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BREACH - Episode 6 - Operation Blood Siren

Thane here. I'm writing this from medical, back at HQ. I'm hurt, but I'll live. Something happened to my brain, more than anything, and I'm still seeing things. It's like the world is too saturated, and the corners of my vision won't stop shaking. I hear whispers at night, and every dream is a nightmare, no matter how much they drug and sedate me. They can't tell me when I'll be better, but I hope it's soon. I feel like I'm losing my mind.

I was lucky, really, but I couldn't say the same for a lot of others. We were supposed to deploy outside our target in North Dakota, but then something happened. We started getting reports that every breach on record had violently collapsed for no discernible reason - in many cases, explosively. Casualties were high, and suspicion immediately shifted to the Travelers. Like I said before, some people wanted to outright bomb them, but since any seismic readings from the area had stopped, it was decided that we'd finally pay them a visit. My squad wasn't a part of this, but the people that were used the tech from our new scopes to form a rough image of the topography out in Libya, and as expected, found a structure buried deep underground. It didn't have a way in, so they bored straight through the earth until they hit metal, and breached the structure.

They scouted it with a drone before sending anyone down. I'm told it was dark, and completely offline - like everything had been dismantled. The Travelers were nowhere to be seen, and the teams found the remnants of a machine that they think was used to create an artificial wormhole, almost entirely disassembled and missing every one of its key components. Every other machine that was still recognizable had been seemingly devoted to a single purpose: the construction of a bomb the size of a small building. This is the part that I'm not supposed to know about, but rumors spread in here like wildfire, and it isn't right to keep this under wraps, even if something happens to me for writing this. The bomb, thankfully, had been disarmed, and was locked to prevent tampering. Nobody, save for the Travelers, could even detonate it if they tried. The part that has everyone worried, however, is what this bomb would do if the Travelers were to return.

The current consensus is the complete annihilation of our universe.

We think the Travelers were from somewhere else entirely, somewhere other than the universe that the Prometheus Mandate had fused to our own. It seems they were planning on getting rid of our universe before the other could fully invade it, like they were cutting off an infected limb, but wherever we were connected to - something happened there. Something that severed its link to us. So, the Travelers had no other reason to be here, and left all their world-destroying garbage behind like the good Samaritans they were. What an 'invasion' from the other universe would have entailed, we're not entirely sure, but this next operation gave us more than a few ideas. Whatever happened over there, we are very, very lucky, but that wasn't the only thing that was bothering people.

We have an insignia for BREACH that we wear on our armor - looks a lot like two interlocking scythes. Tanner likes to joke that it looks like a biker tattoo. Barry, though, he showed me a brief clip of an empty supply crate they found down there, which his buddy in another squad sent him, and the first thing I saw was a white emblem emblazoned upon the metal. It was essentially our own insignia, only with a cybernetic skull printed over it that matched the dimensions of the dead Traveler we found in Algeria. There are a lot of theories, but nobody really knows what it means, and when Barry's friend tried asking anybody in charge about it, they pretended like it was nothing. We think the brass knows something, but what that is, is anyone's guess.

In any case, for Blood Siren, six BREACH squads were unified into the Pathfinder section, and were split into fireteams. It was myself, Jefferies, Barry, Tanner, and Sprite, and our objective was simple: infiltrate the sewers beneath the ruins of the town, and eliminate all resistance. We knew by then, however, that it's the simple ones that are usually anything but, and the fact that they were sending over twenty of us down there meant that they expected one hell of a resistance.

We were being flown in on three ospreys, two fireteams in each, with plenty of backup alongside us to secure the surface and act as a mobile C&C network. That network would assume control of the Gray Eagles we had on loan from the US army, on account of them being on a need-to-know basis with BREACH, and that would clear out any of the people that had been hypnotized into wandering toward the town. We were all given a low dose of LSD, which was allegedly supposed to protect us from mind-altering hazards. Having my first psychedelic experience in the middle of a high-stakes operation was not exactly my idea of fun, but it didn't affect me much. I remember sitting near the M240 gunner, looking out the back of the osprey as we flew over the woods, all the colors of the world growing vivid and weighted. It reminded me, in the most uncomfortable way, of when I stared into the third eye of Bor-Geth - that blindfolded thing in Operation Osiris.

