"Fortaleza's a goddamned mess," Pastor said. "The whole damn city has a fire every freaking mile or something."
"Stuff it and keep quiet, Shell," Talbot shot back, moving the boat closer to the edge of the beach. The fires and smokes of Fortaleza brightened the sky in the distance against the lowering sun, as occasional volleys of gunfire could be heard coming from it.
"Used to be a nice place," Mendoza chimed.
"Used to, not anymore, Fuse," Raymond said. "It could do with some spring cleaning sometime."
"Of course you'd think that, Scope. Of course you would."
Talbot killed the the engine on the boat, leaving it to float to shore noiselessly. The rubber floats made a slight crump when it hit the beachline, the sound of the crashing waves masking it.
"Alright, here we are, move it," Talbot said. The four members of Anvil Squad quietly disembarked the small transport and immediately made for the treeline, and advanced through the forest unchallenged. They had a lot of ground to cover, and would have to make it quick as the sun went down.
Their boots made heavy marks in the dirt as they quickly advanced through the rainforest, their exoskeleton frames allowing them a great deal more speed than most soldiers. The sun was quickly lowering and soon the squad had to start using their nightvision in order to traverse through the forest. It was an uphill climb, but easy to navigate enough as the villa had a road leading directly to it in the midst of the sprawling forest.
By the time the sun had gone down, they reached the outer perimeters of the villa, making out guards patrolling along the large whitewashed walls.
Talbot motioned for Raymond to scan the area, turning up a number of red diamonds as enemy targets were labeled on their crosscoms.
"Damn, that's a lot..." Mendoza whistled. "Over, under, or through?"
"Over," Talbot said, deftly running up the tree-obscured slope and silently leaning up against the wall. The others quickly followed suit as the two red diamonds directly on the walls passed by them. Talon held up his hand and tapped the grappling hook on it, and the others nodded their confirmation. He quickly shot the hook up to the top of the wall, and zipped up quickly, landing silently on the wall.
The two guards patrolling the wall hadn't noticed anything. Talbot quickly pulled out his sidearm and motioned for his squad to follow. He closed the distance shortly and motioned for Pastor to pull a silent kill. Talbot shot the first guard in the back of his head while Pastor quickly dispatched of the other with the knife. There were no sounds, and the bodies were now obscured by the walls around them.
"Their comms are silent. Maybe they didn't expect anything today," Pastor said. The other red diamonds on the crosscom showed guards lazily moving about, some drinking and some playing cards. "Definitely didn't expect anything today."
The four had leaned up against the wall, quietly watching the red diamonds moving and discussing their next move, when a voice broke out.
"What the hell are you imbeciles doing?! I'm not paying you all to stand around and slack off! Get back to your patrols!" Maynard shouted.
"There's the man of the hour," Raymond said. "We should just tag him and bag him right now while he's still outside."
"No, there are too many guards around. Slacking off as they are, I don't want to see how well they can use those weapons," Talbot said. Maynard was still railing against his guards as they begrudgingly returned to their patrols and stopped sitting around, ending with a huge line of expletives and huffing back into his villa.
"What a charmer. Bet he's real fun at parties," Mendoza said.
"Stuff it, Fuse. Let's move. Camo on," Talbot said. The four activated their camouflage, blending in against the white wall they had just been leaning against. "Scope, you're on overwatch. Fuse, Shell, you're with me."
"On it, boss," Raymond said, quietly holstering his MR8, running inside the guard tower the formerly-alive guards had been approaching, and climbed up a ladder. There was sounds of a minor scuffle as they heard him dispatch a sniper. "And he's down. On overwatch, boss."
"Right. Let's move." The three quietly hopped over the barrier and landed with a slight thud, away from the patrolling guards. Some of them had already return to their lax state and were drinking again.
"Looks clear through the courtyard, move on ahead," Scope said through the crosscom.
The three invisible figures ran across the courtyard, and bounded around the corner of the main building, finding a back door, completely unguarded. The few guards that had been patrolling had passed through this area several minutes ago, and were on the front side of the compound now, leaving plenty of time before they came back.
"Shell, mirror under the door. Fuse, you're on watch," Talbot said, taking up a flanking position on the door while Pastor activated a snake cam underneath. The guards were still jovially conversing at the front of the building.
"Looks clear. Breach, boss?"
"Negative. Silent entry."
Pastor nodded as he silently picked the lock to the door, and the three entered, finding themselves in a kitchen of sorts. Mendoza closed the door, and gave a thumbs up to Talbot, letting him know it was safe to proceed. The trio walked down the shelf-strewn hallway, and heard arguing in the distance. It was coming from another room in the kitchen. Talbot motioned for them to stop so they could listen.
"Good? Good?! You think this trash..." They heard a plate breaking on the floor. "...is going to be acceptable on the day of my greatest triumph? Do you realize just what I've accomplished, compared to pathetic excuses for men like yourselves? Hmm? Did you really think I wouldn't notice that you tried to poison me? You're working for someone, aren't you? Aren't you?"
