The Mercenary’s Mark: A Dance of Destiny and Duty

A female protagonist stands facing away, looking down a neon-lit cyberpunk alleyway. The scene is filled with glowing signs in various languages and dense futuristic architecture, portraying a moody,

The Mercenary’s Mark: A Dance of Destiny and Duty

“Urgent protection needed. High-profile client. Meet at the following coordinates. Details upon arrival.”

The message is stark, void of any pleasantries or unnecessary details.

Whoever this client is, they have the means to reach her encrypted line, which means they have resources, and with resources comes danger.

She veers into the skeletal remains of an old-world building, its structure a remnant of a time before bio-augmentation and cybernetics define the human experience.

Here, amidst the rubble and the forgotten, she is a ghost—a protector for hire, etched with marks of a life she never fully chose but lives with lethal precision.

As the coordinates etch themselves into her memory, her soulmate mark pulses with an almost imperceptible warmth.

It is a subtle reminder of a connection waiting to be acknowledged, of a path chosen, and of the soulmate who would know her as well as she knows herself if not better.

But sentiment has no place in her line of work, and feelings are a luxury she could not afford to indulge in for now.

Pulling her collar up against the biting wind, she vanishes into the belly of the city, her mark concealed, her purpose clear.

This contract is bound to be messy; she could feel it in the fiber of her being.

The balance of power is shifting, and she is about to find herself right at the center of the maelstrom.

She arrives at the designated coordinates, the remnants of an old-world building looming before her.

The client awaits her arrival, their posture tense and eyes darting around the dimly lit room, as if expecting an attack at any moment.

Their words tumble out in hushed, urgent tones, laced with a sense of desperation that betray the gravity of the situation.

The client will be making their way to a conference to present their findings on more efficient enhancements at a more affordable price.

But with progress comes resistance, and the threats against them and their company grows in intensity.

“The current timeline for the protection detail is three months, as production has already begun on the proof of concept. However, the success of this conference is crucial to secure the necessary funding and support to expedite the widespread distribution of these enhancements.”

Nova’s eyes narrow as she scans the Guild’s job board, noting the client’s company listed as a target for sabotage, with a preference for disruption over lethal force – a clear indication of the opposition they would likely face.

Looking into the possible threats is a mix of low level mercenaries that would hope to make a name for themselves before they realize she has taken the job and some of the best of the best.

The only group she that catches her eye is the one lead by Praxis.

They have never crossed paths despite both of them being some of the best mercenaries available.

She is looking forward to figuring out which of them would come out on top assuming Praxis takes the job.

It would be a battle of titans, a clash where only the strongest would emerge victorious.

She will be keeping the client alive for a minimum of three months, but could extend further until such a time where mass production has been successfully achieved or it has been deemed that production is not feasible.

“Once the contract is complete, you will compensate me with twenty million Quantix,” she adds, her tone leaving no room for negotiation.

The client nods, their expression a mix of relief and apprehension. “We have also hired the Meridian Brigade to secure the production facility. They will be provided with a means to coordinate with you should the need arise.”

Nova signs the contract with the client and leaves to make final preparations for the job with plans to meet back up with them first thing the next morning to head to the conference.

She meticulously checks over her equipment, ensuring that everything is in working order.

They board the car Nova booked for the trip and she drives them to the hotel where the conference will be hosted.

People from all corners of the industry have gathered here, eager to witness the unveiling of the client’s groundbreaking enhancements.

Nova discreetly scans the attendees, noting the presence of rival companies and investors for any blatant threats.

She did not expect any, but it never hurts to be prepared for anything.

The presentation goes without a hitch, the client’s words carrying weight and conviction.

The enemy is waiting, biding their time for the opportune moment to strike.

As darkness descends, Nova assumes her post, her vigilance unyielding.

She’s forever grateful for her enhancements making it possible to need less sleep as well as being able to interface in with their hotel’s existing security.

As expected, in the dark hours of night transitioning into morning light, what can only be an arrogant or rookie assassin attempts to make their way through the balcony door leading to the client’s suite.

She swiftly and silently edges to the door out of sight.

Once they step inside, she glides behind them to promptly break their neck before they can realize something may not be right.

Looking into them shows they aren’t a rookie, so must have been arrogant thinking they would be able to remove the client without her notice with the years of he has even though her reputation proceeds her.

Nova sifts through their pockets to check what items and information they have on them.

She’s clearly done the guild a service of ridding them of another subpar mercenary finding a series of data chips on the body.

