It had been a day since the Overseer's announcement. Inevitably, it led to Kayla being recalled back to work early in the morning, much to her chagrin. She honestly wanted one more day, enough that medication would no longer be necessary for the pain, but a message delivered via phone from Bax Vendoland all but demanded that she be there.
"All members of Alpha are to report to the Operations Room unless they are in critical conditions," were the words that she recalled from the pre-recorded message.
If she had to guess, it meant something serious had popped up and it would not be surprising if Alpha and its sister team would redeployed to the border. Last time she checked, things were actually escalating despite the increased security presence.
The events going on there had not died down despite continued efforts by TSF and the military which were apparent on all news boards. Even now as Kayla walked down the streets there were holographic projections that displayed the news reports on the tallest of structures about the situation.
When HQ came into sight, there were no signs of any protesters, however. Either TSF had forced these people to go home or they were too scared by the attacks.
For once, however, It did not take long for her to reach the Operations room by going through the main entrance.
Inside was half of the team which included Fernell, Bax and even Garvey who had also recovered; furthermore, there were even members from Bravo, to her surprise. Immediately Bax signalled for her to take a seat with the rest of the team, remaining relatively silent as he stared at information on his datapad.
"Know what's going on?" Kayla whispered over to Fernell who shook his head.
"Captain just called us up. Not sure why, could be redeployment to the border," Fernell hastily responded under his breath. "Best if you read this." He then passed her a datapad.
The datapad displayed the events Alpha team had been up to and what they had uncovered, particularly at Greyshield PMC with W'erick and another one of those weird, modified Tribals.
Other members slowly trickled in and were given the same instruction to take a seat in the briefing room. When both teams had been accounted for, Bax stood in front of the main projection table alone with Bravo team's leader simply taking a seat with the rest of the officers.
"Best behaviour is mandatory, Overseer is standing-by," Bax told them, standing tall with a stern demeanour that demanded respect and silence.
He then clicked a switch on a remote that caused the projection table to come alive with soft light that soon transitioned to the image of the Overseer on the other end. The leader of Tryden gazed at them as if he were questioning their worthiness to have a direct-line with him.
While everyone stared in awe at his presence, the Overseer then spoke.
"Thanks to your previous efforts, my agent has managed to infiltrate the ranks of the enemy. I am are now confident that Palgaris is the target and will be authorizing a direct mission to the Fallen City. TSF will move in to ensure W'erick and anyone else there will answer for their crimes against us. If Riveria is involved as has been suggested, then we can use that against them so make sure to arrest them when possible. If there are Avalde there, however, kill them. We cannot tolerate their presence. Their fanaticism and obsessions cannot be allowed."
The Overseer then glanced to Bax, signalling for him to take center stage. The Captain maintained commanding presence as he pressed a switch which caused the projector to bring up a 3D map of Palgaris. The detailed model truly gave the impression of how ravaged Palgaris was; vegetation had overgrown most of the structures, numerous networks of burrows were present in the streets due to the wildlife, massive buildings lay collapsed on each other with some of the remaining structures barely holding up. Meanwhile, makeshift huts made by the Tribals that dotted the land which marked territory belonging to the various groups.
"We are to be deployed at this position marked by our agent. From what the map shows, it involves entering this specific Tribal village built into the remains of Opera Spire. We are not exactly sure why, but we'll being going in with a translator. Still no firm details of where the enemy is operating from, but the agent must have good reason to guide us there and the Tribals seem to know something we don't," Bax told them and he halted the map's position and zoomed in on the target with a simply motion of his hand over the projector.
Fernell then leaned slightly forward, narrowing his eyes on the display.
"Why hasn't the military been involved? Seems a little out of our league as security officers. We may be Operations, but we're no special forces," he asked, still looking over the area on the map.
"It is still an internal issue within your bounds and it will be a good way to see if TSF is truly capable of dealing with all threats on its own. It will be a test of what Operations is capable of in the most dangerous of situations," the Overseer then told them before even Bax could speak. "TSF has the power to project itself so we might as well use it."
"Of course, Overseer," Fernell replied back with a nod, appearing almost apologetic.