There were responses in Portuguese from the kitchen, fraught with fear.
"No. No! You're lying. I know you are. You're working for them! I can't trust you. I can't trust anyone! You know, yes, you know, but I'll make sure they don't." They heard a gunshot and maniacal laughing. "I can't trust any of you!" More screaming, more gunshots, and then more manic laughing as the voice walked through a door.
"Jesus Christ," Mendoza said. "This guy's his own brand of crazy."
"And it looks like he's about to wrap up whatever he's got in store. We better stop him, and soon," Pastor said.
"And that gunfire might have attracted attention. Status, Scope?"
"Nothing going on out here. I think they actually expect this crazy fuck to fire his gun at people, 'cause these guards aren't doing crap," Raymond said.
"Works for us," Mendoza said. "We might fire ours, too."
"Only if we need to," Talbot said. "It looks like he left. We should continue following him and see what he's up to." They entered the kitchen proper to see half a dozen bodies strewn on the floor, blood pooling around them.
"Oh, man..." Mendoza said. "Poor bastards..."
"Ignore it. Keep moving," Talbot said, stepping over the white-clad bodies and avoiding the blood as he made for the door on the other side of the room, the other two following suit.
They opened the door and found themselves in a well-furnished hallway, with only one way to exit.
"Only one way now," Pastor said. They proceeded in a bounding overwatch down the hallway and around a few corners, and before long found themselves in front of another door. There was a disturbing lack of guards within the villa, as there normally should be a dozen or more in here.
"This door seems a little... out of place. Who the hell would build such a whack hallway just to make it lead to one door?" Mendoza asked.
"Maynard, Fuse. Prepare for entry," Talbot said. "I don't know how big this compound goes for, but I'll be damned if we're going to be lost in this place. Go when ready."
The three burst through the door and found themselves in a well-lit atrium, with an intricate crystal chandelier hanging above them.
"Well, that solves that, then. Scope, get inside. Use the back door we came in through."
"Roger, Talon, moving now," Raymond acknowledged. The three stayed put until they saw Raymond's crosscom beacon quickly approaching them, and eventually in front of them as he opened the door. "Nice place he's got here."
"Let's move," Talbot said. The four invisible Ghosts now proceeded down the primary hallway in front of the main doors, passing by a multitude of paintings and antique sculptures.
"Wow... some nice stuff he's got here. Old Chinese artifacts, way back from the Qing dynasties... and there's a replica Easter Island head... damn, that thing is huge..." Mendoza commented.
"Didn't figure you for a history junkie, Fuse," Pastor said.
"I like it enough. History can be pretty cool if you want it to be," he said, looking at a bust of some unknown philosopher as he passed it.
"Where the hell did he go?" asked Talbot, as they reached a dead end in the hall. "This hallway doesn't even go anywhere!" There was a number of sculptures and a large painting in the small room there.
"Uh, sir," Mendoza said.
"What?" Talbot turned around. Mendoza had knocked the head over on the bust, revealing a button underneath and a keycode pass.
"Seriously?" asked Pastor. "What, is he hiding the Batcave down there or something?"
"Don't push it yet, we need to--"
A smash cut Talbot off as he heard more cursing and footsteps walking down the stairs that joined the atrium to the second story. "Useless! All of you! Esteban, your men are completely worthless! Tell them to stand guard and they can't even do that! It's a good thing I've assigned all of their worthless hides to perimeter patrol! Remind me to hire some real soldiers to guard the villa proper after this is all over."
"Take cover, get out of the hallway now," Talbot whispered, as the four took up positions around various sculptures to stay out of the hallway, their invisible forms blending in with the shadows.
Maynard came walking down the hallway angrily, with a uniformed man in tow. "Your men are an utter joke! You should go check outside, they've done nothing but stand around! And the chefs tried to poison me, so I killed them. You can't trust anybody around here!" The man called Esteban said nothing as he curtly followed the rambling Maynard, who stopped just short of the button.
"Oh, damn me to hell! You're all driving me up the wall, I've completely forgotten to close this damn bust head! Why did I choose a bust?! Imbecile," Maynard muttered as he pushed in a plethora of buttons and slammed the big one on top. The large painting at the end of the hallway rumbled upon, revealing a secret passage of tunnels underneath, and slammed the head back onto place. "Come, Esteban! My plan is reaching the final stages, and we need to oversee every little detail!" He continued his ranting as he walked through the doorway.
"In, now," Talbot whispered. The four quickly made their way behind the bulkhead before it closed with a loud thud.
"Well, isn't this just cozy?" Pastor said. "Got himself a whole little molehill under this villa."
"We better move fast. It looks like he's probably got some WMD just waiting to be used," Mendoza said.
"Yeah. Let's move," Talbot said.
