From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

Previous Story in the Arc: Ad Astra by Seraphym (Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Im Pace by John Murdock (Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

(posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

Ingenio experior funera digna meo. "I suffer ruin worthy of mine own invention."

The Crab Spider Webmaster charged through the burning underground lab, the remains of his squad following close behind. His orders were to see what the commotion was; someone had spotted two metas fighting earlier. One of them matched the threat description of the "Grim Gambol", an apparition of some sort. The other had retreated into the lab after fighting the Gambol off. After dealing with that fool of a brawler at the entrance, it hadn't been hard for the Webmaster to follow the trail of bodies in the lab. Luckily, his body armor and that of his troops filtered the air; the lab was almost completely filled with smoke, with entire rooms engulfed in flame.

The trail of bodies terminated suddenly, bringing the Webmaster to a ruined door; it looked like a wild animal had clawed its way through. Waving his team through, they quickly cleared the room. One dead body, presumably the other metahuman involved in the altercation. His armor was crushed, and his face looked pulverized; not a pleasant way to go. "Call the meat wagon, and someone to salvage anything useful in here for the glory of Lord Recluse. Our work is done--"

The Webmaster noticed something glinting in one of the camera feeds from his helmet's spider eyes. Turning to look at it better, he took in the sight. A cluttered table, occupied by various scientific implements and computers. In the middle of it was a very large barrel, marked "Explosive"; on top of it was a sizable amount of what the Webmaster guessed was C4. And attached to the bomb was what had been glinting, and had caught his eye; a single pin of golden hammer and sickle against a red background.

"Everyone, out! Now! Move-move-move!"

Watching through a hacked satellite feed, Commissar Petrograd could almost feel the warmth as Doctor Garvey's lab exploded. The building above the underground Facility collapsed in on itself, now that there was a gaping chasm beneath it. Clicking off the feed, he leaned back in his chair at the Command and Communications console in the CIC aboard Sanctuary. He spoke into his helmet's mic, which was patched into the PA system. "Mission accomplished, tovarischi; 100 over 100. Extraction team is back at operations and awaiting debriefing. Package is delivered. All personnel accounted for. Stand down." He clicked off his mic, terminating the connection to the PA system.

Swiveling in his chair to face his comrades, he waited for a few moments before beginning to speak. Sun Kai was there, still in his Berkut suit; the helmet was off and tucked under his left arm. Commissars Bella and Thanh ha were also present, sitting in chairs of their own. "Time for the debriefing. Bella, would you like to start us off?"

Belladonna Arua seemed a bit dazed. "I still can't believe we got him back from there," she murmured, then shook her head as if to clear it. "Murdock's transponders were all removed somehow; Sean confessed that it was with his collusion and that he kept them on him at all times after the substitution was affected. Sean Murdock has avoided me strenuously up until today; a telempathic contact with him would quickly have revealed to me that he was not John, and he knew it. Today he came to me and explained the substitution, handed over John's 'final letters' and a last will and testament, and gave me the last known location of John. That is when I came to you, Petro."

"Da. After meeting with Official Sun Kai, we mobilized the ASDF and the Air Wing, both of which Offical Sun Kai has been keepink in readiness, hoping for an opportunity to make a strike on Garvey. Both elements of the SDF were moved to the Sanctuary, which was then moved into our current position. We are on a heading back to international waters and our anchor point closer to Paragon, by the way."

Sun Kai stepped forward. "After Commissar Murdock's position was related back to us, we utilized the Air Wing to insert the team into the target area of 'Cap Au Diable'. Within fifteen minutes of being on the ground, we were able to locate the lab where the Commissar was being held, and entered without difficulty." He sighed. "The lab was in ruins, with multiple fires still burning when we arrived. Numerous casualties littered the structure; upon a quick examination, they appeared to be...clones," he spat the word, "of the Commissar and his biological children. Estimates range from twenty to thirty of them, though there could have been more."

Bella closed her eyes, a spasm of pain washing over her features. "Hell. My god, what must that have been like for him? No wonder--"

"After retrieving the Commissar," Sun Kai continued, "we planted a diversionary explosive device, and left the building. Exfiltration via the Air Wing occurred ten minutes later at the pre-designated LZ. The ASDF team is currently standing down, and getting cleaned up and unsuited in the crew quarters. The team list is available upon request, should any of them need to be interviewed and debriefed individually. It should also be noted that the secondary target, Garvey, was on location when we located Commissar Murdock. He had already expired when my team arrived." Finished, Kai nodded curtly and took a step back.

"Commissar Murdock's physical condition is...adequate," Thanh Ha continued. "Bella-ban and I were able to treat him for internal radiation burns, numerous lacerations of varying severity, radiation poisoning and second to third degree burns covering twelve percent of his body. There are also some changes to his life signs and vitals that I cannot account for, but do not seem to be malignant in nature. His mental condition, however crisis. He is in shock, and he has...completed what Bella-ban and I believe to have been his only objective. This does not bode well for him, dong chi."

Sun Kai stepped forward again. "Permission to speak freely, Commissars?"

"Granted," Bella replied instantly.

"Has anyone informed Commissar Murdock yet, of..."

Thanh Ha shook her head. "John-ban was being just cleared through medical a few moments ago--"