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Core Malfunction

Chapter Text

"...This concludes my report, General." Sgt. Branna of the Core's Ravens.

Silence for a few seconds, as her commanding officer thought things over.

"Well...I've got to say I'm a bit...disappointed...to say the least."

The Father General of the Core, Eugene Weisner. The leader of the underground nation.

He voiced his further disappointment, while the Sergeant delivered news of two deserters travelling to Germany.

A call came in, soon after. Weisner dismissed the Ravens assembled.

All. Including Lt. Coyle.

"...I wasn't expecting a call at this time. Not from you, certainly."

"What can I say? I like surprises, Eugene."

The Father General sighed. "So...what's this about, Michael?"


(Several days before. Operation Pregolya.)

The 'compound' was cleared. Two were making plans to desert.

And in the midst of things, another pair investigated.

Dressed up in Polish gear, like the Core operatives they accompanied.

"What the hell are we looking for, anyways, Ally? Core guys must have swept the place clean already."

A gruff, thickset male. Russian, and looking like a plain phenotype, blond and with eyes the color of the sky.

"Look, the Core managed to 'figure out' that this was a 'hideout', yet we've been dealing with these guys pretty easily. How were they supposed to slip something past us?"

A redhead female, younger but still bearing the scars of combat. American, with brown in her sight.

"Boss wants extra insurance. That's all."

"Look, can we get this shit done with already? We haven't found anything, even out here. This is a waste of time."

The American gestured around him and his companion. Absolutely nothing but forest.

"We haven't even cleared half the search area, Miri."

"Oh, sure, call me that one more time, Al. I'll have your head next time."

"Sheesh, chill a bit, wiil ya, Vic? Better now?"

"Yeah. Better, 'Alexa'."

"Hey, not my fucking fault I use that thing. And have the same name as it."

"Yeah, yeah. I need a damn drink." He took out a canteen from his pack, but as he moved to look elsewhere, he tripped on a stray root, leading 'Alexa' to turn over to his direction.

"Jesus Christ, gimme a bloody warning next time!"

"F-fucking hell, my canteen! I-"

"...Vic?"

'Vic' just pointed at...his canteen.

A shoe. No. It was a body.

"...What the..."

'Alexa' moved forward. 

"...Shit."

Then, she just grabbed her radio and readied to send.

"This is Charlie 1. Kingpin?"

"This is Kingpin. SITREP?"

"...It's bad, Kingpin. We've got civs down here."

"...That explains how the Core managed to 'find' this place. Shit. Alright. Charlie, return to base. This is big."

"Copy that, Kingpin."

'Alexa' sighed before turning her radio off.

"...I don't need to pay Max the ten bucks we bet?"

"You both bet on the wrong things. Guess you're both keeping your cash. C'mon, let's just get this over to HQ. He'll know what to do with this."


(Present Day.)

"Nothing much, honestly, Eugene. Just asking about the security meeting."

"Ah, yes. Roman, I suspect, will not be particularly willing to accept us as mediators, but that shouldn't be too much trouble."

"Yeah. Sure. This is just going to be easy-peasy, ain't it?"

"Michael, we've been over this several times."

"Sorry. Just...I've been going over the details you sent me."

"Yes, what is it?"

"I understand this is all for the good and all, but...this. I don't quite see how this is going to work out for the Core's goals, Eugene."

"It will make itself clear in time. I pay most of your checks, after all."

"Yeah, well, don't bite the hand that feeds you and all that crap, I got you."

Another call, cutting Michael's short.

"It appears the call I was expecting has finally arrived."

"Don't want to keep you waiting, Eugene. Call me back soon as the meeting's over, y'hear?"

Michael cut off the call, then looked over two files.

They were numbered '716' and '802'.

"...Headed to Germany, huh?"

This was going to be a headache to plan. Oh, well.

Backstabbing your funding has always created a big mess that needed cleaning. 


Blackridge Industries Personnel Files

Agent 14 from GTA Online.

Name: Michael Cohen

Age: 38

Nationality: Canadian, based in America.

Occupation: CEO of Blackridge Industries, a PMC whose primary contracts stem from the Core. Formerly Lieutenant in the JTF2.

Biography: Mostly average, until his enlistment. Cohen rapidly climbed the ranks and participated in a number of high-level operations in the Middle East. Served in three tours before honorable discharge due to a incident that left him as the sole survivor of his unit in 2009.

