From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

Previous Story in the Arc: Old Friends.... by Astra Kyne Murdock (Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Granting Wings by Seraphym (Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

(posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

Dies irae "The Day of Wrath"

The unstoppable force of Paulo Salucci streaked through the Isles, heading towards an entrance to the inter-dimensional dance club, Pocket D. He'd just made contact with John's friend, and they'd set up a meeting in a few minutes. He wanted to take care of this quickly. John may not have wanted him along for this assault, but Paulie wasn't going to allow it. Funny. It was like the guy had just been sitting there waiting for the call.

Paulie shoulder-checked an Aberrant Rector who stepped in his path, knocking the mutated man off a cliff. The Piston scowled back at the Lost, turning a hard corner around an outcropping of large rocks. The Isles were notoriously difficult to maneuver, and these gangers didn't make it any easier. The thought quickly passed, however, as the door to the D quickly came into view.

Passing through the security checkpoints, Paulie quickly located the man he was looking for. He was hard to miss, clad in the uniform of a Commissar of the CCCP. Specifically, the Commissar whom he was helping at this very moment. Blinking repeatedly, Paulie recalled John's comment about the man looking just like him, but it wasn't quite enough for him to prepare. They were eerily similar, the two men. Twins, perhaps. Odd. He didn't ever remember anything about Johnny having a twin. Creepy; they even stood and carried themselves the same way.

Still, he had twin kids. Or...did have. Maybe twins ran in his family.

Sean had just settled onto a stool when Paulie ran up. The clone was slightly startled by the sudden appearance of the man, tensing slightly as he seemed to materialize in a cloud of motion. He'd been tensing up a lot as of late; trying to be John Murdock was a harder task than he thought it would have been. "Evenin', comrade," Sean said, mustering forth all the calm he could. He figured John to be mostly unflappable. He still needed to put on the facade, even if he didn't feel it.

"Youse must be Sean," the Piston said, pulling out his beaten PDA. "Hope you'll forgive me for bein' kinda rude, but I ain't got time fo' pleasantries right now."

The meeting had been thankfully short; both of the men firmly understood the need for a quick resolution and for Paulie to get back. Once again he passed through the D's security, emerging from the inter-dimensional pocket and immediately taking off.

The Abberant Rector that he'd run into earlier was just pulling himself up off of the cliff face when he was once again sent flying, Paulie's knee making incidental contact with the Lost's chin. There wasn't a moment's hesitation or even acknowledgement on the part of The Piston. He needed to get back to his safe house, hopefully before John could leave.

John was faster than Paulie thought, however. By the time the Italian made it back to his residence, his guest had left. All of the equipment was gone, with only two parcels left on the table. One contained a substantial bundle of cash, marked for Paulie. The other held copies of important documents; letters to friends, mostly---and a last will and testament.

"Shit!" the Piston spat, turning around and heading for the exit. With a quick swipe, he knocked a stabilizing beam in the tunnel down as he ran past, the rumble of brickwork telling him that he'd just closed off his home. The important part was making sure that the money and documents remained safe and out of reach for unwanted scrutiny. He could clean out the rubble later.

Plugging an earpiece into the PDA for directions, Paulie turned on the gas and raced across Nerva, heading for the Cap. The sonic boom in his wake was tinged with enough colorful language that it could make Black Scorpion feel uneasy. The Piston had a way with words.

It took him a few minutes, but finally that annoying electronic, too-chipper woman's voice in his ear declared that she was "ending route guidance." He'd made it, and just in time, it seemed. Paulie could make out the vague outline of John as the Commissar deactivated his cloaking device. He'd already set up his explosives around the entrance to Garvey's lair, and was crouched behind an outcropping of a broken concrete wall jutting out of the ground. Paulie also noticed a broken security camera over the door sputtering sparks and smoke; a single, ragged bullet hole marred its casing.

With only the sound of the wind telling of his approach, Paulie slipped behind John, tapping the man on the shoulder. "Johnny," he said, quietly but firmly. It was probably not a smart thing to do, sneaking up on the Commissar like that, but The Piston had never been accused of being one with an abundance of subtlety. "I told ya that you'd have to be nuts t' think I'd let yas do this alone."

"Goddamnit, Paulie. Y'have to get outta here, an' now. This is going down, and I can't be worryin' about you. I'm serious; there's going to be killin', Paulie."

"Then don't f***in' worry about me," the Italian spat. "Y'do what y'need t'do, an' I'll do what I need t'do, which is make sure y'get out of this shit-hole alive."

