Zero Machine
rating: +16+x

The sack over Hassad's face was removed. He was restrained to a chair with ropes. Men in gray armor stood around, pointing their glowing rifles at him. Across, his wife and three daughters were bound and gagged, struggling and squirming against their bonds. Droplets of blood dripped from their noses.

"Who are you people and what do you want from us?!" Hassad asked, a hint of confusion in his hoarse voice.

"Your debt, Mr. Akbar." One of the men said; his mechanical voice echoed across the empty hall.

The sound of electro house music coming from the party on the upper floor above was audible but not loud enough to impede their hearing. However, if Hassad cried for help, no one would be able to hear him.

"What debt?"

"For five months, half of the packages from S3 Enterprise were missing, Mr. Akbar." The same armored man replied. His face was hidden behind a green glowing visor. "You either have a mole in your group or you were crossing our boss."

"I do not know what you are talking about!"

"Cut the crap." A voice said from behind.

Hassad turned in the direction of the voice and saw an Arabian man in three-piece suit; his face was covered with a shemagh. The Arabian's brown eyes stared directly at him; his scrutinizing gaze pierced through Hassad's soul, forcing him to divulge the information by sheer intimidation.

"My men said that you consort with ORIA operatives, Akbar." Al-Essa added.

"No!" Hassad replied. "I—"

"Three months after that expedition when we began shipping golds to the clients, the ORIA paid your home a visit."

"I am loyal only to you—" Hassad protested but was cut off by Al-Essa.

"I had you followed. They have evidence that you meet with them regularly." He glanced at one of his men. "Show him the photographs." Al-Essa ordered.

An armored guard spread a set of photographs on the floor before him. It showed him and a man in a public restaurant.

"Don't lie to me, Akbar. One of my spies I have placed in your company knew that you are leaking information about the gold to those pigs." Al-Essa took a step forward. He dug his right hand into his pocket and fished out a golden ring with a symbol of a snake on the top of it.

"What are you going to do?" Hassad asked with a frightened voice.

"I'm a businessman, Akbar, and I don't waste my time on people like you." He wore the ring on his right hand and clenched it. He approached Hassad's wife and swung at her, hitting her jaw.

The head of Hassad's wife detached and rolled across the floor, leaving trails of gold ingots. When the head stopped rolling, it suddenly collapsed into nuggets of gold. Her body crumpled into a mound of golden dust.

"No!" Hassad yelled. "Look, I was just trying to save us all! They said that the ring was dangerous! You don't know what other things it can do!"

"You see, they don't just call me the Rich Man or the Powerful for nothing." He paused to let the words sink in. "This is what I do to traitors, Akbar." Al-Essa said as he took a step towards Hassad with a clenched fist.

Hassad wet his pants when Al-Essa drew very close. Cold beads of sweat dripped across his skin. Ragged breaths and involuntary shaking were telltale signs of fear. He knew this was the end. He knew what was coming to him. This was the price for helping the good guys.

Al-Essa abruptly withdrew from Hassad and instead approached his eldest daughter. He cocks back and punched her in the left cheek. The impact of the punch made his daughter's head spin around completely before detaching itself from the neck and rolled across the floor. Just like her mother, her body crumbles into gold dust while her head became gold nuggets.

"I'm going to be rich again." Al-Essa said with a laugh as he approached his pubescent daughter and sent a right hook. She was instantly reduced into a pile of gold. Hassad was left with no choice but to watch in horror.

"STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!" Hassad yelled before earning some beatings from the men near him.

"I'm taking back what you owe from me. We both know that the missing half of the packages I receive from our buyers were being sent to some secret ORIA base." He grabbed his youngest daughter by the hair and punched her face, turning her into gold.

Suddenly, one of Al-Essa's armored guards briskly descended the staircase.

"Boss! We are under attack!"

Three Hours Earlier

Okay, listen up.

Agent Wilson Carter knelt to fasten the laces of his combat boots. After that, he picked up a pistol resting on a bench and holstered it.

Four years ago, an Arab businessman, Omar Ibn Al-Essa, had led an expedition to a desolate pyramid constructed for a nobleman whose name was expunged from the records of Ancient Egypt due to his involvement in witchcraft.