We were first in formation, the other two ospreys flying through the sky behind us as their twin blades chopped through the air. We started to descend, and the others got ready. The first thing I noticed were the streaks of violet that started to span across the midday sky, gradually subsuming the clouds as we drew closer to our destination. I hadn't seen the other fireteam much, sitting across from us in the purple glow, but I knew they were the strike team that cleared out the facility in Lucent Blue, after we had left, and they had two more men than we did.

For this op, Jefferies and Barry had their railguns, and Tanner had a flamethrower, but every combat engineer was given something special. I had what they were calling a Crest W-2 electrical cannon, a small stock of which had been secured from the other universe before its connection was severed, and was seemingly made by the same people who built Sprite and the cobalt bomb. It had a large, hexagonal barrel lined with electronics, and almost looked like a futuristic grenade launcher, made with a dark, metal alloy that was painted with streaks of red. It probably weighed over forty pounds, but thankfully, my armor helped with that, and I somehow doubted that it was even meant to be carried by an unassisted human. I never got a chance to actually fire it before the op, though, so all they told me was to 'stand back' when I finally did.

I had a pet theory that whoever it was that was making these things, were the same folks who put the breaches out of commission, like they were caught in some sort of cosmic war, but none of the squads ever talked about actually seeing one of these people. The most I ever heard of was an old bunker they found in a world covered entirely in ice, half destroyed by some massive explosion that had apparently vaporized an entire ocean. Anyway, I'm rambling. Back to the op.

We set down on a decommissioned highway a short ways out of town, and poured out of the osprey as the others landed nearby. The sky was a rolling miasma of violet clouds, churning and writhing like a living organism as the sun burned with a crimson glow. The road was badly damaged, and was stricken with fissures and gusts of ash, while in the distance, the ruins of the small town were visible through the burnt-out treeline. It seemed odd, though - most of the scorched trees still stood upright, except for one part, where the forest had been somehow flattened in a wide, sweeping path that led straight into town.

Two fireteams moved ahead of us down the open trail, and we followed, the other three filtering through the woods alongside us, and it wasn't long before we reached the town. The houses and shops had been seared to nothing, like standing skeletons of charred wood and crumbling masonry, though I couldn't see any bodies. It was like the entire town had been abandoned, long before the bombs ever hit.

The fireteams ahead of us split off onto the neighboring streets, and Barry led us forward. A nervous tension welled up from within me as I began to see what the old UAV footage didn't. A creeping moss of bleeding meat had consumed the pavement beyond, spilling out from the center of town, and crawling over the ruined structures. It was alive - tendrils snaking across the broken concrete as razor-toothed maws shuddered and gasped upon the air. It smelled like fuel, even through our masks.

We slowly walked over the layer of meat, the flesh sinking beneath our boots as multitudes of jittering, dilated eyes emerged from the folds to watch us intently. I never felt more unwelcome than I did in that place, like the environment itself wanted us dead. Barry led us to an open manhole overflowing with a mottled skin that snaked around the ladder, Sprite hovering close to Jefferies as Tanner looked up at a ruined police station at the far end of the road.

"This is ours," said Barry. The boom of an explosion echoed in the distance, and we turned to see a plume of smoke rising from far off in the woods.

"Pathfinder to all fireteams," said command. "Disregard drone fire, and check in when you're at your entry point, over."

"This is Pathfinder Three," said Jefferies. "We're in position, over."

I looked down into the darkness of the fleshy pit as the other fireteams slowly sounded off, another explosion booming in the distance.

"Pathfinder to all fireteams, you are free to engage. Out."

"Tanner, take point," said Jefferies. Hesitating for a moment, Tanner enabled his cloaking module and lowered himself into the hole, gripping the blood-slicked ladder as he carefully descended into the depths. We followed suit, my cloaking field humming to life around me while I blurred into the background, and crawled down into the open hole. I could hear a sucking, squirming sound as the darkness swallowed me, and I turned on my night vision before setting down in the tunnel with the others.

