June leaned in close, speaking barely above a whisper. "What do you want to do? This city is on high alert after that attack."
Erik considered for a moment. "I still need to enter Caelora. I'm certain if these mercenaries are after us, something must have happened to Noah and the others. We should try to make contact."
June looked shocked. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"I'm sure," Erik said. "The only hard part will be to get out of this building."
June didn't like the idea, but he trusted Erik's judgment. "Alright, if you think we can do this, then I'm on board. But how do we get out of here unnoticed?"
Erik weighed their options. His Instability brain crystal power afforded him certain advantages, just as June's ability to shapeshift offered its own set of tactical benefits.
Yet, the reality of their situation was undeniable. They were likely under close surveillance in this place.
Resorting to their powers openly would attract unwanted attention, a risk they couldn't afford.
The uncertainty of their predicament intensified the challenge—not fully understanding the what was happening was a significant handicap.
Erik's gaze swept the room, resting on the security camera nestled in the corner. Its unblinking red light unsettled the young man.
Erik reached out with his biological supercomputer, seeing two guards observing them through a monitor elsewhere in the building.
"They're watching us," Erik said, raising his voice to only a whisper. "We can't use our powers."
June nodded. "So? What do we do?"
"It depends on the situation, but you should know the first thing I will do." June knew Erik well. He wanted to use the biological supercomputer.
"Ah, yes," June said.
Erik reached inward for the biological supercomputer.
<System, can you interface with the surveillance network here? > Erik asked.
<We need to know what we're up against. >
[YES. SEARCHING FOR DEVICES. DEVICES FOUND. ESTABLISHING CONNECTION TO LOCAL SECURITY NETWORK. COMPLETED.]
Erik felt a spike of hope. <How is the situation? > Erik asked.
[ANALYZING LIVE FEEDS. TWO ARMED GUARDS ARE CURRENTLY STATIONED DIRECTLY OUTSIDE THE DOOR TO THIS ROOM. BOTH ARE HEAVILY ARMED WITH PLASMA RIFLES AND SHOCK GRENADES POWERED BY BRAIN CRYSTALS.]
Erik's heart sank. Those plasma rifles could punch right through the toughest thaid. He had seen it firsthand outside the city.
<Can you show me a visual? > he asked.
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[DISPLAYING LIVE SECURITY FEED.]
A crystal clear image bloomed in Erik's mind - a video view from the hallway outside.
The two guards stood at attention, plasma rifles held at the ready across their chests.
Erik spotted grenades clipped to their belts and combat knives and pistols holstered at their thighs. Their body armor and helmets marked them as elite fighters.
This was a full armed response squad, prepared to use lethal force. And if even one shot from those brain crystal rifles hit Erik, it could punch a smoldering hole straight through his chest or remove a limb.
<Fuck those anti-Thaid weapons. We can't afford to take any hits from those. >
[AGREED. CAUTION IS HIGHLY ADVISED WHEN ENGAGING THESE FORCES DIRECTLY. BUT THE PROBABILITY OF FATAL INJURIES IS MEDIUM LOW GIVEN YOUR STATISTICS.]
<I thought it would be more. >
The system then displayed additional live feeds, revealing a surge of guards hastening into the building from the outside.
Each one was equipped with the same gear. It became clear that the mercenary guild was intent on apprehending Erik.
This raised a pressing question in his mind: why? What happened at Testrovsc's Rest to lead them to believe he was involved?
With each minute that ticked by, the number of guards within the corridors swelled. They positioned themselves as to prevent anyone from reaching the building's many exits.
A full frontal confrontation was inevitable. However, there wasn't a reason they had to face the denser clusters of guards.
<Keep monitoring those guards, > Erik said to the supercomputer. <Alert me if any more shows up. >
[ACKNOWLEDGED. CONTINUOUSLY TRACKING SECURITY FEEDS. ADDITIONAL FORCES DETECTED AT THIS TIME.]
Erik opened his eyes, the video feed vanishing from his mind. June was watching him.
"Well?" June asked. "What did you see?"