Founded Blackridge Industries shortly afterwards, and used his experience to quickly wrangle contracts from major powers. Established current ongoing contract with the Core in 2010, and has used the funding to expand into Western spheres of influence. Moved BI headquarters to New York City in 2015.

Has recently been spotted in Kiel, Germany.

Chapter Text

(Day 3. Blackridge Industries HQ. Night.)

"...Well, shit."

The situation was...a lot worse than he thought. Branna had contacted him soon after the meeting regarding Poland's 'aggression', which went as expected.

As for the Sergeant...She told him that she needed some of his people over in Kiel.

Michael couldn't tip his hand just yet, so he gave the order. Saved him the trouble of having to contact her first for the op.

"Mr. Cohen, a call's come in. It's from the Core."

A sigh.  "Is it from the Father General, Ali?"

"Yes, it is. Patching you through now."

The visage of the Core's...core flickered into view on screen.

"Michael."

"Eugene. What is it this time? Branna filled me in on the meeting."

He scowled, incensed over the events.

"Can't say I'll be winning any bets tonight."

The Father General simply gave a small smile, amused at how someone of Michael's position could even worry about such trivial matters.

"Well, I do have a bit of news for you.

"...What is it, Eugene?"

"I'll be increasing your funding for the duration of this war. Bonuses will be provided should your men perform well."

"Huh. You sure the Core's coffers can handle this?"

"Yes."

"Good news to me then. Don't have to dip into my own funds for this. Alright."

"I suppose. Have a good night over there, Michael."

"Yeah. See ya, Eugene."

[Call Disconnected.]

"Ha! For someone keeping a close watch on his men, he doesn't seem to have caught on to this thing."

"Yeah."

"...Boss? Kingpin?"

"I'm forwarding a image to you."

Ch.2 News Cast

"Boss? Where did you-"

"Someone in the intel unit. GS News. They're in Kiel."

"Who are the two others they got?"

"Don't know, don't care right now. All that matters is that they're in Kiel."

"...Ah, shit. Branna's over there, isn't she? Boss, what should we do?"

"Whatever we can. The Core needs to pay."

...

"Ain't they-"

"Not in that way, Ali. Send the message to the guys over there. We need to track them down, fast, before the Core does."


(Several hours later: Day 4. Kiel, Germany.)

"Kingpin? This is Charlie 1."

The same unit that found the Core's deception.

"This is Kingpin. Send, Charlie 1."

"We've just spotted the group around a demonstration. Looks like they have a GS News newscaster with them, possibly the one that alerted us to their arrival. Sending photo now.

Ch. 2 Demonstration side quest

"Follow them. Corner them at their destination. We need to talk. Call me when you've got their location."

"Got it, Kingpin. Charlie 1 out."

'Alexa' put down her phone, then took a sip out of a can of soda.

"The sniper, medic, and the punk girl. I'm seeing some subtle protrusions, and they're positioned a bit off. Armed, most likely. Probably still have those guns from Kaliningrad."

"Looks like they're leaving. C'mon, Vic. Let's get this going."


(Minutes later. Kiel City Center, Building 315)

"Can you take us there?" Rourke asked.

"Sure, we can get there through the subway," Atyie answered.

"C'mon, let's get a move on. We need to find Zoe!" Lynn interjected.

"Yeah. Alright, let's go." Rourke agreed with Lynn's statement, but as everyone prepared to step outside...

"Going somewhere?"

"Crap."

Two individuals blocked the doorway. One towering over the other, male and female.

"You, brown and blond. You must be Rourke and Adair."

"How the- You're Core." The party readied for combat, prepared to draw their arms-

"Fuckin' hell, can't trust anyone these days, huh?"

The lady threw up her hands, exasperated.

"Well, whatever. We're here to help, honest."

They didn't relax, not one bit. 

"...Alright, look, since you're here, you must be looking for that camera woman, right?"

Atiye perked up, exclaiming, "Zoe! You know where she is?!"

"Not...precisely. Where you headed?"

"You think we're gonna tell you?" Rourke told the pair.

"Actually, no, we didn't. We just wanted to chat. Well, our boss wants to chat."

"Hired thugs, huh?" Lynn, again.

"Please. Try contract soldiers."

And there he was: Behind the Charlie pair was a scruffy Caucasian male, dressed in casual leather jacket rather than sharp suits. He was unmistakable either way: Michael Cohen.