She begins to assimilate the data obtained and corroborating with what she has found independently.

She can’t help but think of Zenith Requiem knowing that if she is up against Praxis and his group, she would have gotten a more worthwhile challenge.

She starts formulating plans for these encounters even as she continues to gather more details indicating they’ll be targeting the production instead of the client directly.

If the client can make it through the milestones of additional funding and a successful first round of production the enhancements will have a real chance at breaking into the market properly.

She sends what she can find along with plans to counter the methods she has heard they have been known to use to Meridian Brigade to help them counteract any possible opponent’s plans.

She’s interested to hear back from them to know how well her methods stand up to this possible opponent.

While waiting to hear back from Meridian Brigade, Nova follows the client to their meetings with possible investors.

She knows the issues are likely to crop up at a few specific points, a few hours before the client is scheduled to speak, the night directly after speaking before any deals can be made, right before mass production can be completed, and as final shipments are delivered.

She notes that the talks appear to be going well though they did have at least two “investors” setup a meeting to get closer to the client to better kill them.

Unfortunately for them she’s always prepared so they are unable to accomplish their goal and lose their life as a result.

By the end of day three of meetings and the final day of the conference, Meridian Brigade calls in to report that Nova is right on the methods that would be attempted to sabotage the production and while some are resistant to using her plans, there is likely to be less now that she’s been proven to be right and those who followed her advice are able to repel the saboteurs with ease.

Overall the production is still running as expected with only minor delays.

She cautions them that this is just the testing phase and that now that they’ve effectively repelled them the first time, Zenith Requiem will be kicking these up a notch and taking them more seriously.

Meridian Brigade will need to be at their very best for at least 4 months with the new delays even though the meetings have been going well.

New plans are provided to help repel the next wave of possible sabotage as well as the members that will need the most support based on the reports given on how the first wave went.

She could feel the beat of her heart pounding in anticipation of a true challenge.

The first round goes to her, but there’s still plenty of time for her to lose the overall war of who’s the better tactician.

Looking into Zenith Requiem and Praxis in particular is a true test of skill.

She has to make incredible leaps through some very obscure databases to get the information she wants.

The more she learns the more interested she becomes.

Zenith Requiem has very few failures and most of those aren’t even complete failures and tend to involve additional groups being part of the job.

Praxis’s story reads similar to hers.

An orphan that against the odds has carved a place in the world and rising to prominence in the mercenary guild.

Unlike Nova who focuses primarily on protection and retrieval jobs with poor odds of success, Praxis created a team and took the most difficult of high-value target and disruption operations available.

The client makes it back from the conference safely with no further attacks initiated.

Traveling back is smooth and Nova gives a sigh of relief that things have mostly been going well.

Nova begins coordinating more closely with the Meridian Brigade as the biggest focus is now on a smooth production as well as successful deliveries.

She would not be surprised if Zenith Requiem or any of the other less skilled mercenaries decide to lull them into a false sense of security before striking twice back to back so as to increase the chance for success as well as wear them down.

Nova discusses a more robust sleeping schedule as well as increasing the security measures for those with enhancements that can follow along with what Nova is comfortable sharing with those not tied permanently to her.

The atmosphere is electric, a mix of anticipation and excitement for the future of the client’s groundbreaking enhancements.

The battle of wits between Nova and Praxis continues to escalate, each trying to outmaneuver the other. But amidst the chaos and danger, a mutual respect begins to form.

They recognize the skill and determination in one another, and a silent understanding passes between them.

While their professional lives remain intertwined in this high-stakes game, Nova couldn’t help but wonder about meeting under better circumstances.

As weeks turn into months, Nova, the Meridian Brigade, and the client navigate the treacherous landscape of the industry, overcoming obstacles and adversaries with unwavering resolve.

The success of the client’s enhancements are within reach, but a final battle looms on the horizon.

With a final showdown likely approaching, Nova steels herself for the ultimate test.

She knows that her skills and tactics would be put to the ultimate test against Praxis and his team, but she is as ready as she could be with the knowledge and enhancements she has.

Nova goes to speak with the leader of the Meridian Brigade to let them know they will want to tighten security and prepare for a final showdown.

Based on the data she has gathered, Praxis is likely to appear in person with his team and their response will make or break the success of this contract as this is the final push for shipping out the new enhancements.

She can see the doubt flashing through their eyes again.

They really need to stop doubting her and the information she gathers.

She’s been at least partially right every time she has gathered and then analyzed the data available to her.

