with a blaring combat alarm.

"Sir, we have been intercepted by two Swiss F-22 Raptors," Hector informed, "They are hailing us sir."

I quickly got out of bed and threw on some clothes. Less than a minute later I was rushing out of my room and into the command center to grab a wireless headset, "Hector, patch me through," I got a quick glance at the radar screen. There was nothing, but considering that F-22's are stealth aircraft, I wasn't surprised. But they weren't perfect, their flaw being their high heat exhaust, "and scan the surrounding airspace for infrared heat signals. Lock onto them," I hurried out of the command center and into the cargo hold to prepare a railgun.

"Yes sir," was all I heard before the channel switched.

"Attention unidentified aircraft. You are entering Swiss airspace. Identify yourself or be fired upon," was all I heard from the pilot. I tried to remember the ID number of the aircraft. Being the only original aircraft of the Warfighters, I memorized it like a very elaborate last name.

"This is November-Echo-Mike-5-1-5 to pursuing aircraft, please acknowledge," NEM515 wasn't the catchiest name by a long shot. Back in the day when we first got it, we used to call it Nemesis. The name quickly grew old so we never used it.

"November-Echo-Mike-5-1-5, you are entering a temporary no fly zone," they responded. I carried the railgun to the edge of the cargo bay as they spoke, "we will escort you out of the airspace to the north. Any deviation from the escort will result in lethal force. Please respond."

"I muted the mic for a moment to talk to Hector, "Do you have a lock on one of the aircraft?"

"Yes sir. There is another aircraft on our 6-o'clock. How should I proceed?"

I started the stopwatch on my wrist watch and hit the button to open the cargo bay. "Charge the railgun and open fire on the adjacent aircraft in 30 seconds," I slid open a breech on my railgun and slid in a sabot shell. I closed the breach as I pushed a button to begin charging it. I counted back 6 seconds before shutting it off. As the bay door opened completely, I was met with the cold roaring winds of the upper cloud layer and the view of an F-22 raptor reflecting sunlight off its wings as it floated about 200 meters behind Archangel. I lied down at the edge of the deck and set up the weapon with a heavy bipod in front of me. I counted 6 seconds and shut off the charging process. The rifle was now live. The pilot of one of the fighter jets spoke over the radio again.

"You have 30 seconds to respond," he said.

I had one shot to take out the F-22 directly behind Archangel. Normally I would have to account for my movement, their movement, and the wind speed of the surrounding environment. But with a railgun, the shell moves so fast that it doesn't matter as much at this range. I started counting down the seconds. '10, 9,..3, 2, 1," and I pulled the trigger. It was a featherweight trigger that requires minimal effort to pull, but the result was an intense shockwave. I was scooted back slightly over the metalic floor by the sheer force of the railgun going off. And less than an instant later, the F-22 was torn apart lengthwise and quickly fell out of the sky. At almost the same time, there was another shockwave from the direction of the gun battery and another mangled mass of metal and plane parts fell behind the tail of the C-17 and began its descent back to earth as well.

I stood back up and hefted the railgun over my shoulder as I walked back to the wall to close the bay door again. Piece of cake.

It wasn't long before I arrived in Geneva. Even being 10 miles away, I could see the city swarming with Swiss military personnel. The local officials probably knew about the F-22's I shot down earlier, I could see from the command and control center that there were tanks and APC's patrolling the streets and helicopters maintained a steady flight pattern in the airspace. I was lucky I didn't even have to get close.

