The Flower Of Battle
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It started with a call. "Area 25b is on fire. We're bringing you in."

Captain Giancarlo De Luca took a deep breath, and rolled his shoulders, easing the tension out of his stiff joints. He set down his copy of the original Italian Fior di Battaglia and stood, walking over to the locker in the corner. He stripped out of his casual clothing, and pulled on the lightweight fatigues within. He took a moment to smile at the MTF patch on the shoulder. Beta-6, "Flower of Battle". He glanced back at the book, smirking slightly. Fitting, he thought.

He'd lead the special task force for the past five years, and when the possibility of helping with 076-2's containment came up, he'd hesitantly agreed after reviewing footage of the violent creature's escape attempts. He was confident that he could contain the creature, but there was always an element of uncertainty, no matter how much practicing he'd done.

He pulled his arm through the sleeve, and secured the buttons on the front of his fatigues, the familiar weight of the reinforcing material around his ribs reassuring him. Next came the fitted gloves, made from a lightweight kevlar blend with the backing polymer strike plates. He'd felt a little silly getting gloves with knuckle reinforcements, but all the other MTF guys had bought them, so he figured they'd be okay. So far they hadn't done anything to get in the way of the fingers that mattered.

He grabbed the heavy rifle case from the corner, and wheeled it out towards the waiting helicopter, trying to keep his breath. He'd faced down monsters before, but no one ever wants to be the guy to stand before the killing machine.

SCP-076-2 tore his way through the remaining hallway leading from his containment area, into the main area of the containment zone. He'd done this so many times before, the defenses were becoming rote. The Foundation were getting lazy with the changes to this corridor.

He rounded the corner, and slipped his hand into his cloak, grasping the obsidian hilt of his third favorite pattern for a weapon, a drill-edged throwing dagger. A smooth snap of his fingers sent the spinning head into the electrical emitter which ended his rampage twice before. A heavy thunk, and a sputtering of sparks were the only utterances this time.

Two humans slipped out of an alcove, with the boxy automatic firearms they always used. Trite. "Do you realize this will not stop me?! I am Able, first blade, and I will be free."

The Agents, to their credit, didn't hesitate and snapped off a dozen rounds each. Suppressing a sigh Able turned a quick circle, ducking under the gunfire, drawing a long-handled sword which he'd seen being handled by the humans called "samurai" he'd observed in documentaries during downtime from Omega-7. Its edge curved, and covered in small tooth-like projections, his only addition to the beautiful form of the blade. The serrated blade swiped across the body armor of both agents as Able completed his spin, bisecting the unfortunate Foundation members. The thousands of folds within the metal kept the blade sharp enough to cut steel. He'd sliced several tanks in half with this type of sword before.

"Pathetic." He didn't slow his stride as he hurled the katana into the mechanism controlling the blast door which would stop him from continuing down his path…

Captain De Luca pulled the headset over his ears, pulling the rifle case into the cabin, sitting opposite a Foundation agent wearing a suit and tie, holding a tablet. He strapped the rifle case down to the proper attachment points, then strapped himself into his seat. He slapped the metal wall of the cockpit twice, signaling his readiness.

The agent tapped a few places on the screen, and clicked his mic on, "Are you ready for this, Captain?"

Captain De Luca nodded clicking his own mic on, "As I'll ever be. Are you sure this is really going to work?" The rotors started to spin up, as the engines roared to life. The pull of gravity finally gave up, as the helicopter lifted away from the dull concrete building nestled in the deep forest of a suitably clandestine location.

"No, but he's starting to adapt to the automated defenses. He's always been more receptive to a single agent, an 'opponent' of sorts. In the past, we've had agents take him down with enough handgun bullets to the face. We figure your talents might be more effective, and take a bit less effort," the agent eyed the rifle case significantly, raising an eyebrow. "You've trained a long time for this, right?"

Captain De Luca nodded, "You know my qualifications. Myself, and the rest of Beta-6 are the best at what we do." He reached down, and patted the rifle case, "If anyone's ready for this, I guess I am. Able's a scary son of a—"

The agent held up a hand, "SCP-076-2. Don't humanize it. It won't humanize you, you understand?"