"...Oh. Shit." Basically everyone who was aware of his identity. That is to say, literally everyone except his own men.

The man made his way in, looking around.

"It's a nice place. But I'm not here to talk aesthetics."

He took out a phone from his breast pocket-

"I'm here because the Core has crossed a line."

"That's- Zoe! What's happened to her?!" Atiye, again, more anxious than energized.

"Better that I show you."

He flipped through chat logs, finding the same address they had come across, and a name: Cyngus.

Michael then tossed the phone over to Atiye, who barely caught it.

"I don't care what you say to this guy. Just know that he didn't set Zoe up."

"How do you know all of this?" Adair, finally, spoke up.

"My guys worked cleanup. Core contract privileges."

"...why are you doing this? What's your end goal, here?" Ivan, too.

"Payback."

"...Huh?"

"Poland. I did not sign that contract with the Core to help out in some...extremist terrorist plot, let alone spark off a entirely unnecessary war!"

He was angry, and Michael had made that clear with his scowl.

"So what if this sends my company under? I'm not your typical merc. Money is no object to me."

Michael then turned around, and prepared to leave.

"Go to the industrial area if you like. You'll find proof. We will talk again soon, Rourke."

With that, the Blackridge team leaves the scene.

Everyone was...uncertain, to say the least.

"You sure we can trust this guy, Rourke?" Lynn asked.

"Yeah, like Ivan said, this could be a trap." Adair, putting in his two cents.

Rourke looked at Zoe's phone.

"Only one way to find out. We need to head over there. Ask some questions of our own."

Chapter Text

(Day 4. Outside NSB HQ, Night.)

A white van waited for action, its occupants armed and ready.

Charlie was among them, of course. They were the only 'officially' active Blackridge unit in Kiel, and Michael wanted it to stay that way.

Didn't mean he could bring in a few others from outside the city in a 'unofficial' state.

So another paired unit was with them, callsign Bravo. Both were British, with backgrounds in the Armed Forces, as was the case with most of Blackridge's field operatives. 

"So, Kyle. How's it feel, engaging in a illegal raid that's probably going to get us executed if we get caught?" Charlie 1, Alexa, asked one of them.

A black man who looked mostly as you'd expect for someone in his early thirties, sans any facial hair.

"Not too much different from our usual affairs, to be honest, Alex. You should know that."

A light punch from his partner-in-crime, a Caucasian in his late twenties. "C'mon, Kyle. This is bigger than that."

"You're right. Doesn't mean we should play around, Max." was Kyle's reply, alongside a rack of the slide on his RX pistol.

Max threw up his hands, conceding the point. "That's all true, too. Alright, we should get this done quick. Victor?"

The local Russian looked outside the passenger window, then readied his SM-2. "They're inside. Orders are orders, though, Max. We should wait until Michael hands us the order."

And, sure enough, Michael called up their radios. "Well, hope you got your subsonics ready. Final checks, people."

The unit threaded suppressors onto their weapons, put on balaclavas, then proceeded to check each other's equipment.

"We're good, Kingpin. Operation Hush is a go." Alexa reported.

"Copy that, Charlie 1. Radio silence imposed. You are not to communicate with me until the end of the op. Good luck over there."

Bravo were the first out of the van, quickly dispatching the two guards at the front door with ease.

From there, they kicked the entrance open, and with it the hornet's nest.


(NSB Headquarters proper, Rourke's group.)

A sudden beep startled Atiye, who was still carrying her friend's phone.

"It's Zoe's phone!" 

["I see you made it inside, that was faster than I thought."] Cygnus had sent a message.

"Wha- How do you know about that?"

["I can see you through their security cameras."]

"He hacked them...?" Rourke questioned.

["Oh, it's a little less exciting than that. Those guys never bothered to change the password. They tend to be standard."]

["Thankfully, I just did, so you don't have to worry about the cameras. I'll let you know if someone else tries to log in-"]

What else Cygnus could have sent was cut off by the doors suddenly bursting open, 4 armed persons swiftly entering.

"Shit, there's a gate over here." That was...one of the people who approached them in Zoe's apartment. The American woman.

"We didn't pack charges. Fuck, we need to find a security station that has it under its control." A man. Russian, from the slight but almost unnoticeable accent he had.

"Then let's get to it, Voya." Another man, British. Upper-class.