"Hector, charge the railgun battery and prepare for oscillating fire," I ordered as I sighted in the UN compound with a joystick through the railguns targeting computer. I wasn't going to target any of the Swiss ground units. Afterall, they probably didn't even know what they were defending. They're soldiers, just following orders. Once upon a time, I would have been in the same position. But if they're too close to the compound then I won't hold my shot for them. Ten seconds had passed before the computer gave the cue that meant the railgun battery was charged and calibrated. Without waiting a second longer I pushed the trigger on the joystick and the firing sequence began. The twin barrels reciprocating fire shook the whole plane and with each shot the shaking intensified. It started subtle but 15 shots later I could feel my teeth rattle in my head. I kept an eye on the computer screen as it tracked each shot arcing through the air to its destination and impacting the ground with such force that it appeared to explode on impact. But that's the beauty of the railgun. It shoots a 25 pound shell so fast that the sheer force of the impact causes the surface to combust. And that's exactly what it did, tearing the compound appart. After 30 to 40 shots, I let go of the trigger and the shaking seized. The building and the entire surrounding area was now decimated. All that remained now was a landscape laden with craters and the broken remains of former buildings. Even so, I doubt this actually killed any of the politicians. It's a standard protocol for any high level government building to have an underground bunker. The UN Geneva headquarters would likely have one as well. But that wasn't the point of the attack. In fact, there's a chance they aren't even there anymore. My purpose was to send a message. The Geneva Headquarters was one of the most heavily fortified buildings in the world and now that it's destroyed, it sends a clear message to the UN, that they can run, they can hide, but there is no shield they can put in my way that I can't tear apart. But more importantly, it would get them to disperse, thinning out their forces and making them easier targets. Now all there was to do was find them.

A day later the news reports started to come in with many different theories. There was one about a potential rogue African nation declaring war on Switzerland and another about a military coup against the UN in Geneva. Of all of them, there was only one report about the now infamous Phantom from a news source actually coming from Geneva itself. This was good, he more the better. Fear afterall, is a weapon all on its own.

After some more time, Hector was able to tap into local radio frequencies. Live news reports and radio broadcasts were funneled through the C-17's onboard computer and filtered for anything important. Soon enough Hector found a live report from another point in Switzerland that a number of German officials and ambassadors were taking off shortly from Bern Airport about 80 miles east of Geneva. They must have fled Geneva when they lost their F-22's, smart move.

According to the news reports, the German diplomats is set to take off in 5 minutes from a Boeing 747 bound for Berlin. Unfortunately, the 747 was much faster than Archangel, so I set a course to the airspace in the flight path between Bern and Berlin. I had just made it 50 miles past the airport when the 747 took off with a full fighter escort. I had roughly 2 minutes before they arrived at my position, so in preparation, I ordered Hector to activate the C-17's areal defence countermeasures which consisted of 4 deployable automated flak cannons hidden throughout the aircraft. There was one of top, one in the nose, and two on the side closer to the rear. They were absolutely devastating to enemy aircraft, but take much too long to activate while in combat.

Soon enough, the fighter escort of 6 JG-74 tactical fighters moved to intercept Archangel before it got too close to the passenger jet. Their hails were ignored and Archangel immediately opened fire on the squadron as soon as they got within range. I observed the gun perspectives from the command and control room through various monitors, all the while preparing the railgun. The nose cannon took out two of the aircraft before they had a chance to scramble. After which, they began evasive maneuvers and tried to find a blind spot. The guns continued to track the fast-moving aircraft and struggled to keep up with their rapidly changing movement. But eventually, one moved too slow and was tagged by the flak cannon on the side. A few shots later and it erupted into flames, beginning its quick descent back down to the earth. The other jets had much more luck, managing to out maneuver the gun tracking and making it to the rear of the aircraft, which was kind of a blind spot. But even so, Hector kept firing in their general direction. Eventually, one shot managed to snag the fuselage of one of the planes and it erupted into flames. Unfortunately, not before a burst was fired and hit one of the engines, causing it to flame up. The damage wasn't enough to cause it to malfunction and it kept running. The remaining two broke off again and attempted to flee, activating their afterburners and leave the area as soon as possible. Their path, however, sent them right over the flak cannon mounted on the roof of Archangel. I was nearly thrown out of my seat as the overhead explosion rocked the plane. I cursed as the feed for that gun went out, meaning that the target was so close that taking it out inflicted self damage to Archangel and destroyed that gun. It was alright though, there were still 3 active flak cannons and the last remaining aircraft was on the run.

