A rendezvous in the dead of night

(posted Friday, August 27, 2004)

Major Ursa arrived back at his flat an hour before his appointed meeting time with Nightstryke at the Perez Park gate in Skyway. Having just come from assisting comrades Red Menace, Kostyak, Faberge Gulag and American hero Amy Zoller of the super group The Strangers in back to back raids against first, a 5th Column base, then a deep underground Circle of Thorns labrynthe, the Major wanted to grab a quick bite to eat and restock his ammunitions before heading to the Perez Gate.


The apartment was dark and as he entered he noticed his answering machine blinking across the room. Flicking on the lights he crossed to the device and hit play.


<digitized voice>


"You have one new message:"


<beep>


"Hello Major, Nightstryke here. Listen, Spivey called and said he needs to move the meeting up by a couple hours... says he got a new job working the graveyard shift at a cannery in Kings Row, and he has to start at 1:00am. Says it's all part of his trying to kick and go straigh, maybe that's why he sounds so agitated or scared... I'm sure kicking a drug habit like he's got has got to play on your nerves. Well anyway, the meeting place is still the same but now he wants me there at 11:00pm. I tried contacting you on your com unit but it showed you as unreachable, hope your ok."


"I've got 30 minutes to get there by eleven, so I'm gonna head there now... this is is too important to pass up. I don't want to risk letting this lead slip through our fingers, so to speak. If you get this in time, try to get there, I'd feel better knowing you had my back. But as it is I'm gonna proceed to the meeting place. If I leave now I'll get there right at eleven, so much for scouting the area out first, huh? Ah well... if this lead pans out it'll be well worth any risk!"


"I'll have my com unit on, lemme know when you get this message, in anycase I'll contact you with what I find out.


Bye Major, hope you get this soon!"


<digitized voice>


"End of new message"


<click>


"LENIN'S GHOST!" Major exclaimed as he quickly checked his com unit. It was on, he must have been too deep underground to get signal for Nightstryke to contact him. He punched up Nightstryke's com-code, it was now 11:15pm, and Nightstryke was likely already at the meeting point.


"BAH! Is no answer, why does he not answer? Fool boy, to go alone... foreboding I am feeling, this is not being right!" Already Major Ursa was moving swiftly to his ammunitions locker. Restocking quickly, he was out the door in under 45 seconds.


He went up to the roof rather than down to the street, and once there he hit the activation switch engaging his propulsion boots and sprang high into the air. Leaping 200 yards at a time from rooftop to rooftop, the Major crossed the tenement-like neighborhoods of Kings Row to the monorail station.


It was a ten minute ride from the Kings Row station to Skyway station, but to the Major it seemed an hour. He was barely thru the station exit before he was airborne again, going building top to building top, sometimes using the elevated highways that tower over much of Skyway's businesses and apartment buildings. He was making incredible time, pushing himself to the limits of what his boot mounted propulsion units could achieve.

He entered Perez with cursory inspection of his Security Clearance level by the bored Gate Guards. It was a dark, starless night, with a stormfront rolling in, blotting out the moonlight. The streets that ring in Perez Park were well enough lit by adequate streetlamps, but the Park itself loomed like an ink black void.


Major Ursa activated his cloaking device and stepped out of the shadows of the gate at a fast jog. He approached the wall that separates the park from the surrounding street and buildings and lightly leapt the 25 feet to the top, crouching there motionless... listening. He flipped down the night vision visor from his helmet, and the blackness of night turned a pale green, shapes and contours previously unseen now were visible and identifiable. He cycled through the visor's settings to infrared, and immediately spotted the humaniod shapes of a group of Lost 35 yards to the left, the clearly definable shape of an Aberent Rector leaning against the wall, a few of his lackeys sitting around listening to his prophecies of mankind's impending doom.


Major dropped silently off the edge of the wall onto the green grass below. Stealthily he padded along the perimeter of the wall, he switched his visor's setings back to night vision and the darkness gave way to a pale green that gave everything a luminescent, washed out tone. But now he could see trees, bushes, rocks and roots, allowing for surer footing and silent travel. He knew he was'nt far from the Old Mill house, but despite his sense of urgency he could ill afford to charge headlong thru the night. Too many hostile entities make this park thier home to rush on too carelessly. He'd be no good to Nightstryke if he stumbled into a trap set by some malicious beast stalking the dark for it's next victim.


As he crested a hilltop and began his descent to the lake he saw part of the Old Mill in silhouette against the pale light of a single lamp post at the end of the pier extending over the water from the building.


The Major froze. Lying on the pier, mere feet from the lampost, was what appeared to be a man. Immediately the Major could tell the person was dead, they would have to be, judging from the un-natural way the body lay. Even from this distance he could see by the hunch of the shoulders, the splay of the victims legs, that this man had been broken, twisted like one does a wash cloth to wring out excess water.


"Oh sweet Lord..." he couldn't help but whisper. From where he was he couldn't tell who this man was... the light was behind the body, casting all detail into silhouette. But a sinking feeling lodged itself in the pit of his stomach and he braced for the worst. The Major switched back to infrared, and looked for body heat. The corpse gave off the faintest glow, indicating death had occured within an hour, give or take. He scanned the area surrounding the Mill, and seeing no indication of living being, he crept forward. Out in the water, a few hundred feet from the pier, he could see the hulking forms of the Hydras milling about, likely slumbering, if indeed they do sleep.


As he neared the building he switched back to night vision, mindful that Clockwork scavenge in the area and they don't typically generate enough heat to be reliably detected by infrared. As he rounded the corner of the building he paused, listening intently for any sound that might indicate a trap was still laid. Confident the area was vacant, he cautiously moved forward, approaching the body.


Major Ursa held his breath and rolled the body over so the torso once again aligned with the hips and legs. And his worst fear was realized in that moment as the death's head mask of Nightstryke came into view as his head lolled to the side and his body came to rest in a more natural position.


"Oh tovarich, why did you not wait, why did you not find another to come with you. How could you come here alone. I should have known this was trap, should have trusted my instinct. I should have forebade you come. But you were being full of the bravery of youth. Oh sweet God... poor boy..." his soft whisper trailed off.


Reverently lifting the body into his arms, carefully cradling the head, though no discomfort would ever again trouble this lad, the Major activated his boot's propulsion units, estimated the necessary trajectory to carry him to the gate, and leapt high into the air. He landed with the customary thud that comes with the maximum distance leaps. And bearing the added weight, he could feel the impact thru the boots and into his legs. Without acknowledging the guards, he passed thru the gate and back to the relative civilization of Skyway.


He would take Nickolas' body to CCCP/RB HQ, and have an autopsy performed. Beyond that, he didn't know. Right now he leapt through Skyway on auto-pilot, his imediate surroundings lost to him as his mind could only replay over and over again thier last conversation on the phone, the message on his machine.


Over and over again he blamed himself.