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New Babylon, Reich Eternal, The American Reichschancellery

"Would you care to repeat that, Herr Ribbentrop?"

Ambassador Hans Gerd Von Ribbentrop had a noticeable quiver to his lower lip, a single bead of sweat retreating down his forehead. Such perspiration could not be attributed to the weather, as the dark, gray-green marble that lined the FuhrersKabinett reflected only the cold, crisp air of both the lack of heat in the room as well as the efficiency of the activities performed inside it.

"Mein Furher..." stammered Ribbentrop.

The Red Skull stood across from Ribbentrop, seperated only by a titanium black desk with a rich mahognay wood in-lay, polished to a blinding sheen. Behind the Red Skull's hellish profile hung a large, room-sized curtain, a giant swastika emblazoned upon it, a single red skull centered inside the black spider. With the Red Skull's bust on the desk, an elegant portrait placed tastefully to the right of the large curtain, the centered skull, and the imposing figure of Red Skull himself staring him down, Ribbentrop felt insignificant in the face of all who surveyed. All of whom were, in fact, the Red Skull.

Ribbentrop struggled to finish his sentence.

"...The Sinister Empire has sealed off all communications, our men at the Embassy are being singled out and killed as each tries to leave the safe territory agreed upon in the Trade Agreement of Steel...we are utilizing the Luftwaffe to airlift them as we speak."

The Red Skull lifted a part of skin that would have belonged to an eyebrow had he any.

"The Mandarins have also begun to follow suite, threatening our Pacific Fleets...the Silver Shogunate, as always, has chided our efforts to expand into their territory. The Shogun's ambassadors, however, are largely staying on the reservation, fulfilling their trade and defense agreements."

The Red Skull's jaw loosened, his displeasure momentarily broken by what could best be described apathy, but to Ribbentrop, could also mean mercy.

"And why are my legions being denied their respect in the Far East, Herr Ribbentrop?"

The ambassador shifted his weight,"Mein Fuhrer...they...that is, the Sinister Squadrons caught whiff of a Reich team operating near Haeju. We've not heard anything since then, but we have reason to believe that they have successfully gone to ground to continue their mission..the one involving the tracking and capture of..."

The Red Skull waved a hand to stop Ribbentrop. Loose lips sink ships? That was true for the last strong American who tried to stand against the Reich Eternal. He lost far more than a few ships.

The Skull broke his expression, stating,"I knew your great grandfather, Herr Ribbentrop."

"Truly, Mein Fuhrer?"

The skull's nasal cavity wrinkled, a slight annoyance.

"Yes, I did. Good soldier during the Great War. Fought against the foolishness of Versailles. But all such leadership then was weak."

The Red Skull stalked around the table, his black boots clicking against the marble floor.

"You and your great grandfather are similar men."

The ominous Skull grabbed a small manila folder from his desk. It's print was warm and fresh, only recently made from the government offices below.

Ribbentrop beamed at the thought of being like his great grandfather, the man who acted as Adolf Hitler's voice in foreign relations.

"You are both foolish men. Both whom have left their leaders without proper intelligence and protection. What Untermensch would be so idiotic as to conduct covert operations over established channels?"

The feeling of pride deserted Ribbentrop. The fear returned.

The Red Skull moved swiftly and in a perfectly controlled rage, seizing Ribbentrop by his thick dirty, blond hair and smacking his head against the marble desk. If he'd used a fraction more of his immense strength, the ambassador's head would've popped like a melon.

"Examples must be made, Herr Ribbentrop, be thankful that I desire you to learn from your mistakes."

The man struggled upward, holding his bruised and bleeding skull as if he felt his brains would pour out.

"Thank you, Mein Fuhrer..."

Ribbentrop gave a half salute and turned on his heel to leave. A gloved hand grabbed his shoulder.

"Oh, and Ribbentrop...deliver this final message to Sinister. I hear he likes music."

Red Skull handed him the manila folder, little blood droplets coating its outside, giving it a more dramatic flair.

"Jawohl, Mein Fuhrer."

Ribbentrop hastily marched from the room, hearing the Red Skull say, with a sense of finality, "Two gods standing against each other in conflict always makes me think of Wagner."

The Red Skull exhaled loudly.

"Goetterdammerung may be upon him."


Three Months Later Mandarin/Sinister Borderlands

"3 days, no contact."

Schultz lowered his enhanced binoculars, his breath turning to white clouds in the early morning air.

"The Reichsmarshall doesn't want to make the same mistake, Becker."

The SS soldier deactivated his communication advice, returning to complete radio silence. Schultz sat back down in the makeshift camoflage shelter the team had constructed.

"We'll cross the border back into Sinister territory again. We must complete our objective."

Becker nodded,"With our shields or on them, as they say."

Schultz grunted an affirmative and looked at the well-worn dossier he'd just taken from his pack. The picture of their target was emblazoned on the first page.

"Mia Ko cannot hide for long."


Haeju Ruins

Curtiss had firsthand experience with purge, but genocide was an entirely different matter. After leaving his quarters in Paju, he'd witnessed what he guessed was a complete failure of international policy. Human denizens who had found themselves under the thrall of the Sinister yoke were fleeing from the cities en masse. Communication had been cut off for the most part, rendering the communiques with the Central Bureau impossible.

For once in his life, Curtiss had no idea what was truly happening. But he knew that whatever it was, it would shift world power once again. Those seemed far too common now.

Because of the crowds, the military actions, the general chaos of the change, it had taken him far longer to reach Haeju than he had intended. He had only been in the area for 15 days, scavenging and trading for supplies with old Bureau merchant contacts who were seeking access outside of the Sinister Empire. Having worked with the Eternal Reich, deportations and executions were normal occurrences, but this level of displacement was ambitious.

Prior to his field days and the discovery of his ability to perfectly empathize with targets, Curtiss had worked for the Bureau's Strategic Analysis Branch. He ran numbers on populations, crafted threat categories, and performed a triage affiliation of sorts within certain nations. It largely pertained to superhumans, but he also differentiated the Sinister Human population vs. the Sinister population....if their reports would be accurate, many many millions of persons were now refugees from a superior number of armed Sinister denizens.

And Mia Ko was smack dab in the middle of it.

He'd been gauging the ruins from a distance for days and interrogated a few refugees as they fled for the underground bunker beneath the city. The rebels were active, granting safety to many folks, but that also made them clear targets. Haeju's population was growing rapidly, it wouldn't be long before Sinister squadrons would put an end to this Humanitarian effort.

As well as ending the chances for bringing a live bounty to the Bureau's coffers.

Curtiss jumped down from his hiding place, an Akkaba spire half-burned, and walked quickly to join step with a small caravan of human refugees walking straight into Akkaba bunker.

The Rebels were far too trusting.

Why not walk right in? He thought.