D.A.R.E. (Drugs Are Really Extreme!)

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Within the city of Eventide, rumors of a secret cabal controlling the whole city have spread. These, however, are not rumors, for there is such a group: the Bavarian Illuminati.

As a member of the GOC's Council of 108, the Bavarian Illuminati is allowed free rein in Eventide under the term that the city's anomalous nature is contained. As such, the Illuminati, under the guise of the city's government, has forbidden other groups specialising in the anomalous from entering the city, including the Foundation.

- Dr. Philip Verhoten, The Crossroads: A Study of Urban Anomalous Nexuses in the United States.

31st October
Eventide, Oregon

Lieutenant William Stoker watched with indifference as the police struggled to subdue the man who had boils erupting all over him.

There goes Halloween, he thought as the video ended and his superior, Leah Cribari, closed the tab.

"Happy Halloween, ladies and gentlemen," she looked around at the members of Squad 5, MTF Sigma-29. "This is Eventide currently. Started about three days ago, and the numbers have been piling up since. Effects include mutations, aversion to certain elements, and generally looking and feeling like shit." She paused, until she found what she wanted. "Intel shows that the drugs circulating Eventide came from a factory owned by the Eventide Group."

Susan Smith, the resident psychologist (and psychopath), chipped in, "AKA the fucking Illuminati. Can I please kick their asses? I've been waiting for a whole year, and now these fuckers mess up Halloween!"

Leah stared her down, hands on her hips. "As much as I appreciate your 'enthusiasm', I don't need the city to initiate lockdown because of a 2015 repeat. The rest of you: you've got an hour to prep, then we meet up in the garage. Stoker, it's your turn to pick up the boosters. Get me the Blitzkrieg loadout." She packed up her laptop and took her leave.

"What happened in 2015?" Stoker asked Kathryn, as they left the room.

"Ask Sue," was the only response he got.

An unmarked white van left Site-51, bearing right onto 7th towards the industrial district. Stoker distributed auto-injectors to his squad. Wexley, resident lycanthrope, was handed a blue-colored needle labeled "Man's Bane" as he chewed down on his wolfsbane medication. Susan Smith, former intelligence officer turned con-woman turned Foundation agent was given a white injector filled with a red liquid, the word 'Burst' scrawled over the proper label for chemical components, allergen warnings, and addiction rating. Kathryn Kramer, tinkering with her cybernetic eye, almost dropped it as Stoker lobbed a brown injector labeled 'Dragonproof' at her face. Leah Cribari, vampiress and occasional undercover agent in Eventide's police, scowled at the name 'Woman's Scorn' on her yellow pen, muttering something about 'chauvinists in the labs'. That left Stoker, the friendly neighborhood warlock with his favorite— 'The Juice'.

"Anything else we need to know before going in, Leah?" asked Jacob from the driver's seat.

"Small detail of guards, but that's about it. Don't get cocky though; you know what'll happen if you get caught."

Stoker shivered, recalling the stories about Eventide's prison: mold everywhere, with cells occasionally flooding with filth.

"We'll be entering from the rear of the factory. Get in, flush the drugs, get out." Leah and her team pulled on their balaclavas, save their driver, Jacob. The van turned right into an alley and stopped next to a brick wall. The squad exited the van, mounted the wall using their tactical ladder, before silently making their way towards the compound, wary of any nearby security.

"Remember, low profile; we don't need the whole city on our ass tonight." Leah and her team stacked up on both sides of the backdoor. Using a lock gun, Leah nudged the door open, with the team filing in and sealing their entrance behind them.

The back room was a small one, with several rusty lockers and a doorway to the right. A song about lighting up the night could be heard playing in the background, amidst distant sounds of chatter.

"Company," said Jacob from the rear of the formation, pointing out the clothes and tumblers on the benches.

"Kat, take point." Leah tapped her earpiece. "Command, this is Alpha Squad, we've entered the building, proceeding further inside."

"Roger that, proceed with caution."

Kathryn pushed the door open and saw a room with several stirring machines inside. Steel vats lined the walls, and three workers could be seen emptying the contents of several barrels into one of the stirrers. At that moment, a worker entered the room and saw the squad coming out of the back room.

"Who the fuck are you guys?" he asked, reaching for the radio clipped to his belt.

"Shoot 'em!"

Leah fired twice. The bastard went down swiftly.

More workers began to pour into the room as the group scrambled for cover. Susan began blind firing while Leah, cursing, stabbed the auto-injector into her neck.