Their fourth member went silent as they moved deeper inside the building

["what the fuck who were those guys"]

Atiye messaged back, "I think their boss approached us in Zoe's apartment. Heard of Blackridge?"

A small beat as Cygnus processed the name.

["wait what the core PMC and michael cohen- wait they cornered you at her apartment and did nothing??"]

"Not quite. He basically told us to message you after searching the address you gave Zoe, that they apparently 'cleaned up', then left us alone."

["what"]

"That's what I just said. It's the truth."

["ahem. Well, either way, they're the real deal alright. They're cutting through the guards around like they're butter. Don't think it won't be too long before they open up the gates for you, so I think you can just stick tight over there until they do."]

"A...little less exciting, but I think that's the fastest option we have. We don't know if it's a trap to lure us, though..."

Rourke spoke up, "I suppose we could just wait until they moved upstairs?"

"A ambush from behind..." Adair commented.

Atiye messaged Rourke's idea to Cygnus, who replied, ["That could also work. They're about ready to open the gate up already, so I think that's the best you guys can do--"]

["Wait, Atiye. You've been translating this whole time?"]

"Uh, yes. Nobody else here speaks German, so..."

A English message from Cygnus this time. ["Oh. I can speak in English if it makes things a bit easier. Sorry for not mentioning it."]

"Oh, now he speaks English." Ivan piped up.

The gate opened up, loudly.

"...That happened."

["They're coming back around, this is your chance."]

True enough, the four-man crew came back to the gate, passing through into the stairwell it sealed off. Rourke and co. followed in pursuit.

Just in time to find Matthias Köhler dead, alongside the office guards he brought with him.

Not to mention, being face-to-face with their murderers, who already had their guns trained at the doorway.

"...Ah, Rourke, Adair. I was wondering when you guys were gonna show up." The American woman said. She lowered her weapon, as did her compatriots.

"I believe we have met, though you are doubtlessly more familiar with my partner over there than me." The Russian. Come to think of it, there was someone else that accompanied them at Zoe's.

"Right...Guess that talk about helping us was real?" Rourke noted.

"Yep. Weber's waiting inside. Better move quick." The woman said, before a signal from her sent every one of the presumably all Blackridge team to head into the NSB head's office.

And again, Rourke and co. followed.

Another sight, this time of Zoe, heavily injured and bruised, while Horst Weber himself was held at gunpoint by Blackridge.

"Zoe!" Atiye quickly approached her friend.

"H-huh? ...A-Atiye?"

Rourke scowled at Weber. "What did you do to her?"

The fat bastard didn't respond, clearly hesitant to do so when he was at risk of catching a bullet.

The woman of the group, now apparently the leader, spoke, "Don't worry about him. We'll make sure this guy gets his just desserts. Get Zoe out of here."

Atiye went closer to Zoe, then. "Zoe! Are you okay? What have they done?"

"Atiye...I knew you'd come," was the reply from Zoe.

"I-I'm sorry I took so long...Let's get you out of here!"

"It might not be safe to move her just yet. I'll check her injuries first." Adair, ever the medic.

"There's so much I have to tell you, Atiye. I got everything we need for that article now...There's also the video I need to show you...!"

"Take it easy, Zoe. You need to rest."

Adair finished his checks about the same time. "She's lost some blood, but there doesn't seem to be fractures. Ivan, could you give me a hand with her?"

"Oh, sure."

Zoe's restraints were cut off, and she held her head in pain.

"I...I want to go home..."

"Don't worry, Zoe. We'll leave right now," Atiye responded.

"I don't mean to interrupt, but...what should we do about..." Rourke pointed to Weber.

"Don't worry. With all the information we have now, there's nothing they can do anymore. I'm going to call my colleagues," Atiye said.

"This time, I'll make sure people don't forget what the NSB has done."

"There's a bunch of other evidence left in the building too. Me and the boys'll search the place, get what we can before the cops arrive. We'll meet you back at Zoe's place once we're done."

"Alright. Let's go."


(Several minutes later: Kiel City Center, Building 315. Blackridge.)

"This the place, Alexa?" Kyle asked.

"Yep. They should be inside."

So the pair were too, knocking on Zoe's door.

"It's us. Blackridge. I think you might like what we brought along."

"Alright, just...come in, I guess." Rourke answered.

Opening the door, the Blackridge Bravo-Charile leads stepped inside.

"Got a few emails saved on USBs. I think you got the meat of things, though, Zoe."