"Two guards outside the door, armed with brain crystal rifles and shock grenades," Erik said. "You won't survive a direct fight."
June's expression darkened. "Then we'll have to slip away, avoid detection."
"We can try, but even if we do, there are many guards around. They are bound to find us."
"So, are we trapped here?"
"No," Erik said. "We can avoid them for a bit, but as soon as we get spotted by people, we must fight."
With the biological supercomputer feeding him real-time enemy locations and movements, they could evade their pursuers in this sprawling complex for the time being.
That was the best thing they could do since they couldn't use their powers at the moment.
Erik again reached inward, channeling power from his instability brain crystal. He could feel its energy thrumming through his veins, heightening his senses. He would need every advantage to get them through this.
<Are you going to hack the surveillance system? > June asked telepathically, his thoughts tinged with unease.
<No, > Erik replied. <I don't aspire to be linked to this ability. If I need it in the future, it would be best people doesn't know I have it, so that they can't make countermeasures. >
<Then what do we do, Master? >
<We use the cameras and my Instability power to evade detection as we escape. We will avoid the guards as much as possible, but confrontation will be inevitable. If you stay behind me, you should be able to come out unharmed. >
<All right, Master. I will do as you say. >
<Stay close, > Erik said, <We move on my signal. >
June nodded, the shadows of his hood obscuring his expression. But Erik could sense his clone's tension and readiness through his posture.
Erik took a deep breath, reaching out with his mind to check the cameras again. The guards hadn't moved.
Erik focused, tapping into his instability brain crystal power. The young man and June approached the door, only to find it locked.
Erik reached out with his mind, sensing the two heavily armed guards still standing sentry right outside.
"We'll have to do this the hard way," Erik said. "Get ready."
June nodded, bracing himself.
Erik focused, channeling mana through both his instability and force-fist brain crystal power.
Raw power flooded his body, filling his muscles with supernatural strength. He reared back and punched, unleashing the energy in a devastating blast.
The door exploded into shards with an ear-splitting boom. The guards flew backward, smashed against the far wall by the force of the blow. They slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Erik and June rushed through the shattered doorway, shards of metal rained around them.
Erik snatched up one of the brain crystal rifles while June grabbed another one from the other guard.
They couldn't afford to leave such firepower in their enemies' hands and reverse engineering this rifle may be possible.
Alarms began blaring throughout the complex as the destruction triggered security alerts. Shouting echoed down the corridors as more guards rushed to investigate.
Alarms blared as Erik and June rushed through the complex. Erik reached inward for the biological supercomputer.
<Show me the building's layout and guards. Highlight the exits. >
A 3D map of the building appeared in his mind, sprinkled with glowing red dots representing armed soldiers. More converged on their position by the second.
Erik took the lead, navigating through side passages and maintenance routes to circumvent the main force.
Despite their cautious movements, it became clear that someone was monitoring them via the surveillance system and redirecting the squads.
This suspicion was confirmed as smaller squads repeatedly emerged to obstruct their path at various intervals.
The first group of guards rounded the corner up ahead. Erik gestured for June to take cover in a small maintenance room on the right side of the hall. The clone slipped inside while Erik prepared to confront the guards.
As the squad of six approached, Erik flexed his fists. Time seemed to slow as the young man saw the guards raise their brain crystal rifles toward him.
With lightning speed, Erik launched himself into their midst. He ducked under the first guard's rifle, delivering a powerful uppercut to his jaw that lifted him off his feet.
Before the man even hit the ground, Erik had already grabbed the next guard's gun and wrenched it from his grasp.
He spun and slammed the rifle stock into another guard's helmet with enough force to crack the visor.
The man fell to the ground without a sound. Erik dropped low to sweep-kick two more guards, sending them crashing down in a tangled heap.
The last guard fired off a wild shot. Erik twisted out of the way, the bolt of what appeared a sort of concentrated fire sizzling past his ear.
<Fuck! That was close! >
He retaliated with a devastating punch to the guard's chest that caved in his armor and knocked him unconscious.