When the Red Circle was visible, that was when things became more difficult.
Actual Red Circle staff, noted by their white bulletproof suits - though not nearly protective enough to fend against Imugi-class firearms and ammunition - contended against the Elites.
Yet of these low-level staff could beat the Elites either. In terms of sheer training, the Red Circle staff were on par with the Elites, but the Elites outgunned and outarmored them too severely.
In exchanges of gunfire, explosives, and the occasional usage of Alter powers, the Elites came out on top.
Joe lost two Elites total while Casimir lost twelve of his personal staff, forcing them to retreat back behind the Red Circle's forcefield. The moment the staff was in protective range, raining down suppressive fire so that Joe and his Elites could not advance easily, the forcefield came up.
Joe lit up a cigar as he watched from far behind through a pair of binoculars.
His Elites were stationed behind whatever cover they could find in this urban jungle. Mostly cars and the walls of buildings. Some headed to the top of buildings to take up sniping spots, using activated kinesis fields on the soles of their boots to scale up vertical walls.
Once in defensive, entrenched position, all of them eyed the forcefield warily.
The Red Circle was ready for a siege. Its entrances and walls were shingled with neosteel plating, completely replacing the fancy façade with cold, hard, grey steel. But beyond this, the Red Circle's forcefield made it nigh impenetrable.
The most conventional way to deal with a forcefield generated with ether was to use an energy weapon, but this forcefield was strong enough that the plasma coil weapon forms on the Elites' Hydras would not punch through this.
For all intents and purposes, this was a deadlock.
And yet, Joe could not help but feel uneasy. None of the elite staff of the Red Circle had shown up.
Walters, Hirondelle, Cubehead, Smoke, and Spybird.
Each of these aside from Cubehead were strong and trained enough that conventional gun and armor soldiers could not easily deal with them.
Yet, Joe had prepared counter measures.
Hirondelle's Violet Swallow form consisted of pure energy that made her immune to almost any form of gunfire or explosive, but Joe had prepared powerful Kinesis Generators that placed artificial gravity fields which could hold her in place, and then it was simply a matter of changing the force vectors in the fields to tear her apart.
Walters was fast, strong, and had high regeneration, but the Elites all had in reserve on their belts a special type of corrosive ammunition chemically tailored specifically to negate his healing.
Cubehead could generate warp traps from cube shaped constructs, but these had a specific energy signature that the Elites' scanning systems had in their database, preventing them from ever letting it catch them by surprise.
Smoke was a melee fighter who could phase into smoke form, and she could reform from being dispersed. Yet, she was still just smoke. Flash freezing charges could completely entrap her.
Spybird was the Red Circle's head of technological operations. He had little combat power by himself, but his strongest drone, the Albatross, was a mechanical menace that had enough firepower to wipe out the Elites wholesale, not to mention it had powerful EMP shielding.
But Joe had prepped techno Elites among his crew with viruses developed by a high-end Trident techno specifically to render the Albatross unusable.
It was a shame that Joe's preparation, preparation he had made from the tiniest suspicion he got years ago that the Red Circle might one day turn rogue, did not see the light of day.
Not yet, at least.
It was obvious Casimir was holding out under his forcefield.
This was an idiotic maneuver because, as Joe had made clear, Casimir had no more help.
Meanwhile, Joe had already called the Trident's main body and the rest of the Dark Six. They would send in their higher-class villains, and then the Red Circle was over.
Granted, this might take days, but it would still happen.
And what did Casimir have to counter that? His finite, ever dwindling staff numbers and a forcefield that could stay up for what?
Three more hours? Four?
Casimir was done. He might even fall tonight.
Joe received a call. He flipped out his phone and answered it. "Yeah? About damn time."
He smiled. Talk about reinforcements, huh.
Within minutes, three individuals came to Joe's position.
One was a large, hulking mechanical humanoid with huge red shoulder pauldrons, red plated armor, and a spherical head glowing with a horizontal blue line that stood in for eyes.