"Great timing. I was about to show them the video I recorded," replied Zoe. "Though, I suppose you already know."

"I suppose. We were there, after all. Can we stop wasting time, though?"

Not a extra word as Zoe started the video, showing someone familiar to three of the girls assembled.

"Loran Beqiri!"

Lynn was shocked at his name.

"...Who?" And, well, Ivan, being the country man who hadn't stepped foot outside his home until now, asked.

"Beqiri-" Atiye was about to start, but Alexa cut her off.

"He's the head of a criminal mob, self-titled as they tend to be. Runs a number of businesses, legal and not-so-legal, in the Nightlife District. Doesn't prove anything, though. Lot of easy excuses...Except...Zoe, could you move it forward a bit?"

With that, a woman showed up. One familiar to those working with the Core-

"It's...!" Adair...

"Sergeant Branna..." Rourke...

"Yep. That's her." And Alexa.

Atiye asked, "Do you guys know her?"

Alexa answered." Sergeant Branna's a member of the Core's elite unit, the Ravens. Charged with Surveillance and Communication, but she's no slouch in combat."

Adair put in his two cents, too. "She also works as an unmanned aircraft systems operator."

"She, alongside my unit officially, have been assigned to search for you and Rourke, Adair." Alexa told him, and by proxy the rest of the group.

"But...why is she meeting with them? How are they connected?"

"Weber's not the sort of person that makes big news by meeting with Beqiri. But doing so with someone from the Core? That puts the fear of God into anyone."

"Yeah...The way he reacted when he found out about the recording...I could tell it was pure fear." Zoe said.

"That...Damn coward! I...I can't believe he took it out on you!" Atiye was...well, angry. Who wouldn't be when their best friend had been tortured by a backstabbing liar?

"...Now that we know Branna's here, we need to be extra careful. At this point she must already know about the attack made at the NSB building. It's probably only a matter of time before she finds us..." Adair noted.

"Not unless we find her first." Rourke dropped a big bomb on them.

"Wait, what are you saying, Rourke?" Adair was the first to respond.

"...I like your thinking, Rourke. Wasting time's going to make sure she's got a concrete plan for taking you on, something Mr. Cohen isn't willing to take risks on. Plus, even he isn't in on anything but what he's needed to do. It's a lot, but still, it's not the whole picture. Branna's got the intel we need."

Lynn was skeptical of that line of thinking. "You think she'd give up that information that easily?"

Alexa shook her head. "No, but it's the best shot we have. Weber's out of the picture, but Beqiri, of course, is still around..."

"Oh, that's right. We can ask Cygnus!" Zoe got a idea.

"...Lemme fucking guess, he works for Beqiri?"

Ivan was not pleased at that fact. "Wait, we let someone like that help us?!"

"Calm down, he's on our side, I promise!" Zoe was pulling quick damage control. "Look, if we can talk to Cygnus, he'll be able to tell us where that woman is hiding."

"Can't you tell us, Ms...?" Rourke realized he didn't have a name to put to the faces.

"Ah, shit, right. I forgot." Alexa facepalmed. "I'm Alexa. Alexa Johnson. I lead Charlie, with Victor Fedorov."

Kyle gave his own. "Kyle Thorne. Bravo Lead, with Maximilian Jones."

"Either way, Rourke, I can't. Like I said, we may be on the same objective officially, but Branna's giving us zip about her movement. Only time we know is when she lets us know. Which is rare, as I said."

"So...the tricky part is getting Cygnus to help with that." Zoe said.

Lynn was a bit more assertive at that. "Let's ask him then. He's probably eavesdropping on this conversation like last time."

"Alright, alright. I'll put him on speaker, then." Atiye replied.

"Hello? Cygnus?"

["..."]

["Okay, yeah, I was. B-but listen! I can't help you! Those people you have are going to have me killed!"]

"They just helped us save Zoe, and they let us go before. They could have just taken us out already."

["Okay, but still, the people they're 'working' for? I'm in deep shit with them! I've been hiding out for weeks after I started giving info for Zoe! I'm done for, this is my grave."]

"Okay, listen here you little shit." Alexa was not in the mood for this. "If you're so worried about the Core and Beqiri, how about we serve as your protection? Safety in numbers, as they say."

["You...? Bodyguards...? If you want me to trust you, you'll have to do something to prove you are reliable."]