Immediately she rose, unleashing an ear-shattering scream that crippled all the workers. Once she stopped, the squad moved quickly taking out the workers.

"Congrats, you've won the Eventide's Got Talent! Here's your prize, miss." Stoker scoffed at Leah, only to receive the butt of her rifle thrust into his gut. As he bent over wheezing, her earpiece sprang to life.

"Alpha, be advised, your mission parameters have changed. Code Sparagmos has been issued. You are to locate a shipment of gold apples. Confirm."

"New mission parameters confirmed. Sigma out." "Fffucckkkk," she exclaimed, once the radio was off.

"What the hell's Code Spagarmos?" asked Kathryn, checking her magazine.

"Sparagmos. Means all the Nexuses are experiencing really bad days."

"Define 'really bad'." Kathryn raised her brow as she slotted in her magazine

"Imagine being stuck on an oil refinery with an angry dragon. Oh, and the sea's aflame too. Nexuses the world over are being flipped on their heads and shoved into firepits." Leah groaned. "Come on, let's find these goddamn apples."

If someone had told Kathryn Kramer that she would have to fight a man machine-gunning pus from his arms while smelling of puke, she would have punched the person. Now, she could only laugh impotently.

They had managed to clear most of the factory, encountering workers suffering from the side effects of the drugs. Kathryn was particularly pissed off, as Stoker had vomited on her upon catching sight of a man with warty green ears growing all over his body. As they reached the storage room, a large man, with nasty green boils erupting all over his body, had blocked them and began slinging pus from his boils.

Kathryn reloaded her rifle. "Jake! Get in there!"

"What? No! It'll take forever to-"

"Wexley! Get in there, or so help me God I'll shove my rifle so far up your ass that you'll have to avoid the bayonet when you eat breakfast tomorrow!" Susan screamed at him, blind firing as the pus-slinger advanced.

Jacob fumed as he pulled out his Man's Bane and stuck it in his arm. Instantly, he vomited out his wolfsbane medication, transforming into a hulking werewolf. He tackled the worker, smashing the man's head onto the floor and knocking him out cold.

"Jake, get the-."

Leah Cribari went silent as the feral member of her squad punched the blast doors of the storage unit off its hinges. Crates filled the room, with exotic smells emanating from each one. After about a minute of searching, the squad came upon a crate of caramel-coloured apples.

"Command, Alpha here, we've located the package, awaiting orders." The radio remained silent for a few seconds, before the staticky reply came through. "Bag a sample, then torch the room. What's your squad's status?"

"Wexley's a wolf, the rest of us are standing by." Leah began passing out minor demolition charges to the her squad, who began setting them down on the crates.

"Search and destroy. Find the origin of the shipment and head to that location. Command out."

"Are they fucking serious? Where the hell do we need to go to now?" Kathryn rubbed her face, sighing heavily. Leah examined the tag stuck onto the crate. "Eventide Port. Lot 29. Well, fuck it. At least we won't have to detox for a while. Back to the van, people. Jacob, sorry but" she paused, looking at him from head to toe, "no offense, you're a 9 foot werewolf, who can't fit in the van. Send the apple to the dead drop, then meet us at the port."

"Stoker, give me your vest," growled Kathryn as she pulled Stoker towards her.

"Wait, why the hell would I-"

"You. Puked. On my. Fucking. Vest. If you don't give yours to me in five seconds, I'm not going to be the only member of the squad with a cybernetic eye. Five…"

"My Excellency. They await you in the Hidden Hall."

"Then I shall not keep them waiting."

The Mind entered the vast hall and took his seat. The room's only light source caused the figures in the room to cast long, eerie shadows, casting terrifying apparitions which flickered across the walls betwixt the dusk lighting. Around it, nine other members sat, cloaked in bone-white robes that hid their visage.

"There is another group in Eventide. One that seeks to wrest control from us." Behind him, footage of oddly masked individuals storming a bank, followed by that of a firefight in a different location played.

"Are these the only incidents?" asked the man known only as the Hand.

"There have been more. And each time, they have dealt us a severe blow. Our operations have been suspended for the time being and we've lost the 'apples'." Murmurs could be heard all around the table.

"That's why we must act! We know that there is someone else in this city, someone who is threatening us!" the Arm slammed his fist on the table, as everyone began whispering to each other.