His each and every moment was heavy, clanking and whirring with hydraulic pressure. On his shoulder was a menacing mounted cannon large enough that it looked like it could bust a bunker.
The other two were more normal looking individuals, a man and a woman respectively.
The man was tall, heavily built, and had on a perpetual angry scowl. His hair was cut in a military buzzcut and his stern square jaw made it obvious that he never enjoyed anything in life. Overall, he was relatively simple in appearance, just muscle and plain black bodysuit.
The woman was far more elaborate in aesthetic. She was also tall, taller even than the man, standing in easily at six foot three (1.9 meters) with a slim but strong, athletic build that showed the curvature of her muscles through skintight body armor that had a regal gold, blue and white color scheme.
Her face had fine, refined features marked noticeably by a diagonal scar that ran from the top of her right eye down to her chin. Blue hair tied up in a ponytail trailed behind her.
On her shoulders were small golden pauldrons tapered out into golden feathers.
Two large strands of blue feather-shaped flexi-steel streamed from her back, flowing with her each and every movement gracefully. In her hand was a white metal rapier handle that hummed with a blue miniature etherite reactor embedded in its crossguard.
From the handle, a thin blade of bright blue plasmoid energy flickered.
"Good to see Blackwater cares about their assets," said Joe as he spat out his cigar and ground it under his foot. "Nice to see you. Clank, Darius, and Colette."
Blackwater's three combat instructors gave Joe a curt nod, but they mostly looked ahead, ahead with firm resolution to the Red Circle that had taken their students.
With the students gone, Blackwater would fall under large scale investigation. There was only so much the Dark Six could do to shield Blackwater from the government. The mass disappearance of fifteen students was beyond what the Dark Six could do.
And under investigation, Blackwater would have no choice but to dissolve and fade away into the shadows.
The comfortably paid lives that Clank, Darius Fletcher, and Colette lived now would disappear just like that.
And they were not about to let their money vanish into the smoke like that.
"You see that forcefield? I'm not equipped to deal with it-," began Joe.
"I got it. Just tell your men to get the fuck back." Darius Fletcher stepped forwards, into the open, and his entire body lit up, turning a bright molten orange. Waves of heat shimmered all around him, and each step he took, the ground under his feet melted.
"Gun him down!" shouted a Red Circle staff from behind the forcefield. The forcefield was configured so that any matter from within could phase directly out of it without much issue.
Dozens of gun barrels flickered like little stars as bullets rained down on Darius.
Darius trudged forwards with zero hesitation. The bullets hit his body and either bounced off or melted into nothingness. An explosion rocked the side of Darius's head, blowing off a large chunk of his skull.
Several massive rounds from the cannons and larger turrets on the Red Circle gouged out chunks from Darius's body.
Darius paused for a second as his head and body regenerated from molten material. He then began a fast sprint towards the forcefield and slammed into it. He put both his glowing orange hands on the surface of the field, and as he did so, the normally translucent forcefield flickered in varying shades of blue as it warped and twisted under the intense heat and energy.
Darius roared as a bright white sphere inside his stomach glowed visibly through his molten body. His heat output increased exponentially, and the forcefield began to slowly cave inwards like a piece of glass twisting under heat.
"Retreat inside! Back to the Red Circle!" Immediately, the Red Circle staff filed into the night club, opening up the fortified neosteel doors just long enough that the last man could retreat in before closing shut.
Not one second after the staff retreated within, the forcefield broke apart. Like a system short circuiting from one fried wire, it only took a small surface area of a forcefield to break for the entire thing to power down.
"Get in here, you maggots! I've only shorted the field out! It might come back up again!" shouted Darius as he waved everyone forwards.
His head blew apart into molten goo from another large caliber turret shot, and he angrily looked up and fired a pressurized blast of lava at the turret, melting it before encasing it in a tomb of cooling rock.