"Cygnus, I swear to God, we can track your IP address down very easily. Hell, I could be doing that right now. How about you just fucking let us know where you are or are you going to waste time that for all you know could get you killed anyway?!"

["Okay chill, holyfuckyou'reterrifying."]

["There's some abandoned buildings. There's a ladder on one of them. Just follow the path until you see a entranceway."]

["Door's unlocked for the time being, but don't take too long, please..."]

[Call Disconnected.]


(Several minutes later: Kiel Industrial Zone. Cygnus's Hideout.)

The sounds of someone typing away on a keyboard grew louder as they entered the room.

"G-great, you're here." The 'great' Cygnus, speaking in person. He stopped typing away as he turned around to face them, clearly afraid.

"Okay, seriously, you look like shit." Alexa, being blunt. "How long have you been down here?"

"I...uhm...underestimated that. And how much I eat." He awkwardly laughed. "I didn't know you could actually hallucinate from sleep deprivation and hunger..."

"I'm not giving you food, if that's what you want."

"O-okay...then let's, uh, talk..."

From there, Cygnus spilled the beans on the casino that served as the Beqiri family's main base.

When he's done, Rourke voiced his concerns for Cygnus. "You sure you want to stay here?"

"You kidding me? I step one foot outside, I'm a dead man."

Alexa was concerned as well, if only because he was a valuable source of intel. "Me and Kyle, we got our partners around who could keep you safe, if you're so insistent on staying."

"I think I would like that, Alexa."

"Great. I'll give them a call once we leave."

"Either way, you shouldn't waste too much time. Subway's about to close soon, and that's the fastest way to the Nightlife District."

"We got cars. Could just get us over there with another call."

"A-ah...right, I forgot, you're Blackridge..."

"Still, Cygnus is right. We can't spend too much time or else Branna's going to get away. Let's move it."

Chapter Text

(Day 4, Blackridge Regional Office, Kiel.)

"You're shitting me." Michael had just received a report on the gunfight that occurred around Cygnus' hideout.

Bravo and Charlie 2 made it out okay, but they had to abandon Cygnus in the process.

The Beqiri mole knew that Blackridge was acting out on its own, and Loran wasn't exactly known to be gentle, which meant that his company was fucked with him in the public eye.

Better that he came down with the group he was helping out, then.

"Y'know what? I'm headed down to Aldebaran. Rourke, Alexa and Kyle need the assistance."

"Boss-"

"I know, it's probably going to be a clusterfuck. But I know you guys can hold the fort, hopefully long enough for things to get back to something resembling 'normal'."

"But if not, it's been nice working with you. Not many would go this far, even in such a short time."

"...Yeah. Thanks for the kind words, Boss."

"Say hi to Weisner for me, Ali."

"I will."

[Call Disconnected.]

Not even a few minutes after the call ended, he was already in the office's armory, getting himself prepped for Aldebaran.

A RXFive Brigade pistol, and some discrete rigging to hold reserve mags for it on his belt.

All hidden under a stylish, Italian-style suit. Couldn't go out there without some flair, and he'd gotten some custom-tailoring to get some pistol-caliber armor in the lining of the jacket.

It wasn't not enough for a full-blown shootout, but Beqiri's thugs weren't armed to the teeth. It was enough for them.

His cell rang. A call from Branna.

He left it hanging: He wasn't going to work with them anymore.

Just hoped Blackridge would stay on the course he plotted out for them.


(Kiel Nightlife District, Aldebaran. Lynn.)

Back here again. She'd run away, only to come back. Strange how life worked at times...

Still, her plan had worked. The guard keeping them locked in was himself kept in her cell, and-

"What? They escaped? And where are you? You're locked in?!"

Ah, shit...

Of course there was another of Beiqiri's underlings in the way.

She noticed her and Atiye, and-

Her skull cracked wide open, blood and matter spilling all over and a gunshot ringing throughout the hallways.

And approaching the now-dead guard was Michael Cohen.

"What the hell?! What are you doing here?!"

"Cygnus got caught, as you probably know by now. Blackridge isn't going to last if I stay at the helm. Get on the terminal, we should find something on there."

So they did, looking through the cameras to find Ivan and the aforementioned hacker deeper into the casino's depths.

Eventually, Atiye pushed her to reveal her past. One all-too-common here, and she was on a train ride to a worse fate had one of Beqiri's people not decided to free her and a few other girls.

"...I think I know where that train was heading."

"Huh?" She was confused, to say the least, and so was Atiye.