Captain De Luca nodded, "Of course. Sorry sir." The MTF captain took a minute to adjust his combat harness, the custom leather creaking slightly under his ministrations.

A third voice clicked on to the intercom, "Six minutes to target. He's through the elevator shaft. Apparently the replacement on-site nuke misfired."

"God dammit. Copy that. Authorizing bringing in Captain De Luca. Repeat, bringing in Longhorn asset," the agent spoke into the intercom, transmitting to the remote site as well as the cabin.

The last of the guards fell under the furious assault of the enraged Able, his eyes flashing with anger, and power. He reached out, and grasped the ragged edges of the security door he'd been slashing his latest weapon against, tearing the steel apart with an angry shout.

"You will not stop me! I will be free!" He sprinted down the next corridor, knowing the pathetic humans would set up the heavier machine guns which would slow him down. Sure enough, the slits in the wall opened up, and six barrels pointed down the narrow hallway.

.50 caliber rounds streamed down the hallway towards the slim figure dashing towards them. A pair of black-edged ninja-to appeared in his hands, the deadly efficient blades a favorite of his studies. His hands blurred as he swatted the bullets out of the air which he couldn't simply avoid.

A leap brought him in to a tucking roll dropping his blades, as his hands once more flashed under his cloak, throwing more blades into the barrels of the aggressors. A series of loud clicks prefaced another series of catastrophic failures of the automatic weapons. A small smile crossed his face as the swords landed in his open palms.

Able calmly strode out towards the final chamber of the containment site, a thin veneer of sweat sheening off his bronze skin. "At least they are getting better at this." He broke into a run bent at the waist, his hands stretched out behind him, a secret technique he'd learned to sprint more effectively.

The helicopter set down at the landing pad a hundred meters from the relatively plain concrete bunker which concealed one of the deadliest beings on the planet, according to the report. The rotors didn't stop as the agent waved Captain De Luca off.

Captain De Luca nodded, releasing the rifle case from its straps, and ducking down to avoid the rotors, as he dashed over to the designated area, fifty meters from the entrance to Area 25b. Smoke poured out from the door, as he breathed in and out slowly.

He laid the rifle case down, and popped the locks open, slowly opening the case. He ran his fingers over the object within, smiling slightly with familiarity. Years of practice, thousands of hours teaching how to use this weapon, and a hundred successful combat sorties. No one else had faced the kinds of threats that he had, and survived. No one else had the skills, reflexes, and instinct necessary for this kind of work.

He was ready.

Able shoulder-charged the final concrete door, yelling his frustration. The steel buckled under his assault, and two more slams of his heavily muscled frame knocked the door completely off of its hinges, flying out into the noon-day sun.

The scent of fresh air filled his nostrils as he heady aroma of the earth surrounded him. "Finally. Air. I am free." His eyes closed, as he took in the feeling of sunlight once more. He would finally be able to track down his—

"076-2. I'm gonna have to ask you to return to your containment chamber." A voice interrupted his reverie. His eyes slid down, a baleful glare alighting upon the single human standing before him, a black plastic case at his feet.

He'd seen things like this before. They contained weapons which used larger bits of metal. Normally they weren't this close when they tried to harm him with such weapons. This was the first time in a long time that a single human felt that the could stand against the ancient warrior. "Brave. Very brave, to stand against me. I am Able, first of my name. I am the first blade, ancient master, lord of war. Who are you?"

Captain De Luca stood, his feet shoulder width apart, and balanced. "Giancarlo De Luca. Captain of MTF Beta-6 of the Foundation."

"I was in a task force once. We were Pandora's Box. That which would destroy the world. What do you call yourselves?" Able let the swords dissapear in to the ether as he sized up the average height man in front of him.

"The Flower of Battle," Captain De Luca answered, standing ready but otherwise unperturbed.

Able let his head back, and laughed, deeply and from his belly. "Flower of Battle? Really? This will be boring. Draw your little metal flinger. I will cut you down." Able reached under his cloak, and concentrated, drawing his favorite blade. The beautiful bronze and obsidian blade slipped into his fingers. The hilt was ornate, covered in ancient script decrying his deeds. The pommel was a glorious star-sapphire, and its name was "First One" in a language older than human memory. A priceless relic, reserved only for the particularly worthy, or insolent.

