At the Red Circle --
"What the-," The elite beside Joe, his personal bodyguard, watched Joe fall to the ground with the dirk jutting sticking out of his heart.
Where had this attack come from? There were recon drones everywhere to make sure nothing surprised the Elites, not to mention the environmental scanning systems programmed into their helmets. A stab to the back like this would not make it past the tight perimeter the Elite squadrons had drawn up.
The only explanation was an Alter with a concealment based power sufficiently advanced enough to avoid even higher end AC scanning.
The elite's training instincts kicked in and he adapted, suppressing his immediate worry. He stepped away from Joe's body and aimed his gun at where the knife wielder would be.
"Assuming command!" the Elite shouted into his helmet as he raised his gun. He could see that the knife was being wielded by some strange mass of hazy darkness that now started to solidify into…the shape of a skeleton?
"Mutant class Alter. Skeletal appearance. Concealment capacity level 4. Deploy counter measures. Engaging target!" The Elite leader fired at the skeleton, setting his Hydra rifle to assault mode.
The skeleton darted away with expert agility, backflipping and somersaulting to avoid the bullets. But though the skeleton was fast, the Hydra's auto aim system was even faster. The Elite leader tracked the skeleton's graceful movements, unloading a full clip into the skeleton, shattering its legs to disable its mobility.
The skeleton fell onto the ground as the rest of the Elites stood in trios where they were back-to-back from each other, covering all angles of approach against targets that had concealment beyond their scanning.
"Who are you!?" said the leader as he stepped forwards at the legless, purple cloaked skeleton. With a swift flicking motion of its arms, the skeleton tossed its serrated dirk right at the leader's head.
The leader managed to react by swerving his head to the side. With Joe dead, his potent stim boost would fade over time, but as of now, it was still nearly in full force, massively accelerating the leader's reactions and physicals.
The leader quickly reloaded and shot into the skeleton's head, boring a multitude of holes into it. The skeleton, however, was unfazed by its half blown off skull and leaped into the air by pushing off the ground with its hands.
With a swat of his gun, the leader managed to knock the skeleton back down. He calmly analyzed the situation. The skeleton was very likely some kind of mutant class Alter who had a concealment-based power. His unique physiology made it so that the body was just pure bone and hollow within, and in these cases, the best solution was absolute destruction of the main body.
"Switch to incendiary!" shouted the leader as he willed his weapon to change. The smartlink cable running from his gun to the back of his helmet linked with a neurochip that allowed his thoughts to control the gun.
A red light shone at the gun's barrel before he fired again, and this time, the bullets exploded into wreaths of flame upon contact with the skeleton. The skeleton writhed forwards before growing still, its dry bones breaking apart under the flames.
"Man down! Man down!"
The leader immediately whirled around, checking the rest of his squad. Two more men had fallen, their hearts gouged out with dirks wielded again by skeletons.
"Where did they come from!?" said the leader.
"No idea! They just…they just appeared!"
"Gun them down! Before they disappear!"
In an instant, several Hydra rifle barrels lit up as they unleashed incendiary rounds, thoroughly blowing apart and burning the skeletons.
"What are these things!? They slipped through all our scans, and even when they're dead, they don't register any cell count!" said an Elite, confusion and fear starting to crack through their training as they faced the unknown, enemies they had never, ever seen that seemed to ignore any of the rules they knew.
'I wish I fucking knew,' thought the leader as he thought about what to do. He committed to a decision quickly.
"Retreat! We don't know sh*t about these things! Report back to HQ!" said the leader.
"I'm afraid that won't be happening." A woman's voice pierced through the air, and all the Elites immediately raised their guns and pointed towards the entrance of the Red Circle.
There, a hauntingly beautiful woman stepped out, her deathly pale skin contrasting with the midnight black lace and cloth of her dress. Her eyes gleamed bloody red, tinting her fanged white smile in a hint of crimson.
"AC count zero!" said an Elite.
A civilian? Out here? What? The leader paused for a brief moment before waiving his concerns away. There was no time for hesitation here.
"Gun her down!" said the leader with no remorse.
Several Hydra rifles clattered as they fired their rounds.
In an instant, the woman put her arm out in front of her and manifested…a giant shield? A cross shaped shield of black metal and bone. She stood behind this shield, and all the bullets pattered against the shield like raindrops on a car window.