A bed of hands and spanning fingers had subsumed the ground, crawling and twitching as they caressed our boots, while the passage beyond wound into a bleeding chasm of clenched teeth and horrifically elongated limbs, spun together upon the walls as they pulsed and writhed with movement. Tanner slowly advanced, and we followed, a horrible unease lingering in the back of my mind as the bones of the hands crunched beneath my boots. I felt like I was walking through the intestines of a living being, throbbing and breathing through the walls of flesh. Tanner motioned for us to stop, aiming his flamethrower at something in the distance.

"Someone's alive," he said. We eased forward, and the shape of a man slipped into view, naked and shivering in seizure upon the ground.

"Cut his throat, and move up," said Jefferies. "Nobody lives." Tanner crept forward, drawing his knife, only to stop and peer ahead. I followed his gaze as I walked, and saw the countless others that were sprawled out upon the widening corridor of meat. A writhing layer of men and women littered the bed of twitching hands, once locked in a vile orgy of blood and depravity, yet now only seizing in a deranged madness as their flesh slowly fused to the walls. It was like the entire place was short-circuiting.

"Pathfinder to all fireteams," said command, the transmission distorted with a hiss of static. "Be advised that hostiles have been encountered. Stay alert, out."

"Would it really kill them to offer a little more description?" said Barry. A loud crack echoed through the air, and we turned our focus to a seizing woman in the near distance, whose flesh began to quiver and roil as her bones expanded and broke beneath her skin. We backed away as the others around us started to violently shake in the same manner, and I watched in horror while their bodies began to separate. Arms, heads, and torsos sprouted hundreds of long, finger-like limbs, and pulled themselves free from the whole, splitting apart into shuddering pits of deformed teeth that screeched upon the air.

"Thane, clear them out!" yelled Jefferies. I knelt upon the floor of grasping hands as the screaming abominations began to skitter toward us on the ceiling and walls, more flooding in from the darkness of the passage ahead as Tanner swept a streak of fire across the corridor, barely holding them back. Aiming at nothing in particular, I pulled the trigger, but my weapon only started to charge with a high-pitched whine, the broad barrel glowing with a flickering light while it shook within my grip. "Thane, hurry the fuck up!" said Jefferies, firing his railgun at one of the creatures with a loud bang as Sprite began to rake its lasers through the horde.

Just as the shrieking horrors closed in on me, the charge reached a crescendo, and I pulled the trigger again in desperation. A flash of blinding light canceled the darkness with a thundering boom as the weapon in my hands discharged a tremendous electrical shockwave, disintegrating every creature in a rippling avalanche of gore that tore down the corridor, and seared the meat clean from the walls. Fire and smoke was all that remained, blood and splattered remains dripping from the ceiling, and running down the walls. Even the floor of hands had been blown back into the scorched brick of the sewer.

"God damn," said Barry. "I'm jealous." Jefferies let out a sigh of relief, and Sprite beeped with alleged approval as Tanner moved up. Crawling to my feet, I followed Tanner alongside the others, slowly moving through the burnt-out passage. Gunfire echoed in the far distance, and I could only assume that another team was fighting something of their own. The moss of creeping meat gradually resumed as we reached a fork in the passage, stepping back onto the bed of hands that rubbed against my boots like they were trying to get inside.

"Thane, clear the left. Tanner on the right," said Jefferies, more men and women seizing upon the ground in the other corridors. Tanner swept his flamethrower across the passage on the right, the writhing clusters of people screaming in pain as they slowly burned to death, and tried to split into individual creatures. I knelt upon the bed of squirming limbs, bracing the electrical cannon as I prepared to fire down the corridor on the left. Tanner swore, and I looked back to see him prying away a disembodied hand that had leapt onto him, whipping it against the wall and unloading a swath of flame onto it. Looking back down the left, I pulled trigger, and the weapon began to slowly charge. I thought I could hear footsteps coming from just ahead, though I wondered if it was only my imagination.

"Do you guys -" a stabbing pain shot through my body as I was knocked onto my back, my weapon tumbling across the ground. A long icicle had impaled me through the chest, blood gushing out from my armor as my cloaking field flickered away.

