by John Dodd

"This is Jessica Miller, reporting live from third eye, on the scene of a particularly brutal hostage situation in downtown 12"

Flashes of strobe lighting illuminate the scene as the shivers lock down their APC's and bring out the search lights that bring the necessary perception to the area. Jessica looks up, an impressive simulation of concern playing across her face as she looks at the window where one of the terrorists leans nonchalantly cradling his rifle.

"With two deaths already, the Cerise Jyhad have made their demands and SLA have despatched a team of Operatives to negotiate the release of the hostages." As she finishes addressing the camera, a standard hammer class APC pulls up and five people step out of the side of it. One of them wearing a deathsuit, the others all dressed in black blocker armour and with helmets off, the first out of the APC, a striking young woman with jet black hair and thin, but attractive features, makes her way over to the media crew.

"Cherry Hinton, squad GBH, we're here from SLA, situation report please." Her voice is calm and level, but the delivery of the request is flawless.
"Jessica Miller, third eye, there's three people that we know of in there, two of them with automatic rifles, one with an enhanced pistol, we're not sure, but there could be another one in there."
"You're not sure?" Sarcasm drips from every syllable "Right, that makes it easier, how many hostages, and what condition do you require them in?"
"Erm" the assertiveness of the question catches the reporter off guard "Ten hostages, all of them needed alive if possible."

Without a word, Cherry turns and walks back to her squad, issuing commands sharply and clearly. The Ebb user looks upwards and is gone, one second here, the next, gone. The other three leave the scene, taking the APC with them. Cherry returns to Jessica and takes the loudspeaker.

"This is Cherry Hinton, speaking on behalf of SLA, we need a list of your demands so that we can take care of them for you." All the words are perfectly enunciated.
The man at the window steps down and motions for the leader to step forwards "We, of the Cerise Jyhad, demand.."
A single shot lances through the air and the man's head disappears from his shoulders in a fine red mist. For a second, there's no sound, but then a commotion from the window and the first man reappears, holding one of the hostages with his rifle pressed to their head.
"Back off, just back the f** off!" he screams, almost incoherently "I'll kill them all, I swear it!"

Cherry smiles, the smile is not a comforting one.
"Crap, unadulterated crap, look down at your torso, that dot there marks where the next 17mm hole will be if you don't agree to MY demands."
The man falters for a second, there's a shout from behind him, the sound is muffled by the commotion from down in the street. As the commotion subsides, another voice is heard to shout "let's kill them all!"
The man at the window is unconvinced. "You haven't got the gun trained on you asshole, if you want to step up here and negotiate, you do that."

There's another commotion from up in the stairs and the other man rips the blinds down, his face crimson with rage, his mouth opens to scream, and a hole appears where his throat used to be.

"Your choice." Cherry continues "Now, our demands are that you release the hostages and come out to greet us, nice and civilly."
The man nods quietly, lowering his rifle. Minutes later, the hostages walk out, closely followed by the two kidnappers, both of them unarmed, both of them with arms raised. The Shivers tag them and lead them away, leaving Cherry still standing in the middle of the street, one hand to her ear. The media crew approaches, Jessica opens her mouth to speak, Cherry cuts her off in mid preparation.

"No questions." it's not a request "We'd like you to follow us to our next appointment, we have a Red across sector, you can use your own transport."
She strides away without a back glance as the ebon emerges from the building opposite and the squad APC turns the corner.

Seven minutes later, they're waiting at the corner of 14th and Cross, near the Karma 2 facility. Cherry gets out of the APC and waits for the media team to form up.

"Once again, this is Cherry Hinton for squad GBH, we're here to remedy another hostage situation, this one is on the thirtieth floor of the Karma 2 facility, we'd like Miss Miller to keep them busy, but try and stay out of their line of fire, these ones mean business."
Jessica nods, switching the microphone to broadcast. As she does, Cherry turns back
"Give us a minute and a half, after that, keep one near the window and if you can get a good look in there at any point, relay the information on the following channel."