Hector continued to try and shoot down the last fighter even though it was clearly out of effective range. But the real prize, the 747 had just come into view in the direction of the fighter. Hector raised altitude to match that of the passenger jet and turned hard as to match its direction. The railgun deployed, and I began firing at the 747, each shot ripping through the body of the aircraft as though it were made of cheap plastic. Eventually, I hit the fuselage of the closest wing and it exploded, and it started to slowly drop out of the sky, but I kept firing until I was certain that nothing could have survived. But in my attack, I neglected the status of the last fighter aircraft. It roared past the railgun again, while letting loose another burst. This time, it disabled the flak cannon for the left side, rendering that flank defenseless. Now with the last pursuit aircraft in front of Archangel, I had one last chance to take it out before it turned around and finished me off for good. I overrode the controls for the cannon in the nose and started firing in a stream in front of the jet, trying to lead it as much as possible. Eventually, one of the engines started to emit smoke from the exhaust. And soon after, it erupted into flames as well. It was over. I put my headset down and shut down all the monitors, beginning the return process for the weapons batteries.

"Hector, drop altitude below radar and set a course for Heathrow Airport." I ordered as I stood up and stretched, "And cut power to the damaged engine. I want a full damage report by the time we land."

I walked out of the command center and returned to my room. I had about 2 hours before I arrived in London and by then I would need a plan of attack. In taking out the 747, I killed all the German diplomats in a single strike. It was a bold but stupid move to put everyone in one place but I doubt anyone else would make the same mistake. Now my targets were the leaders of Great Britain. The prime minister and a very specific influential figure the heart of London.

Ch.34

John

It was a rough midnight landing and required Hector to black out the entirety of London's air traffic control system. In the chaos, I landed and occupied a hangar just off the runway. I waited a few minutes as Hector hacked London's public surveillance system as well and upload a version of the Phantom protocol. I had a plan, but in order for it to work, I had to be invisible. An hour later I was on the streets, doing the same as I had in Geneva, disposing of high profile gangs and local criminal organizations. But in doing so I was also gaining information on the London Underground. I learned that the Fangs owned every aspect of the city, from the media to the police force. On top of this, London was also a major recruiting hub due to an asset connected to the church. Father Gabriel, a former Royal Marine chaplain, was one of the FoV's most valuable recruiters and moral supporters of the organization according to the locals.

So 3 days after I had arrived, I found myself walking down the streets alone at night in the middle of a rainstorm. The streets were as empty as could be, largely because of the recently instituted martial law as a result of my actions and the increased murder rate. I had to say though, it was refreshing, walking in the rain. The raindrops on my black jacket over my casual jeans and white t-shirt soothed me, almost like I could hear myself think. The thoughts and emotions flooded in like a tidal wave. And I just then started to realize just what kind of person I had become. Over the last few months, I had crossed every line and broken every boundary that I had once set in place for myself. It wasn't that I was becoming what I used to hate, it was much more that I was embracing it. I was letting my inner demons take the lead in my actions and now, I could feel myself losing sight of what I was. What I once held dear. But the irony of the situation was I was doing what I was doing because everything I held dear was taken from me. I switched from feeling empty to being filled with a pure hatred of everything associated with the FoV. But just for a moment, I thought of where this was all going to end. What would the world be like after I was done? Then again, it couldn't be worse than what it is now. But still, I wasn't completely at ease.

I walked up the steps and opened the great door to the church. It was a grand building, with columns supporting a vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows covering every available space to create a truly special atmosphere. Before me were rows upon rows of pews facing a central altar and a grand pipe organ. I let the door close behind me and slowly walked through the central aisle, letting my fingers brush the tops of the fine woodwork of the oaken pews. I found my way to a confessional booth and waited. I honestly took no pride in what I had to do next, but I waited. A few minutes had passed before I heard an elderly man enter on the opposite side of a wooden screen and sit down.

"Have you come to confess my son?" he said. I reached for a gun that was tucked in a holster under my left arm, but stayed myself. I took it out and laid the suppressed M1911 on my lap.

