"Report," Seraph ordered his soldier from the comfort of his office. The walls, all starch white, seemed to extend endlessly. The dark mahogany desk at the center of the room, bare save for a handful of documents, a steaming, black cup of coffee and a scratch pad and pen, was accompanied by a high backed leather chair that had clearly seen much use since its arrival in its present location.
The soldier that stood before Seraph was tall with dark hair and a shaggy beard that had gone unmaintained for several days whilst in the field. The spaces beneath his eyes were rimmed with dark lines and his clothing was covered in soot and dirt. He spoke quickly and concisely. Protocol was his tether to personal control.
"Sir, the target has been eliminated at Hayfork. No survivors."
"I want a headcount and any recognizable personnel that were part of the unit deployed there. Who were the persons of interest?"
"Sir, based upon the dossier provided of the Lance Mercenary Division, there were three high-profile targets that were terminated. Grant Washington, Murphy Quinn, and Zaria Katin."
"Did you say Zaria Katin?" Seraph demanded, his eyes wide.
"Yes sir, she was among the patrol unit that was bombed during our assault."
Seraph fell silent for a moment. His eyes flicked back and forth as scenario's flitted through his brain. Left, right, left, right until they ceased their quivering and halted piercingly on the soldier before him.
"Who else on your team knows about Zaria Katin's position on that patrol?" His voice was slow, deliberate.
"No one sir. The three of us separated and only broke radio silence upon arrival at HQ. I was the only one with eyes on the interior of the target location after the IED's were placed."
Seraph sighed and walked around to the front of his desk to face his loyal employee.
"Then I'm very sorry," Seraph said morosely. With blinding speed, Seraph's fist collided with the forehead of the soldier. The instant the iron-like fist connected, the soldier's brain went dead. No pain, no knowledge that he had been struck. It was the best Seraph could offer him.
Nakir and Rogue sat facing one another across the long black coffee table that rested on the floor of the living room. Nakir reclining on the couch while Rogue sat on the floor with her legs crossed. Rogue's face, contorted with concentration, glared up at a giggling Nakir. Rogue let out a low growl that emitted from the base of her throat as she reached for her chess piece. She shifted the little black knight several spaces forward and continues her glaring.
"You're not very good at this game," Nakir laughed. She picks up her white queen and slides it across the game board to capture yet another of Rogue's pieces. "Checkmate."
"I don't like this game," Rogue sighed. It wasn't the first time today that Nakir had outclassed her in the tactical board game she called Chess.
"Don't feel too bad. Father taught me how to play a long time ago. You're just learning," Nakir beamed. Rogue smiled faintly and pushed herself to a standing position.
"Funs over," Rogue grimaced. Seraph's morose color drew near and the blue, blended with his nauseating self-righteousness. did little other than irritate her to the core. Nakir looked up curiously at Rogue and then to the door as it hummed open to reveal their father, sadness prevalent in his downcast eyes.
"Father, is everything alright?" Nakir chirped in concern. She rose quickly to her feet and moved swiftly to her father's side.
"I need to speak with your sister, Nakir. Something's happened."
"What?" Rogue asked shortly.
Seraph paced toward his eldest daughter and motioned for her to take a seat on the couch.
"Very well. Azrael, three days ago a patrol departed from New Kennedy to investigate your operation in Hayfork." Rogue cringed at the mention, but she did not interrupt Seraph's explanation. "That patrol was intercepted by soldiers that make up the former United States Army that resides in the wastelands. They were better equipped and were capable of dropping mortar fire on the team from Lance..." Seraph paused, watching Rogue closely as rage boiled inside of her like steam in a kettle.
"Why are you telling me this? You want them all dead don't you?" Rogue hissed, her hands balled into quivering fists.
"No, I don't want them dead, I want them to see things the proper way. But that's not the point. Azrael... I am so sorry to tell you this... Zaria was with that patrol team."
Rogue's blood ran cold and, for a long moment she could not move or speak. Dread pulled the color from her cheeks and her heart sank like a lead weight in the sea. Down, down, down until striking bottom with a quake.
Nakir watched in sorrow as her sister processed the information that the love of her life was gone. Watched as the confusion of anger, sadness, helplessness and doubt torrented through her mind like tidal waves, breaking on the withering stones of her psyche and will.
Yellow eyes peered up at Seraph, moist and hollow. They read the honest colors that made up his fluctuating aura, seeking even the slightest hint of betrayal. There was none. Nothing. Only sadness and pity.
"Who killed her?" Rogue whispered, tears like waterfalls of pain down her face.
"WHO KILLED ZARIA?" Rogue roared deafeningly, her voice loud enough, primal enough to make even Seraph's blood churn as it scraped from her throat. He didn't miss the black veins that coiled and arced along her neck and hands in warning.
"The soldiers from a military base, just east of Hayfork. They reside in a fortified town that used to be called Redding. Darling, are you-," But Rogue was gone.
"Father... She'll kill everyone..." Nakir warned.
"I know. Its what I needed to happen... I just wish she didn't have to lose the person that brought her back from the edge to do it," Seraph frowned.
The trees blew by in an instant, the wastelands next and everything their in-between, its beauty lost on what Rogue had become in her mind. Nakir's motorcycle hummed beneath her as it raced onward in complete disregard for anyone or anything. For nearly three hours, Rogue sped down winding roads through underbrush and overgrowth, across dilapidated and crumbled highway underpasses and through rusted towns that have long since been abandoned save for drugged out scavengers and bandits waiting to pounce at the easiest prey.
The township of Redding was large. Not nearly as large as Saint had been, but it was easily two to three times the size of New Kennedy.
Rogue blew past the two pairs of guards that were in place to secure the entrance to the city, ignoring their cries of protest. She drove straight into the heart of the town whose veins sprawled out in every direction. It was clean and tidy. Armed militants patrolled the periodic streets as Rogue drove by. Every gun, every mortar placement she caught sight of only aided in fueling the endless fire that roared inside of her chest. It clouded her mind, blackened her heart and twisted the world through her yellow eyes.
She came to a screeching halt in the middle of town. The tires of Nakir's motorcycle leaving long black streaks across the asphalt.
Around her, dozens of soldiers, armed with fully automatic assault rifles and various other firearms, held a bead on the rabid woman that rigidly dismounted the vehicle she arrived aboard.
"Don't move!" a man shouted, his rifle pressed against his shoulder and his finger relaxed upon the trigger. Rogue gnashed her teeth at the order, her yellow eyes boring into the soldier's soul.
"Kill them all," Azrael whispered, the words moist and hollow in Rogue's ear. Rogue swatted at the sound.
"Shut up," she hissed, "WHO KILLED THEM?" Rogue screamed.
"Get down on the ground and put your hands on your head!" another soldier, clearly some sort of leader judging by the patch Rogue spotted stitched into the chest of his combat gear. But to Rogue he was just another color, a light to be snuffed out just as they had done to her love. That's all any of them were. Fragile burning flames, so easy to smother.
"WHO KILLED HER? WHO KILLED ZARIA?" Rogue screamed again as black veins darted their way across her body. A single round from a weapon fired. It never touched her. Rogue sidestepped the round and, in an instant, intercepted the owner of the bullet. Her hand closed around his throat and lifted him effortlessly off of the concrete.
"Put him down now!"
"We will open fire!"
Streams of orders echoed her direction, but only a single voice registered in her mind that was steadily losing its hold on reality.
"Kill them," Azrael pleaded, her voice wet and hungry.
"All of them," Rogue agreed.