The Ebb user is nowhere in sight as the other four of the squad troop into the building. A minute and twenty seconds later, there's a burst of gunfire from the thirtieth floor, then two rounds of 17mm fire, then a blast that blows out the main window. The coded channel beeps once, Jessica answers.

"This is GBH, situation under control, send in clean up."

Four minutes later, the squad returns from the front of the building, one of the blocker armoured humans has taken a small hit to the right shoulder plate of his armour, but there's no blood coming from it, none of them appear overly fatigued. Cherry walks directly over to Jessica and raises one hand to forestall questions as the rest of the team head for the APC.

"We have a final appointment for today, another Red two blocks over, unidentified assault on a DownTown warehouse, you are welcome to come with us, but use your own vehicle." She strides away again, sure in her footsteps.

Three minutes later, the sound of gunfire rips the air as the GBH APC rounds the corner and the team disembark. Six people are covering the street, civilians by the appearance of them, none of them armed with anything special, shotguns and GA47's, but it's enough to deal damage to the people that they've been taking on. Over thirty bodies are laid on the street, often in awkward positions, dropping where their strings were cut, some of them monarchs, two shivers, and various civilians.

As the team drops out of the back of the APC, the ebon looks across the way and vanishes, then the others spread out into standard broad formation and open fire. Two of those firing go down in the hail of fire, the others turn and return the fire, a hail of rounds sprays into the side of the APC as the team ducks back. The media crew watches as the "Civilians" form up into two fireteams and begin advancing down the street, one team advancing, one team providing covering fire.

Cherry looks over the top of the APC, still not wearing her helmet, ducking back as a hail of buckshot scatters the air where her head was momentarily. A single round cores one of the civilians front to back, and they turn to return fire on the Ebon. The rest of the squad pop up in unison and two more of the civilians go down in the storm of bullets, the last one turns and charges at the team, closing the distance inhumanly quickly. He takes two hits from Cherries 603 before closing to combat distance, barrelling into her, smashing her to the floor.

The two of them roll over twice before them come up with the civilian on top, he raises both hands above his head, knife inbetween them, and prepares to gut her like a fish.

Then stops as the barrel of the 603 is inserted into his left nostril.

"I wouldn't" Says Cherry quietly "Bullet beats knife every time."

The Civilian isn't in the mood to talk, screaming an insane cry and plunging the knife down, there's a flash from the gun and the inside of his head is illuminated briefly before a shower of arterial blood sprays across his torso and Cherry's head. She throw the body from her, coming up to face the media crew. She smiles once, her face radiant, even with the blood obscuring her left side.

"Questions?" she asks politely.
Jessica pauses a second, caught off guard.
"Erm, yeah, how long have you been out of Meny?" "Three days."
"Really? How do you attest for your success rate so far?"
Cherry smiles "It's easy if you know what you're looking for."
"How do you know what to look for."
"Simple, The first kidnappers didn't want to die. They had demands, which means that they wanted to get out alive to enjoy them, you kill the leader, and the plan dies with him, the rest of them will quickly cave in once you've made it clear that you're not playing their game."
"And the second?"
"Different case altogether, they didn't announce themselves, and they weren't making demands, the only reason that Station Analysis flagged them is because one of the technicians managed to hit the help button. We encountered one dead guard on the way up, and we moved quickly enough to stop them from getting dug in, after that, simple matter of hosing down the lab."
"But what about the hostages?"
Another cold smile "The hostages were all Karma 2 specialists, we checked it on the way over, all of them have full LAD benefits as part of their salary package, all we had to do was avoid head shots on the hostages."
"Isn't Karma going to bill you for the damage to property and personnel?"
"No, I cleared it with Station Analysis before we went in there, it's one of the benefits of being a financier, you can get around most things if you know how to ask. The loss of the data and personnel was potentially far more disastrous to Karma than having to rebuild a few of their technicians, but you shouldn't be saying that, as Karma will have something to say to you about that."

Jessica paused for a second "Could we have your Operative title, so we can put in the report who the leader of the GBH squad is?"

Cherry paused again, then straightened her hair, looking down at her fingers, covered in blood and viscera, an enigmatic smile playing across her mouth.

"Call me Cerise."