Ambitious but rubbish
He looked at his watch and grimaced. Merely a quarter past two, a good four hours before the sun dared to peep from the eastern horizon. The pale hue on his face betrayed his trepidation.
Night time used to be the criminal’s best friend, a safe haven for wiry-muscled miscreants who used the shadows to ply their vile trade. It didn’t matter whether one wore tattered denim jackets that concealed clubs and edged weapons or costly overcoats that covered dual holsters for gleaming pistols and shotguns, the element of the underworld had been indoctrinated to use the cover of darkness for activities that ranged from simple muggings to drug-peddling to meticulously planned arms-for-cash deals. Night was a time for business, a time to make their mark in this highly competitive world.
However, the same could no longer be said for Johann Steiss and his ilk. His scowl for knowing how long it will take for the sun to rise represented the irony: the night was no longer their country. It no longer offered them the same protection they used to enjoy. Now, they were no more different from the helpless victims they preyed on, wishing for day to come and vanquish their fears.
He could do nothing but wait. Him and his crew of twelve, who were tasked to perform one simple task: defend the southern access channel of the steel mill from intruders. With a labored groan, he fitted the expensive infrared binoculars around his head and began his survey of the territory they were hired to protect. Bilko and Steiner were on their designated spot on each side of the door that led to the underground river, where they thought ‘the intruder’ would most likely try to gain access. Steiss wondered if two henchmen armed with M16s would be enough, but then they were supposed to only be the last line of defense. All around them, seven other operatives equipped with infrared goggles and clutching M4A1 assault rifles with safeties off patrolled the perimeters: two on the west catwalk, another two on the east gate that had been rusted shut by lack of use, and three more covering the ground-level central area.
One would have to be bat-shit insane to try to break through their perimeters. But just in case it was someone who was both bat-shit insane and insanely good at penetrating fortifications like this, two more of his crew were strategically situated on platforms built high above the steel mill, both wielding long-range infrared binoculars with motion-sensing capabilities, and armed with Barret M107 tactical sniper rifles loaded with .50-cal rounds that can pulverize any and all kinds of body armor.
His employer sure invested a lot on all these military hardware. Steiss gripped his Steyr Aug tightly, wondering if these precautions would be enough.
Guess we’re about to find out, he thought, trying his best to feign a brave front. He reached gingerly for his radio as though it were fragile. “Everyone, report.” At the hail, eleven hardened thugs responded with their respective versions of “All clear.” It was standard procedure to require perimeter guards to check in periodically to make sure their assigned zones were secure. And Steiss had been ordering the crew to report every five minutes, each time wondering how many of them would be able to respond. Relief set in when all eleven did. But he knew this relief was, at best, temporary.
Steiss shrugged off the anxiety crawling from up his legs. A dozen henchmen armed to the teeth and ready to kill at a moment’s notice. Who could possibly get past them?
It was around the time he thought ‘them’ when Steiss looked up to one of the sniper positions and saw that the crimson laser beam coming from the rifle’s targeting device suddenly went off. Dammit. “Trent, I thought I told you never to keep your eyes off…”
From the corner of his eyes, he saw the laser beam from the other sniper also shutting off. Steiss felt a chill up his spine. “Gardner, report. Report!”
SHIT! “Everyone, watch out! We have a bogeyman in the area. I want you all in infrareds. Activate motion sensors and report back to me every five seconds.”
“What’s going on, Steiss?”
“You deaf, Bilko? I just said we have an intruder, and he’s already taken out Trent and Gardner. I want you and Steiner on that door like stamps while we search the perimeter.” Steiss surveyed the area from his elevated spot and noted the heat signatures of Lovett, Briggs and Cayman fanning out across the central area. Looking right, he saw Pimm and Barret separating, each looking high and low as they covered the grounds on both sides of the catwalk. To his right, Matthews and Grant scoured the grassy terrain around the rusted gate.
“Shit, too many shadows here to hide in,” said Matthews as he inched his way through waste-high grass. “This place should have been well lit.”
“That’s what we have motion sensors for, you moron,” Grant barked. “Now shut your mouth and focus.”
“You try to focus, idiot,” Matthews spat back. “I hear the guy’s not even human. Why did I have to take this gig? No job’s worth this kind of aggravation.”
Matthews continued to search and spit nervous blabber at the same time. “We’re not afraid of you. Continue doing this and we’ll find you.”
“Will you shut up, you wuss! Go check in with Steiss.”
“You check in.” Matthews had half a mind to turn his gun on Grant. But even roughnecks like him know that for his kind to survive in this town, they needed to stick together. Besides, no one else watched his back at the moment.
“Grant, I said you check in with Steiss.”
No one answered.
Without warning, Matthews felt what seemed like steel claws snapping around his mouth. And before he could begin to struggle, his face collided violently with a nearby wall.
“Grant and Matthews didn’t report in!” hollered Steiss into his radio. “Briggs, Cayman, go check it out! Lovett, with me!”
