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Velvet glove, steel F.I.S.T

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A thin trickle of sweat beaded on his brows and unceremoniously dripped onto the flat white paper of his assignment sheet. 

A second fell, and then a third. 

Max's emerald eyes trailed across the last line of the briefing and then snapped right back up to the officer who had presented him with it, a question emerging almost immediately. "With all due respect, Lt., why me? I want to be out in the field getting ready for our Hells Gate deployment. I don't have any experience dealing with the law, or conducting investigations on my own." His tone was pliable, conciliatory, even. But there was a lingering edge of deep concern beneath the calm veneer. The fingers of his right hand tensed uncomfortably as he waited for Lieutenant Mark's response.

"It's simple. They want someone with a decent head on their shoulders as a second to an investigator. Thanks to all that Safeguard crap, they're desperately shorthanded. Can't have them in teams anymore because there's too much going on. So you'll be helping out as the muscle to their brains." Lieutenant Tom Mark was a tall, spare man in his mid forties. He scratched the beginnings of stubble along his cheek thoughtfully. "Private, allow me to state that these are lawful orders." Mark's voice was almost cheerful as he continued. "And you will follow them to the best of your ability, even if you spend the next three weeks bringing coffee for some hotshot investigator trying to figure out the great sweetroll heist of the century." 

Max simply nodded his head tightly, lips parsed in obvious disappointment. It would hardly do any good to get into it with the LT. Surviving the colossal fuckup at the live firing range had given him some measure of respect among the commanders of his training unit - enough that he was able to obtain one of the more cutting edge prostheses available - but certainly not enough to where he could demand his assignment changed. No, far better to simply deal with it and hope it earned him enough favor to be put back into the field with the rest of the unit. 

"For what it's worth, Sanders," the LT added as he reached the exit, "I would think of it as an opportunity. Not too often you get to see the other side of what we fight for." 

Not too often you get sent to the rear echelon for saving someone's life, either. 

To Blairville, then. 

Edited by Grimmholt

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The white wrapping paper crinkled in his hand as he knelt and gently laid the roses to rest at the base of the headstone. The brilliant crimson flowers contrasted starkly with the faded marble, the dim gold lettering of the nameplate, the scattered fall leaves trailing down from the oak above. Max brushed his gloved fingers along the letters, rubbing free a year's worth of dust and grime until they shone in the morning light. Memories of his father's face were few and far in between. Beyond a few photographs, this gravestone was really the strongest connection he had to the man that lying in repose beneath it. "Hey Dad," he whispered. "Didn't think I'd be back so quickly. Training's been.. interesting." He laid his right hand flat against the marble. The pressure sensors in his hand told him precisely when to stop, but he could no more feel the smooth surface than he could anything else.

"I.. don't know if I'm going to make it." The words were bitter in his mouth. 

"I lost my arm. It's a good replacement, but.. I don't know if they'll let me stay. That's why I'm back here. I can't help but feel like they're going to push me into the back lines because now I'm a casualty. I know I did the right thing. But it's hard to feel like that when I'm being left out to dry here." 

Max's eyes drifted to the motto inlaid into the headstone. Veritas, fides, sapienta. "I won't give up. Not until I know what happened to you." 

He stood and brushed a few scattered leaves from his black greatcoat. 

"See you later, Dad." 

Edited by Grimmholt

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He rested his gloved hands along the smooth metal railing of the balcony, peering over at the cavernous room below where hundreds of staff pounded away at their keyboards and relayed vocal dispatches in raspy tones. It was, all things considered, an impressive undertaking. There was a core cadre of dedicated F.I.S.T personnel in their standard officewear scattered throughout, but he could also recognize dull grey urban combat fatigues and black tactical gear among certain groups. It seemed he wasn't the only one pulled from the field to come and assist. That lessened the sting somewhat, although he noted that many of the personnel were also around his age and presumably, his rank as well. 

"Desperate times call for equally desperate measures," called a smooth baritone behind him. Max turned on his heel and snapped a smooth salute by reflex. Lead Investigator Thomas Martin was a lean, spare man in his mid fifties, dressed in a modest if well cut suit of dark gray. His eyes were the color of worn gunmetal, set behind a pair of old brass spectacles that emphasized the cool intellect behind them. The Investigator's leatherlike countenance spoke to a lifetime in the service of the public, and he returned the salute with a crispness and gravitas that suggested he too had once worn the same uniform. "Private Sanders," Martin intoned, offering a leather gloved hand in greeting. Max hesitated for a moment - torn between seeming rude or alternatively crushing his temporary CO's hand. In the end he simply committed to it and hoped for the best. To his surprise, he felt an unusually solid "clunk" as their digits slapped together. A flash of recognition danced across his face and swiftly vanished. 

"Oh," Max said simply. Martin smiled wanly. "I believe we have more in common than one might expect."

"Including," he added with a flourish towards the controlled chaos of the floor below, "a crisis and our task to contain it. Come with me, and I'll explain further."

Martin turned deftly on his heel and proceeded for the doors at the other end of the room. He tapped his magnetic badge against the blinking red marker on the wall and after a moment the metal doors hissed open. Max fell into a smooth stride behind him, passively observing the hallways and rooms they passed for future reference. "Our situation is, as you can see, a dire one. With all of the uproar over Safeguard, crime - violent crime especially - has nearly tripled in certain sectors of the city. If you were an organized criminal, you couldn't have asked for a better time to put your schemes into action and many have. We're so overloaded here that we're having to split our normal two man teams into ad hoc fireteams with an Investigator and deputized first responders. That's where you and the rest of our levies and seconds come in." 

They reached the end of the hallway and turned into the open doorway at the right. The office was large by government standards. It was also positively crammed with books - law books, several collections of aged encyclopedias, and row upon row of white case binders neatly labeled. The desk was broad, well worn hardwood, stacked high with a myriad of documents and folders Max assumed were related to the situation at hand. To his surprise, Martin strode past the desk and went to the small filing cabinet beside the window. It slid open smoothly, and within a few seconds of flicking through the files within he located the documents he was searching for. "Ah. Here we go." The Lead Investigator returned to his desk and sat down, handing over the file a moment later. Max took it and flipped it open, not bothering to take a seat in one of the chairs provided. "A kidnapping?" He asked, emerald eyes slipping up to Martin's. 

"Yes. One of our esteemed local councilmen. As you can see from his file, he's been somewhat of a contentious figure in Blairville since before Safeguard came down. The Spire incident has only worsened the situation. He was due to have a press conference two days ago to discuss his upcoming campaign against the registrations. Instead, he's gone missing and the only lead we have left is some blood spatter and a trail leading out into the streets. We've attempted to scry his location and to search for his panic button, but whomever has him has done their homework. Likewise, we can't seem to locate any witnesses around his location. The memory loss suffered by the victims in play, no doubt."

Martin waved a hand in his direction. 

"Since our usual investigative methods are at a dead end, I've decided to take advantage of having such a diverse grouping of operatives within the same building. According to your CO, you've shown some promise as a tracker and you appear to be passingly familiar with the basics of intel gathering. I'd like you to work with one of my agents - shadow them, provide a fresh perspective. If you find something, follow up on it. And if the bullets start flying, cover each other. We'll issue you a temporary ident card showing your status as a deputy. Our goal is to find answers - not to kill."

"The truth over the score," Max answered. 

"Precisely. Can you do it?"

Max met his eyes. "I will."

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