"Yes. And for advice," I responded.

"Then tell me your sins my son," I don't know why I was doing this. But… I just felt like I should. Confessing to a corrupt priest. Oh the irony.

"Forgive me father, for I have sinned," I began, "the blood of countless lives is on my hands, but I've always been told that it was for the greater good. For justice, or to make the world a better place. But it never does. In the end nothing feels like it ever changes. All my life, I've done all I could to keep monsters at bay, but when it's all said and done, I always lose those who I care most for. And sometimes, I feel like I'm becoming a monster myself. And sometimes I wonder, when does it all end? Or if it's all worth it."

"Inner peace is a quest of the heart and soul, and much less of the mortal world," he said in a calm, level voice, "and if you seek justification…" he hesitated, "only you can find it. It cannot be given or bestowed, only learned on your own."

A fine amount of wisdom, but I could feel the confliction in his voice when he mentioned justification. Maybe he wasn't just a tool for the Fangs, "And what if that's not enough?"

He waited a moment, "Only you can decide what path you travel in the end. And whether you will be consumed by your monsters."

"Thank you father. But now, may I ask you a more personal question."

"Of course."

I picked up the gun and pulled back the slide to rack it, "Do you have anything to confess?"

I heard him draw a ragged breath on the other side of the wall, "You're the Phantom?"

"Yes."

Another pause, "I knew you would come eventually. And I can assure you, you're doing what must be done."

"What do you mean?" I asked curiously.

"I have much to confess, if I may," he explained to me there how he came to be a priest. He was plucked out of the military after being one of the last in his platoon to survive an ambush. After he was discharged, he was appointed by the British government to be the head of the church, but despite his new promotion, he deeply regretted his new position. In fact, he hated his job. The whole church was little more than an elaborate recruiting operation for the FoV. He had personally recruited thousands of individuals into their ranks and even held some level of power in their leadership. He regretted each and every one, and deep down, he regretted having ever taken the job in the first place. "I've been praying for someone to come along and end this madness. And now, you've come along to answer those prayers."

"I'm not here for you or because anyone sent me," I responded, "I'm here to finish a job."

"Why you're here doesn't matter as much as the fact that you are here," I heard him shift in his seat behind the wall, "but I must ask, why are you doing what you do?"

"The FoV took my wife from me," I said plainly, "I want revenge."

"Then may you find satisfaction in your vengeance," I heard him shift in his seat behind the wall, "Phantom, I believe I am ready to leave this world."

I nodded subtly and put the tip of the suppressor against the wall where his chest should be,"Any last words?"

"Yes, finish the job," he said and he drew one last breath.

"Rest in Peace Father," And with those last words, I squeezed the trigger twice through the conjoinding wall. A moment later, I heard his weight hit the opposite wall.

I got up and walked out of the concessions booth. I put the gun away and slipped my hands into my jacket pockets. I walked out the door and retraced my steps outside back to the airport. I took the time to reflect on what the priest had said before he died.

'Only you decide the path you travel in the end. And whether you will be consumed by your monsters,' he said. It sounded poetic, but even being corrupt, I could see the truth in his words. These demons of mine are mine and mine alone. Only I can chose whether I control them or let them take control. I didn't have the luxury of being in a position to say that 'I had no choice'. I was in a unique position where I had nothing to hold me back and nothing to lose. I am truly the master of my own fate. The only question now was what did I want that fate to be. Yes, after the job was done, there would be a better world by some measure, but what would be left of me? Was there even a future for me? Or was I merely a pawn in some elaborate plan? Who knows, I surely didn't. But then again, why should I care?