Carter plucked the magazine from the feeder and checked the bullets inside. Satisfied, he slammed it back home.

Foundation personnel embedded in local museums and government agencies identified the nobleman as Hatshepsut IV. The guy was punished by premature mummification.

He grabbed the scope inside the weapons locker. He lifted up the submachine gun and examined it.

Centuries later, Mr. Al-Essa found this pyramid and had his crew explore it. They found something aside from treasures.

Attaching the scope above the submachine gun, Carter peeked inside. He lowered it as soon as he was satisfied with the scope's magnification. He released it; the weapon hung freely with the help of a strap clipped to his suit. He grabbed a helmet from the locker and clipped the straps under his chin.

They found the artifact, henceforth designated as Item Number 1, and used it for another kind of business. Al-Essa's riches has mysteriously tripled.

He put on his respirator mask, glanced at his other teammates around the prep room and approached another Agent, who was struggling to put on his vest. He assisted him in clipping the straps in place.

Al-Essa constructed an anomalous nightclub near the pyramid. Figures widely known in the anomalous world were known to frequent the place. Intel reports said that any attempt to retrieve Item Number 1 was met with failure. Operatives from ORIA and GOC were lost after entering the nightclub.

Carter tapped the rookie Agent's back before being offered with a shiny silver tube by an approaching officer. He took it respectfully.

Your mission objective is to recover the item. Where others have failed, you are expected to succeed. You are to retrieve the artifact without any available assistance.

He wore his combat gloves and strapped it in place. Shortly, he attached the tube in a slot in his respirator. The sweet taste of the vaporized stimulant lingered in his taste buds when he inhaled it with his mouth opened. His vision cleared and the nervousness that clung on his mind that he always feel prior to any mission disappeared in an instant. Although this was prohibited, Carter secretly does this to cope up with pre-mission anxiety and restlessness.

The onset phase is about to take place when his commanding officer, who was aware of his weakness, put a hand over his shoulder to wake him up from his inevitable adrenaline trance.

"Not too soon, Carter." The officer said.

Carter nods.

"Yes, sir." He replied as he pressed a button on the tube, deactivating it from dispensing RUSH gas.

If you ever encounter Al-Essa, he is to be eliminated. He and his henchmen are considered high priority expendable targets. Good luck, Agents. We secure, we contain, we protect.

The nightclub was alive with activity. Loud electro-house music and bright neon lights emanated from the establishment while newly arrived patrons continuously entered. From afar, one would see men in grey armor, walking around the nightclub while carrying glowing anomalous weaponry.

In addition to the guards on foot, three Sedans patrolled around the nightclub. Two more just recently came back from watching the pyramid near the establishment.

Agent Wilson Carter was sitting behind Agent Madison as he drives. They were on a black Harley Davidson; the standard bike that the Foundation issued to them. It came with its own modification with Sigma-18's preference in mind. It was well suited for their combat doctrine.

Along with them, twelve more bikes were following behind. The Bike Squad, if one cared to use squad classification, spread in an arrowhead formation. A voice suddenly spoke on the channel.

"RUSH on and DUBSTEP on."

Carter pressed the button on his RUSH inhaler tank and the DUBSTEP earpiece attached to his left ear. He could see Madison doing the same while keeping one hand on the handlebar.

The smell of nitro-amphetamine waffled in his nostrils with an addicting scent that Carter would describe as something similar to 'lavender'. The sweet taste of the vaporized drug tickled his taste buds, traveling up to his throat and filling his lungs. It woke his senses up in an explosion.

The onset phase. It was recorded to last for one minute, but to operatives who uses RUSH like him, it felt eternal. Carter both loved and hated this phase. For starters, it takes the anxiety away.

But he hated the part when the onset effect messes with his perception momentarily.

The first thing he saw was the baby's face from Teletubbies, illuminating the sky with its bright rays. He saw gigantic worms with human anuses rising from the sand around them and then disappearing shortly after. His body felt light as if he was submerged underwater. His enemies in his vision appeared like flames from a candle. A skull appeared from the horizon and swallowed the bright baby's head. In an instant, everything became normal once again.

