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Spirits in the Mist (Part 2): Into the Dark
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 3 June 2005, 5:40 PM

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Ninth Age of Reclamation/
Northern Continent of Lament, Mist Spirit homeworld

      Neka 'Rolinee grunted in pain as his opponent's kick lifted him off of the ground and threw him roughly back down again. Neka found himself staring at the sky. He didn't have time to think, only to react. He rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding the armored foot that slammed into the ground where he had just been lying. Neka used the momentum of the roll to spring up, his feet finding purchase beneath him. He assumed a fighting stance and fought to control his rapid breathing.
      He knew that his opponent was more skilled than he was. In order to defeat him, Neka had to focus; he had to calm his soul. He and his opponent circled each other slowly, searching for the right moment to strike. Neka decided to try and use one of the techniques taught to him by his Mist Spirit teachers. He turned inward and expanded his soul, his awareness, pressing outward until he could almost feel what his opponent was thinking. Neka felt the attack coming before it happened.
      His opponent was fast, impossibly fast, but Neka was prepared. The other Elite leapt at him, his arms spread wide in an effort to catch Neka and take him off of his feet again. Neka dodged to the right, dropping into a crouch and rolling past his hurtling enemy. His opponent's arm did hit his shoulder, throwing his roll off balance, but Neka compensated and was on his feet in an instant. His opponent caught himself and started to turn, but his momentum made his reaction too slow.
      Neka leapt from the ground. Leading with his left foot and then snapping his right foot forward, Neka aimed a kick at the back of his opponent's head. The blow struck with incredible force, actually lifting his opponent off the ground, spinning him around, and then finally allowing him to tumble back to the ground in a heap.
      "Good, Neka. You have proven yourself capable of adapting to situations that did not favor you."
      These words came from his hand-to-hand combat instructor, who stood watching calmly nearby. Neka's opponent, another Mist Spirit, struggled back to his feet and removed his helmet. The armor had saved him from a potentially damaging blow to the head, but he would still have quite a headache afterwards. Neka removed his own helmet and bowed deeply to his opponent, who mimicked his gesture. They then turned and faced their instructor, awaiting his critiques.
      He smiled and said, "We are late for the evening meal. My critiques can wait until after we are all properly nourished. Meet me back here after you've eaten."
      Neka suppressed the grin that was forming on his face and bowed deeply to his instructor before turning to walk back to the barracks. His friend walked next to him, rubbing the back of his head. Neka chuckled, saying, "Perhaps my own skill at hand-to-hand fighting has finally matched yours?"
      His friend laughed. "Not in your life, Neka," he retorted.
      His friend was a tall Elite who went by the name Korew 'Saromee. Korew had become part of the Mist Spirits before Neka had, and therefore had the benefit of the extra training. He was slightly better than Neka in every area of combat. Not to say that Neka was not skilled in fighting. The Mist Spirits were a secret organization that was independent of the Prophets or the military. They went out among the people to search for candidates that looked promising. They looked for tenacity, bravery, audacity, and skill. They looked for patience. And when they had found suitable candidates, they worked to take them in.
      The Mist Spirits then trained their inductees in all methods of killing. They specialized in weapons of relatively ancient design, such as throwing daggers, which they usually coated with various toxins and poisons before missions. But of course, the ancient weapons were no match for modern military technology. Throwing daggers could not penetrate the shields that standard Elite armor generated. As a result, the Mist Spirits also worked with the latest weapons, armor, and equipment that the Covenant military used.
      Trained by expert Mist Spirits who had been part of the organization for a long time, the regular Mist Spirits far surpassed the level of skill that they had previously known, even the ones that came from elite military units like the Special Ops Strike Teams or the best of the Prophets' bodyguards. Only Elites were recruited into the Mist Spirits as the other races of Covenant were not suitable for the kind of work that the Mist Spirits did. The only species of Covenant other than the Elites who were good assassins were the Jackals, but they were not physically strong enough to handle the training that the Mist Spirits endured.
      "I learn fast, Korew. If you don't watch out, I might surpass you in accuracy with the throwing daggers."
      Korew laughed again, his deep voice echoing among the trees of the large forest where the Mist Spirit camp was hidden. "We shall see after the evening meal. Thrown weapons are next for us."
      They made their way to the main path and from there through the camp perimeter. There were no guards in sight, but Neka knew that they were there. The Mist Spirits were watching. Just because you could not see something did not mean it wasn't there.