My next target was the prime minister of Great Britain. He was personally responsible for the creation of the FoV, being one of its first supporters and source of most of its funding. If he died, the FoV would lose their source of money. My first plan was to use his family like I had with the chairperson of Denmark, but unfortunately, she wasn't as clean. In fact, while the Prime minister was in charge of the funding for the organization, his wife was in charge of their research division. The vampires, the puppet masters, the Valkyrie research, it all led back to her. Mr. and Mrs. Stryker as they were known in the professional world. And that's where the data trail ends. Even on the confiscated hard drives, no one knew their personal whereabouts or even where Mrs. Stryker was based. All that I knew was that due to his political obligations to his country, Mr. Stryker was based somewhere in London. But the problem then became drawing him out. Upon landing I had to survey the area. In interrogating the locals, I also learned that the government had an elite squad that went in and maintained order whenever the public went too far out of line or when the local police couldn't handle the problem. So to use this, I had to push hard against the police. In the 24 hours prior to eliminating the priest, I dismantled the majority of London's police force. It was a compound attack of Hector hacking and disabling their network and me doing around to their motor pools and destroying their vehicles with explosives. It was all over in a few hours and gave the elite squad a reason to come to London. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, being the first force to be considered 'elite' that I have faced in many years. But that wasn't to say that I didn't know how to deal with them. You see, when it comes down to it, all elite units are built on a simple principle, they're hunters. So the solution is you give them something to hunt.

It took some doing but I managed to figure out how to make Hector create a fake path using the cameras. Cameras would black out and turn back on again in a sequence that would indicate a path and given that the government also had access to the cameras, they could track it. By now I wouldn't be surprised if they figured out that I was cutting the camera feed to hide my movements, and the response time to the church attack supported this. So I created a path snaking around the city and occasionally disappearing and reappearing in a random location. According to the radio, it was working. The FoV squadron was going crazy in trying to anticipate and cut off the path but it would always disappear before they could catch it. And even better, one of the pursuit vehicles was referred to as carrying a VIP. It wouldn't make sense for that VIP to be anyone other than Mr. Stryker. My need to interrogate the squad was outweighed by the opportunity to eliminate a very important figure from the playing field. So I set up a fake trail on the opposite side of the city as I drove a Sentinel through the city to a building near the London Eye ferris wheel. The Waterloo Bridge was a natural choke point, meaning the squad would anticipate me crossing it, so in theory they would try and cut me off when I got there. But instead of actually cutting me off, they should run right through my kill zone along the Waterloo Bridge and boardwalk. But I should've known it wouldn't have been that easy.

Hector started the trail to the bridge but the Fangs weren't the only ones who had caught on. Of all things, I saw the Cooper Van come around the corner before anyone else. Through the railgun scope, I could make out Sly, Bentley, Carmelita and Penelope getting out of the van and walk along the boardwalk. They were right in the middle of the killzone. A minute later, 8 black Suburbans came from both sides and surrounded them on the boardwalk. They formed two barricades on either side and a full platoon of FoV operators exited them wearing the same uniform as the operators that attacked us in Idaho. I could hear them from my perch shouting orders to the Cooper Gang to get on their knees. They complied and a few seconds later, out stepped Mr. Stryker. I charged up a shot as I watched him walk across the boardwalk to the Cooper Gang and kneel in front of Sly. I could only assume he was asking him questions. Then he pulled out a gun. I didn't have much time and I had to make a decision. I had the option right now to take out the prime minister. A single shot is all it would take to essentially erase him from existence. But that shot would be guaranteed to kill the entire Cooper Gang as well. It was an unbelievable feeling to know that my actions thus far have led to those I had fought with for so long to be lined up in my crosshairs. To know that to do what I came to do, I would have to kill them as well. One trigger pull, 3 muscles compressing a featherweight trigger is all it would take to end all their lives.

Just then, I saw Mr. Stryker point the gun at Carmelita, and Sly's composure changed. He went from his normal cocky complexion to a pained look, as though he was begging him to not kill her. He didn't want her to die. And then through it all I saw something familiar. All the rage from the months before was finally dissipating, realizing that for once in my life, I couldn't do it. No, I wouldn't do it. Sly and Carmelita have something that Sierra and I had. Something worth more than all the gold in the world.