“Oh hell…” Briggs muttered as he neared the east area, noting the unconscious Matthews lying beside his dismantled rifle. “Where’s Grant?”
“There…” Cayman said, pointing up, his hand shaking. The two thugs stared in frightful awe at Grant, also unconscious as he hung upside down from a lamp post. “This is not good…”
What the hell… we have motion sensors… Why can’t we see whoever… Steiss caught himself. In his years as a coveted hired gun for the mob, he had been through some of the worst situations imaginable. Once he’d miraculously led his crew in a daring escape during a shoot-out with cops in Los Angeles after a bank robbery. Gang wars in Chicago where rival factions who fought to the last man had been standard fare to him in his youth. Only last year he’d been the last man standing in a hostage situation gone wrong.
He staged one narrow escape after another by keeping his cool. He had yet to lose it in any situation, no matter how dire.
And Steiss didn’t want this to be the first time. Cocking the powerful bullpup in his hands, he quickly descended from the elevated platform where he held position and pressed his hefty body against the wall of a nearby storage building, all the while struggling to remain composed.
But the motion sensors… who could…
“Oh f…” Cayman’s frightened cussing made him look around the corner. Lovett, who was supposed to rendezvous with him, was sprawled on the ground face-first, his left elbow bent inside out.
He’s picking us off one by one! “Everyone, pair up! Don’t go wandering off alone!”
“Don’t need to tell me twice,” replied Barret. But before he could even turn around to rejoin Pimm, he heard a loud thud, followed quickly by vibrations on the catwalk’s metal railing. “What the… Pimm! Where the hell are you?” he hollered for the other thug who he didn’t see was hanging upside down underneath the catwalk. “He’s gone! Pimm’s &*%^&*@ gone!”
The motion sensors are silent and we’re dropping like flies! “Barret, get back here with us!”
Cayman was already panicking. “Shit! How’s he doing this?”
“He’s making us look like fools!” followed Briggs, who already had a grenade in hand. “Show yourself, you coward!”
He’s f*cking taking too long! “Barret, I said get the hell back h…”
The blood-curdling scream told the three that Barret won’t be joining them anymore.
And by that point it was much more than Briggs can take.
“I’m coming for you! Do you hear me?!”
“Briggs, come back here!”
But Cayman’s words fell on deaf ears as the fear-crazed Briggs, unpinned grenade in hand, quickly disappeared up the stairs going to the catwalk. A loud crash then thundered, followed by Briggs’ limp body hurtling in the air like a rag doll.
“YOU *%$@*#&^@!!!” Cayman was now firing indiscriminately upward. “I’M GOING TO F*CKING KILL YOU!!!”
Steiss didn’t want this to be the first time for him to lose it, but whatever struggle he staged to stay calm had all been for naught. Beads of icy sweat trickled down his pale face. Eyes wide in terror, he gripped his weapon with sweat-soaked hands while incessantly turning around, hair standing on ends, feeling as though ravenous wolves were about to pounce from behind and bury their sharp fangs into his neck. His rifle fired sporadically, sometimes with intent whenever he thought he saw something move in the corner of his eyes; and sometimes accidentally, as pure fear that now ran through his veins made his trigger finger twitch uncontrollably.
He prayed that either he or Cayman would get a lucky one in and hit the bastard that had become his worst nightmare.
“YAAAAAHHHHH!!!” Cayman’s scream made him turn around, just as a dark-gray blur swooped from above and devoured him with its dark wings.
“YOU BASTARD!” Steiss followed the blur with full auto fire. Nothing hit. “Bilko! Steiner! With me!” The two thugs came running to his side and followed suit in shooting where the blur had vanished to. “He went that way! Keep firing!”
If he had kept his cool, Steiss would have thought to order his henchmen to cover each other’s backs. The intruder had already taken out all but three of them, and anyone who can make hardened criminals like them look like children didn’t accomplish that by staying on one spot.
But he was as far gone as the others. Terror had already taken his edge away. He felt nothing of himself and what was left of his crew now but sitting ducks.
Stay away from me… whoever you are, stay the hell aw…
Bilko didn’t know what hit him as 210 lbs of dark-gray blur landed on his back and broke both his legs. Steiner turned to the commotion, only to feel a sledgehammer smash into his face.
Instinct pushed Steiss through fear. A mass of dark gray crouched on top of the last of his crew.
“YOU!” He opened fire, filling the moonless night with the deafening staccato thunderclaps of automatic rifle fire. Sparks flew as the mass once again became a blur, charging toward him like a bat out of hell. Unfazed, the desperate gunsel kept shooting.
The blur disappeared in an explosion of smoke.
“I… I hit him. Ha-ha, I hit the demon! HA-HA-HA-HA! I KILLED THE SON OF A BITCH!”
A sharp blow jolted his arms from behind, making him lose his weapon. Next came the iron grip that clamped on his nose and mouth. And just as blackness devoured him, Steiss heard his enemy growl into his ears. A savage, feral and merciless growl.
“Welcome to hell.”
a story based on
Batman: Arkham City