The complex was a seemingly endless maze of hallways and dead ends, or so it seemed. Had they not been following Maynard, they most likely would have gotten completely lost.
"And here we are!" Maynard shouted, entered a large room. "The final stage of the Rift Project! Isn't it just beautiful, Esteban?" The man nodded, but said nothing. "Ah, let's go check on our busy workers."
"Excuse me, Doctor Harvey!" Maynard said, walking up behind a man in a lab coat standing in front of a dizzying amount of computer monitors. "How goes my project?"
The man looked over his shoulder and held a glaze behind his glasses before responding. "Things are coming along just fine, Mr. Maynard. Should be ready to go in less than an hour."
"Excellent!" Maynard cheered. "And now since that's out of the way... Esteban! Deal with the rest of them!"
"What? What the hell are you doing?" Harvey asked.
"Simple, my dear doctor. I'm going to rid myself of the unnecessary. Since all I need now is for you to finish the project, the rest aren't needed! Prepare the machine for deliverance!"
"You son of a b--" Harvey snarled, but was cut off as Maynard pointed a gun at him.
"Activate the machine now," Maynard said, in a more serious tone.
"We haven't run any preliminary tests yet," Harvey said slowly. "We don't even know if the machine will do what it wants us to."
"But that's what you're here for, Doctor! Who better to do the first test than the man who helped to put all of this together!" Maynard said, haphazardly swinging his pistol around. Harvey felt his stomach sink.
Anvil Squad stood waiting at the entrance to the room, watching all of this.
"Boss, that other guy's going to kill the rest of the science team. They're secondary objectives. Orders?" Pastor asked.
"Deal with him," Talbot responded. Pastor wordlessly approached the uniformed man, knife in hand, as Maynard continued his little tirade against Harvey.
The science team was located in a closed-off room protected by glass walls, observing instruments and seemingly oblivious to the armed man that was about to enter their room. They all turned their heads as the door opened, and panicked when they saw Esteban raise his gun at them, only to see the cloaked Pastor pull back his arm, disarm the gun, and then run his knife into the underside of Esteban's head. The body dropped without a word, and Pastor quickly pulled it towards a big pile of boxes as the science team stood shocked, trying to make sense out of the man who'd just been lynched out of the thin air.
"Target neutralized," Pastor flatly said. "What now?"
"We get Maynard," Talbot said. "Anvil, prepare to engage." The entire squad checked their MR8s to make sure they were ready, before they approached Maynard.
"Hurry, doctor! You're delaying the coming of my greatest triumph!"
Harvey said nothing as he continued working on the computer, and the machine whirred to life.
"Yes! Yes!" Maynard shouted. "Come with me, doctor, you're going to test this yourself!" He grabbed Harvey and pulled him towards the entrance of the circular portal of energy.
"He's going to try something! Neutralize him!" Talbot said, breaking into a sprint as his cloak broke.
"Aha!" Maynard shouted, turning around to fire at Talbot. "I knew it! I knew the guards were being lazy! Who are you? United States? Russia? European Federation? No matter! You won't catch me, I've already made it! You'll all die in this pathetic shithole while I start a new life elsewhere! Come, doctor!"
"Take him out!" Talbot shouted. Anvil Squad started firing at Maynard as he fired back. The bullets seemed to do nothing as they were seemingly pulled in by the portal itself.
"Shit!" Mendoza shouted. "Our guns aren't doing crap!"
Maynard laughed as he pushed Harvey through the portal, now pulsing with blindingly white energy. "Farewell, spooks! Have a fun time burning in this hell you've made for yourselves!" He walked through the portal.
"Orders, sir?" Pastor shouted worriedly.
Talbot didn't like this. Not one bit. Here Maynard was working on something that only appeared in science fiction novels. Then again, the dossier did say he was a genius. He wasn't trying to play his hand in the war, he was trying to get away from it! But they had their objectives, and they knew what had to be done, but he was pretty sure the operation manual didn't cover pursuit in portals of any kind. The portal swirled with energies as the four stood in front of it, pondering what to do.
"You have to go and get Doctor Harvey back!" Talbot turned to see another glasses-wearing scientist looking at him, albeit much younger than Harvey.
"We also have to bring in Maynard," Talbot said. "And don't worry, we will."
"Then you have no time! This portal is absorbing energy straight from what's left of Fortaleza's power grid! You have to go now before it shuts down!"
"Can't we just power it up again and go through when we're ready?"
"No! It takes months to reconfigure the system after every use, and more power that Fortaleza won't have for much longer! If you don't go after him now, there's no telling if we'll get another chance!" the scientist said.
Talbot checked his crosscom. There was no signal as the complex was too far into the mountain, and no way and no time to contact SOCOM. He sighed.
"Then in we go. Anvil Squad, into the portal!" The four stepped forwards into the white swirling light.
"We'll keep things running on this side!" the scientist said. "Good luck!"
Talbot felt his body lurch as he was pulled into the strange white light.