"Damnit," I cursed under my breath. I readjusted towards the barricade on the left and fired a sabot at the SUV's. The shot exploded all the vehicles in my line of fire. Shrapnel went flying and killed the nearby Fangs. I pushed a button by the hand grip to start another charge and pulled open the breach to put in another sabot shell in. I slid the bolt back forward, locking it in place, and looked through the scope again to sight in the other barricade. I counted 6 seconds, switched off the charging mechanism and opened fire again. The second barricade exploded and now, there was nothing but burning rubble on the boardwalk. I surveyed the boardwalk through the scope and found the Cooper Gang again. Sly was kneeling over the dead politician holding a gun. The others were still regaining themselves. Sly looked up from Mr. Stryker and put down the gun next to him. He pulled out his binocucom and pointed it right at me.

"Well, he knows I'm here now," I said to myself. Might as well show him who's looking out for him. I grabbed the bag full of Sabot shells and slung them over my shoulder as I dismounted the railgun and stood up. I hoisted it over my shoulder as I looked down on them, the only friends I had left. But looking across the river at them between the burning barricades of overturned Suburbans, I realized I now had a problem. Knowing I'm alive would make them want to join me and if they did, Sly could end up in the same situation I was in, not knowing if peace even exists anymore. But I couldn't give up now. The death of Mr. Stryker would only cripple the FoV. The organization would eventually recover. I had to finish what I had started, but in order to protect my friends, I would need to be their enemy.

So knowing Sly was watching, I charged the railgun and reached back to grab a sabot. I loaded it and aimed it from the hip in the general direction of the building behind them. I fired, the recoil sending me reeling back from the ledge and the shell hitting the wall behind them, making it crumble rear the Cooper Gang. It's a close call, but not close enough to cause them any significant harm. Just enough to scare them. I turned around and walked off the roof and back to the Sentinel waiting for me on the ground. Driving past them back over the Waterloo Bridge I could see the look of disbelief as they started running for their van around the corner. Maybe I should've hit that too.

They tried to cut me off on the road back to the airport and run me down, but they didn't stand a chance. When they cut across the street in an intersection, I just dodged them and smashed through a telephone pole and climbed over a few parked cars along the road before returning to a normalized course on the street. Before they could try and speed up, I punched the gas. The Sentinel instantly jumped forward and I was slammed back into the seat. I could hear the wir of the turbos in the engine compartment as I blasted through the streets at a blistering speed. Soon, I had arrived at the airport. As I smashed through the fence and hit the tarmac, I was greeted by dozens of black security Suburban SUV's between me and Archangel. In response, I activated the Sentinels weapon systems and fired 3 missiles in quick succession. They destroyed most of the SUV's in a quick series of fiery explosions but there were still some left. Those that remained and continued to close on me I finished off with the hood-mounted machine guns, but there was still one. Not seeing why not, I rammed it's side just as it tried to turn away and flee. The force of the impact crumpled the side of the SUV like it was made of tin, while mine, made of steel and many times heavier, went right through, barely slowing down.

I drove into the cargo bay of Archangel and stopped in the aircraft. Climbing out, I caught a glimpse of the Cooper van as the door closed. I ordered Hector to pull out and prepare for liftoff while I raced to the Command and Control room. They would no doubt try to hail me. And of course they did.

"John!"I heard Sly's voice over the radio as I put my headset on and pulled up a chair before a desk, "John what the hell are you doing?"

Should I tell them the truth? Yeah why not, "I'm finishing this war."

"I get that but why the hell are you shooting at us?" The C-17's surveillance systems were now online and I could see the AC-130 pulling out of a nearby hangar and quickly preparing for takeoff. I had to beat them into the air if I wanted to lose them. But with still one engine down, it was unlikely either way. I didn't answer Sly as I ordered Hector to make a 'hard takeoff', or instantly putting all the engines to full power. I was thrust back into my seat and a moment later I was in the air. But upon turning around to fly west, I was met by Ghostrider matching my speed at my same altitude on my flank.