"Contact left!" yelled Jefferies, firing his railgun at something in the darkness while Barry quickly joined him. A hulking man emerged from the shadow, standing well over seven feet tall, and wrapped in an armor of blackened plating and bloodstained razors, like he was wearing the carapace of a demonic knight. I immediately recognized it as the same armor that littered the desert in Operation Osiris. His teeth had been filed into razor-sharp points, and his skin was marked with bleeding runes, shrugging off the blasts of railgun fire like they were nothing as a cloak of human flesh billowed in his wake.

Sprite's lasers sliced across his armor in a flash of sparks, and the man growled in pain, conjuring a flickering light in his razor-tipped gauntlets, before lashing a wave of chilling power at Jefferies and Barry, freezing them in place with a sudden growth of ice, but Sprite managed to dodge out of the way, raking its lasers against the titanic figure once more. Noticing the charged electrical cannon nearby, I started to pull myself toward it as Tanner unloaded a stream of flame on the approaching man, who ignored it entirely as the fire burned upon his wicked armor, conjuring a spear of ice before launching it at Tanner. Tanner dove out of the way, and the spear shattered against the wall while my hands wrapped around the charged electrical cannon. I angled it up at the armored figure before it could conjure another spear of ice, and pulled the trigger. The man's upper body exploded in a burst of gore and ricocheting shrapnel as the electrical shockwave ripped him apart, the glowing remnants of his lower body collapsing to the ground while I shook off the adrenaline, and slowly crawled to my feet, keeping the freezing spear embedded in my chest to slow the blood loss. Luckily, it barely missed my heart and lungs.

"Get us free," said Jefferies, still locked in a prison of ice alongside Barry. Tanner and I pried it away, slowly releasing them as movement stirred from the right-hand passage. We all turned to it with our weapons raised, only to see another fireteam emerge from the shadows, covered in blood with their cloaking fields long-since dissipated. We lowered our weapons, relieved to have backup.

"Fireteam six," said their sergeant. "What happened here?"

"Three," said Jefferies, prying a shard of ice from his shoulder, and pointing at the remains of the armored man. "We're apparently fighting wizards now."

"Yeah, we had one of those," said the other sergeant, nodding in recognition. "Had a flail and threw fireballs, like a fucking knight or something. Ripped our navigator in two with its bare hands before Wilks here took it out." He nodded back at their engineer, who held an electrical cannon of his own. "We're gonna' make those fuckers pay."

"I won't argue with that," said Jefferies. "Let's go. Tanner, you're up."

Tanner slowly moved ahead through the left-hand corridor, sweeping a streak of fire over anything that still moved. Even with the extra support, I still felt a sense of dread building upon the air, like we were heading toward something terrible. It felt like the walls were breathing around us, a rattling wind coursing through the flesh as the sound of a heartbeat thumped with a chaotic rhythm.

"Heads up," said Tanner, stopping and pointing ahead. At the end of the passage, a wooden door painted entirely in black stood embedded within the brick, a white handprint pressed upon its surface. I could feel something beyond it that I had never experienced anything close to, like an aura of pure evil was radiating from the other side.

"You guys feel that?" asked Barry. I nodded.

"Pathfinder, this Pathfinder Three," said Jefferies to command. "We're with fireteam six outside a sealed door, and we think the primary target's on the other side. Please advise, over." We waited a moment for command to respond, the other group gathering nearby.

"This is Pathfinder to fireteams two and five," said command through a hiss of static. "Converge upon fireteam three's location, and proceed after rendezvous. We've forwarded a marker to your navigators. Out."

"We lost two teams already?" asked Barry. "What the hell are we fighting?"

"Nothing good," said Jefferies. Gunfire began to echo in the distance from the corridor behind us.

"We'll check it out," said the other sergeant. "Decker, move up." The other team quickly disappeared into the darkness, and we waited for their return as gunshots and explosions continued to rattle through the air. I kept my eyes on the door the whole time, like something was drawing me to it. I could barely even feel the pain of my injury. Footsteps sounded from behind us, and I turned to see fireteam six emerge from the darkness, two other fireteams tailing closely behind. Their numbers looked a lot lighter than when we first went in.

"Okay," said Jefferies, a nervous tension in his voice. "Tanner, you're up. Keep it slow."