After its one-minute onset effect, his mind became clearer and his hearing sharper as ever. His surroundings were bright despite the darkness brought by nighttime in the middle of a desert. His heart started to beat twice faster when the DUBSTEP earpiece started to transmit low binaural beat sound in gamma frequency.

When the looped dark synthwave beat started to fill his eardrums, he felt a rush of adrenaline flow throughout his body. The restlessness begins, but the inhalation of the drug mitigated it.

His excitement was powerful, but the drug made him in control. He was both focused and hyper; the feelings could be compared into something contradictory: chaotic yet peaceful. It was like as if water and oil were poured into his soul, mixed but separated.

He was ready to kill.

"Enemy vehicle spotted, open fire!"

The voice woke Carter from his adrenaline trance. A Sedan suddenly obstructed their path and unloaded armored guards. Carter aimed at his first target. His suppressed MP5 submachine gun recoiled as soon as he squeezed the trigger; rounds penetrated the man's visor faceplate.

Madison pressed a button just below the handlebar; two barrels protruded from either side of the bike and began firing at the other guards automatically.

The Sedan sustained more several rounds from the combined weapons fire of the twelve bikes before exploding in orange flames, taking with it all the guards who were unlucky enough to be nearby.

Because of this, the guards roving outside the nightclub were alerted and immediately assembled in the entrance; the direction where Sigma-18 was currently approaching. More Sedan sped from the pyramid and haphazardly parked in front of the entrance to provide cover and to obstruct it as well. Carter knew this is going to be violent.

When they were within close range, Al-Essa's men began firing their rifles. Green glowing light sped towards the bikers. Carter saw one bike got hit. The bike and its riders were instantly turned into a green sludge. He raised his weapon and returned fire. The rounds penetrated through a man's visor, which shattered into tiny pieces.

His aim jumped to the next target. He fired and luckily hit a gap that exposed the man's neck. Blood sprayed from his wound. His attack was interrupted by their bike's weapons. He watched five groups of guards get torn in half with the bike's huge bullets.

"Springers on, soldiers! And while we're in midair, drop the care packages at them!" The same authoritative voice instructed.

Madison complied as he pressed another button on the handlebar. The suspensions in their bike suddenly emitted a cracking sound before the bike launched itself midair.

He glanced below and saw the guards, training their weapons at them. He dropped three grenades onto their ranks; the other remaining bikers did the same thing.

The guards were caught in a cluster of explosions so magnificent that not a single one of them survived.

Carter felt the bike descending at a fast rate. He held his breath as they crash onto the rooftop.

The rooftop party halted when the combined weight of the bikes brought the entire ceiling down. Carter's suit and their bikes sustained the impact damage. He aimed around and saw a handful of guards flipping tables and crouching behind it.

The sound of battle and the club music emanating from the speakers stopped as soon as Al-Essa and his men reached the upper floor. Concrete and debris were scattered all over the dance floor. Moonlight shone through the ruined rooftop. The guards who fought the operatives of Sigma-18 lay dead on the ground with the exception of a single wounded guard. His right hand was amputated and his other remaining and injured hand held an unpinned grenade.

Al-Essa was about to issue an order when he suddenly heard bodies falling to the ground with wet noises. He turned and saw blood covered Sigma-18 operatives and his dead men.

"Give it up." One of them said.

"So, this is how it ends?" Al-Essa muttered as he put his hands up. The operatives could hear the sound of vehicles approaching their position and knew that Al-Essa was just buying time. They opened fire at him without hesitation.

The bullets bounced from Al-Essa's body. The Kevlar plates beneath his three-piece suit smoked. The Arabian man grinned behind his shemagh as he stepped forward. The ring was visible in his clenched fist. He swings at a nearby Agent and hit him. The chest plate disintegrated into gold dust before he hit the ground. He was incapacitated, but not dead. Al-Essa launched himself at the other Agent. If only he could hold out a few more minutes, his men will arrive to aid him.

Carter watched Al-Essa took a swing at Madison. He knelt a knee on the ground and raised his rifle. He aimed at Al-Essa's head and fired. The man dropped to the floor in an instant.

Carter examined Al-Essa's hand and retrieved the ring. He glanced at his fellow teammates and nodded.

They wasted no time embarking on the bikes and sped into the night, leaving dust behind.

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