"We don't know who they are. If anything, I would advise caution. It's clear this group has the resources to strike quickly and cripple us. An ill-informed assault would be pointless." The Eye spoke in a calm voice, hoping to assuage the Hand. He was mistaken.

"So what? Let them trample all over us us? We are the Illuminati, we are the Law!" The Arm stood up, and beneath his cloak, one could see his entire body tensed.

The Hand spoke, "Assaulting an unknown enemy is a bad decision, much less a well-armed opponent." He stood up, pressing his hands on the table. "I urge everyone to not blindly act, but to understand who it is we're fighting."

The Arm burst out, " You seriously think that we're safe? Our position is threatened, and we. Are. Not. Acting!" He pointed his finger at the Nail. " And you, you stinking co-"

A loud crash rang through the room.

The Arm slumped down on the floor, with the man next to him splattered with blood. The Hand looked in shock.

All eyes turned to the only man standing in the room. The man simply returned the gun to the holster he wore over an ugly tropical shirt.

"Who are you, and did you even get in here? Guards!" he shouted at the entrance, to no avail.

"They're fast asleep, so don't bother. As for who I am, doesn't matter. I'm no one special."

The Mind rose from his seat. "I've met those like you before. They don't kill. And they certainly don't act this openly."

"Well, I'm not like them." He plopped himself in the dead man's chair, taking off his grey fedora to brush through the unruly red hair beneath it. "And I thought I was doing you guys a favour. Wasn't he being annoying and getting in the way of things? So if anybody has anything to say, now would be a good time."

Nobody spoke.

"Good, so if the point of me being here isn't clear enough, let me make it obvious: Don't sweat it. Sure, they burned my gift to you, but who cares? I mean, come on, it's just apples man. Or men. Eh, whatever. Point is, let it go. I think you're all smart enough to know what happens if say, one of you goes against me? So yeah, relax a bit. Enjoy the rain. Happy Halloween, folks." He then walked out of the room, leaving the rest silent.

"Goddammit Stoker, you smell like a horse's ass that hasn't been washed for 5 years." Leah pinched her nose, gagging slightly.

"Come on boss. That shit was so nasty, anyone spill their guts seeing that." He gagged at the mere thought of it.

"At least it's not as bad as 2015," chimed Kathryn.

"Wait, what happened then?"

Susan burst into the laughter, while the others were silent. Stoker had no clue about what was so funny, Kathryn let out a soft sigh as she focused on driving. Leah simply crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. Kathryn took pity on Stoker.

"You remember the 'Acid Spit'? The one Gelix made that got banned?“

" I… think so? Not really sure. Is he the guy who's always banging on about how God will someday part the clouds and burn all the junkies of Eventide alive?

“First part's correct, though he wishes God would only burn the Illuminati. He's a junkie too. Anyway, we were extracting a skip from the primary school, and someone had messed up the drugs."

"Primary school? Eventide doesn't have a primary school." Stoker scratched his head.

"It used to," said Susan.

"Wait, what do you- oh no." The colour was from Stoker's already pale face drained completely.

"Somebody in the labs messed up and gave Susan a double dose of 'Acid Spit', mixed with 'Burst'. Made the spit super corrosive, and turned her into a cross between the Spitter and the Tank from Left For Dead 2. It was chaos."

"We had to run out of a collapsing building, not to mention evade the entire Eventide Police Department which had shown up to reports of a melting school," interjected Leah.

Susan spoke through her laughter." Didn't stop there. I was so juiced up, I went running around the whole city. The only reason I wasn't caught was because I kept melting all the cop cars!" Susan keeled over in laughter.

Leah's hand met her face. "This is why you don't fuck around with your drugs. You might find it fucking funny, but the city initiated lock down and nearly found out about Site-51 because of that fucking stunt, you idiot. Just because we're addicted to them, don't go using them for your own fucking fun." Susan slowly stopped laughing.

"You have to admit, it was pretty fucking funny."

Both Leah and Stoker groaned.

"We're here boss. Lot 29." Kathryn brought the van to a halt. Susan and Stoker exited from the rear of the vehicle, while Leah and Kathryn started walking towards the maze of containers.

"Keep it tight and expect anything." Leah raised her rifle and began walking forward, her team moving in sync. They stopped at a parting between the containers on their left. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flicker of movement from on top the containers.

"Ambush, top right. Will, Sue, circle around and get on top of those containers." They nodded, immediately running back the way they came. "Kat, get ready with yours." She tapped her earpiece, "Alpha here. We've encountered possible ambush, prepping counter."