Tanner moved forward with caution, and opened the black door, stepping out into the darkness beyond. We followed behind him, emerging upon an endless expanse of writhing meat. Above, stars and streaks of celestial gas shone through a cosmic abyss, like we were somehow standing beneath the night sky.

"We'll take point," said another fireteam, moving into the shadow with the others. Jefferies didn't protest, looking around and staying as close as he could to Sprite, as though profoundly bothered by his surroundings. Then, we heard nothing but heavy footsteps beating across the distance as something rapidly approached.

"Contact right!" yelled one of the others. I hit the trigger on my weapon before I even looked into the blackness beyond, charging it as four hulking. armored figures sprinted toward us from the shadows. Everyone opened fire, railgun blasts sparking against their armor as they quickly closed the distance, one ramming his gauntlet through a man's head before smacking another away. I braced myself, and fired my electrical cannon at one of them, lighting the field around us with a blinding flash as the shockwave disintegrated him. Another charged toward me while the other fireteams engaged the rest. Wielding a massive, rune-marked sword in a single hand, he swung it at me, and I immediately ducked, the blade whistling over my head, only to catch his gauntlet as he smacked me several feet into the distance. I tumbled to a halt upon the ground, feeling like I had been hit by a truck while he knocked the flamethrower from Tanner's grip, and rammed his gauntlet into his ribs, breaking them on impact with a sickening crack. As Tanner wheezed for air, the armored man raised his sword, about to bring it down for a killing blow, only for Sprite to lash him across the face with its lasers. The man grunted in pain, the shots of Jefferies and Barry sparking against his armor, and barely even denting his skin.

"Pathetic," bellowed the man, shrugging off Sprite's attacks as he marched toward us undaunted. "We will flay the meat from your world, and you will writhe forever with the flesh." He swung his blade at Jefferies, who ducked under the attack, and leapt back as he swung again. "Too many of us are through. You can do nothing but cower and die! Embrace your end!" He swung his sword, slashing Barry across the chest in a spatter of blood, and knocking him back. The other teams were slowly winning, another shockwave disintegrating one of the demonic knights nearby as gunshots and crackling flames sounded from all around us.

"Get the gun!" I yelled. The taste of blood in my mouth, I pointed at the electrical cannon that had been knocked from my grip. Jefferies ran for it as the armored figure conjured a ball of flame in his free hand, and whipped it at Jefferies, narrowly missing him as it burst upon the fleshy ground in a fiery explosion. Jefferies rolled and picked up the weapon, triggering the charging process while the man turned his attention back to Barry, knocking the railgun from his hands with a strike of his sword. Barry stumbled back, clutching his bleeding wounds as another slash barely missed him, the man bellowing with laughter as he reveled in the terror of his enemies. Then, Jefferies fired the charged electrical cannon. The man's torso instantly vaporized with a deafening boom, blood spattering against me as his remains collapsed to the ground. One of them still remained near another fireteam, ramming his sword through a team member's chest before casting him off like a rag doll. Sprite soared through the air, and temporarily blinded him with a flash of its lasers before another engineer took aim with his electrical cannon, and blasted the creature to pieces with a thundering shockwave.

They were finally dead, but the other teams had been reduced to only seven members, and we were almost too injured to fight. I slowly crawled to my feet, a dull pain radiating through my bones as Jefferies helped Tanner nearby.

"You need evac?" asked Jefferies. Tanner shook his head.

"Let's finish this," he said. "Worry about me later." I helped up Barry, the bleeding from the wound in his chest beginning to slow as Sprite drifted back to us. The remainder of the other teams began to advance, charging their electrical cannons as they crept into the darkness. The expanse of meat began to rise, gradually ascending into a mountain of bodies, woven and fused through a macabre tapestry that towered into a vertical ring of bloodstained flesh - the remnants of a portal between worlds that had ceased its function with the severing of universes.

