A World on Fire
Marisa Correia was a fast rising member of the Ventanilla Army in Central America. She grew up in poverty, ashamed of her family, ashamed of herself, ashamed that the bullies were justified and right about everything they said. Correia would return one day and burn down that whole damn slum. And then she would burn the city. And then she would burn the world.
She went AWOL from the military using her charm and threats and promises to bring a small army with her. She used her washout thugs and made good on her first promise. She lit fire to the slums. She never even checked if her family was home, or even still lived there. She didn’t care if they were or not. She only cared that it all turned to ash.
She had recruited more scum out of the slums. Criminals, drug runners and addicts. Anyone who would hold a gun. And then she marched on Cordoba. She was going to make good on her second promise, and almost had if it weren’t for the events of Operation Hydra. Had ACE not been there, she would have drowned that whole city without much of a care.
Now, she was nursing a gunshot wound to the leg and dealing with bruised bones in her ribs from the skyhook extraction. She had lost her army. She had lost her firepower. But she didn’t lose her ability to influence and recruit. Her gift from the Tempest, granted to her a long time ago.
Recruiting the Witch
Maybe she didn’t always want a world of ash and embers. Maybe she wanted to overcome her background. It didn’t matter when the Tempest met the young Correia. He promised her revenge. He whispered in her ear, all the greatness of a world on fire. He told her everything she wanted to hear and taught her how to tug the same mental strings of everyone else.
The old rumor was that the Tempest could control the weather. He always seemed to appear in the rainy weather, never on a clear day. Correia had heard about him through hushed rumors among the other Ventanilla army recruits. They would mention the dapper man wearing a suit that was always wet from the rain. He’d come to Ventanilla under the protection of the corrupt generals and commanders and interview and abduct anyone of any significant talent. Correia had seen the Tempest once before he came to recruit her. She remembered clearly the storms were unusually heavy for a dry season. He came in with a soaking wet case, wearing a soaking wet suit, and handed it to the general on duty before touring the recruits. During that visit, the Tempest had never laid eyes on Correia, and he didn’t take anyone with him, but he left the case with the general anyway. It made Correia think maybe it wasn’t money that was in the case. What kind of man would pay for something but leave empty handed?
When The Tempest did come for Correia, it was years later. She knew before he had arrived that he was coming for her. She was the best among her peers in all aspects physical and intellectual. She wasn’t sure if she was motivated to genuinely be the best among her recruits, or if she simply wanted to impress The Tempest and see what he did with the recruits he abducted. She saw the rolling blackened cloud and her hair stood on end with each strike of lightning. The Tempest handed over his briefcase to the general on duty, and skipped right past most of the recruits standing at attention. This time Correia was among them, and the Tempest bee-lined straight to her without a glance at anyone else.
“Correia.” he said in a low, rumbling voice.
“You know who I am?” his eyes were bright blue like a clear sky, something this man may have never seen in his life.
“Do you know what I do?” he was dripping wet from the rain, but he didn’t seem to mind. This was any other day to him.
“You will learn.” his footsteps sloshed as he walked away leaving a trail of wet footsteps and a puddle where he had stopped to speak with her.
The Tempest was an enchanting man. When he spoke, it was always one on one. Never to a group, and never at a particularly loud volume, but always with an intimidating, low rumbling tone like distant rolling thunder.
He told her much. None of it made any sense to her at first but the more time she spent with him the more she began to understand. Every week she would be given leave from the Ventanilla training camp to visit the Tempest in an old monastery somewhere in the jungles where it was always raining. She wasn’t “abducted” like the other recruits he had taken before her. She actually never met any of the other Ventanilla recruits that he might have taken. She wasn’t sure if this was due to the rumors or because he had other students.
Correia had learned from him all the ways to make a person work for her. She became as much a master of manipulation as he was. The day he brought her to Avionus was the biggest day of her life. There they stood, side by side, in front of a council shrouded in the darkness.
“This is the protege?” asked a voice in the dark.
“This is her. She’s learned my methods of persuasion. She knows the strings to pull. She’s ready to be tested.” the Tempest said back into the shadows.
“Then give her what she wants. Give her the world on fire.”
A Sickened Man
The Tempest sent her back to Ventanilla. “The Witch” would raise her army of misfits and start the raid on Cordoba. The burning of the slums was something that he had hoped she had outgrown in their time together. Some pathetic show to him that she had abandoned her family for her new one in the dark. But maybe it really did mean something more to her.
She met with Belisle and began to work him. She knew the strings to pull and let him feel like he was in charge. Let herself get surrounded in plain daylight. Let him throw her around and call her suicide bluff. She was surprised to learn he had already knew about The Shroud, but couldn’t even call them by name. The fact that they existed seemed to be the extent of his knowledge. He thought they would let him in… the poor man. It made The Tempest laugh a little bit. Not too hard though, he didn’t want to start another coughing fit.
The Tempest watched as Correia set up shop in Cordoba and watched as Agent Velvet infiltrated her ranks. He watched as Agent Clover feigned her capture and Agent Uhu assaulted the dam. He smiled to himself a bit as lightning struck in the background. ACE would make a fantastic test for The Witch Correia. And it was so fitting that the ex-ACE Agent Belisle was involved. They’d surely suspect him the motivating force and hunt him down in Seward. “How would The Witch react when ACE slays her dragon?” he wondered.
He started on a long train of thought, clearly excited that his protege would be butting heads with the ultimate intelligence agency. “What will she do if they catch her? Where will she go to raise another army? Who will she use to replace Belisle when he’s killed or captured?” his mind is racing with possibilities. He didn’t even notice his chest getting tighter.
“How long would it take for them to grasp the depth of things?” he wondered to himself before he felt the cough come on. He grabbed a handkerchief and violently hacked into it. When he pulled away, the blood was black and oily. He wiped it from his mouth and looked back at the monitor. His condition was getting worse, but he only cared about one thing. Watching the Witch grow. But how much would he get to see?
The clock is ticking…
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