He opened his eyes, taking in the captain, as he kneeled down, and drew forth from the case his preferred weapon. He went through his usual routine whenever he picked up the sword, touching the parts, and muttering to himself.

"Pommel…" he touched the flared base of the sword, where the tang was hammered down into a peened stud, "grip…" the leather was well worn, and should probably be replaced in the next year or so, "quillons…" the sturdy crossguard was a pair of swept bars, with side rings, a classic standby of Italian longswords, "strong…" he placed his hand eight inches up the blade where he would block and parry with, "weak…" he placed his fingers six inches from the top of the sword, where all of his force would be concentrated, the perfect place to strike with, "point."

Captain De Luca stood, the wood and leather scabbard easily slipping into the frog at the hip of his belt. The Italian longsword was his favorite, manufactured by The Foundation to his specifications. It was the same design his father and grandfather had used. It wasn't made from baby's tears, or the heart of a dying star or anything else suitably exotic. A vanadium-carbon-molybdenum steel mix, used for impact resistance, and toughness. It wasn't particularly special. The armory technicians used the same mix for high-end combat knives given to other MTF agents. Sturdy, reliable, and simple. It had been in his hand facing down a dozen or more horrible monsters over the years.

Able was transfixed. A swordsman? They didn't send more guns this time, but finally a true student of the blade, worthy of his attention. "Oh ho ho, a swordsman? Very brave, but very foolish. Before your Foundation floundered in the dark, I'd studied the blade for millennia!"

Captain De Luca adjusted the straps holding the scabbard, making sure his blade wouldn't stick when he drew it. He looked up, stretching his calves slightly. "Yes. I've watched the video of you fighting."

Able grinned, his arms windmilling, anticipating the fight ahead. He hadn't exercised his skills in so long, he would take pleasure in clashing with this human, however shortly. "My sword is First One, in your language. What is your sword's name?"

"The Oathkeeper, " Captain De Luca shrugged, carefully drawing his sword, across his body with his other hand on the scabbard. It wasn't dramatic, but it was correct. Captain De Luca took a single step forward, his left foot in front of his right. He balanced his weight, lifted and turned his sword fifteen degrees, a slightly defensive adjustment to the classic posta longa stance. Both hands on the hilt, blade held projected before him, hands spaced as far apart as comfortable. One finger laid over the quillons, resting against the blunt ricasso of the lower few inches of the blade of the sword. It was an easy, comfortable stance.

Able let out another deep belly laugh, and smiled, lowering his body into his stance, his heavy blade above his head with his arm cocked out, the point directly towards Captain De Luca's center of mass. His free hand held out before him, as if to ward off any blows. "Very well, let us begin!" Able sprinted forward, covering the distance in what felt like the blink of an eye. His sword came crashing down towards the agent, a whistling flash of bronze and fury.

Captain De Luca took a single step to his left with his back foot, bringing him neatly out of line. His sword never left guard, or moved more than a few inches. Able's sword slammed into the ground, a dull thunk disturbing the dust of the windswept dirt.

"Very good, human. I suppose you have some skill. Nothing personal, but I will destroy you," Able spun on his heel, bringing the sword up from the ground towards Captain De Luca's right side.

De Luca moved his sword in a quick circle, bringing it down to block against the flank, letting Able's blade slide up his, a dull rasping sound escaping as he altered the angle to redirect the force. Able's sword slammed into the quillons of De Luca's own sword, locking the blades firmly. Able pushed hard against the other sword, but with the angle of the blades, he couldn't get any leverage, no matter how much strength he applied. De Luca moved his hands down and forward, pulling Able's elbow out of line, and robbing his arm of any force.

De Luca's hands flicked to the side, pushing Able's sword completely out of the way, before bringing his arms straight backwards, towards Able's chin, the peened tang at the end of his pommel firmly striking the taller bronze warrior in the cheek.

Able reeled back, working his jaw. "You have skills, human. I should not underestimate you, but you will fall before my deadly blade." Abel strode forward, his blade held in one hand, high above his shoulder. He swung in wide sweeping motions, each strike directed towards De Luca's head or chest.