"Understood. Be careful."

"Roger that. Alpha out." She switched channels on her radio. "Will, sitrep."

"One more level to climb. Cover's intact. Ready on your command."

"Light 'em up."

Jacob Wexley was scampering through back alleys hoping to reach the docks in time. A great thing about Eventide's anomaly was that it provided cover for anything, including werewolves running at 25mph.

"Mr. Wexley!"

Jacob's head spun around as he heard his name, and barreled into a group of trash cans. Sweeping of the filth and gunk scattered over him, he saw someone emerge from the shadows. For the most part she blended into the exterior of Eventide: grey trench coat, grey fedora, grey shoes. She would only be noticed because of the purple scarf she wore, with a gold thread lining near the edge.

She pulled out a gun from within her coat and shot him.

Stoker blasted 5 men into a container, while imprisoning the rest in an extreme gravity field. After 4 seconds, he dropped to his knees, coughing up blood. A 4-second dose could be lethal if he didn't focus properly. Susan picked up the slack by shooting the downed men. Below them, Kathryn and Leah traded fire with more people.

As she scanned her surroundings, she saw a man eat a pill. She fired at him, but the bullet bounced off harmlessly. He smiled wickedly as he took a running leap to cross the gap that separated them. Susan stuck her auto-injector in her neck, and dropped her rifle. She smiled maniacally as he charged at her. "Come to mama!"

Kathryn looked up just in time to see deliver a roundhouse to a beefed-up man, followed by a solid grab at the leg and flinging him into the crowd below. Leah looked on in disbelief, as 3 men were knocked down. "Fucking hell Su! Don't kill us!" She continued firing at the remaining enemies, when a hail of bullets emerged from her right. A beast of a man advanced on them, wielding a LMG. One hit Leah in the leg, causing her to collapse in pain.

"Jesus Christ! Kat, help me!"

Kathryn stuck her auto-injector in her neck, then began running into the hail of bullets. The rush she felt was incomparable to anything she felt before, a freedom that motivated to run through lead and rain with sheer unadulterated joy. Her body armor was being shredded up, yet she had not a single scratch on her, nor did she feel pain. She reached the shooter, jumping up to deliver a Superman punch worthy of the Man Of Steel. The last thing the poor bastard saw was her blissful grin and her fist descending on him.

In the alley, Susan and Stoker moped up the rest of the opposition. Kathryn returned to Leah, who had been compressing her wound. As she began to patch her up, she suddenly realised something was off.

"Where's Jacob?"

"Who the hell are you?" Jacob Wexley got up with his vision swimming, while the woman kept the gun back in her jacket. "And what did you do just do to me?"

She held out a bag of clothes to his face, while turning her head away.

"Wha- Oh." he quickly took the bag and put on some clothes.

Once he was dressed, he turned to face the woman who was now smoking. "Who are you, and what do you want?"

She threw her cigarette to the ground and crushed it with her boot. "I want you to deliver a message to your superiors, Mr. Wexley" She pulled out a manila folder wrapped in a plastic bag.

"My superiors? I'm not sure wh-"

"Don't insult my intelligence, Mr. Wexley. Or do you want me me to tell everyone about your little tower?"

Jacob tensed up, backing away slightly from her. "What do you want?" he asked, softly.

The woman simply smiled as she handed him the folder, then walked away, pausing once to look back at him. "By the way, I wouldn't advise you to be outside for so long. People are getting sick. Happy Halloween, Mr. Wexley." She walked off, leaving Jacob shivering, but not because of the rain.

I hope you enjoyed my Halloween surprise. I certainly did. Your reactions were priceless.

I'm preparing for an even bigger surprise next year. Get ready for it, or you might get blown away!

Happy Halloween.

"What the hell does this mean?" asked Leah, as she fidgeted in her chair. "Why go to all these lengths just to give us this? Makes no sense whatsoever."

"She's mocking us. We may have destroyed all the apples, but we still did a shit job of it."

"You mean with all the other Nexuses? Wait, you're saying that she started all this?" Leah looked at the director, as he looked over the message for the hundredth time.

"She's warning us. Something's coming next year." he paused, putting down the letter. "Like it or not, things have changed. The Illuminati is aware of us now. The Nexuses were burnt. The Foundation failed. And next year is going to get even worse."

"So what now, Sir?" Leah stood up.

"Forward this to Site-87 and the rest of the Nexuses. Tell them to prepare." Director Raman Druid stood up. "Halloween's coming."

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