      Neka knelt on the floor in the waiting room, waiting to be summoned by his commander. He was trying to meditate, to calm his inner self, to still the troubled waters of his mind. He suspected that the commander had something important for him. He suspected another mission. The last time he had been summoned like this to the commander's office was before he had been sent to kill Field Master Rema.
      Sitting in one of the chairs in the room was his friend Korew. Korew looked completely relaxed, his head hanging to one side and his eyes closed. Anyone other than the Mist Spirits who knew Korew well would have thought the Elite was sleeping. But Neka knew better. Korew was always alert, always listening. And when he looked peaceful on the outside, his mind was always hard at work.
      The door to commander 'Ralemee's office opened. To Neka's surprise, 'Ralemee called both of them into his office. Neka had suspected that they were going to be given assignments, but Mist Spirits almost always operated alone. Korew's inclusion meant that whatever 'Ralemee had in mind was either a very complex mission or they had done something wrong. Neka sincerely hoped that it was a mission. He did not want to think about punishment duty.
      After they had both entered the office, 'Ralemee gestured towards two chairs, saying, "Please, make yourselves comfortable."
      Neka felt like standing, but Korew sat down. Neka, confronted with sitting or looking stupid, chose to sit. 'Ralemee looked at each of them, studying their eyes, looking for hints of what lay inside their minds. Neka felt a deeply unsettling feeling, as if 'Ralemee was piercing the fabric of his conscience and reading it like an open book. Neka shook off the feeling and concentrated on calming his soul.
      'Ralemee finally spoke, "I have summoned you here with a new mission."
      He watched for some sort of reaction, but they managed to keep whatever emotions they were feeling from showing on their faces. 'Ralemee turned to Neka and said, "You recently were sent on a mission to kill a treacherous Field Master. You performed this task admirably. The reason I have chosen you for this mission is because you spent time in the city preparing for your mission. You know the city well. You also know where and how the dark caste scum meet. You watched them as they met with the Field Master."
      "Yes, I know what they look like and know their favorite meeting spots in the public garden," Neka confirmed.
      'Ralemee nodded and turned to Korew. "I have chosen you to go along with Neka because you two work well together. Your bond of understanding seems to allow you to operate much smoother together than most."
      Korew nodded. 'Ralemee then addressed them both. "From your reports, Neka, the dark caste leaders wanted a rather large amount of weapons and equipment in exchange for the money. We have recently learned that they raided many storehouses and banks and lost many of their soldiers in order to get that money. Also, the amount of weapons and equipment they wanted seems to be enough to equip a small army. Alone, the equipment they were to get from Rema was not much or unusual, considering the dire supply situation that the dark caste faces. But it turns out that they have been getting a lot more from many different sources, most of whom are dead now."
      Korew's face twisted into a bloodthirsty grin. They all knew that Mist Spirits had killed those contacts. 'Ralemee continued, "They are planning something big; something unusual. We need to find out what it is. You may use any means necessary. Kill whoever you must, do whatever you must, but don't alert them to our interest in them until you can confirm what they are planning. After that time, you will inform me of their plans. If they pose a serious threat to anything important, the Mist Spirits as a whole will decide how we will react. Do you understand?"
      Neka and Korew nodded solemnly.
      "Then go. Be careful. You can't afford to fail."

Several Months Later, Ninth Age of Reclamation/
Covenant City Purity, Final Justice