They're all on edge when the big man's around, Kayla thought to herself as she turned back to the map. Must be harder on someone like Fernell who grew-up with the Overseer around.
"Carry on, Captain," the Overseer then told Bax.
Bax took a slight breath, before giving details on the rest of the plan.
"We've already have a sight for a base camp in the region. An aerial cruiser will be deployed to act as our base of operations. From there we'll be taking gunships to our assigned locations. Once the Tribals have given us the information we're looking for, we'll form a perimeter around the target and then plan from there."
"How do we know these Tribals won't attack us on first sight? They're incredibly xenophobic," Garvey then asked with his arms crossed.
"Hopefully our translator can avoid that from happening. After all this time we still haven't got a full understanding of their language. Each Tribe is its own unique entity."
"Is our translator even from the same tribe?" Kayla then interjected. "If he doesn't understand them then we'll have a lot of angry Tribals to fight. Not that it'd be a fair fight, for them at least."
"We have one who shares many of the same language as those in the south near Palgaris. And I'm more concerned about the wildlife than the Tribals, given how TSF hasn't cleared that area of dangerous beasts," Bax replied to Kayla before he looked over at the Overseer's screen.
The leader of Tryden now had his hands clasped together, leaning slightly forward on his desk as he scanned through the assembled officers once again before looking at Bax.
"Our agent will maintain limited contact to ensure his cover, you'll have to rely on what you're given for now. You best prepare yourselves to deploy now, the sooner you arrive, the less time is wasted. You can plan anything else when you are en route with the rest of the team. Good luck, Major Vendoland, keep your record held to an exemplary standard as I expect you to."
The Overseer then disappeared from the screen.
"Major?" everyone muttered in the room as they looked at the Captain. Everyone took note his rank insignia on his uniform and collars have not yet been updated to reflect his current position. Did the Overseer just promote the man on the spot?
"I say we should celebrate," Kayla then said jokingly in her attempt to ease the mod, "but, it's not the time," she then said as the room remained silent for obvious reasons.
"Once it's over, Eyre," he replied in a low voice with a deep sigh before he looked back at the rest of the team. "You heard the Overseer, grab your equipment and get ready to move."
With only a few words being exchanged amongst themselves, the teams filed out of the room to prepare for another mission once again, one that would take them into territory well-beyond the sheltered cities of Tryden.
The wind howled with the whirlwind picking up snow making visibility extremely poor, but Kayla picked up her pace as she made her way to the destination. The typical heavy armour had been replaced by various equipment and survival gear along with an additional heavy winter jacket made of bullet-resistant material for good measure.
Despite the storm, the woman could see the silhouettes of the skeletal remains of Palgaris' massive towers all around her as she began to climb up a ruined wall, reaching the exposed second floor of one of the towers.
A storm had arrived and that had shot the previous plan to pieces, but Bax did not want to waste time. Instead, he had deployed several hand-picked members from each team available to act as scouts. Everyone else would be deployed once key positions were marked with a perimeter of beacons set.
The scouts did not have the luxury of fast transportation after their being dropped off the minimize disturbance to what lurked in the storm. But, while Kayla could envy their comfort of not being exposed to the elements and not being forced to slog through the snow, something about being out here on her own brought back fond memories of missions long past.
Glancing around at her surroundings, Kayla took out one of the small monitoring beacon, no larger than her hand, and concealed it in the building's rubble. On her HUD, a marker was placed on the map that formed a chain with a series of other beacons that pinged every so often. When they did, the occasional yellow blip would appear, revealing either a Tribal or the wildlife which were still active during the blizzard.
With the task completed, Kayla was on the move once again, making her way to the position through the blasted corridors of the structure she found herself in.
"Kayla, how's your progress?" came Bax's voice over the comm.
"Destination's right ahead, definitely can't miss it," Kayla replied as she look out a tear in the wall that led outside. From her HUD, she could see the marked destination with the silhouette of the fallen spire towering over the background. It was huge, even when it had been toppled.