Smoke then emerged from behind her, surging forwards in a tidal wave of darkness that quickly covered everyone. The smoke was not ordinary, it was more accurately described as a cloud of pure darkness.
Within this inky cover of dark, visibility was limited to just a few feet ahead.
The leader tapped angrily at his helmet, trying to scan past the smoke, but nothing worked. In fact, everything seemed to be short circuiting. His helmet's UI started to crackle and distort as it shut off.
"Argh!" Sparks sputtered from the back of all the Elites' helmets as their smartlink to their weapons was forcibly severed. They immediately unplugged the smartlink cables to their guns, completely stranding them from their technology.
All those thousands upon thousands of credits spent on Imugi combat suits with their world-renowned auto aiming and scanning and smart link compatibility - all gone just like that.
This left the Elites stranded with just their own bodies and minds to work with. They were even cut off from communications as they relied on built in comm links in their helmets.
In this modern age where everyone was always linked in somewhere, through their phones, their computers, or even through their weapons, this complete blackout of technology was deeply unsettling, like they had lost a fundamental part of themselves.
"Get out! Get out!" The leader could not see anything that was going on, but he knew that now more than ever, he needed to get his men out.
What had started out as an enforcing mission to execute the upstart Red Circle was quickly devolving into a nightmare of unforeseen consequences.
Screams filled the air as the silhouette of strange monstrosities revealed by brief glimmers of gunfire showcased…variants.
Variants had been unleashed upon the Elites.
How had they been controlled? Where had they been caged?
The leader asked these questions but knew he could not find answers. He looked around frantically, sweat pouring down his forehead as he felt his breathing accelerate in panic. Everytime he heard gunfire, he turned around to see what was happening, and there, illuminated by the gunfire, he saw his fellow Elites get torn apart one by one.
An Alpha Striker leaped atop an Elite from the smoky darkness, savaging his throat apart. It smelled the air and then growled, signaling to other variants the locations of the rest of the soldiers. A Big-arm Grizzly roared as it tackled down an Elite and savagely crushed his skull.
One Elite screamed as he melted down from the highly acidic blood spray of a Bloodspitter Lizard.
Gunfire echoed chaotically, but without auto-aiming and in this low visibility environment, it was a long shot for any of the Elites to now hit their targets.
There were creatures the Elites had no idea about as well. A giant, hulking muscled man with tumorous growths all over his body and protruding tusks that wielded a giant club of fused metal, swinging it from side to side, breaking Elite ribcages and spines with each blow.
More living skeletons.
The leader abandoned all pretense of trying to save his men at this point and ran. He sprinted away as fast as he could, the screams of his dying men serving as motivation for him to run faster. He had no idea where he was going in this smoke, but he knew if he moved back far enough, he would reach the convoys, and there, he could make his escape -
"Gah!" the leader fell backwards as he slammed into something hard. He raised his gun up instinctively, trying to see what had hit him.
"Put that thing down. It's quite rude to point a weapon at a lady, you know?" The woman from before stepped forwards, becoming visible as she neared the leader.
Before the leader could pull the trigger, the woman had moved so quickly it seemed like she teleported, wrapping her hand around the barrel of the Hydra rifle and yanking it away from the leader's grip. She was strong, impossibly strong, and she easily overpowered the leader.
"I don't like these things," said the woman as she looked down at the gun, her eyes shining red. "They're so…impersonal? That is how I would put it. You look through a sight, press a button, and then kill. But where is the fun in that? You lose out on ripping and tearing your foes using your own bare strength. Isn't that so boring?"
The leader switched to his secondary pistol and fired shots at the woman. He managed to get out two shots that scraped across her skin before the woman grabbed his arms together in her hands, applying crushing force that very quickly shattered his forearms.
A scream escaped the leader's lips. He began to beg. "Let me go! J-Joe's dead, that's all that matters to you, isn't it!? I'm just a footsoldier!"
"Yes, and are not soldiers supposed to be ready to lay down their lives? It comes with the job, does it not?" The woman smiled as she let go of the leader's arms before slashing forward with long, clawed black nails.
"Gh-guh" The leader tried to speak but could only gurgle as blood sputtered from his torn open throat. He put a hand over his gaping neck before he fell over, blood pooling from beneath him.
"Kill them all," said Valera to the undead left to her control from her dear master. "No survivors… But leave their corpses intact." She then put a hand to her forehead, checking up on the others -