John chewed it over for a few long moments. He was plainly not happy about this turn of events. "Fine. First sign of things really going South, you split. Here's the situation; Garvey and Grim fought for a bit, it'd seem. Garvey got rid of him somehow, then retreated back down into the building. I've rigged this door with enough boom to give us a nice, happy entrance. Once it blows, I'll throw in some distraction devices---flash bangs and smoke---and then we'll go in hard. Still got that spare rifle an' the electronic hearing protectors I gave ya earlier? This is gonna be loud."

Paulie pulled out the ear protection he had been given, but was curiously without the firearm. "I can't shoot worth a damn, Johnny. Never learned. But I'll punch holes through things faster than that gun will."

"Alright," John gritted his teeth,"stay behind me then. You'll be watchin' my back; if we get swamped and I have t'reload, cover me while I do so. Throw those ear muffs on. We're gonna rattle some cages with this one." John pulled back on the charging handle of his rifle, ejecting a single round. Satisfied, he slung the AR across his back, bracing himself against the concrete wall as his thumb hovered over the remote control for the entry explosives.

The ejected round never hit the ground, instead ending up in Paulie's hand. Slapping the guards over his ears, the Piston dropped back, pressing himself against the wall as well. Reaching up, he pulled the watch cap on his head down, unrolling the ski mask hidden within. It couldn't hurt to disguise himself a little. John silently mouthed the words, 'One, two, three!', and depressed the button on the remote. Even with the electronic hearing protectors, which dampened sounds above a certain decibel level while enhancing ambient sounds, it seemed like the loudest thing in the world; everything shook. John was already up and moving, vaulting over the short wall before the dust had settled. His rifle was unslung and aimed at the gaping hole in the entrance; the explosives had cut through the door and its surrounding frame cleanly. John continued running, turning at the last second to let his back thump heavily against the side of the ruined door frame. He poked his head around the corner for a split second, then swung his rifle inside of the entrance, being careful to keep as little of himself exposed as possible. "Go!" That was Paulie's signal to move up.

Paulie was somewhat used to explosives; they were used extensively in the rebuilding of Overbrook, and Paulie had been part of construction crews working in that neighborhood. Even then, this explosion seemed larger. Perhaps it was that he was a lot closer than he was used to being. The pressure wave off the explosion had shaken both men pretty thoroughly. Even before the dust could begin to settle, John had taken off. The Piston paused, waiting for a signal before he moved.


As John called, Paulie became a blur of motion, crashing hard into the opposite side of the doorframe. The dust in the air had nearly concealed the wall from his view just before he impacted against it. With a violent jerk, he pulled his shoulder out of the side paneling and looked to John. The Commissar nodded quickly, letting his rifle hang from its sling. He pulled out a black grenade without any identifying markings from a pouch on his harness, pulling the pin and throwing it through the opening. Almost immediately, thick white smoke began to pour out of the marred entrance. A heartbeat later, John already had another grenade in his hand. "Cover!" He pulled the pin and threw the grenade hard, angling it towards one of walls. The grenade impacted against the wall hard, bouncing off it; an old trick for grenades, it didn't allow the enemy to catch a live grenade or easily kick it back. Another heartbeat, and the flash bang went off with a thunderous roar; their hearing and equilibriums were saved by the hearing protectors. Already through the doorway with his rifle presented, John moved with deadly purpose.

Just as Paulie swung around through the gaping entrance, the bottom fell out of the world again. Purple and black flashes of energy cut through the smoke, tracking into John. He screamed, crumpling to the floor. Before Paulie could do more than reach a hand out, a flash or sickening energy washed over him, propelling back out of the doorway as fast as he had entered it. With a resonating clang, a second blast-door slammed into place where the destroyed one had been, closing Murdock off. Locked inside. Trapped with Garvey.

Picking himself up off the ground, Paulie's eyes widened as he watched the blast door drop. "F***!" he shouted, rushing to the door, looking around wildly for a access panel or something that could get this door to raise. Finding nothing, he roared, slamming his fist into the door. The dull ache on his knuckles was quickly forgotten as he pulled his hand back... and saw the dent. It wasn't particularly deep, but it was a mark. Maybe he had a chance of busting this thing in. Like a jackhammer, he began slamming his fists into the door, each successive dent feeling like significant progress. If he had to raze the building to the ground to get inside, he would.

Paolo Salucci, "The Piston," was proving why he deserved that nickname. Like an engine of destruction, he was doing what he did best.