The corridors and ruined passage ways eventually transitioned to the second floor which overlooked a large lobby below. Everywhere there was debris and collapsed segments of the second floor strewn across the ground while snow continued to fall in from above due to the massive holes in the ceiling The bombs and aftermath had definitely hit Palgaris hard.
What a mess, Kayla thought to herself as she carefully made her down after placing another beacon.
The moment her boots made contact with the outdoors, a loud, sickening crunch caused Kayla to temporarily halt. Seeing what she stepped in, the officer remained utterly silent and moved on in a more cautious fashion.
Barely pocking out of the snow was the skeletal remains of those in Palgaris inhabitants. One of many who were killed by the bombs dropped on this city ages ago.
Let's try not to end up like him.
On the HUD, Kayla noticed a yellow blip slowly moving closer to her position. Immediately she took cover in the debris, weapon at the ready. Last thing anyone needed was to be spotted by the wildlife and being forced into an unnecessary engagement to avoid being a meal.
Slow, heavy steps could be heard crunching up the snow nearby in the lobby, even with the deafening storm. A low growl came from the creature down below followed by its breathing that sounded like a boiler in need of maintenance.
Switching the HUD's view to see through the wall, Kayla saw a massive beast that towered over the APCs TSF used and probably weighed more as well.
From what one could see, it had features that could classify it as a mammoth given its size, shaggy fur and tusks, but its face was more akin to a giant boar with large black eyes that moved independently as they scanned the area from head-to-toe. Its heavy, clawed feet crushed whatever was in its path before they then began scrapping the ground.
From Kayla knowledge of Tryden's wildlife, she made the assumption that it was a Gresheer, a name created by one of the older Tribal groups that meant "Flesh Devourer". These creatures were said to be always constantly on the hunt for new prey and were not subtle; often what they left behind was a bloody mess of gore and bone as they stomped and tore their victims to pieces before devouring them.
Remaining still, Kayla kept her weapon held tight and ready to go. A few rifle rounds would be unlikely be able to kill it outright in a single shot due to its bone density, fur and muscle mass, but a shot to both its eyes would be more than enough to knock it out of the fight and get away. If it could smell her and provided chase, explosives might be necessary, though that would be the last resort. Engagements in general were a last resort.
The creature continued scrapping the ground and cleared snow with its feet as it sniffed the ground. The scrapping got louder until it turned into ferocious digging with large pieces of the earth being torn up. It was not long before the beast let out a massive, guttural roar as its snout dove into the massive hole it dug with a good portion of the Gresheer following through.
Within moments, the creature pulled out what appeared to be an oversized rodent that stood larger than your average dog that had thick fur like much of Tryden's wildlife in the winter.
Blood splattered onto the snow covered lobby as the rodent squealed and struggled. The Gresheer slammed the body of the animal into the ground multiple times before its claws dug in. Soon, the Gresheer began to devour its prey, greedily scarfing down on the warm flesh and blood in the freezing winter.
With the Gresheer's attention focused elsewhere, Kayla slowly began to make her way out of the building, making the best use of cover possible to avoid coming into sight.
Her pace was slow as the Gresheer finished its meal in record time, but it did not seem to be aware of any other presence. Instead, it lumbered over to a new location with claws digging into the ground looking for its next meal.
It seemed an eternity had passed by the time Kayla had climbed down a ruined portion of the structure and then back into the frozen city. Her first actions were to make a slight detour and keep distance from this location before proceeding back on course.
Moving into the nearby cafe then out the backdoor which proceeded into a long alleyway, the officer began to get back on course. Trash and refuse along with debris made for a slow advance, but Kayla eventually found herself facing the ridge composed of the fallen spire.
Kayla quickly checked her audio filters to make sure they were working. The Gresheer no longer could be heard. The sensors also did not show anything aside from that Gresheer which still maintained close proximity to where it had last been spotted, but it did not stop her from scanning the area for good measure.
Her eyes soon got a glimpse of a good position near the base of the ridge located on the top of a partially destroyed, three-storey building. Not the best position, but it was the highest vantage point before proceeding up the ridge and would give her a good view of the area.
"I got the position in sight, I'll wait for you there," Kayla muttered as she made her way through the storm with all senses on alert.