Agent De Luca kept pace with the strikes, taking practiced steps back, warding off strikes one by one without significant effort. Able's breath started to come in pants, as the heavy blows took their toll on the preternaturally strong fighter. "Why won't you stand still, and fight me?!" His voice rang out, frustrated.

Agent De Luca took two steps back, switching his guard from the castle, to the middle iron door, his sword held horizontally across his hips. "Why would I stand still? You keep swinging away like that, I'm not just going to let you hit me."

"Enough!" Able yelled, his sword coming straight down vertically at De Luca's head.

De Luca took another step out of line, his back foot crossing to bring him completely out of the way of the attack. His left foot stepped backwards, bringing his body back in line with Able's flank. He brought his sword horizontal, stepping forward into one of the eight basic strikes he'd long since committed to muscle memory, the weak of his sword swiping out and opening a slash across the bronze flesh.

Able stumbled, and spun, his feet skidding in the dust of the desert. "What?! How did you do that? I should have annihilated your guard, and crushed you!"

De Luca blinked the sweat from his eyes, catching his breath, and returning to guard. "Your sword was all the way over your head. You only had one possible motion. What did you think was going to happen?"

Able growled, his hand reaching to the deep slash on his side. It was bleeding freely, and he pressed hard, his regenerative abilities already slowly closing the wound. "You have no idea what you are playing at. I will end you!" Able took two wide steps, and spun to his left, his sword closing the same line that De Luca's had a moment ago.

Agent De Luca turned with the strike, robbing it of most of its power, a classic circling step into a side-parry. His sword moved in a semicircle, displacing Able's overly-heavy sword, and lifting it out of line. He reached out, placing his hand on the middle of the sword grasping lightly. He drew backwards with both hands, a half-sworded draw cut, drawing hard across Able's left bicep. The slash opened the muscle halfway to the bone, the ancient warrior's arm hanging down half useless. He took a step back, returning to guard, moving the sword point down over his right leg, to the Boar's Tooth guard.

"Augh! What trickery is this?! How did you evade me again?" Able's voice snarled out, his left hand limp by his side.

"Your technique is awful, Able. Have you ever done this before?" De Luca's voice was incredulous, holding his guard steady, his breath coming in slow pants. Able's technique was terrible, but that didn't mean he should drop his guard. Even amateurs get lucky.

Able's voice flustered for a moment, "Y-yeah, of course I have. I've been fighting with swords since the time of creation!"

De Luca's eyebrow raised slightly, "Well…you're kind of terrible. Any of my students could probably keep up with you."

"That's the last straw! I will destroy you!" Able streaked out once more, his good right arm coming down at a forty five degrees. The strength behind the blow could shatter mountains, as the heavy sword cleaved towards De Luca's heart.

De Luca took the same off-line step for a third time, bringing his own sword up to meet Able's. The crushing strength of the sword meant little to the laws of physics. The power behind the blow forced it to move in line with the smaller Agent's sword, drawing Able off balance. He stumbled forward, exposing his back to the Foundation agent.

De Luca's sword flashed down in a quick riposte, opening a wide slash across Able's back. Another quick step and a thrust brought the sword between the stumbling skip's legs, his own movement forcing the sword along his thigh opening another major blood vessel.

Able turned, and took a few more swipes at De Luca, his movements slowing. De Luca stepped back each time, warding off one or two that he couldn't avoid, before 076-2 fell to the ground. The blood loss finally caught up to the terrifying warlord that the Foundation kept penned up. He looked up at the agent, and managed to croak out one final question, "But…but how?"

De Luca stepped back, maintaining his guard, "Buddy, you fight like you read it off a page somewhere."

Able let out one more frustrated grunt before succumbing to blood loss, on the dusty ground.

Captain De Luca walked over to the body, drew the heavy dagger at the back of his belt, and cut 076-2's throat in four places, to make sure he was dead. Satisfied, he carefully wiped the blood from his sword and dagger, and replaced them in the case, making a note to clean the blades later. He reached up and clicked his throat mic, "Command, barbarian at the gate down, I repeat, barbarian at the gate down."

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