      Neka walked into the crowded and noisy bar, followed by Korew. They wore no armor, just long flowing cloaks. They weren't foolish enough not to arm themselves, and each had several throwing daggers hidden in the folds of their cloaks. They both also had plasma pistols. Neka weaved his way through the crowd, ignoring the strobing light and the harsh pounding of the music. Bars had never been his kind of place, and he viewed the atmosphere as being disturbing to his inner peace.
      They found two empty spots at the bar and ordered up some drinks. They paid for the drinks and turned to observe the crowd. They had arranged a meeting with a dark caste leader. They were disguised as two down and out Elites who had no future in society and had no where to go. Perfect candidates to join the dark caste. They intended to join up with them. From inside their own organization, they would be in a better position to find out what the dark caste were planning.
      The doors of the bar opened and a file of Elites started streaming in. There were four of them. The first two were tall and muscular. They were the bodyguards. The third was the dark caste leader. Neka recognized him from his observation of their meetings in the garden. The fourth was another dark cast soldier. They spotted Neka and Korew and made their way through the crowd to where they sat.
      The dark caste leader stayed by the door with the last Elite while the first two continued on. Neka was suspicious. His hand disappeared inside the folds of his cloak, ready for a fight if it came to that. The two soldiers came and sat down on either side of Neka and Korew. The one sitting next to Neka spoke in a rough voice, "You are the two interested in joining us?"
      Neka nodded. The muscular Elite looked him up and down and scoffed. "You guys look so weak that I think I could break you in half."
      Neka's eyes narrowed. He and Korew were in perfect physical condition. While they were not body builders, they had the perfect combination of stamina and skill. They could kill this thug with their bare hands without much effort at all. Neka stayed silent.
      "If you want to join us, you're going to have to show us that you're worthy of being part of our organization," the thug continued.
      Neka's mind reeled with disgust. Here was a criminal talking as if his organization was some honorable group that he should want to kill to be in. Neka viewed them as nothing but outcasts and scum. He felt an anger rising inside of him, but suppressed it, knowing that it could endanger his mission.
      "We want to see if you can fight." The thug said.
      He stood up, flexing his arms. Muscles rippled up and down his arms and chest. He then drew his fist back and punched. Neka and Korew sprung into action. Used to the skill and lightning speed of the other Mist Spirits, the attacks of the two thugs seemed slow and uncoordinated. Neka dodged the thug's attacks with ease, blocking when necessary and jumping out of the way when he could. It was laughable how horrible these thugs were at hand-to-hand combat.
      Neka decided to end this. The thug was a little taller than Neka, who himself was eight feet and eight inches tall. He would have to try a little harder to get blows in to the thug's head. In an incredibly fast attack that was not telegraphed at all, Neka delivered a roundhouse kick to the side of the thug's head. The blow snapped the thug's head around and sent him reeling. Neka leapt up on top of the bar, ignoring the glasses that spilled their contents over the counter or the screaming people around him.
      Using his right arm as a pivot, Neka brought his legs sweeping over the bar. His top leg shot out, striking the thug's head again. The thug hadn't even recovered from the last attack and this new one was too much. He fell to the floor. Neka landed back on the floor, flexing his knees to absorb the impact. Glancing up, he saw that Korew had already finished with his thug, who was already on the ground moaning in pain.
      Neka grinned in satisfaction. They turned and walked toward the dark caste leader, who eyed them warily. Once they reached where he was, Neka said, "Have we passed your test?"
      The dark caste leader's eyes narrowed. "Almost," he answered.
      Suddenly, Neka sensed danger. He spun around and ducked as he saw the glowing end of a plasma pistol pointed at him. The two thugs had regained their feet and were now brandishing weapons. The thugs fired. Bright green bolts of plasma struck the wall behind Neka as he pulled his own pistol from his cloak. Years of experience with the weapon kicked in. In a split second, Neka aligned the pistol with the thug's head and pulled the trigger. The plasma bolt tore through the face of the thug. Two more followed and the Elite went down. Without armor to protect him, nothing had been able to stop the plasma from blasting away the thug's face. Nothing but a smoking crater remained.
      Korew had also similarly dealt with his own thug. They stood up and turned to face the dark caste leader. Their pistols disappeared back into the folds of their cloaks. They stood there waiting as if nothing had happened. The dark caste leader was impressed with their calm, indifferent manner toward killing those who threatened them. He nodded his approval and said, "Good. There were no more open spaces in my personal bodyguards. Until now. Welcome to the dark caste. You have skill that's rare. You will take the place of those incompetents that used to be my bodyguards."
      With that, he turned and walked out of the door and into the dark street, followed by the other dark caste soldier. Neka and Korew glanced at each other as they followed them out, exchanging hidden smiles. The astonished crowd stared after them as they left, their stare shifting from the smoking corpses to the figures disappearing into the darkness.

To Be Continued...