"John. Answer me damnit, "Sly kept persisting. I did the only thing that I could do and charged up the railgun battery. They must have noticed it deploy and activated their own Howitzer battery. Asbad as this situation was, it just got a lot worse. After a minute, I heard Sly's voice again, "Deactivate your gun battery and land in Iceland. We need to talk."

"No we don't," I replied. I raised altitude slightly so I had view of the top of the AC-130. I had to aim just right for this to work. If I missed, then I would either provoke them to shoot me down or I would kill them all by accident or hit their fuselage, exploding the entire aircraft, "This is my war. Not yours. And I'm going to finish it."

And with that, I fired the railgun over the length of Ghostrider and clipped their furthest engine, causing it to explode. But the explosion wasn't enough to take the wing off, meaning they would only slow down 10 percent. However, that 10 percent would give me plenty of time to leave their line of sight by the time we reached Idaho. After that, they would have no way to track me. But I wasn't going to Idaho. It wasn't my place anymore. Instead I was doing north, over the Arctic-circle to Alaska to the home of one of the original Warfighters. A master marksman and survivalist by the name of Alexander Spyker. I just hope I can find it before I run out of fuel.


Epilogue

The War for Geneva ended in the June of 2010 when the entire city was burned to the ground and the surrounding countries destabilized. The most affected countries were France, Germany, Denmark and Greece, which soon began a political revolution. The Crusaders who survived the War for Geneva eventually moved to the middle east where they began hunting terrorist cells. Eventually, they formed their own private military organization centralized in South Africa. They currently compete with other private military forces such as Blackwater in the field. Part of their mission included seeking out and eliminating all remaining vampire bases around the world. Of the original 10 around the world, the FoV have destroyed 6 including the original Russian and Denmark hives. The Crusaders have successfully destroyed a hive in Afghanistan, Mali, Niger and Texas.

Bentley and Penelope went on to be renowned scientists and engineers, eventually pioneering space travel technology and relaunching Hawken Enterprises as an aerospace Company similar to NASA and SPACEX. They also moved away to Great Britain and got married shortly after the death of John Puller. As of 2018, they are two of the richest individuals on the planet and oversaw the reconstruction of Paris, therefore personally owning roughly 30% of the new city's real estate.

James Barkley, now long since retired, enjoys life in Hawaii. He sometimes visits the Cooper family at the Idaho base and has even been included as part of the extended Cooper family, deemed "grandpa James".

Sly and Carmelita live quietly at the Idaho base. All operational systems have been deactivated as of 2012 and the C-17 was never recovered or replaced. Therefore, as a last job, Sly bombed the Alaskan C-17 base, destroying all traces of the Warfighters existence outside of the former Idaho base. Unfortunately, the Armors and swords could not be destroyed, so instead they were buried beneath a 10 foot layer of concrete. Upon the completion of the reconstruction of Paris, Sly and Carmelita bought a vacation home identical to Carmelitas previous apartment. However, the extended Cooper family used the Idaho house as a meeting place.

John P Cooper was born on September 23, 2010 the healthy first son and first child out of 4 of Sly and Carmelita Cooper. Eventually, he started to feel the traditional 'thieving urge' at which point, John Puller himself showed himself as a ghost to tell the boy to ask his father of his story, and when he was ready, he told him the story of his own life. The story of how the world almost ended and how the apocalypse was so close to happening and what it had cost him. But most of all, why he did it.

Now go,

The future is waiting...


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JohnPCooper
Derek
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Author of Sly 5: A Thief's Heart
Most of the content that I have is based off my story. Not all my artwork actually happens in the story tho. I do a lot of work with anthros yes, but I take a significantly darker approach than others that I’ve seen and use much more mature subjects and topics than you’re average family friendly furry. I’ve got a ton of content planned all the time and the plot of my story is very ‘Metal Gear Solid’-like in terms or complexity and depth. Everything is connected unless said otherwise and there’s a lot more than meets the eye. If you think you’ve figured something out, take another look and think again.
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:iconemiliesushi:
EmilieSushi Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2017
Thanks for the watch btw !
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JohnPCooper Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Yeah totally! Your stuff is awsome!
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