Knelt upon it, however, was a lone, slender figure draped in red, a black emblem of a willow emblazoned upon its garment as it clutched its mask of feathers in a manic insanity, twitching in place as it slowly glanced up at us. Its skin had been completely flayed away, revealing the bleeding meat beneath. Jefferies motioned for us to stop, holding us back as the others aimed their weapons, and another sergeant gave the order to fire. The blasts of three electrical cannons discharged in a cascade of thundering booms, shockwaves slamming against the cloaked figure, and vaporizing everything around it but the creature itself. Kneeling within a sea of crackling flames while the remnants of the disused portal collapsed behind it, it looked up at the other fireteams, as though annoyed by their presence.

Jefferies eased us back as it raised a single hand to them, and what I saw next will be burned into my mind for as long as I live. The others exploded into a fine, red mist, obliterated on a cellular level as though swatted off the face of existence. Their blood smacked against us as we stood paralyzed in horror, suddenly alone with the creature that disintegrated seven soldiers with only a thought. It looked up at us, and removed its mask, revealing only an inky void beneath. Images of chaos and death flashed through my sight as I was suddenly overtaken by a hunger for meat. I wanted to tear my own flesh off, stuttering and trembling within my armor as the overwhelming tide of evil and depravity flooded into my mind. Then, I blinked, and the hunger was gone. I saw Vasquez sitting in the creature's place, wearing our old armor, and looking just like he did on the day of Snowshoe.

"I never told the legionnaires," said the creature that wore his form, its voice grating against my mind with an aura of raw power. It seemed unstable, shivering beneath its breath as though in a tremendous amount of pain. "Their hunger blinds them, even when the truth courses through their veins. They'll never know how it feels to be severed from the whole. There was no I - no individual. Yet now, I kneel before the flesh I should rightly devour, more alone than I have ever been."

"You're from the other universe?" asked Jefferies, lowering his weapon more out of a recognition of futility than an act of surrender. "What were you trying to do here? What do you want from us?" I blinked again, and the creature adopted the form of Jefferies, looking back at us with an expression of forlorn defeat. I could feel my mind slowly unhinging, like a nervous tension was building within me the longer I remained in the creature's presence. Its thoughts radiated against me like a psychic feedback, but I didn't feel the slightest bit of hostility - only sorrow.

"I want something that you can never give me," it said, smiling weakly before vanishing into thin air. We looked around in a sudden panic, searching the black expanse, but only an empty nothingness surrounded us. We were alone, the stars gleaming above us in the artificial night.

"This is Pathfinder Three to Pathfinder," said Jefferies. "Please respond, over." He waited for a moment before repeating himself, but received no response, listening to the cold static on the other end.

"I'm not getting anything on my equipment," said Barry. "I think it's this place." Jefferies nodded, glancing back at the mound of flesh with a nervous paranoia.

"Okay," he said, standing in place as though unsure of what to do. "Let's ... clear out."

He began walking back the way we came, and we slowly followed him, stumbling under the pain and stress of our injuries as Sprite drifted in silence overhead. We found the black door, and made our way back through the scorched tunnels, a sense of utter emptiness suffusing the darkness as we finally arrived at the ladder, and climbed it to the surface. The purple skies had begun to disperse, breaking away into the blue light of day as a welcome sunlight shone against us. Jefferies called in, and one of the ospreys flew in overhead to take us out of there. We didn't realize how injured we really were, and were apparently on the verge of death when they got us to medical. Adrenaline worked its magic once again.

We don't know what we faced down there, but whatever it was, it seemed to have left of its own volition. People stopped being drawn into the sewers, and the flesh died off in short order. BREACH sent in another sweep of the area a day later in the hopes of capturing one of those 'legionnaires' in black armor, but they couldn't find anything left down there but a few starving people. The alloy they recovered from the fragments of their armor confused them even more than the Traveler's, and all they really discovered was that it was partly organic. Any scraps of their skin were just as tough, shrugging off bullets like it was solid steel. Whatever they were a part of, we think they were planning on assimilating our world, until something on their end cut them off, and left them stranded on Earth. Now, we can only hope that it stays that way.

BREACH isn't going anywhere, but all of us need some time to recover. Our numbers are hurting, but even without a direct link to the other universe, plenty got through in the meantime. We still have a job to do, and provided I survive long enough to record these things, I'll be back with more. The others started reading these while they heal, by the way, and are amazed that I haven't been executed, but in any case, thanks for making it this far - and Pluto isn't a planet - it's something much, much worse.