If she has not looked into how sloppy some of their opponents tend to get as their reputations have grown, she would have guessed these nobodies are being sent to distract them while the real threat is waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

The idea has some merit so Nova will begin to prepare for that, but she also knows that Praxis likely hasn’t struck yet as it’s too early to get the better of her.

It may appear arrogant, but data does not lie.

Nova is an elite mercenary with a 98% success rate.

The 2% failures are most prominently from her beginner days when she attempting to work with others.

She learned quickly to not trust others to do the job she could nor to assume that they are as competent as her just because they have been at this game for longer than her.

With the Meridian Brigade now notified, Nova starts patrolling the area to review the known weak spots to confirm a breach hasn’t occurred.

Nova’s heart skips a beat, and she cautiously approachs an open door, her hand instinctively reaching for a concealed weapon.

Scanning the area shows a man giving orders to a group clearly preparing to assault the plant.

The man in charge gazes up and Nova stares into the eyes of who can only be Praxis.

The aura that surrounds him is all she expected and more.

An air of command and keen observation would be overwhelming and off-putting for those of a weaker mettle.

Praxis barks out an order to his men, prompting them to scatter, likely to move forward with their assault.

Nova sends an alert to the Meridian Brigade as she rushes forward, weaving out of the way from a series of bullets and leaps up to wrap her legs around Praxis’s shoulder and part of his arm to redirect further gun fire once she reaches him.

Praxis releases the gun and then grabs her leg, bringing his elbow down to break her grip and bring her down to the floor to pin.

His hand brushes the back of Nova’s neck and her soulmate mark flares to life.

Nova break’s Praxis’s hold and rolls from underneath the attempted pin.

Her eyes widen as the implications of her mark flaring begins to register.

Nova reaches for the back of Praxis’s neck and while he attempts to redirect her grasp she still manages to brush her fingers enough in a similar spot where her own mark lays.

Nova pays close attention to Praxis’s expression to see if he also notices a change.

His eyes get a slight glazed look.

Nova wouldn’t be surprised if they are to get a mirror to see that their marks have now gained color.

A looking of understanding crosses Praxis’s face and he doubles his efforts to incapacitate Nova, not making the effort to kill her, but also not willing to fail this mission either.

Nova has a greater respect for this as she plans to do the same.

The job may come first, but there’s no need for either of them to die when they’re both the best.

It would only be a true disappointment if they both didn’t give this mission their all.

The best way to prove their reputations are deserved is to carry on as if they don’t know they’re soulmates.

The adrenaline courses through their veins as they clash, their movements a blur of precision and power.

The air crackles with the intensity of their battle, each strike and parry a testament to their skill and determination.

Their combat styles are fluid and calculated.

Nova dodges Praxis’s strikes, while Praxis anticipates her every move.

Their mark of connection glows brightly as they engage in a deadly dance, each trying to outmaneuver the other.

The tension in the air is palpable as they exchange blows, their skills perfectly matched.

The fight becomes a display of their mastery, each maneuver executed flawlessly.

Nova gains the upper hand, holding a knife at Praxis’s throat.

“Call off the remainder of your team. I just got confirmation the first shipment has reached it’s destination successfully. Anything beyond that is outside my contract and I have no desire to keep fighting when we don’t have to.”

Praxis has a solemn look in his eye as he barely nods and then proceeds to whistle what must be a code for standing down.

Nova steps back and puts her knife away looking away from Praxis unsure where to go from here.

She has always craved her soulmate, but meeting him here during a job is one of the best and worst things that could have happened to her.

At least he’ll truly know what kind of person she is, but they are on opposing sides of a job and that could sour any relationship moving forward if Praxis is one of those people who hates to lose to a partner.

Nova takes a deep breath and then stares back at Praxis.

“I hope we can meet under more favorable circumstances in the future and discuss possible joint opportunities. No hard feelings?”

Nova extends her hand to shake Praxis’s.

“Hmm…That would be pleasant and no hard feelings. It is good to have a challenge.”

Praxis shakes Nova’s hand, nods, and then walks away.

Months later, Nova’s communicator reads out with a familiar message.

“Urgent protection needed. High-profile client. Meet at the following coordinates. Details upon arrival.”

Pulling her collar up, Nova begins the trek to the new location, hiding her colored mark from view.

A slight smile crosses her face at the thought of the last time she received a job like this.

Nova shoots Praxis a message letting him know of the possible collaboration pending details.

As she makes her way through the city, Nova couldn’t help but smile, hopeful that this new job might lead to more opportunities to work alongside her soulmate, and perhaps, something more.