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Pierce and Jefferson were standing and checking their weapons. Both men looked at each other for a brief moment. Pierce knew he could trust Jefferson and he knew Jefferson trusted him. They were going to make it through this and get paid. A sense of relief washed over him, cleansing him of his dread. They were going to make it.

A voice from their relief team spoke through the radio, "Jefferson, Pierce, we're on our...," cut off by gunfire.

"Roger that, make it snappy," Jefferson replied, lowering his helmet's built-in headset over his ears and connecting the radio to the helmet via a well-secured cable. Pierce followed suit.

In confident silence, they split up and flanked the steel door by positioning themselves in the relative cover provided by the closest rows of filing cabinets, their heads peeking and their weapons aimed at the door.

Moments seemed to drag on slowly, the adrenaline forcing Pierce's mind to race at a thousand miles an hour. The lights flickered, then went out, and he focused on his breathing. He kept his SMG pointed at the steel door. A sudden bright orange flash was accompanied by a loud explosion that was filtered down through his headset to a small pop, followed by the clink of metal on concrete as the large door fell inward.

The flashlight on Pierce's SMG aimed at where the door used to be, and the light reflected off of something. The sound of a small object bouncing on the ground triggered his instinct, and he pulled down his anti-flash face shield as he brought his full body behind cover. The flash-bang went off without affecting him. He flipped up his visor quickly, and peeked out of cover, firing several rounds into the swarm of Elder Mafia members entering the room before backing out of the way of return fire. That's one down, anyway, he thought. These guys were every bit as serious as they were made out to be. Seeing how many men he was up against down here, he wished he had been given grenades, but the bank wanted collateral damage kept to a minimum.

He fired to cover his retreat toward the far end of the aisle, and turned the corner to lean against the end of the row of cabinets as he let a magazine drop to the ground. After replacing it with one from his vest, he looked to his right and saw Jefferson in the same position on his row. Jefferson pointed at himself and then at the door, and indicated for Pierce to follow and cover him. Sweat dripped down Pierce's face as he nodded his assent. Jefferson counted down on his hands: three, two, one. Pierce made his way to Jefferson, firing a burst down the intervening aisle, and they moved together towards the hall door. Pierce continued to spray rounds down each aisle that they passed. Jefferson reached the closed door, Pierce guarding his rear. Down the aisle Pierce could see, a head peeked out at the far end, and he fired several rounds, forcing it to retreat into cover.

Jefferson opened the door carefully, peeked out of the room, and put a hand on Pierce's shoulder. Pierce heard footsteps as the Elder Mafia advanced down the aisles he couldn't cover. The pair slipped out of the room, and Pierce closed and locked the door behind them. He saw that the stairwell door was open, broken in the middle and hanging on by only its bottom hinge. He saw the limp body of an SSC defender he didn't recognize sprawled in a pool of its own blood on the cold ground in the stairwell. He looked away and saw that the door previously closed right across the hall from the record room was now open. He remembered that the map had that room labeled as another record room, but through the open door Pierce saw an old arched brick tunnel, lit by flickering torches on either wall. "What is that?" he muttered.

Jefferson ignored the question. "I have a feeling our guys aren't coming down to back us up after all."

"Yeah," Pierce agreed.

"Come on," Jefferson said as he motioned for Pierce to follow him into the tunnel.

Pierce felt sick to his stomach as they stepped softly yet quickly along the echoing passage. His head began to throb and his body felt a deep resonance that his ears couldn't hear. He could feel his will to go on diminishing with each step, but the image of his sister reappeared in his minds eye, and he knew he had to stop the Elder Mafia so he could get paid.

They followed the tunnel as it turned right. Suddenly they heard an explosion from behind them. With the record room door breached and the enemy likely in front of them, they were about to be in a serious tight spot. The only hope lay in catching those up ahead by surprise and finding a defensible position better than the record room to fight off those behind. They picked up speed and kept following the tunnel as it turned right, to the point where Pierce thought they must be going in circles. It felt to him that they had been in the tunnel for hours. Pierce's mind began to fade as the deep resonance grew stronger and stronger. Time became meaningless, and he began to hear voices that he couldn't make sense of.

Suddenly, there opened up before him a large, extravagantly decorated, ancient domed room. Two men were in the center, struggling to pick up a heavy metallic box. He made one last effort to comprehend the meaning of the scene before him before his vision faded to black, his body succumbing to the resonance.


When he woke up, he remembered nothing. He looked at the tall marble ceiling overhead, sat up and looked around, and realized that he was back in his cot in the armory. Around him were several men being treated by SSC medical personnel for wounds they had received in the fight.

Slowly, he remembered everything that happened up until the long walk through the brick tunnel. He got up and began to ask around for Jefferson, but nobody knew where he was. Pierce's mind tried to piece together what could have possibly happened to Jefferson, how they had been separated, anything. But he came up blank.

The coordinator, noticing that Pierce was up and about, made a mark on a sheet on his clipboard and asked him where Jefferson was.

"I have no idea...I've been asking around, but nobody else knows."

"Alright, well, have a medic clear you, and make sure to file a report before you go home. And make sure to get some good rest."

"Yes, sir." Pierce started to walk towards the medics, but a thought occurred to him. "Sir," he turned and asked the coordinator, "did we stop the Elder Mafia?"

The coordinator's eyes gleamed, "They didn't manage to get one cent."

Next: Escort

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