From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

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(posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

Aegrescit medendo. "The disease worsens with the treatment."

Things had been progressing much faster than Dr. Jacob Garvey had originally anticipated, on all fronts. His current line of research was coming along swimmingly; the latest flash clone was reacting well to the treatments he'd subjected it to, showing a marked improvement in stability over the previously grown copies that hadn't "inherited" the particular mutation of his original progenitor. He'd have to perform a few more vivisections to determine the cause for the fluctuation between generations, but he'd get to the bottom of it. His current case study was starting to come to through the light anesthesia and had shown signs of squirming on the operating table. Messy. We can't be having that, now can we? Satisfied with what he'd learned from this one, he retrieved a syringe of potassium chloride, jabbing it expertly into the IV feed for the subject. A few pathetic and barely audible moans later and the young clone stopped moving, then stopped breathing. Garvey would take care of disposing of the cadaver later; he had more tests to prepare, along with one little chore that had become a vital and captivating part of his routine.

Removing the surgeon's mask and sterile smock he had donned, more to keep his armor clean than for his victim's sake, Garvey started to wash up. Unless he was quick about getting spotless after an operation or handling one of his test subjects, the blood and secretions would work their way into the servomotors and joints of his robotic hands. He despised the thought of having even more imperfect biological matter near him; washing his hands under boiling jets of water quickly set his mind to ease again.

Leaving the operating room, Garvey worked his way through the underground laboratory, stopping here to check on one monitor or another, to record a random note on any of the numerous notepads scattered throughout the facility, or to visually inspect his herd of live subjects over a security camera feed. The necessities taken care of, Garvey settled down into the only chair in the entire complex. The chair squeaked audibly as he sat down, but he ignored the annoyance. Switching on the computer in front of him, he waited in quiet anticipation for the machine to make a secure connection to a very private server. Since Garvey had enacted the latest phase of his plan, he'd been covertly keeping tabs on his favorite test subject. Never contacting anyone directly, he had been sure to use such a convoluted series of informants and information merchants ---combined with gratuitous amounts of disinformation--- so that any "interested parties" would be lead in circles if they tried to discover where the agents had been funneling their reports. It was deliciously devious, and he took pride in the fruits of his intellect.

He had had this laboratory built to an exact set of specifications, using a number of dummy corporations and false business fronts in order to maintain anonymity. Purchasing the services of a different and unrelated---meaning unconnected through any Family or Mook controlled union---building contractor for each phase of the construction, and then quietly having the contractors and all workers killed, "donated" to Doctor Vahzilok, or shuffled off to a Circle of Thorns work-gang, it was nigh ensured that no one would be able to piece everything together. Combined with some of the best hard and soft security systems that money could buy or that Garvey could have stolen, this latest Facility was as impregnable as some of the best fortresses. Never one to overlook details, Garvey had also gone to further expense to purchase the services of the Circle of Thorns, with the steady supply of corpses and living "supplicants" being part of the payment; their protective spells, wards, and charms guaranteed that his lab would be undetectable to almost any sort of scrying or magical search. He detested the mysticism, but tolerated it; magic was simply something that science had not been able to figure out yet. It was akin to as yet undiscovered elementary subatomic particles; all it would take was time and the minds of men like himself. He'd even heard news of one particular researcher, Dr. von Gehirnsturm, who had developed the Hypothetical Framework fusing elements of magic, human technology and Rikti technology, which allowed inspiration to take a concrete form. Fascinating stuff, but Garvey was focused on other pursuits; ones that didn't deal with the "fuzzy thinking" of the arcane world.

Just as the computer booted up and made connection to the secure server, a series of auditory warnings echoed from a nearby speaker. Sliding the creaking chair to rest in front of the offending speaker, Garvey's eyes darted over to the monitor it was connected to. The external security camera feed. Someone is at my door. A bloodied Thorn Wielder was standing outside of the intentionally dilapidated-looking surface entrance for Garvey's lab. The Circle acolyte was pounding a fist against the barricaded door, and was shouting something frantically; it also appeared that his left arm was broken in several places, from the way it hung limp at his side. Flicking a switch, Garvey activated the audio pick-ups built into the security cams.

"---better open up right now, you cursed mad-man! Do you hear me, Garvey?! Open up, or our deal is off!" Garvey frowned. This was unfortunate, and was wearing his prodigious patience extremely thin. This bloody fool ---literally, it would seem--- was announcing his location to half of Cap Au Diable. Uttering a voice command as he jogged for the elevator that would take him to the surface level of the facility, Garvey activated several of the tertiary defensive systems, just in case. If this was a trick of some sort, he wasn't going to be caught flat-footed by some daft sorcerer. Moments that seemed to take hours later, Garvey was at the primary entrance, releasing the locks and triggering the door to open. The mage was startled by the sudden movement of the door, his uninjured arm reaching for the Thorn dagger at his side. "What took you so long? We're in imminent danger, Garvey! We need to---"

"You need," Garvey interrupted icily, "to stop shouting my name and making even more of a scene, if you wish to live to continue your superstitious twaddle. Calm down, and then tell me what is going on."

"You are being hunted, fool! There is a pair in Nerva right now, suspected to be two of Recluse's 'Chosen Ones'. They have been making inquiries, with some being more polite than others." Garvey couldn't rightly tell, but he thought he noticed the necromancer look forlornly at his ruined arm. "They haven't attracted undue attention, but their interrogations are random. You are lucky that I happened upon them! This will require a renegotiation of our deal, Doctor, in order to keep it and your hidey-hole here secret."

"Wait one moment, you moronic warlock. You'll be committing suicide if you even think of revealing---" It was Garvey's turn to be interrupted, not by a rebuke on the part of the Thorn Wielder, but by the Circle member's scream. He was messily ripped in half, spraying blood and viscera in all directions. Garvey stumbled back, blinded by the pink mist of what used to be the mage's life-blood. After a moment he was able to see clearly again---and immediately wished that he wasn't able to. Wading through the grisly carnage was a human skeleton, suspended in a human-form of endless blackness.

"Peekaboo! I see you! What's up, Doc?" The Grim Gambol cackled madly.