"Beqiri's been working with the Core for a while. I never knew what he was doing specifically, but the fact that he had you rounded up and ready for transport...I think he's  bringing in mothers for them."

"...W-what?!"

"The Core's a underground military nation. They need all of their soldiers ready, which means that they can't spare any women of their own. They have to bring 'genetic material' from the outside in order to pop out more safely."

Cohen's fist tightened, anger boiling under the surface.

"I should have never taken that contract."

Atiye spoke up for him. "Listen, you couldn't have possibly known all of this. I didn't expect to be dragged into this, either...All we can do is look forward to the future."

"...Yeah, you're right. We got to get those guys out of there, though. Rourke and Adair, too. We need their expertise on this."

Lynn wasn't too sure about that. "Don't you have your company, Cohen? Even if you're going with us, you can still call them, right?"

"Any call I make's a risk. That Blackridge's loyalties turn out to be with me, not any contract. Still, they'll be helping out in the inside anyways, just not by my explicit orders."

"And besides, you got your friends to worry about."

"You're right on that. Come on!"

The unlikely trio quickly left the security room, finding another cell shortly afterwards.

"Think this one's Ivan and Cygnus'."

She approached the door, calling out for Ivan in particular. "Vanya? You there?"

Ivan, thank god, responded. "L-Lynn? W-wha--how did you get out?"

"Clever little devil, ain't she? Sup."

"I suppose that explains that," Ivan said.

Atiye voiced her concerns on their condition, asking if they were fine.

"We are...I think. Nobody else's come here after we were locked up."

"Are Adair and Rourke there too?"

"No, we're trying to find where they're headed. Given that they separated you guys apart, I suspect if we find Branna and Beqiri, we find them too. They're likely headed to a train hidden underneath here: Only way they could transport anybody from here in secret."

"Anyways, we'll get you out of there soon. We just need to find a key, first," Lynn told them.

"How'd you think I got in here in the first place? Just needed to check for Lynn and Atiye, first, considering what Beqiri's doing."

Cohen swiped the card into the reader, unlocking the door.

Ivan went out of there in a instant. "Thanks. It was suffocating in there..."

...What the hell was Cygnus doing?

"Yeah...about that. I didn't have the heart to ask, but it looks like they beat him up pretty badly when they caught him."

Cygnus came out on his own soon after, limping and showing a lot of bruises.

"Are...are you sure you can walk?" Atiye asked the hacker.

"Y-yeah..."

He awkwardly looked around the group.

"A-about what Beqiri said. I didn't mean to rat you out, I-I swear! I really wanted our plan to work."

"Wait a second. Where's Alexa? Kyle?"

The group went silent after Cohen put that out.

"...They tried to fight off the ambush Beqiri set up, but they had pistols against his men's assault rifles and numbers..."

"...Okay, more of a personal reason to go after him then. I don't give a damn about what you're going to say, Cygnus. You did your best, and I understand that. You helped them out when you didn't need to, and you stuck your neck out to get the truth out. You're good."

With that, he readied his RXFive.

"What's also good is getting Rourke and Adair."

From there, they went through the building, getting a handgun for Cygnus since he insisted on the way, and clearing out Beqiri's men as well.

Eventually, they found the pair's cell...only to find it empty.

"Oh no..." Lynn...wasn't happy.

"Must be already headed down for transport. We need to get out, now."

And then Beqiri came into the scene.

Cohen responded by immediately kneecapping the crime lord, watching him crumble down. It was...satisfying to see it in action.

"Asshole."

The guy's cell rang afterwards.

"...What great timing."

He grabbed it out of Beqiri's hands, answering it to find what the hell was the fuss.

His face turned into one of combined excitement and shock. The bad kind of shock.

Cohen dropped the phone, and looked around. "Cops. They've been called down here."

"I-I think that might have been Zoe," Atiye said. "I told her to call them if we didn't come back in three hours."

"Good idea, but we're still in here, and Rourke and Adair are getting prepped for extraction at the train. We. Need. To. Move."

She couldn't argue with that, and neither could everyone else. They came running into one of the elevators to catch them, and Branna.

And they did. Just as they were about to enter the train.

...And there were several Blackridge soldiers with them, too.

"...Great. Just great."

They trained their guns on them, not even excluding their 'former' boss.

"...I really don't have time for this." The Sergeant said.

"Kill them, they're enough trouble as is."